minton's

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Jazz in the City        

I had the great pleasure of dining at Minton’s in Harlem the other night. What a treat!  Founded in 1938, it quickly became one of the go-to places for most of modern jazz’s greats. Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington all played there. The walls are lined with epic black and white photographs of these giants––and sitting at my table I swear I could feel their presence.

The music that night was my kind of jazz: structured and rhythmic. Many of the musicians in the house band played at Minton’s back in the day. I can only imagine how much these guys must love playing the standards decades later.

Not only was the music incredible, and the interior simply gorgeous, the food was exquisite. Southern Revival Cooking made with local, natural, sustainable and organic ingredients. I found sweet soothing comfort in the pimento cheese grits.  The sassy collard greens with smoked ham hock satisfied my yearning for greens. For dessert, I indulged in the banana cream pie, served in a parfait dish with whipped cream. Yummy!

The reinvigoration of Minton’s is the brainchild of former Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons. A trumpeter himself, he’s long wanted to open a jazz club in Harlem. I can tell you firsthand, it’s been well worth the wait. 

Images from: 

Huffington Post Uptown Collective Harlem Condo Life

Hoping a Good Meal Revives a Harlem Jazz Spot

This New York Times article, though full of quotes that one could quibble with, brings promising news that Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem may at last see a resurrection thanks to a team headed by for Time-Warner chairman Richard Parsons. Of course, one can never revive the past in all its glory. The New York club currently called Birdland has little to do in layout, menu or style with the real original Birdland on Broadway and 52nd Street. But it’s welcome and great on its own terms; I’m sure the same will be said of the new Minton’s. Mr. Parsons’s assertions that you wouldn’t go eat in today’s jazz clubs ignores the decent menus at Birdland and Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola and the magnificent menu at the Jazz Standard.

-Michael Cuscuna

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siiiiiiiick

Alexandre vit!

As I’m pulling together this Dumas Project especially the Dinner portion, I’ve been having serendipitous goodfun meeting people who merit a seat at Alexandre’s table.  People who embody the spirit of Alexandre and his muses.  Here are just a few…

ALEXANDER SMALLS

Aside from the name association, Alexander Smalls is a double take of Alexandre Dumas’ gourmet passions and generous hospitality.  He’s a chef, restaurateur, and author of Grace the Table:  Stories and Recipes from My Southern Revival

Alexander’s also a former opera singer, and has a Grammy and Tony Award  for his recording of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” with the Houston Grand Opera.  Alexander knows the good life.  Most important, he’s an impeccable and gracious host.  

You can see Alexander Smalls at The Cecil, an Afro-Asian American brasserie.  You can say The Cecil’s cuisine is inspired by Alexander’s low country culinary upbringing and travels to the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe.  After dinner you can see Alexander at the historic Minton’s jazz club  where Bebop was born.  Everyone who was anyone in Jazz – Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonius Monk, Johnny Hodges, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis – played Minton’s.  Minton’s menu features Alexander’s signature “Southern Revival Cooking.”   Patrons enter from the “speakeasy” like door around the corner from The Cecil.  Alexander created both venues with New York businessman and former Time-Warner chairman/CEO Richard Parsons.  

I didn’t plan to celebrate my birthday in New York this year.  But dinner at The Cecil and meeting Alexander for the first time, and getting the grand tour – I’m so glad it turned out that way.

Update:  Esquire Magazine’s Josh Ozersky names The Cecil the Best New Restaurant in America.

Yes, its food was the most thrillingly unique we tasted this year, primed and loaded with the flavors of the African diaspora—that trail of taste that moved from West Africa to India, the Caribbean to America to China, and then back again.

JANET CAM

Janet Cam knows wine.  Ask Janet.  She’ll find you the best bottle for the least francs, or the most obscure and rare bottle for a king’s ransom.  Janet knows quality in all things. 

 

(above) This is Janet’s hand over the Dumas salad we prepared for our Favorite Chef’s group Dumas lunch.  That’s a ring she designed. Janet also paired the perfect wines for the gathering.  Janet was co-proprietor of LePavillon (the first nouvelle cuisine restaurant in America) restaurant winner of The Wine Spectator’s Grand Award, and the Managing Director of the legendary Lutèce.  Janet provides consulting services to restaurant and hospitality businesses. She’s a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier.  No question, Dumas would insist Janet be seated next to him at the dinner table.  And Janet would receive the first serving of the famous salad.

STEPHEN MCKINLEY HENDERSON

If you know the plays of August Wilson, then you know the work of Stephen McKinley Henderson, a quiet giant of the theater.  Like Alexander Smalls, Stephen is another Dumas double-take on the theater side.   Stephen introduced me to two thematic works about Alexandre Dumas – a book he enjoyed as a youth titled The King of Paris by Guy Endore (who also authored The Werewolf of Paris that became the Hollywood cult classic “The Curse of the Werewolf”).  The second resource Stephen gave me was a play titled Les Trois Dumas by Charles Smith featuring the General Alexandre, his author/playwright/swashbuckling son Alexandre, and the encouragable Alexandre “fils.”

Earlier this year, Stephen was on Broadway with Denzel Washington in a Tony award winning revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.”   Right after tha gig Stephen  jumped into a leading role in an off-Broadway play “Between Riverside and Crazy” by Stephen Adly Guirgis.  Like Dumas, he’s keeping a busy creative schedule.

MATTHEW R. WILSON - Actor, Director, Scholar, Fight Director

Need I say more?  Matthew and I’ve only talked by phone thanks to an introduction by Constellation Theatre Company in Washington, DC. Matthew choreographs and trains fighters for numerous professional theater productions.   Matthew’s theater thing is Commedia dell’Arte.  At the time we talked he told me he was planning  another stage production of “The Three Musketeers.” 

Matthew’s also a founder of Tooth & Claw Combat Arts that offers lectures and workshops.  What a great way to end a dinner party.

GARRET FLEMING - Chef, The Barrel

When it comes to food, Garret’s game for anything including game.  I can see him and Dumas in the kitchen with their best culinary game faces on.  Garret has an affinity for history, food, and the pig – or in Dumas’ words, “The king of the unclean beasts." Garret’s  chef at The Barrel on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.   Bourbon is their specialty.  Did I mention Alexandre Dumas didn’t drink hard liquor?   But he never turned away good food.  The fish pie could definitely be on his Wednesday night supper menu.

 

Harlem’s Jazz Rebirth: A New Chapter

The New York Times carried this fascinating story about iconic jazz clubs returning to Harlem. The in-fighting that destroyed the Lenox Lounge is sad to read, but the revival of Minton’s Playhouse under Richard Parsons is very encouraging, mainly because he is respecting the past (rather than living in it) and envisioning a club that will be vital to jazz today.

-Michael Cuscuna

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anonymous asked:

What are some of your favorite foods? By the way I think you are a beautifully soul and full of light and amazingness so ignore those haters ;))

My fav foods change weekly/daily/hourly hahaha
Currently - 

  • sea salt and apple cider vinegar popcorn
  • vegan minton cookies
  • bananas and dates (always)
  • avocado on toast with lemon, herbamare, pepper and chili flakes
  • veg soup with udon noodles
  • fresh berries 

Hello, friends!


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