Outdoor Muzak

+ Texas tacos or Peking duck = vibes.

The first time I went Mexico City I did as many first-time tourists do and made a reservation to tour Luis Barragán’s house and studio (or “Casa Estudio Luis Barragán”), a property he built in 1947.

Since then, I’ve been lucky to visit Casa Prieto Lopez and Casa Gilardi as well, two of the other private homes he architected.

Barragán considered himself a landscape architect and the outdoor spaces of his homes are notable for their serene and practical nature. Here he is, quoted in Contemporary Architects (1980).

“I believe that architects should design gardens to be used, as much as the houses they build, to develop a sense of beauty and the taste and inclination toward the fine arts and other spiritual values.”

What struck me the most from that first encounter with Barragán’s work was a garden speaker. Many of his architectural details are subtle or hidden, only to be exposed when needed. As we gathered outside, our tour guide stopped beside a set of curtains to the right of the large glass window that divides the exterior from the dining room and drenches the house in natural light. He then brushed the drapes back to expose a wooden speaker nestled into the plastered concrete wall. The sight enabled me to envision Barragán himself listening to tunes as he sat in the garden, alone or entertaining. It signaled a liveliness. Throughout the rest of the tour, I was able to imagine more deeply what it was like to live there.

I thought about Barragán’s garden speaker last Sunday morning, while eating breakfast tacos at Yellow Rose, a new Texan joint from Dave and Krystiana Rizo. The San Antonio natives previously worked at Superiority Burger and Emmy Squared, respectively, and ran Yellow Rose as a pop-up throughout most of this year as a way to showcase the foods they miss from home. Now they’re in the East Village slinging tacos on spectacular flour tortillas in flavors like the must-order bean-and-cheese, papas rancheros, and migas; beef chili and vegan queso; and yellow buttermilk cake with pink buttercream frosting and plum jam. We ordered inside the brick and mortar, all decorated in retro trinkets from down south, then grabbed a corner table on their tented patio, just below a speaker bumping Wendy Rene’s “Bar-B-Que.”

“Your first time in New York?” Saarim joked as I snapped a video of the scene. But to me, the moment was well worth capturing. The clip (slide #2) is a piece of 2020 history: an example of the ingenuity employed by restaurateurs to transform small plots of city street into expressive, hospitable environments—and in the middle of November, no less.

I was similarly enthralled on a recent Friday night upon arriving at Peking Duck House for dinner. White tablecloths draped each sidewalk table. A man donning a tall chef’s hat and sectioned off by plexiglass sliced shiny slivers of meat off a caramel-colored bird. And a slow version of The Weeknd’s “I Feel it Coming” permeated throughout the little pocket of Chinatown.

Peking Duck House has been doing its thing on Mott Street since 1978, but it was my first time eating at the restaurant. I bumped it up on the long list after reading Robert Sietsema’s glowing review of the al fresco dining experience. We brought our own wine (a Beaujolais nouveau because ‘tis the season); sipped on hot tea; dug into springy sesame noodles and blistered green beans with crumbled pork; assembled slabs of roasted duck, strips of cucumber and scallion, and dollops of hoison sauce on steamed pancakes, then rolled them up; and finished with fortune cookies. It was everything I expected it to be and more, on account of the abnormal set up.

While writing this newsletter I was reminded of Muzak, a brand of music coined in 1934 and produced for elevators, malls, and other public spaces. The term has more broadly come to signify any background music that’s meant to subconsciously propel a certain feeling, which is exactly what the speakers at Yellow Rose and Peking Duck House lend to the outdoor dining experience. Listen for yourself.

And here’s a little 70s grocery store muzak, as a treat:

Yellow Rose
102 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10003
(212) 529-8880

Peking Duck House
28 Mott St A, New York, NY 10013
(212) 227-1810

guokui, panettone, levain, roti
Carbs season, clockwise from top left: Crop Circle’s guokui, Panettone Biasetto from Italy, roti from Dil-E Punjab Deli, Fabrique’s levain loaf

TRY THIS

  1. Crop Circle’s guokui (a thin, crispy flatbread originating in Hubei) stuffed with preserved vegetables

  2. Panettone Biasetto via Gustiamo

  3. The extraordinarily fluffy “levain” loaf from Fabrique Bakery

  4. Roti and anything else from Dil-E Punjab Deli

  5. A recipe: 101 Cookbook’s Curried Tomato Tortellini Soup

READ THAT

ADDED BONUSES:

This American Life resurfaced some of their favorite episodes for their 25th anniversary, including this gem from 2000 starring David Sedaris.

I’ve become addicted to watching the Bangkok-based food YouTuber Mark Wiens, so long as I’m stuck in America. This Beirut episode is great.

A SHOUT OUT

Check out Giving Broadly, an immersive curated guide to delicious gifts from women-owned brands hot off the press from Dana Cowin & team—just in time for gifting season.

SMC, MAPPED

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