Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City

The Whitney Museum of American Art

Walking to the Whitney Museum on a mild winter day is a treat. Eager to be out and about in Manhattan, we begin our trek from The Marcel at Gramercy Hotel on East 24th Street near Gramercy Park. Walking down 23rd we make our way to the High Line – a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side that will deliver us to the Whitney.

Approaching the High Line.
Approaching the High Line.
Walking on the High Line.
Walking on the High Line.

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the out-of-use elevated rail tracks during the 25 years after trains stopped running. Species of perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees were chosen for their hardiness, sustainability, and textural and color variation, with a focus on native species.

Italian architect and engineer, Renzo Piano, designed the new Whitney Museum. From a piece in the New Yorker I read:

  “He (Piano) expressed pride in the startling mismatch of the museum’s eastern and western fronts”. On the east, the building descends in tiers—“to bring down the scale,” he said—toward the historic low-rise buildings of the neighborhood. The side that faces the river is “more massive, more strong,” Piano said. A truncated-pyramid profile with jutting banks of large windows, it “talks to the rest of the world” from an attitude of confident majesty. Immodestly, but with proof in the product, the architect cited the elements that he had sought to incorporate in the design: “social life, urbanity, invention, construction, technology, poetry, light—an immense rich bouillabaisse.”

Whitney Museum
On the east side the Whitney descends in tiers.

Popular even during the week on a winter day, we wait in line outside for about 20 minutes to enter the Whitney. Observing the action in the Museum’s restaurant Untitled we decide to begin with an early lunch. Occupying a long, narrow space with glass walls on three sides, the restaurant, like the rest of the museum, was designed by Renzo Piano.

Untitled restaurant at the Whitney Museum.
Untitled restaurant at the Whitney Museum.

Untitled is a new restaurant from Chef Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern and its menu is inspired by the seasons and the creative environment of the museum. While waiting we look through his cookbook – V is for Vegetables – delicious doable recipes with short ingredient lists and color photos, designed for home cooks.

Sitting at the Untitled bar, lunch was delicious and social. Our waiter was knowledgeable and guided me through what turned out to be a fairly gluten-free menu, and highly recommended their acclaimed chocolate chip cookie (entirely gluten-free). Turns out the recipe was born when pastry chef Miro Uskokovic took it upon himself to create the ultimate chocolate chip cookie – one combining a soft, gooey interior with a toothsome, crunchy exterior. Playing with varieties and ratios of sugar and butter, he settled on a combination of brown and white sugar with clarified browned butter. Then, to see if the cookie could be made gluten-free on special request, he tested the cookie with Thomas Keller’s Cup4Cup gluten-free flour. The result? The staff actually preferred the GF version.

Food truck in front of Whitney
Business is slow for artful food truck in front of the Whitney.

The Whitney Museum of American Art was born out of sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s advocacy on behalf of living American artists. At the beginning of the twentieth century, artists with new ideas found it nearly impossible to exhibit or sell their work in the United States. Recognizing the obstacles these artists faced, Mrs. Whitney began purchasing and showing their work, thereby becoming the leading patron of American art from 1907 until her death in 1942. Today the Whitney’s collection includes over 21,000 works created by more than 3,000 artists in the United States during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Blues, 1929, Archibald J. Motley Jr.
Blues, 1929, Archibald J. Motley Jr. (Courtesy of Nasher Museum of Art)

At the time of our visit a special exhibit –  Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist – caught my attention and was the highlight of my visit. Archibald John Motley Jr. (1891–1981) was a bold and highly original modernist and one of the great visual chroniclers of twentieth-century African American life. As the Whitney exhibition notes of Motley’s artistic interest in these portraits: “On the one hand, he believed that seeing themselves in art would help African Americans feel pride in their own racial identities; on the other, he hoped that seeing beautiful contemporary black subjects would dispel stereotypes and undermine racism.”

View of the Hudson River from the Whitney .
View of the Hudson River from the Whitney .
View of the High Line from the Whitney.
View of the High Line and the neighborhood from the Whitney.

Savoring Motley’s paintings of jazz and blues, we end our day at Jazz Standard. Home to world-class jazz, warm Southern hospitality, and award-winning Southern cuisine and barbecue. Finding the setting intimate and comfortable we settle in to enjoy Children of the Light, two-thirds of the legendary Wayne Shorter Quartet. The music is clear and beautiful. Acoustic sound with some electric touches, simple but also majestic. Danilo Perez is the excellent pianist, John Patitucci is the great bass player and Brian Blade is called “one of the best drummers in this moment”. Amazing day… and only a 10 minute walk back to the Marcel at Gramercy Hotel!

Children of the Light at Jazz Standard
Drinks all around as we settle in for Children of the Light at Jazz Standard.

Clair’s Gluten-free Bread Experience

This summer found us in Prince Frederick, Maryland for our niece’s wedding and a visit with our good friends, Mary & Clair. To my surprise and delight, I discovered that Clair has embraced gluten-free eating and is baking fabulous bread (something I haven’t tried). I invited Clair to write about his experience of going gluten-free and learning to bake gluten-free bread.

Gluten-free Country Harvest Bread
A loaf of Clair's gluten-free Country Harvest Bread

Clair TweedieAbout five or six months ago I thought I might be gluten intolerant.  So before consulting my physician I did what any self-diagnosing guy would do….stay away from gluten products for awhile.  After a few days I did notice a change in myself, but, just maybe it wasn’t that gluten thing at all… so I had a nice rich chocolate brownie.  BAM! It was that gluten thing.  My doctor went on to confirm my diagnosis as not severe but nonetheless an unpleasant intolerance to gluten.

After trying several gluten-free breads and other products from the grocery store I decided the only way to enjoy these foods again was to do the baking myself. Many years ago I baked bread and enjoyed it immensely, now, being retired, I just don’t have a lot of spare time to devote to bread making so I began research on bread machines. The result was to purchase Zojirushi BB-CEC20 (Home Bakery Supreme 2-Pound-Loaf Breadmaker). Fantastic product!

Gluten-free Country Harvest Bread and Gluten-free White Sandwich Bread
Freshly baked Country Harvest Bread and White Sandwich Bread (both gluten-free)

With the aid of a great cook book “125 Best Gluten-Free Bread Machine Recipes” by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt, bread making became quick and easy… especially since the machine does all the heavy lifting.  A couple of my favorites are Country Harvest Bread and White Sandwich Bread. 

Gluten-free White Sandwich Bread, sliced
Gluten-free White Sandwich Bread slices very nicely.

The white sandwich loaf  is moist and slices beautifully and tastes just right either toasted or plain. Occasionally, I will add a couple tablespoons of chia seed for extra nutritional value (chia doesn’t effect the flavor).

Now, the Country Harvest bread is a full bodied bread chock full of  seed – sunflower, flax and sesame.  I also add pumpkin seed for even more crunch. This bread has a bold texture and can be sliced as thin or thick as one wishes.  It can be used for sandwiches but my favorite is a slice toasted and covered with my own pure almond butter – just almonds and a touch of sea salt.

I am well aware that we do not live by bread alone – for many reasons.  I have always liked granola but find most store brands (gluten-free and regular) to be too sweet and sticky or lacking something. My research on the topic led me to Glutenfreegirl.com and what I think is the best granola I have ever made or eaten.  Not too sweet, a bit of a ginger bite and not at all sticky and as full of dried fruit as one cares to incorporate.  In this batch I used raisins, dates and cranberries.  Great when added to yogurt for breakfast or just plain for a snack.  ~ Clair

Homemade gluten-free granola
Clair's homemade gluten-free granola

Wow, thank you Clair. The New Year may just find me baking mine own bread as well. Very inspiring.

Here is what Clair uses:


 

Gluten-free food in airports

Gluten-free in airports often means a bag of nuts and maybe a piece of fruit… one of my favorite gluten-free blogs: Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, talks about this in her post gluten-free in airports. Change is coming and the big news from Shauna involves our own Alaska Airlines…

“I’m thrilled that Alaska Airlines has started selling a gluten-free snack pack on its flights. They sent us one a couple of months ago to see what we thought. Olives, hummus, multi-grain crackers, almonds, a fruit leather, and dark chocolate? Yes, please. I wish we were flying on Alaska each time we travel this summer, just for that pack.”

Meanwhile when you return home from your travels and are looking for creative, tasty gluten-free recipes, Shauna’s new cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story in 100 Tempting Recipes, is a delight. The New York Times names this cookbook one of the best of 2010!

Try this recipe from Shauna’s blog some night when friends are coming over…

Black Bean Roasted Pepper Hummus

1 poblano pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 15.5-ounce can black beans
1/4 of 15.5-ounce can garbanzo beans
2 cloves garlic, peeled
juice 1 lime
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
pinch chili powder
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1/4 to 1/3 cup sesame oil or olive oil (depending on the consistency you like for your hummus)

Roasting the pepper. Preheat the oven to 450°. Massage the olive oil onto the pepper. Put the pepper in a sauté pan and slide it into the oven. Cook, tossing occasionally to sit on another side, until the skin of the pepper starts to blacken and separate from the rest of the pepper, about 20 to 25 minutes. Pull out the pepper and put it in a bowl. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and let the pepper sit until it has cooled completely. Peel it and seed it.

Making the hummus. Put the black beans, garbanzo beans, garlic, lime juice, avocado, chili powder, and the roasted poblano pepper into a food processor. Pulse it up until everything has blended into a chunky mix. Taste, then season with salt and pepper or more of any of the ingredients you feel it is lacking. With the food processor running, drizzle in the sesame oil until the hummus has reached the consistency you desire.

(Note: it will thicken as it sits in the refrigerator, so adjust accordingly.)

Refrigerate immediately and let it sit for at least 4 hours before eating it. Well, you can swipe a taste, if you want. However, the true flavors will not emerge until the hummus has sat for a bit. Plan ahead. Feeds 4.