Tucked away unassumingly in a residential-looking brownstone, PIASA has been a center for Polish academic and artistic life in New York since 1942 as a consequence of World War II migration. Though its founders had expected to return to Poland, Polish communism kept them in the States post-war. The purpose of the institute has evolved from being a meeting point for the academic super-elite to promoting knowledge of Poland and the Polish community, helping Polish exchange students, and building a bridge between Polish and American universities. The institute also houses archives of Polish books and its gallery hosts artistic exhibitions and literary, cultural and scientific events.
How is this for an architect’s resume: The Dakota (known today as the apartment building where John Lennon was shot), the original Waldorf and Astoria hotels, (subsequently torn down to make room for the Empire State Building), the Plaza Hotel, the Willard Hotel in DC and the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. Henry Janeway Hardenbergh designed the Hotel Martinique in two phases: the first part opened in 1898, and was then completed in 1910, with 600 rooms in total. The intricate mosaic flooring remains intact, as does the winding staircase that climbs eighteen stories.
At Paris Baguette, the Manhattan Sideways team grabbed a tray and a set of tongs and indulged. We found each baked bread to be more desirable than the next, from the simple white loaf to the peanut crumb to the chocolate cream bread. The cakes are magnificent pieces of art. We were particularly drawn to the strawberry and fresh cream, and the chocolate and banana. A chain that originated in Korea, Paris Baguette now provides baked goods to almost three thousand stores. Although not everything is prepared in-house, the aroma alone makes it worth a visit, as does the show of people who come through Paris Baguette each day.
“We were just voted the best Asian barbecue restaurant in New York, ” said Philip, the general manager of Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong. “We’re getting a lot of buzz these days, because Korean food is very trendy right now. ” And Baekjeong, founded by Korean wrestler and TV personality Kang Ho-dong, is the trendiest of all. It is a favorite hangout of actors and celebrities, and has received high praise from celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain and David Chang. At Baekjeong (the Korean word for “butcher”), meat is king. But while Korean barbecue traditionally makes use of the second-best cuts of meat, marinating them for flavor, Philip emphasized that Baekjeong uses only the highest-quality meat. “We don’t even marinate it, ” he added. Between the quality of the meat and the reputation of executive chef Deuki Hong, a twenty-five year old prodigy who recently won the 2015 Young Guns Chef award, Baekjeong has become one of the hottest new restaurants in New York. The wait to be seated, Philip told me, is sometimes as long as an hour and a half. By all accounts, it is worth the wait. As customers munch on small starter dishes known as banchan, waiters prepare the meat - mainly beef and pork - on large metal grills set into each table. Another highlight at Baekjeong is dosirak, a traditional Korean children’s lunchbox filled with rice, kimchi, and a fried egg. In the seventies, Philip explained, Korean kids always shook up their metal lunch boxes before eating them, and at Baekjeong - which aims for a “1970s industrial Korea feel” - customers are encouraged to do the same. But Philip emphasized that guests who do not know much about Korean food should not be worried. The waiters, who all speak English and Korean, “make sure to cater to customers who don’t know what’s going on. ” For the most part, though, the Chinese tourists and Americans who make up most of Baekjeong’s clientele (“Koreans don’t like to wait in line, ”) do know what is going on. “No one just walks in off the street, ” Philip told me. “The kind of people who come here are in the know. ”
In 2001, The Center for Alternative Photography (CAP) opened its doors in the heart of a midtown district with rich photographic history (Abraham Lincoln came here to be photographed). Run by the non-profit Penumbra Foundation, the center focuses on alternative and historic techniques. In the words of Executive Director Geoffrey Berliner, “People are forgetting what photography is and where it came from. In a photo-based world, it is important to understand the history of photography. ” In this spirit, the Center educates, exhibits, and provides support for artists. When I visited in 2013, the center was planning a series on how the depiction of war has changed over time. Walking into the space, I also passed through a tintype studio, where one can have his or her portrait taken using the same methods as were used in the mid 1800s. The event space houses an artist lecture series in an effort to delve deeper into the photographic works. Recurring shows showcase daguerreotype, toy camera, and alternative techniques. The “In Conversation” lecture series has photographers and artists of different disciplines bring in their work to discuss and gain more perspective. A particularly powerful “In Conversation” lecture recently paired up Andrew Moore (whose pictures of urban decay in Detroit find romance in the otherwise decrepit parts of the city), with Philip Levine, a poet who sympathetically describes blue-collar Detroit.
J. P. Morgan was more than one of the most influential financiers in American history – he was a collector of impeccable taste. While still a young businessman, he began to acquire quite an impressive set of books, manuscripts and drawings. Later in life, as his wealth grew, he amassed art and historic artifacts. When he died in 1913, his estate was valued at a then astronomical $60 million. A decade after his passing, his son ceded his fantastic collection to public stewardship. The museum, which has grown vastly from its original home, now covers half a city block with a smorgasbord of buildings and spaces representing distinct architectural schools and periods. The holdings of J. P. Morgan still represent the core of the collection, but new holdings are constantly being acquired and donated. In addition, the Library hosts many excellent and inspiring exhibitions. Over the years, I have appreciated a number of the shows, especially those related to children's literature, a passion of mine - Beatrix Potter: The Picture Letters; Where the Wild Things Are: Original Drawings by Maurice Sendak; Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors; and, most recently, The Little Prince: A New York Story has opened. Special Note: Free admission is offered on Friday evenings from 7-9pm.