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An L.A. Restaurant From Humberto Leon and Family
Chifa, a culinary tradition that incorporates elements of Cantonese and Peruvian cuisines, evolved in the 19th century as Chinese immigrants to Peru adapted their dishes with local ingredients. The word, derived from the Mandarin chi fan (literally, “eat rice”; figuratively, “come to the dinner table”), is also shorthand for any Chinese restaurant in Peru. In the 1970s, Wendy Leon ran one such restaurant in Lima that was particularly sought out for its braised spare ribs. Now, 45 years later, she’s resurrecting it — with the help of her children, Humberto and Ricardina Leon, as well as Ricardina’s husband, John Liu, the head chef — in Los Angeles’s Eagle Rock neighborhood, just next door to Highland Park, where the family moved from Lima in 1977. “We’re all obsessed with food and, pre-Covid, threw big gatherings. It’s been great to explore that in a work context,” says Humberto, who dreamed up the space’s interior with the architect Michael Loverich; it’s outfitted with a green-and-black wallpaper (designed for Calico) with a pattern that mirrors wood grain, sculptural green velvet chairs and marble tables with scalloped edges. Primarily a fashion designer, Humberto also conceived of the staff’s uniforms: “a take on the American barn jacket of the ’90s, with Chinese closures and the deep pockets of a chore jacket,” he says. The menu, meanwhile, features Chinese and Peruvian dishes side by side, among them Wendy’s famous ribs, pollo a la brasa, dan dan noodles and an ever-changing recipe that seeks to combat sensitivities to environmental factors such as pollen and smog called Popo’s Wellness Soup, “Popo” being a common term of endearment in parts of China for one’s maternal grandmother. “Even my kids call my mother that, which doesn’t quite make sense,” says Humberto. Chifa is currently accepting takeout orders, 4374 Eagle Rock Boulevard, Los Angeles, chifa-la.com.
A New Atelier From a Beloved Irish Perfumer
Margaret Mangan and her husband, Julian Checkley, founded the Irish perfume house Cloon Keen in 2002 in hopes of “conjuring what it means to be from this small nation that has had such an influence on poetry, music and literature.” With fragrances such as Róisín Dubh, a smoky rose perfume named after a 16th-century love song turned political anthem, for example, Mangan hopes to bottle “the suppression and rebellion, romance and determination” of her homeland in scent form. The brand will continue to sell an assortment of its perfumes and candles from its original shop near Galway Bay, but as of this month, it’s opened a new dedicated space in Dublin, in the limestone Powerscourt Townhouse center. Checkley, who designed the tranquil shop interior, was inspired by Carlo Scarpa’s Brion Cemetery Chapel and “the swooping curves of Ducati motorcycles.” If you’re lucky enough to visit before the holidays, the brand’s Noble Fir candle is the best evergreen version I’ve ever encountered. 59 William Street South, Dublin, cloonkeen.com.
Artisanal Housewares From Mexico City
Not long before the writer and curator Su Wu and her husband, the artist Alma Allen, moved into their new home, a 1920s-era former theater in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood, they learned that it was once the residence of the writer William Burroughs — and possibly where he killed his second wife, the poet Joan Vollmer, in 1951. Wu later discovered that the incident had, in fact, taken place at a bar around the corner but, in tribute to Vollmer, she wanted to infuse the space with a spirit of vitality and creativity. To that end, she opened Casa Ahorita, a temporary store and gallery on the building’s ground floor, this fall. Lined with simple pine shelves and concrete plinths, the space is filled with handmade housewares and art objects — from bronze bookends by the Oaxacan master ceramist José García Antonio to bright orange spherical sheepskin pillows by Elise Durbecq of the shoe line Huaraches — that Wu commissioned from artists she knows. “Something I return to a lot is the best advice I’ve ever heard for young writers, which is to write about your love for your friends,” says Wu of how she approached the project. “This is really an excuse to engage with some of my favorite people.” Casa Ahorita is open by appointment at Orizaba 193 in Mexico City.
Hand-Knit Sweaters Inspired by Folk Dressing
Amanda Brooks, owner of the Cutter Brooks boutique in the English countryside, has collaborated with the Paris-based designer Michaela Buerger on a series of one-of-a-kind wool sweaters inspired by Tracht, the traditional folk clothing that Buerger grew up wearing in her small southern Austrian village. The designer mastered the challenging local knitting techniques her mother taught her at a young age, before going on to study at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna under Raf Simons. Upon graduating, Buerger moved to Paris, where she launched her namesake line in 2010 with little more than a pair of knitting needles and some yarn. Brooks became a fan of Buerger’s work after discovering her Alpine-inspired knitwear at a showroom. “Michaela’s early designs were a kind of modern take on Tracht sweaters, and I loved them. But for my shop, I wanted them to be more traditional,” said Brooks, “so I found a few original pieces and showed them to her, and she sourced the wool and the buttons and developed the pattern herself.” These woolly hand-knit Felizitas vests and Rosalie cardigans, which each take around 35 hours to create, are embellished with embroidered and crocheted rosebuds, come in cozy, jolly colors — burgundy, green, charcoal, cream and more — and will add a touch of mountain chic (and warmth) to your holiday. cutterbrooks.com.
T Book Club
James Baldwin’s ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain’
Like John Grimes, the 14-year-old protagonist of James Baldwin’s 1953 debut novel, “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” I was raised in the heat and fervor of the Pentecostal church. My family and I had given our souls and hearts to Jesus. We prayed for those who did not know Christ, and for our own souls that we would not lose our hard-won faith. We did not dance or listen to secular music. When I read “Go Tell It on the Mountain” at 19, I discovered that Baldwin had written an accounting of my young life. Baldwin was himself raised in the Pentecostal faith and was a preacher until the age of 17, when he left the church to become the man he was destined to be. I grew up in Philadelphia in the 1980s, many decades and hundreds of miles from the 1930s Harlem dwelling of the Grimes family, but in Baldwin’s pages I found my every inarticulable anger, my chafing at the limitations of that church life, my shame and my pride — all illuminated in his pages. I found, too, the strangeness of my family’s religion — this sense that sin was all around, crowding in on us like an enemy at the gates. T’s Book Club is a series of articles and events dedicated to classic works of American literature. Read Mathis’s full essay on the novel here — and R.S.V.P. to a virtual conversation about the book on Dec. 17 here.
From T’s Instagram
#T212: Il Posto Accanto
For over 20 years, Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta and her husband, Julio Pena, have turned diners into devotees at their East Village trattoria, Il Posto Accanto. In good times, the restaurant can seat 45 guests at its long polished wood bar and handful of high-top tables, where people linger over brunch until four in the afternoon, and when the weather’s fine, the French doors are left open to the sidewalk. In light of the pandemic, the number of indoor diners is limited, but there are extra tables on the street and a sheltered area with electric heaters. It is a neighborhood joint with food so spectacularly good that people come from everywhere to experience Tosti di Valminuta’s spaghetti carbonara, linguine vongole, delicately fried anchovies, mussels with Tuscan cannellini beans, saltimbocca, eggplant croquettes, Roman-style tripe and almond cake topped with mascarpone gelato. It’s a place, says Michael Gilsenan, a regular, “for being a member of the congregation in the church of the perfect cook.” And Tosti di Valminuta is adamant that she is in fact a cook, not a chef, by which she might mean that food and love are inextricably linked in her world, that she has been to the market and prepares the dishes as she would in her own house. Read Reggie Nadelson’s full story here — and follow us on Instagram.