Rabbit Hole || Dinner de Luxe at The World Famous Cotton Club, 1938

04/04/2015 § 5 Comments

Cotton Club 1 - 1938 Cotton Club 2 Cotton Club 3 Cotton Club 4 Cotton Club 5

I’ve recently been spending quite a bit of time in the NewYork Public Library’s digital collection of menus.  An incredible collection of documents from around the world, dating from the 1850s through the 2000s, it is fascinating to observe trends in cuisine and cocktails – and prices!

I am always the most excited to find menus from storied New York establishments, those still standing like the New York Athletic Club and Tavern on the Green, and others that have since shuttered, like this one, from The Cotton Club in 1938, when it occupied its theatre district location at 48th Street and Broadway.  The Cotton Club was a nightclub that featured and launched the careers of some of the most notable black musicians and entertainers of the era, but served an all-white clientele.  At the time of the menu, Cab Calloway and his band headlined a twice nightly musical review that frequently included overtly racist themes similar to the images on the menu cover — as you can readily observe from the show program. **Be sure to click to enlarge the images.

Also interesting is the expansive cocktail menu.  Most other menus in the archive from this era mention only a few classic drinks and possibly a wine list, but because its primary function was as a nightclub and not merely a restaurant, The Cotton Club’s menu features all sorts of cocktails — separated from “Fancy Mixed Drinks,” mind you.  Nestled among the classics I already recognize, I was happy to find more obscure cocktails like the “Horse’s Neck,” the “Bronx,” the “Pink Lady,” and the “Jack Rose.”  All of which prompted a quick search and mental note to try out in the near future.  You’ll also notice a drink called the “Tall, Tan, & Terrific.”  A signature cocktail if ever there was one, the phrase is a nod to the Club’s chorus girls, all of whom were required to be taller than 5’6,” light-skinned and under twenty-one years of age.

To get a sense of the sort of performance patrons viewed on the nights this menu was in use, I’ve found a great short film made by Paramount in 1934 of Cab Calloway, featuring some of his most famous hits.  Nicknamed the “Hi-De-Ho Man” after his success with his song “Minnie the Moocher,” you get to view a bit of Calloway’s distinctive singing style, his call and response technique with the orchestra, his inspired dance moves.  Love it.  I mean, his hair alone!

As an added bonus, a very famous clip from Stormy Weather (1943), featuring Cab Calloway and his orchestra as well as an amazing routine by the Nicholas Brothers, another act that called the Cotton Club home.

Images via NYPL.

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Disappearing Acts

08/08/2014 § 1 Comment

Porto RicoEvery morning on my way to the train at the West 4th Street station, I pass the Porto Rico Importing Co. at 201 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.  More of a coffee and tea store than a true coffee bar, it’s where I buy the coffee I use at home (try it out: Monsoon Malabar is my favorite).  It’s usually full of bench sitters and the usual bunch of parked cars, but today I happened upon a rare moment of quiet and a break in the traffic so that I could take the shot above.

As I took the picture, an eccentric-looking older gentleman ambled by and gruffly offered his two cents: “You know, places like that are disappearing around here.”  He then proceeded to point out the growing vacancies around Porto Rico, both new and old. I readily agreed with him and he eventually set off on his way down Bleecker, satisfied.

Vaguely familiar that Porto Rico has been around for some time — it does mention something about 1907 on the awning, at least — I did a bit of research and discovered that the ground floor of 201 Bleecker has been operated by the Longo family since the early 1900s, initially as a bakery and then later as the coffee and tea store we know today.  The current owner-operator, Peter Longo, is the third generation to run the store, the building having been bought by his grandfather in 1905 for $5,000.  Peter was born in the building, as well as his father before him.

For someone who’s only lived in the neighborhood for just over a year, it’s always exciting to learn more about longtime residents and businesses, but also to hear how the streets have changed.  The next time you find yourself on Bleecker, I definitely recommend that you stop by for a pound of coffee or perhaps a new tea — because it’s true, places like this are rapidly disappearing these days.

For a fuller story on Porto Rico, Alex Witchel at the NY Times wrote a great article on Peter and the store that you should also read.

Have a lovely (caffeinated) weekend!
M. xx

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My New York-aversary

04/08/2013 § 1 Comment

I <3 NYCPhoto via Instagram.

I was about halfway through the day before I realized that today marks the sixth anniversary since I landed in New York.  Six years.  It sort of crept up on me.  More than five years, but less than ten, the time seems to have accelerated in speed since year two (or so) and while I wasn’t looking I suppose I’ve become one of those seasoned “New York people” I marveled at when I first moved here.  People who understood the subways.  People who were surprised by nothing.  People who knew all sorts of interesting people and places in the city.  People who tossed off the numbers of years they’d lived in the city with nonchalance.

Yet, I’m not sure if I’m a New Yorker.  I still feel solidly connected to California and my roots out west, even though I’ve definitely settled into a rhythm within this busy, crazy, hectic city over time.  Establishing your relationship with this city demands time; it’s too much to take in and too much to experience, to rush the process.  Through it all, I’ve changed boyfriends, roommates, friends, colleagues, and jobs — but the city remains.  I’ve lived in places like Tribeca and Crown Heights and the Upper East Side and Murray Hill and Soho and the Financial District.  There are still entire neighborhoods I’ve yet to see or experience, while there are some I know like the back of my hand.  I’ve danced at nightclubs that no longer exist.  I know exactly where my preferred door on my preferred subway car will stop at both ends of my commute.  It’s almost like you come to an agreement with New York: you eke out a tiny portion of the city, you plant some roots, and if you work hard — and have a bit of luck — you flourish.

I’ve seen plenty of people come and go.  Some who predated me and decamped, declaring they’d “had enough” of it all — which to a newbie can sound almost impossible to fathom. Others arrive so full of hope and just can’t seem to make it work.  Still others are taken away by school or jobs or marriages.  While perhaps not as transient as Washington, DC, New York definitely maintains a sense of constant churn just below the surface.  People frequently reference how long they’ve lived here or worked there.  Transplants are constantly trying to figure out if they’re short-timers or in it for the long haul, while those born and bred in the city wear it as a badge.

I’ve always trusted in the assumption that when the time comes for me to leave, I will know it, innately.  But right now, this crazy life still feels right.  I still feel that thrill when I see the Chrysler Building at dusk.  I’m still excited for that first glimpse of the skyline whenever I return from being out of town.  The city still feels open, ripe for opportunity and adventure.  While I don’t know what chapter of this story this might be, I know we haven’t quite reached the end…

Happy Anniversary, New York.  I still love you.

On the Docket: George Bellows at The Metropolitan Museum

15/11/2012 § 2 Comments

Very excited that the retrospective George Bellows, the first comprehensive examination of the great American realist painter’s career in nearly fifty years, opened today at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Perhaps best known for his depictions of boxers and early 20th century New York, Bellows has long been a favorite of mine.  I’ve included here some of the iconic works on display (which you can click through to appreciate in greater detail), but I am most looking forward to making new discoveries in his oeuvre, particularly in the area of lithography.

Of the nearly 120 works on display at the exhibition, approximately a third are devoted to scenes of New York.  Some, like the Cliff Dwellers (1913) below, offer insight into tenement life in Lower Manhattan with rich detail — did you notice the street car on its way to Vesey Street?  Bellows was a member of the Ashcan School, a realistic artistic movement in direct response to American Impressionism and its celebration of light.  Darker in tone and unafraid of dealing with the harsh realities of poverty and the unsavory characters of urban life, Ashcan School art challenges the viewer with its journalistic pursuit of truth.  Fittingly, Bellows’ canvas Up the Hudson (1908) holds the distinction of being the first Ashcan painting acquired by the Metropolitan, in 1911.  The artist was only 29 at the time, making him one of the youngest artists represented in the museum’s collection.

George Bellows is on display at The Metropolitan until February 18, 2013, after which it will travel to the Royal Academy of Arts, London (March 16 – June 2013).

New York by George Bellows

George Bellows
November 15, 2012 — February 18, 2013
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

New Kid in Town || Massimo Dutti on Fifth

17/10/2012 § Leave a comment

After a whole lot of lusting and a whole lot of waiting, Massimo Dutti has finally opened the doors at its very first stateside location, on Fifth Avenue.

They’ve also taken this opportunity to release a rather handsome NYC Limited Edition Collection — which just so happens to be shopable online, just in case your MetroCard can’t quite get you to 5th Avenue and E. 54th Street.  The pinstripe suit and the studded slips are personal faves, but be sure to click through to see the entire NYC Limited Edition Collection…as well as the sparkling new US e-commerce site.

And of course, there’s a collection for the gents as well.

Massimo Dutti
689 Fifth Avenue, at E. 54th Street
New York,  NY 10022

New York City by André Kertész

26/09/2012 § 2 Comments

“I write with light.”
— André Kertész

How I adore The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection of
André Kertész photographs taken in New York.

It’s a Wonderful Town!

23/08/2012 § Leave a comment

  “New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town,
The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down,
The people ride in a hole in the ground,
New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town!”

In honor of Gene Kelly’s 100th birthday today!

Sailors Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin sing and dance their
way through a 24-hour shore leave in New York City in On The Town (1949).

At the Jazz-Age Lawn Party

22/08/2012 § 6 Comments

A few photos from my trip to the Jazz-Age Lawn Party on Governors Island over the weekend.  I hadn’t been since year before last and it was simply remarkable to see how much the event has grown in that time.  While the lines have gotten longer and space on the lawn has gotten scarcer, this event still remains one of my favorite New York things to do.  Even if you lack a straw boater or a strand of pearls, I definitely recommend checking it out next summer (held in July and August, more info here).  It is a lovely time.

A Day at the Races: Belmont Park in the 1910s

08/06/2012 § 3 Comments

In case you hadn’t heard, I’ll Have Another has withdrawn from the Belmont Stakes in New York this weekend due to a tendon injury.  I’m a bit sad that the chestnut 3 year-old colt won’t be making a run at becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, but of course it is for the best.

Since I’m left without a horse to back – I’ll Have Another actually won me a pretty penny on Derby Day – I decided to see if I couldn’t find us some photos from race days past at Belmont Park. The Library of Congress delivered in a major way with wonderful images dated between 1910 and 1915 of the track, Mr. August Belmont, Jr. and his wife, a couple of lady Roosevelts and anonymous racegoers dressed in their finest.  I love how some of these look like the streetstyle photography so popular today.  Perhaps we should get Scott Schuman a time machine…

A sea of straw boaters…

August Belmont, Jr.

Paul Drennan Cravath (of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, for the law nerds)
with August Belmont, Jr.

Mrs. August Belmont, wearing a rather rad hat.

Mrs. Edith Roosevelt
(Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and former First Lady)

Eleanor Butler “Bunny” Alexander-Roosevelt
(Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.)

I feel as though this picture must be labeled incorrectly.
This woman looks nothing like Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, or is it me?

All images via The Library of Congress.

Movin’ On Up.

04/06/2012 § 10 Comments

I don’t frequently talk about my day job, I realize (I work for a political risk consulting firm), but today is a very special day because we open our doors in a new location.  As I packed up in preparation for the move, I came to realize that in the five years I have been in New York, I have only worked in one very small slice of Manhattan.  Namely, the patch of midtown between 40th and 45th Streets and 7th and Madison Avenues.  Every morning I said hello to Grand Central, Bryant Park, Times Square, and the New York Public Library.  The not so distant pinnacles of the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center, grandly scraping the sky as I skipped off to grab coffee.  And while I am excited to settle in to a new area — our shiny new office will be in the Flatiron District now — I couldn’t help but already be a bit nostalgic for my former digs.  And so, in honor of the move, I wanted to share a few of the many pictures I’ve taken over the years.

Onward, upward (and 20 blocks downtown) I go!

(clockwise, from top left) The Morgan Library,
Bryant Park in spring, Lord and Taylor, our former office’s front entrance.

The New York Public Library, in fog, spring, and snow,
and the grand reading room with its paneled ceiling.

The Bank of America tower, northbound on Madison Avenue,
the constellations inside Grand Central Terminal,
the bar at the Campbell Apartment.

Bryant Park: the carousel, the Bryant Park Hotel,
summer movies on the lawn, ice skating in winter.

The Library Walk tiles, the steps to the library at night,
the counter at the Grand Central Oyster Bar,
and a very curious lion (?) I passed every day on E. 41st.

The Knox Hat Building, Times Square at night,
Grand Central in the morning, Fifth Avenue parades.

My morning coffee pit stop, the amazing fashion newsstand Around the World,
and two views from our office terrace.

One thing I will definitely miss: our amazing terrace overlooking Fifth Ave.
A few pictures from the last hurrah.

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