Georgia territory

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Abiquiu in Northern New Mexico is the place where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted.

“When I got to New Mexico, that was mine.As soon as I saw it , that was my country”

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The stunning, stark beauty of the high desert landscape had been her inspiration since her first visit in 1929.For 20 years she travelled from New York to Abiquiu each summer, often staying for six months in solitude, to paint the skies and desert, colored rock formations, distant mountains and Chama  river valley.

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Smaller found objects like bleached bones and rocks, exotic cactus flowers and the wood and adobe structures also found their way onto her canvases. Three years after her husband’s death she moved permanently to New Mexico and eventually owned two homes .

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The first in Ghost Ranch, was high and secluded. Nestled beneath 700-foot cliffs it looked over to the flat-topped Pedernal. “Pedernal is my private mountain” she said frequently.”God told me if I painted it enough I could have it.”

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The second, initially used as her winter residence, was in the small town of Abiquiu at an elevation  of 6400′ and overlooked the Chama River with its  green trees and fields.

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Both locations surrounded her with a wealth of imagery for her paintings.

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Visiting Abiquiu over Christmas I was struck at each turn of the road  how recognizable the landscape is because of our familiarity with O’Keeffe’s work.

Driving north towards Ghost Ranch we knew we were getting close when Chimney Rocks came into sight.

Photographs taken quickly (with the phone!) out the window of the car amazed us with their color and clarity. Georgia O’Keeffe was quoted as saying that most of her art was done in New Mexico before she put her brushes to the canvas.

There is almost no tourist infrastructure in Abiquiu. An Inn with a small but good restaurant. A road house /gas station famous for breakfast burritos. Georgia’s home in town is only open for tours in the warmer months and her home at Ghost Ranch can only be toured via enquiries at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. Ghost Ranch, now owned by the Presbyterian Church is a retreat, conference center,geology museum and place of learning.Each year there are hundreds of classes to take, many residential.

What is there and intensely accessible, are breathtaking vistas that shock. Skies that amaze with crystalline blue beauty, the whitest clouds and nearly every night billions of sparkly stars.Every road takes you somewhere you want to explore:cliff dwellings, pueblos, monasteries and churches, rocks and petroglyphs and tiny adobe hamlets.

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We rented a little stone house and pinched ourselves every morning when we looked out the windows, across Georgia’s valley.

State of Enchantment , as marked on the car number plates…not really a cliche!

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http://www.okeeffemuseum.org

http://www.GhostRanch.org

http://www.abiquiuinn.com

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Flat whites

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So I live in town where it’s well nigh impossible to get a good coffee.
As a mostly tea drinker, it’s mostly ok, but for meeting a friend I want a coffee.
And when I want to sit and read, or write, or watch and ponder, I need a good flat white in front of me.
( and an atmosphere and ambience that vibes to all of the above)

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Moving to the US was a shock having grown up in the antipodean coffee culture….real espresso served sit down style in a one off, owner operated coffee shop.

“But where do I go to have a coffee?” asks the immigrant bride!

All I could see were brewers and glass pots perched in a diner or breakfast place, and the coffee places in the mall reeked of sweet artificial flavorings and there was no where to sit.

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In Australia,  commercial espresso machines proliferated after WWII and the ensuing influx of European immigrants and most every  cafe had one.Even in small country towns, fabulous n fancy machines dominated the counters at main street “milk bars” and if the actual coffee wasn’t so great, we grew up drinking cappuccinos with our friends and seeing espresso as the basis of any coffee drink.

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Unlike the USA where electric brew pots reigned supreme, most Aussies had percolators, a French press or drip paper system at home. Maybe a stove top espresso, and instant for emergencies! Quality coffee was becoming more and more prevalent and roasters pushed the industry forward with branded sponsored umbrellas, cups and paraphernalia for the coffee bars and cafes.

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In the late 70’s and early 80’s the flat white/short black phenomena exploded, and the terminology continues today.

It was only the arrival of Starbucks that brought paper takeaway cups and “Big Gulp” sizes to Sydney and Melbourne. No surprise to anyone ( except the coffee execs perhaps?) when 2/3rds of the stores closed within a year of opening. Why would anyone reared on great coffee want the McCoffee style experience?

Different here where it’s the benchmark. But beyond a wrenchingly early morning at the airport , or in a drive thru on road trip why?

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Over the past year I have found my way back to my favorite coffee…..the flat white.

It’s 2 shots of espresso and a smaller amount of velvetty, foamy stretched milk.Served in a real cup, 6 to 8oz with a gorgeous merged crema and foam.

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Originating in Australia and New Zealand it’s de rigeur in London, most parts of Asia, Berlin and now available here: notably at my favorite coffee place in LA, Deus ex Machina in Venice.coffee3

Not to be confused with a latte which is bigger and whiter or a cappuccino which floats dryer foam on top of the espresso and milk, the secret of the flat white is the milk/coffee ratio and the micro foamed milk.

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So big coffee news this week.
Starbucks will begin selling the flat white in the USA this Tuesday.

Drippingly ironic as just last year the company officially exited Australia after apparently losing millions of dollars.Completely unsuccessful in the face of an obsessive coffee culture which prizes quality,flavor and technique over ubiquity and mass production.

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So maybe give one a try but I’m not confident that the push button machine, harsh roasts and paper cups will do justice to my favorite .
Better still, seek out a real coffee house where baristas work their magic on a glorious La Marzocco or Nuova Simonelli and sit and savor the best coffee of the day!

glossary

flat white:2 shots of espresso and about 6 ounces of foamy milk.

short black: one or two shots of espresso.

long black: espresso with hot water, an americano.

cappuccino; espresso w an equal amount of steamed milk , topped with a thick layer of foam.