Sunday 9 February 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 9/2/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Cloth or sloth?

If you’re wondering where we are this morning, we’re on a train – a dining car belonging to Swiss Federal Railways to be exact. We pulled out of Geneva a little over an hour ago, the sun is shining, there’s a light dusting of snow up in the Jura mountains and in 90 minutes we’ll roll into Zürich Hauptbahnhof. As it’s just after 10.00, things are pretty cosy with the breakfast crowd lingering over coffee and herbal tea, half-eaten croissants and bowls of muesli. Spread out in front of us we have our own little basket of baked goods, a cappuccino, orange juice, the weekend editions of Les Echos and the FT – all of it spread out on a crisp white linen tablecloth. As mobile breakfast settings go, it’s tough to beat. And when it comes to state-run European rail operators, such a setting is a rarity as dining cars have all but disappeared – almost.

If you’re reading this in the US then you will be familiar with the news that Amtrak recently announced that it’s getting rid of tablecloths all together because research suggested that millennials didn’t respond well to linen. Really? What exactly does that even mean? They didn’t respond well because they were allergic to the fibres? They didn’t like the colour? Or did they really have a problem with the formality of a bit of fabric that can be washed, keeps things in place and is also good for acoustics?

I’m not sure about you but I’m a little tired of one-size-fits-all solutions that are taken on behalf of what is a questionable demographic in the first place. We’re also told that males of this generation are not buyers of blazers or leather-soled shoes. We’re told that they only want to wear sportswear and that there’s not much of a future for the three-button jacket. As for Goodyear-welted soles, you can forget about them. The sad news is that all kinds of businesses buy into such proclamations. Management consultancies distribute this guff to clients far and wide. Ad agencies process this nonsense into campaigns. The retailers who are on the front lines and should know better somehow end up listening to their communication partners and, before you know it, they’ve bought into the entire narrative and have filled their shop floors with garments and gear that no one really wants to wear.

The good news is that, despite what we’re being told, young men do want to wear blazers and proper shoes. And yes, I’m talking about 17 and 18-year-olds who should be wearing Balenciaga sweatshirts but have the sartorial good sense to recognise that there’s a better way. And how do I know this? Because I witnessed it first hand at a high-altitude nightclub last weekend where scores of young men filed past the coat check in their “jankers” (think: high-collared Tyrol-style jackets) and navy flannel blazers looking completely comfortable in the tailoring we’re told their generation’s not interested in. And it’s moments like these when the “research” and “data” falls completely off-piste because you suddenly realise that much of it is generated for or by Anglo-centric outlets that don’t manage to capture the currents in other key markets – mostly because they’re not American or British.

If young men really aren’t wearing blazers or interested in formal wear then why is a retailer like Lodenfrey in Munich doing such a roaring trade in traditional attire? And why is United Arrows in Japan putting so much effort into its Italian tailoring for the funky bunch? It’s because there’s a solid market for such garments but they fall outside the casualisation/anything goes/don’t-bother-making-an-effort narrative that’s somehow gone political. Which brings us back to the white tablecloth set before us. Are we getting rid of fine linen and starched sheets because they make us feel uncomfortable and are out of step with the times? Or is it all just cost-saving and a cultural downgrade dressed up as a generational shift?


All systems dough

There’s new life in Danish pastries – or, at least, in the loaves and buns of Copenhagen (writes Jamie Waters). Sure, the city has mid-century furniture and cutting-edge restaurants but now it’s worth a trip for the bakeries alone. Denmark has a long-held love of baking. “Danish pastries” slathered in custard and fruit jelly became popular in the 1840s – though, oddly, Danish pastries are called wienerbrød or “Vienna bread” here. But in the past year or so a number of newer independent bakeries have sprung up across the capital. Some are in out-of-the-way spots; many are run by the former chefs of top restaurants, who are elevating daily bread to the level of haute cuisine in terms of care and deliciousness (though not fanciness).

On a recent weekend my friends and I bakery-hopped our way across the city. I’m ashamed to admit that almost the sole purpose of our holiday was to consume pastries – although that doesn’t sound like such a ridiculous thing once you’ve tasted the almond croissant from Juno the Bakery, with its impossibly squidgy filling and crisp shell. The pint-sized premises in the smart Østerbro neighbourhood, founded by Noma alumnus Emil Glaser, are filled with the scent of cardamom buns and the chatter of customers snaking out the door. Other recently opened haunts have also perfected their rolls and scrolls, including Hart Bageri (by Noma’s René Redzepi and Richard Hart of San Francisco institution Tartine) and Andersen & Maillard. For charm, though, visit Lille, which bakes bread and doughnuts in a warehouse in an industrial stretch by the harbour. It’s not highfalutin in the least. Yet sitting in its quiet high-ceilinged room, chewing on sourdough with jam and watching its white-uniformed team prove and prod their masterpieces, is a surprisingly tough thing to top.


Laurie Anderson

Audio-visual artist Laurie Anderson started her career in 1970s New York. Her avant garde musical performances drew the city’s artistic milieu – William Burroughs, Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg were all early supporters. Anderson’s 1981 single “O Superman” brought her international recognition and earned her a record deal with Warner Bros. She has since directed, composed for and featured in countless films, and produced a total of seven full-length albums.

Where do we find you this weekend?
Yesterday I was cheering on some relatives at a marathon in New Orleans and today I’m flying back home to New York. On Sunday evenings I usually catch up with my friends.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? I’ll wake up and, if I have enough time, I do some reading or meditation – and I always have a lot of cappuccino. Then I have t’ai chi at 09.30.

Soundtrack of choice? It’s often what I’m working on. Right now there’s a quartet I’m making called Sol. It’s inspired by the minimalist artist Sol LeWitt, who makes his sculptures using numeric formulas. I looked at the numbers that he uses and said, “That looks like music.” And he said, “Well, make some!”

What’s for breakfast? I have some eggs, maybe. I don’t have any breakfast rituals. Coffee is one though, definitely.

News or not? Not these days. Although I do have an obligation to know what’s going on as an artist. I used to read it first thing but now it just reaches me throughout the day.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping? T’ai chi gets your chi pumping, let’s say – it’s quite a workout. That’s two hours with Ren Guang-Yi, a Chinese master. If I feel a need for something else, I might stop at the gym later.

Lunch in or out? Always out – I meet with friends. One of my favourite places is called Atla, a nouveau Mexican place, but it’s dangerous to go for brunch on Sunday in New York; it’s too busy these days.

Larder essentials that you can’t do without? Miso. It makes an incredible soup in the morning, for lunch or for an emergency dinner. You get it as a paste and make soup with tofu and seaweed. That’s often my go-to breakfast. In summer or autumn I add some chives from the roof garden.

Sunday culture essential? It’s more on a level of pottering, though I often like to make some drawings. I’m a reader so I’ve got three or four books on the go at once. I might go into the studio and do some music.

A glass of something you’d recommend? Oh yes! Grüner veltliner – it’s the only one that doesn’t give me a blasting headache. It’s a light, fresh, airy white wine. If it’s cold, I have Woodford [Reserve] bourbon from Kentucky.

The ideal dinner menu? I would choose the spinach with garlic. I’ll often have that as a main thing and order a couple of smaller dishes on the side.

And the ideal dinner venue? I’m in the West Village so there’s a million to choose from. Chinese is the traditional evening food in New York. I’ll go to Chinatown or there’s a Chinese place nearby that I love called Red Farm.

Who’s joining you? Jim, Julian, Rosie or Roma – my friends.


Turkish-style pizza

Pizza might be synonymous with Naples but similar dishes from various regions – such as flammkuchen in Alsace and lahmacun in Turkey – show its doughy versatility, says food stylist Aya Nishimura. Our take on the lahmacun is an, ahem, crust-worthy addition to your weekend recipe roster.

Makes 2 pizzas

3 tbsps olive oil 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 300g minced lamb 2 tbsps tomato paste 2 tsps cumin powder 1 tsp paprika 1 tsp cinnamon powder ½ tsp sea salt Crushed black pepper to taste 2 Turkish flat breads (about 23cm diameter) 2 tbsps olive oil

For the topping: 1 small red onion, finely chopped 20 cherry tomatoes, cut into small cubes 5g parsley, finely chopped 5g dill, finely chopped ¼ tsp sea salt ½ lemon ½ tsp sumac (optional)

For the yoghurt sauce: 4 tbsps yoghurt 1 tbsp tahini 1 tbsp water


  1. Preheat your oven to 220C (200C for a fan oven).
  2. Chop the topping ingredients.
  3. Mix the yoghurt-sauce ingredients together.
  4. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, pour in 1 tbsp of olive oil and chopped garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the garlic releases its aroma. Add the minced lamb, using a wooden spoon to separate the larger lumps as you cook. When the mince starts to brown, add the spices and cook for 1 minute, then mix in the tomato paste and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Lay the flatbreads on a baking tray, spread 1 tbsp of olive oil on each piece and bake for 2 minutes.
  6. Remove the tray from the oven, divide the lamb mixture between the 2 flatbreads and spread it evenly. Put it back in the oven and bake for 3 minutes.
  7. Take the pizza out, sprinkle the toppings and season with salt, lemon juice and sumac. Finally, drizzle the yoghurt sauce over the top. Serve hot.


Clean getaway

If a rigorous scrub-down at the rough-and-ready Russian & Turkish Baths in the East Village isn’t for you, the shiny new Bathhouse in Williamsburg just might be (writes Ed Stocker). Unlike the 1890s affair in Manhattan, Bathhouse is all flush finishes, with two saunas, three dipping pools and a steam room. Expect clean design, plants aplenty and the requisite hipster-ish Brooklyn types. True, you might have to deal with a spot of hip-hop or ambient house music being piped into your massage room but for most people here that modern touch is sort of the point. Admirably, co-founder Jason Goodman is at pains to avoid any wellness clichés – including muzak – and says that Bathhouse (a converted brick warehouse that used to be a soda factory) is more of a meeting spot. At the adjoining restaurant, where no one would complain if you sauntered in wearing a bathrobe, punters seem more interested in imbibing cocktails or gnawing on a confit duck leg than enjoying the health benefits of a turmeric tea (I was the only saddo opting for the latter). Wellness this ain’t.

In New York, with all its noise and churn, the most novel experience is arguably the chance to spend an hour in a sensory-deprivation tank ($95/€87, including a day pass to the baths). This involves stripping off as naked as the day you were born and entering a small, windowless, private room filled with below-knee-length water that has an off-the-scale saline content. Wearing earplugs, you pull the door shut and lie in the water in total darkness, getting used to the sensation of bobbing up to the surface, as though you are in the Dead Sea. Do you clear your mind and experience a return-to-the-womb sensation? There’s certainly something to be said for the way you almost forget about your body. Do you end up wondering what’s for dinner? Quite possibly. One piece of key advice: resist the urge to scratch that itch in the corner of your eye. It stings. A lot.


East End whirl

Distance: 3km
Terrain: Largely flat, with one hill that you can choose not to conquer (but should).
Notes: Toronto is best experienced by exploring its neighbourhoods. This walk through the city’s East End includes some charming residential architecture, green spaces, good food and, to top it all off, a cold beer.

Monocle’s Toronto bureau is in the west of the city but that doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate our neighbours across town. This week we start off in Cabbagetown, named for the purported tendency of 19th-century Irish immigrants’ to plant the vegetables in their front gardens. Nowadays the neighbourhood is home to Toronto’s best collection of Victorian red-brick houses. Work your way along one of the area’s residential streets, such as Winchester Street, and head east to Riverdale Park. As you walk through the park, keep your eyes peeled for a bridge: you’ll need it to cross the Don River. Once you’ve done so, climb the hill (provided it’s dry) towards Broadview Avenue for arguably the best view of the Toronto skyline.

Next, head south along Broadview Avenue into Toronto’s second, lesser-known Chinatown (the main one is in the city centre). If you’re getting peckish, continue south and keep an eye out for a wooden façade announcing Lady Marmalade, a much-loved breakfast spot inside a bright, Baltic-wood interior designed by Toronto-and-Halifax-based architect Omar Gandhi.

Cut off east and follow Boulton Ave south until you hit Queen Street East, in Riverside. There you’ll find the aptly named Tiny Record Shop, owned by Trevor Larocque, who founded independent label Paper Bag Records in 2002. Keep walking east into Leslieville until you find Queen Books (914 Queen Street East), one of the city’s better independent bookshops and a good spot to grab a magazine or newspaper to settle into at Mercury Espresso Bar, just across the road at number 915.

Once the caffeine has kicked in, continue east along Queen Street and have a browse inside Zig Zag Collectables, a small furniture and homeware shop with a penchant for Dutch pendants. While this strip used to be home to a row of mid-century shops, rising rents have pushed a few good shops out of the area in recent years. But it’s not all bad news: new businesses are arriving too. Avling, for instance, is a well-designed brewery and kitchen, with a rooftop garden attached, at number 1042. It’s as good a spot as any to rest your feet and savour a pint.


Shaping things to come

Stockholm Furniture Fair has long championed the more sustainable side of furniture making (writes Nolan Giles). And the brightest ideas about how to do things better in this wasteful industry tend to emerge from exhibiting Scandinavian companies. This year’s fair, which wrapped up yesterday, continued this dialogue. But with most of the world’s best furniture companies now firmly embracing sustainability by developing smarter fabrics and reducing wastage in manufacturing, the Scandis were challenged to carve out a new reason for industry members to trek to Stockholm in the depths of winter.

Thankfully a revamp of the 70-year-old event provided a refreshing format that many of its competitors would be wise to learn from. Emphasis was placed firmly on the future, with Greenhouse, its young talents showcase (typically treated as an afterthought in other design fairs) planted in the event’s busiest section. Sure, the pieces on display weren’t as polished as the Børge Mogensen re-editions from Scandinavian heavyweights Fredericia but the quality of the ideas – from finely engineered flat-packable Finnish furniture to novel new materials – was impressive.

Established brands were pushed by organisers to step it up too. Sweden’s Bolon, famed for its flooring made from recycled materials, didn’t release new products but instead teamed up with New York design firm Snarkitecture to showcase a spectacular stand that packs down so that it can be re-used at future fairs. Japan’s Time & Style emphasised artful simplicity by deploying a stained-timber decking and wall covering to create the most cosy (and wonderfully wood-scented) display at the event. Plenty to build on, it seems, for the years ahead.


Dates for the diary

They might have been sizzling over prolonged heat for years because of their lack of diversity but – love them or snub them – the Oscars roll up in Los Angeles tonight and award-winners, failed gags and mishaps will fill the entertainment pages of every newspaper worldwide in the week to come. As is customary, our own culture correspondent, Fernando Augusto Pacheco, will be keeping tabs on the event; his expectation is that this year’s edition won’t be quite as incendiary and political as the ones that preceded it. Joaquin Phoenix is expected to collect the gong for best actor but, once again, the recipient of the best picture award is the most difficult to predict. A win for the dark, sharp and affecting Parasite would make Bong Joon Ho’s work the first ever foreign-language film to scoop that particular statuette. And that would be a big tick in the Oscars’ ledger.

The fashion industry is very keen to spin a narrative thread of sustainability around its activities and nowhere is this more evident than at Paris’s Première Vision. From Tuesday to Thursday this week, almost 2,000 material manufacturers will lay out the yarn, leather and knits that will end up on catwalks and in ready-to-wear collections over the coming seasons. As well as “trend tastings” and talks on anything from the future of leavers lace to the history of the shoe, the newly minted Smart Creation Area will allow buyers to view technology that makes clothes more eco-friendly. Will textiles made from bananas and synthetic protein fibres become the new cotton?

One hundred and forty tonnes of citrus: not the recipe for the world’s sharpest lemon tart but the amount of fruit that the organisers of Menton’s Lemon Festival (or Fête du Citron) go through every year to put on their zesty carnival. First organised officially in the 1930s, the weeks-long celebration of the town’s speciality starts on Saturday. Over the years it has grown into a bizarre, high-production-value event. This is no agricultural fair: lemon-based feats of engineering have included miniature castles and camel-shaped parade floats. This year’s theme, Festivals from the World, promises to take visitors on a detour from the Riviera, via Munich’s Oktoberfest, all the way Mexico’s Día de Los Muertos. Trust us, it’ll be a zinger.


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