Cleveland!, cocktails, hummus, and recs for watching, listening and reading...
June has been uncommonly busy so I must be brief as we’ve just arrived in Maine to visit friends for the weekend, and the Friday night cocktail hour approaches as I type!
The month began, for me, with a book event on Cape Cod, which I wrote about in the last newsletter, while Ann was in Buffalo flogging her latest, Fly Girl. A Covid concern prevented our going to Woodstock, NY, for another Fly Girl event (see you in the fall, Martha?). Happily this allowed us to have a leisurely Sunday morning, with a movie, champagne and a potato chip omelet. The movie was the interesting but unmoving Paris, District 13, a French film about the sexual lives of a small group of Parisians. But these Sunday mornings with The Times in bed followed by brunch and a movie are heavenly. Highly recommend the Sunday morning movie!
For me it was off to New York the following week to participate in a documentary, by Boardwalk Pictures (A Chef’s Table), on Jean-Georges and the Tin Building, an incredibly ambitious project to turn the old Fulton Fish Market building into a multi-purpose food hall, a place to eat at numerous restaurants, buy fish retail, have sushi. JG excited to be opening a Chinese restaurant here, and the first Brasserie he’s created. What’s makes it unique, beyond the history of this important building, is the diversity of offerings, and all of it run by, curated by, Jean-Georges and his talented team. (NYTimes story on the project here.)
The day before I visited The Tin Building happened to be the fourth anniversary of Tony Bourdain’s death, June 8th, 2018. Hard to believe it’s been so long. And I still get well wishes from a few of the tens of millions of people who loved the guy (thank you). On that night, I met a friend in the West Village and ordered a Negroni, Tony’s favorite drink.
What we’re drinking…
A Negroni For Tony: Heavy on the gin, and with a very spicy, delicious, Italian vermouth. As Tony would say, “After four or five of these, they hit you like freight train.”
2 ounces Beefeater gin
1 ounce Punt e Mes
1 ounce Campari
1 orange twist
Combine all in a glass add ice and garnish with the twist.
What we’re watching…
After the week in NYC, it was back to Providence for the revival of the musical 1776, at the American Rep in Boston, about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with an all-female cast, mostly women of color. The gender switch mattered not a bit (Hamilton paved the way for that) and the vocal performances were impressive. Watch for it on Broadway this fall.
I want to note that two weeks earlier, we had seen two shows in NYC, “A Strange Loop” and “Soft”—two back-to-back shows whose cast comprised only people of color. “Strange Loop,” won the Tony for best musical, deservedly and “Soft,” a story of a teacher in the halls of a correctional school when one of his charges kills himself, has been so popular the MCC Theater is extending its run. Highly recommend both shows.
What we’re eating…
The day after 1776, we were invited down to Nagansett, RI, for a pizza party—who doesn’t love freshly homemade pizza?!—at Ann’s dear pals, Mike and Molly Falvey. I loved Mike’s mise en place, his superb dough (from The River Cafe Cookbook; it uses a lot of rye), and general cooking acumen.
And, of course, we needed wine with pizza!
Thank you, Mike and Mollie!
And the next day I flew to my beloved hometown to remember my Aunt Barbara, who died last January, and whose philanthropic work on behalf of University Hospitals and her alma mater, Wellesley College, was extraordinary. A lovely service for a lovely woman overlooking our majestic Lake Erie.
It was great to be back in Cleveland with the weather in full, verdant spring, and I got to eat at Zhug, Doug Katz’s restaurant on Cedar in Cleveland Heights. His flagship, the very popular Fire, did not endure the pandemic, so so sadly. But we’re lucky to have this one, devoted to Israeli food.
The highlight was a fabulous hummus to which Zhug adds cooked ground lamb and apricots, but the secret ingredient, Doug said, is their tahini.
To be honest, he writes, what makes the hummus truly special is the SoCo Tahini that we use. It has an amazing story one of the owners lives in Cleveland and the other lives in Israel. The hummus is made in the Palestinian region of Israel and there is a great social mission to the product. It is stone ground and my new addiction. The amount of tahini is what makes the hummus shine.
I’ll include Doug’s recipe in the next letter. But read the interesting story of SoCo Tahini, which donates a part of the profits to a non-profit called MEET, which “connects young Israeli and Palestinian students in business, impacting the next generation, helping in creating more collaborations like ours.”
We also had a fabulous octopus salad, leeks with feta, white beans with tomato and basil and excellent naan.
And these past two busy weeks concluded with a special occasion here, Ann’s daughter Annabelle’s graduation from high school. Celebrations abound in this wonderful month.
What we’re reading…
Well, with all the travel, my reading has been mainly relegated to news and magazines, but my wife Ann’s reading never diminishes, so I’m passing to her!
In my quest to read all of Jean Rhys, the next one up was Good Morning, Midnight, an intimate psychological portrait of a woman in Paris who is overwhelmed by her losses and her past. I think Deborah Eisenberg describes it perfectly: “As sharp and lucent and alarming as a piece of broken crystal.”
I read I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti and after I finished I started 3 different books but was still too moved and impressed by it that I couldn’t read another novel. On a hot summer day in an Italian village in 1978, nine year old Michele makes a horrifying discovery that upends his world. I read it in one sitting, and could not let it go.
I have to say, the following book is an uncommon treasure.
My darling daughter Annabelle gave me the whimsical The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows in which John Koenig “creates beautiful new words that we need but do not yet have.” I have loved dipping into it every day and reading a new word or three, like “sonder”: When you wonder about the lives of each person you pass on the street, realizing that everyone is the main character in their own story, each living a life as vivid and complex as your own. Or “lachesis”: when a thunderstorm rolls in and you feel a primal hunger for disaster, hoping it would shake up your life. Or “anemoia”: when you were looking through old photos and felt a pang of nostalgia for a time you’ve never actually experienced.
What we’re listening to…
Me, I’m into two terrific audible books. Sutton Foster’s Hooked, about the Broadway star’s relationship with her personality disordered mother. And Hello, Molly, the SNL star Molly Shannon’s story, anchored by her own conflicted relationship with her alcoholic, charismatic father. Shannon grew up a few blocks from where I was growing up at the same time, me on Norwood Road, she on Winchell Road, in Shaker Heights. Her story of stowing away with her friend at age 13 on a New York-bound flight, and getting away with it? Worth the price of admission.
And from Ann:
I listened to Rachel Kushner read a fantastic Edna O’Brien story, “Come Into the Drawing Room, Doris”
And more recommended viewing from Ann:
Annabelle and I gobbled up all of The Staircase, with Colin Firth as the creepy Michael Petersen and Toni Collette as the wife he very likely murdered.
And from both of us on more streaming recs: Peaky Fucking Blinders! Final season. (But not the end of the Blinders.)
Links we’ve loved…
David Sedaris is still going strong with his latest book of essays. Here’s how he eats.
This is a fascinating review of a book that asks what rocks can teach us. Thanks, Stephen Metcalf and Slate Culture Gabfest.
Are you a cat person? I am. We always had cats growing up, and I now live with two perfectly eccentric cats, Gertrude and Hermia. I loved this story about the cats of Iceland, these “elegant assassins.”
Do you know the writer Mary Norris, native Clevelander, long time “comma queen” of The New Yorker, and author of the memoir Between You and Me (excellent, btw), writes about how to use a hyphen (and why the New Yorker hyphenates teen-ager).
Not long ago, Ann and I saw The Lehman Trilogy, about the history of Lehman Brothers. It is, without question, the best Broadway show I’ve ever seen. It won the Tony this year for best play. It was directed by Sam Mendez, who also directed the movies American Beauty (his first film; he was so green, he didn’t even know to say “CUT!” at the end of the scene; he won best director, best movie and more), Revolutionary Road, and Skyfall , among many others. Here’s a New Yorker profile of this extraordinary artist.
And Father’s Day is tomorrow. Bless you, fathers! Here is a story about a daughter and a father and how a recipe for spanakopita linked generations and countries.
Watch the trailer for Strange Loop, arguably the best musical on Broadway right now, and hands down one of the most innovative musicals ever.
See you in a couple weeks!
Thanks for reading Ruhlman's Newsletter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.