Charles Bernstein Poetic Birthday Buffet

Charles Bernstein Poetic Birthday Buffet

This month is taken over, not to say consumed, by my dear 19th century comrade, Augustus Saint Gaudens. The deadline for the French project is due in a few weeks  — thus very little time to do anything else.  Fortunately our good friend Charles Bernstein had an important birthday, so I got to take a break and travel to Philadelphia where on 8 April the Kelly Writers House at UPenn had a superb party for the occasion.  The readings were great and you can read & hear more about it on Pierre Joris’ blog and except for the performance by Felix Bernstein and Sherry Bernstein I focused on the food, are you surprised?

They are complete foodies at the KWH and it was splendid! Program Coordinator Erin Gautsche has her own food blog,, and  director Al Filreis looks like a gourmand to me! I wanted to record a very nice detail about the party: All the dishes on the buffet were references to Charles Bernstein poems! As noticed by the director, Charles’ poetry doesn’t include a lot of food elements so it wasn’t easy. They dug deep enough into the poems of All the Whiskey in Heaven to create a beautiful, festive, delicious & poetic buffet! See for yourself and click on the photo to enlarge.  Sorry for the poor quality of the video recording.

Shikaakwa City Report

Shikaakwa City Report

Logan Stepping on the City
From the Logan Monument

I am back from Shikaakwa or ” Stinky Onion” or as we call it today Chicago. The name Chicago is believed to be the French deformation of what the Miami-Illinois called the wild onion growing along the Chicago River. As expected, the weather was cold but I was prepared for it and it didn’t bother me a bit, au contraire. I convinced — or rather lured— Pierre into some mega walks along Lake Michigan. He didn’t regret it. As for me, they:


Impress memory

North Shore:
Sky    water    cityscape

Jade   turquoise   mauve-gold

Lincoln walking from his chair
Meeting with Schiller
Three mermaid boys & three cranes
at the Bates Fountain

Mist moist lost
Urbs in Horto

Tropical gardens?


Town Shore:
Mi’kmaq memoirs
tethered sways
Rippled reflections
Magalie’s fluo yellow
That’s a wake up call
Logan rears up
Lincoln sits down
Vulva building opens
To sharp German poetry.

South Shore:npchicago
Ice   ducks   republic
Gris    black & white    gold again
Rounds  & sharps
Ice creaks   ducks call
Republic alone
Fathoms the White City
No looking back at plastered Beaux Arts
Or Palace of Fine Arts
Science and Industry to prevail?

*  *  *  *


We had a marvelous dinner at Turquoise, a Turkish restaurant in Roscoe Village. Both my Patlicanli Islim Sarmasi  ­—Braised lamb shoulder wrapped in eggplant and lamb jus, and rice pilaf ($ 17.95) and Pierre’s Kusu Sis Kepab —Lamb seasoned, skewered , grilled, served with vegetables, rice pilaf, and yogurt sauce ($ 17.95) were exquisite. A delicate tomato sauce topped the skillfully folded and perfectly cooked eggplant filled with fragrant marinated morsels of tender lamb. The rice pilaf was fluffy and buttery. Pierre’s kepab was equally perfect. Upon arrival we were offered delicious home baked bread with a complementary plate of what I think was Patlican salatisi —Smoked eggplant, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, scallion and roasted red bell pepper. We were also offered each a Kazandibi — Caramelized butter, sugar and custard served with vanilla ice cream as a complementary dessert. We sat at the bar to catch the end of the Football game and Pierre ordered a Raki; it turned out to be on the house as we were the last ones and the register closed! Never had I experienced such generosity on visiting a restaurant for the first time.

After the wonderful bilingual Chicago Review reading at the Goethe Institute of Berlin poets —Christian Hawkey, Uljana Wolf & Monika Rinck — we had a good meal at the Armenian restaurant Sayat Nova. After Pierre’s reading at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago we had a not so good meal at The Italian Village but the company was beautiful & the conversation with poets Jennifer Scapettone, Natanaëlle (Nathalie) Stephens, Dan Godston & Jennifer Karmin very inspiring, so it didn’t matter. Dan, Jennifer, Pierre and I had a cozy nightcap at South Water Kitchen where we returned the next day for a light dinner before taking the train back to NYC.  There was also the rowdier night with Magalie Guérin a lovely French-Canadian painter. Magalie led the way to a bar/restaurant tour that began for cocktails at the Palmer House, to a fair Japanese restaurant  & to end with night cap at a Bar called Exchequer where we spent time trying to befriend a fierce Lithuanian waitress and comparing our accents!

*  *  *  *

npchicagoOn our first night in town we walked by the symphony hall and noticed that Pierre Boulez was conducting one of his 85th birthday concerts. We walked to the box office and got lucky enough to grab 2 of the last tickets! Watching Pierre Boulez conduct the orchestra is mesmerizing;  so elegant, so minimal I would dare to say almost liminal. The offering started with his own composition Livre pour Cordes, followed by Bartók’s Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra and Stravinsky’ s The Firebird as the last piece. We read in the program that two nights later The Chicago Art Institute  presented a  Conversation with Maestro Boulez. “Mr. Bulless” —as the attendant who sold Pierre tickets called him— was reflecting on modernism with Phillip Husher, the CSO program annotator. Here are just a few of the notes I took during the talk:

— Importance to enhanced self teaching.
— The first “modern” composer was Beethoven.
— Paul Klee’s book on the Bauhaus lectures has been essential to his development.

—”Without Teleman I can live. Without Bach I cannot” —

*  *  *  *

And last but not least were my extended visits to the Art Institute & library educating myself in XIXe century sculpture and architecture with a focus on Augustus Saint Gaudens (1848-1907). The museum collection is a great place for me to absorb and contextualize the works by and information on his predecessors & contemporaries. The Art Institute owns beautiful ASG works, among them his bas-reliefs of Violet Sargent, Jules Bastien-Lepage & Amor Caritas.  There are also four of his major public art pieces in Chicago:
Lincoln Park: The Standing Lincoln  & The Bates Fountain —on the last one he collaborated with his former pupil Frederick MacMonnies.
Grant Park: The Seated Lincoln —behind the Art Institute—
The General Logan Memorial —Michigan Ave & 9th Street—

An other important fact is that Augustus Saint Gaudens was advisor on sculpture for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair —a.k.a The World’s Columbian Exposition or encore, The White City. He didn’t make any special work for the exposition but the first Diana that had been too big for the top of Madison Square Garden II found a home on top of the Agriculture Building designed by McKim, Mead & White.

The first version of Saint-Gaudens’ Diana is on top of the Agriculture Building, left.

Voilà the report for the Chicago trip. The train ride in the roomette was wonderful, we had no delays and the food was totally acceptable. I loved the interaction with the train personnel. The one thing I really dislike is the toilet in the roomette. That is the silliest invention ever, I would much prefer to have more space and a public john in the corridor. There would be many other observation to report but that will have to be  for another post. Thanks to all the welcoming people we met, hope to come back soon!

Abstractions & Voyage

Abstractions & Voyage

Georgia O’Keeffe, Series I—No. I, 1918. Oil on composition board, 19 3/4 × 16 in. (50.2 × 40.6 cm). Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Purchase with assistance from the Anne Burnett Tandy Accessions Fund 1995.8. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Pierre and I are en route to Chicago. We will take the train tomorrow and we have reserved a “roomette”, that is a sleeping car for two with all meals included.  It is our 2oth anniversary and as we  both have work to do in Chicago (see the announcement for Pierre Joris’ reading at the end of the post) we decided that 40 hours of confinement —that is if there are no delays— will be  ideal to enjoy…or test our relationship!
More recipes and food reports will come soon. Meanwhile I am leaving you with a poem I wrote after a very inspiring visit to the Georgia O’Keefe: Abstraction show at the Whitney Museum. The piece was written using some titles of the paintings and a few lines from the Sarabeth’s advertisement brochure I had picked up at the coat check and used as a note pad. I read it at the Bowery Poetry Club on Sunday and you can read and hear it below. Voilà for now and off to the windy city!

Click here to hear the recording

January 7th, 2010 —
For & W/ Georgia O’Keeffe
By Nicole Peyrafitte

Inside a clam shell
In the evening
Clam shell again
Painted and pungent
Red Black & Night

Black place #1
Black place #2
Black place #3

A wonderful redefinition
Of yellow sweet peas
An impressive wave
In the pool
In the woods
In lake George
Pink & green

Alligator pears
Shipped to Alaska
Red & pink
Ballet skirt or
Electric light
We will not be responsible
For black abstraction

At the rodeo
Music pink & blue #2
On Wednesdays only
A train
At night
In the desert
Black white & blues

The touchstone; a portrait
Or jack in the pulpit
A piece of wood
Sandwiches, snacks, pastries, muffins
Coffee and desserts
All above the clouds in 1963
Very special

Special #8
Special #12
Special #17

A tent door
At night
Everything she created
Blue & green
Though pelvis series
Red & yellow
Watch for the opening
My last door
Black door
With red
Yolk like
Ever morphing feelings
Cosmic walk
Untitled red wave
Eggshell abstraction with


For your information:
Pierre Joris’ reading in Chicago :
Chi Reading
Fri Jan 29 5:30pm


Joan Flasch Artists Book Center on the SAIC ‘campus,’
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
37 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL –
(312) 899-5170

Hara Chana or Green Garbanzos

Hara Chana or Green Garbanzos

Hara Chana, Garbanzos, Green Chickpeas

Until then I had seen them only naked, brown and dry; but on Saturday I got to see them dressed, green and fresh! How on earth did I miss seeing fresh chickpeas in their full regalia until  that day? I am a little embarrassed to admit to it, but as the French saying goes: un moment de honte est vite passé —a moment of shame is soon over! & the excitement makes up for the embarrassment!

We had planned to meet our BlogoBung friends Larry Litt and Eleanor Heartney for a food tour in Jackson Heights, Queens —their neighborhood for 10 years, and often called one of the most exotic places in New York City. After a delightful & tasty two hour aperitif of talking, munching — on Larry’s appetizing homemade Hummus & Salmon patés — & sipping Lillet at their house we went out for a wonderful Indian meal at Mehfil a Gujurati style restaurant.


I had Dhal Makhini —creamy black lentils sautéed in butter with freshly ground spices— a restorative dish full of flavors with wonderful fresh coriander overtones that helped me get over my jet-lag. I got a taste of Eleanor and Larry’s delicate Tandoori Salmon & of Pierre’s rather bland Lamb Pasanda. Then we went for a walk and stopped at Patel Brothers —37-27 74th Street, (718) 898-3445 —“the granddaddy” of Indian groceries as quoted by the New York Times. That is where I discovered the fresh chickpeas. First, I saw them in the freezer, I grabbed a bag as I had never seen them green before, but Larry said “Wait! they’ll have them fresh in the produce section”. Larry knows the store like the palm of his hand and sure enough, here were the little green pods of hara chana —green chickpeas.


I filled up half a bag while Pierre, guided by Larry’s expertise, selected Garam Masala & Curry powders. We also got mustard seeds, fresh turmeric, black lentils & Arrow Root flour—I like it  to make beurre manié, it is much lighter than wheat flour and gives the sauce a smoother consistency (a good option for my friend Anne B.!). Anyhow we took leave of our friends, our minds —and stomachs— filled with colors & scents.
Tuesday I finally got around to shell the peas for lunch. I am glad Pierre assisted me because unlike any other shell beans I know of, chickpeas have one pea per pod, only very occasionally two! A time consuming task that I would recommend doing while watching a good documentary or hire your guests while having aperitifs! (the fresh chick peas take no time to cook at all)


Once shelled,  it turned out to be a small quantity so I decided to improvise a version of  a Hara Chana (green chickpeas), Aloo (potato), Patha gobi (cabbage) and Gajar (carrots) curry that turned out to be best vegetable stew I ever made. I think I was still very inspired by the tastes of the lentil dish I had. The fresh chickpeas are very tender with a subtle nutty flavor and a very smooth texture. Enhanced by the fragrant –medium hot—spices, this combination brings up a remarkable and specific savor. Once again I have to say that the decision of what to put in was made by default! Except for the chickpeas and the spices I literally gathered what was left over in the fridge and that was:


½ onion, diced
1 big carrot , diced
¼ cabbage, cut thick julienne
1 potato, diced
2 garlic cloves, slivered
½ bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
1 small piece of fresh turmeric, minced),
1 small piece of fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon of Garam Masala
1 tablespoon of Curry powder
Salt/Black pepper
/Water or vegetable broth.
Coat a skillet with olive oil —ghee would have been better but I didn’t have enough butter in my fridge to make clarified butter,— and under medium heat sauté the onions until soft.
Add all the vegetables including turmeric, ginger and garlic, sauté for a couple of minutes.
Add the garam Masala & Curry powder, salt and pepper. Mix well and add water to barely cover the veggies.
Once the liquid starts boiling, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 15/20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
I served it with brown rice —Indian style rice would be obviously better, but that is what I had available— and garnish with fresh cilantro.  Namasté to Larry  Eleanor!

Nicole's Vegetable curry

Au revoir Paris, but no Regrets!

Au revoir Paris, but no Regrets!

coquilles d'huitres

My last night in Paris was a good transition to return home. I first met up with a friend from my teenage years that I had not seen in 30 years! Bélinda and I reconnected via Facebook a few months ago. What I find totally fascinating in these reconnection stories —and that happened more than once this year— is the re-collection of my own forgotten memories. Bélinda de-fragmented my hard drive revealing a few events that I am sure glad to have recovered.
The first one was a luncheon at the famous Paris restaurant Chez Coconnas on Place des Vosges with Roland Dhordain.  Roland is a radioman —now long retired— who had been general manager of Radio France in 1965. He became a close friend of the family in the 1970’s. Bélinda also remembered us having Lunch at the Eiffel Tower with my parents the day  Jimmy Carter won the presidential election, so that was November 2nd 1976, I was 16 & Bélinda 18! Bélinda always wanted to be an English teacher and she became one! She loved purple and still does, though I didn’t notice her wearing purple mascara anymore! It was lovely to see her.

Around 7 PM we took off to rue de Rivoli to meet up with New York poet friends Yuko Otomo & Steve Dalachinsky. They had been on a European tour and they were reading at 59 rue de Rivoli for the  “Grand reopening of the Squat / Art Music Poesie”. Steve & Yuko kindly invited me to perform a few pieces. The set up was not an ideal situation for a poetry reading. Lots of people where going in and out to watch the multilevel art shows and there was no microphone. Despite the conditions, Yuko’s beautifully crafted bilingual (Japanese –English) haikus soared through the noise and fall gently into attentive ears.


Steve mesmerized the crowd with his rhythmical & entrancing poems; an improvising accordion player called Claude Parlé accompanied him. Claude improvised on my pieces too. Once again my Gascon Southern French accent drew more attention in Paris than in NYC. So I took the opportunity to declare my allegiance to the Southwest — be it Southwest Brooklyn or Southwest Occitania — and proclaimed my self-declared nationality to be Gasco-Ricain! I performed “Things fall where they lie,”  “Cranes” and “Outer outer edges”.


Bélinda returned home after the reading. Steve, Yuko and I had a lovely walk back to my place in the 6th. When we passed the inviting outdoors oyster stand of Bistro de La Grille I couldn’t resist getting some to take back to the studio. On the video below you can see Steve skillfully carrying the mayonnaise and the shallot vinegar through Rue Guisarde. The oysters highly recommended by the écailler were Fine de Claire Nº2, I didn’t get to ask the  exact provenance; the transaction to take the oysters home was a little out of the ordinary but once I called onto the wonderful Thierry —manager for as long as I remember the place! — things eased up and we walked home with all the trimming I mention above, plus an overload of bulots, rye bread and beurre salé de Bretagne (j’ai pensé à Claire!). The oysters were delicious, very meaty and firm, not as green as the one we had in Angoulême but that was the specificity of that type of oysters. As for wine, I had bought a red Alsace wine. It had been recommended by the sommelier of the wine shop at the marché St-Germain. I asked for a light red that would go well with seafood or a light meal. He highly recommended a €10 biodynamic Alsace Pinot noir called “Lunatic”. With a name like this how could I pass. The Estate Barmès Buecher is located in Wettolsheim and totally dedicated to biodynamic  growing; this is what they say about it:


” Wine is made on the vine and not in the winery”
…We work the vineyards bio-dynamically, that’s to say with activated preparations, according to the influence of the planets and the apogee and perigee of the moon. No synthesized chemical product is used, neither in the vineyards nor in the winery.
The aim of this is to keep the initial balance of the grapes undisturbed, and not to mask the effect of the vintages, so that the wine can show its “terroir” to the maximum and to preserve the energy it has acquired (from the bio-dynamic culture of the vines).
The soils are ploughed and hoed between November and July and then we mow the grass from August to the harvest.
The vines are planted
closely at a density of 6000 to 8000 plants per hectare to create maximum competition for the roots. This forces them to delve as deeply as possible.
No weedkillers or chemical fertilizers are used. If needed, we just use compost we make ourselves…more click here.

Many would argue about pairing red wine and oysters, but what can I say other than: this simple, clean, straight and dry red wine with a subtle tinge of red berries enchanted me! I loved it and so did my guests! Au diable les conventions!

Voilà! we ate, drank, talked into the late night — voir early morning— and when time came to separate I did something that is very Parisian among intimate friends: I gave them the trash to deposit downstairs! Now I am back home and as the song on the video says, I had a great time but  no regrets to leave Paris!

Piano: Yuko Kishimoto
Voice: Nicole Peyrafitte
recorded at Bender Studio by Sten Isachsen
May 2004