“The sliders are so good, I would eat meat again” — is a bold statement from a vegetarian. Biting into one is almost like eating a sloppy joe as the warm oil and richly spiced tomato sauce snakes through your fingers, waiting for your tongue to follow — only this is much better than the sludge served at school. The meat, a mixture of beef, pork, veal, and mixed with Pecorino, is moist, rich, and unforgettable. Bite-sized and inviting like the sliders, the Little Owl is the ideal neighborhood restaurant.
This homey restaurant is located in the West Village on the corner of Bedford and Grove, in the building where Monica, Rachel, Chandler, and Joey lived (supposedly). The next time you watch re-runs of Friends, look for when the camera focuses in on the street signs — a strong sell for the restaurant even before you step inside.
A hospitable restaurant to its core, the obliging host will often bring the soon-to-be diners waiting outside tea cups of wine — but with a warning to run your a** off if the cops come. The inside is just as welcoming and is warmly lit with floor length windows on two walls. Tasteful seasonal decorations adorn the room and are best viewed from a corner perch where a couple can wait for a table (not really room for more). The crowd is a mix of young and old who were both wise and lucky enough to get a reservation a month in advance.
The small menu changes frequently except for the mainstays: the sliders and pork chops. As a neighboring diner once told me at Union Square Café, “the Little Owl has the best pork chops in the city, and I know my pork chops.” He was right. It is a dish that should not be missed nor its seasonal sides. The rest of the carefully chosen plates do not focus solely on meat and will appease all diners.
Intimate, quiet, and worth the acclaim, the Little Owl always satisfies. Finishing our dessert of raspberry beignets and nutella one December night, my friend sat back, gazed softly out the window, and sighed, “If it started snowing, tonight would be perfect”.
Welcome to Our Family
Blackfoot Hospitality is a thriving management group operating three beautiful West Village restaurants, two lovely private events spaces , a full-service event production and catering company as well as a hospitality consulting division.
Our approach is rooted in old-school , genuine hospitality –treating our guests and clients like family.
creativity and soul to each and every table we touch.
We manage and operate New York City restaurants, private event spaces and an event production and consulting company.
Our approach is rooted in old-school genuine hospitality, treating our guests and clients like family.
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Crisp Roast Chicken in a Skillet
- Quick Glance
- Quick Glance
- 15 M
- 45 M
- Serves 2
Ingredients US Metric
- One (3 pound) whole chicken, preferably air-processed, butchered into 2 boneless portions (ask your butcher to do this), or 2 large skin-on boneless chicken breasts
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 1/3 cup mild vegetable oil
- 1 lemon, halved
Preheat the oven to as high and as hot as it can possibly go. We mean highest.
Place the prepared chicken on a clean surface, skin-side up. Season generously with salt. Turn the chicken over, making sure to move the chicken breast tenderloin over (it’s like a little flap) to bridge the gap between the thigh meat and the breast meat, creating a perfectly even sheet of meat, and season generously with salt and white pepper. [Editor’s note: If you’re using breasts, just try to make the meat as uniformly shaped as possible so that it cooks evenly.]
In a large ovenproof skillet (wide enough to hold 2 portions of chicken without overcrowding) over high heat, add the oil and heat until it smokes, 3 to 8 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat, tilt it away from you, and gently, calmly, and nicely place a portion of chicken in the pan, skin-side down. (Don’t throw it in the pan, fancy pants, or you’ll get splashed with oil and burn yourself or your special somebody standing next to you.) Listen to that sizzle! Immediately add the second portion the exact same way.
Give the pan a little shake and then transfer it to the oven, cooking on one side only, until the juices of the meat run clear and the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C), 8 to 14 minutes.
Serve immediately with a lemon half.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
Simply stated, this dish was a huge success. We inhaled our crispy chicken. The meat was succulent and the skin was as golden and as crispy as the title promised. It is restaurant-quality, hands down. And your dinner can be on the table quickly so have your table set and any sides ready to go!
All one needs is three basic ingredients, your air-chilled organic chicken, and a “smoking-hot skillet” and “super hot oven.” I really liked the use of white pepper here. I think it creates a more subtle and deeper flavor than what you usually achieve with freshly ground black pepper. I typically use white pepper in white sauces because it's enhancing power blends so anonymously. I rarely use it to season poultry or meat. So good here.
My son thought for sure I slipped pads of butter under the skin prior to roasting because the meat was so rich. Recipe calls for just oil, salt, white pepper, and lemon. I had Yukon gold baby potatoes on hand, so I steamed and smashed them so I could reuse what was left of the chicken fat and juice in the pan while the meat rested. Alternatively, if you didn’t have the time to trouble with fried potatoes, crisp-up a rustic hunk from a baguette or sauté fresh cubed ciabatta croutons so as not to waste the remaining lemony chicken juice. One thing is for sure, you do not want to wash any part of this dish down the drain.
I used to try to be a hero and make everything from scratch. After having many moments of tears streaming down my face in pure exhaustion while trying to get dinner on the table, now I know better. So, if you don’t have time to cut up your chicken, don’t worry you will get the same delicious result whether the butcher cut up the chicken or you did. This recipe was noteworthy since the chicken breast and thigh both came out of the oven perfectly moist with crispy skin, and I loved the addition of the lemon at the end. I served this with a grated carrot salad, simple and classic.
Who doesn’t love crispy, salted chicken skin, one of the greatest gifts to our taste buds (right after bacon)? Many years ago, I got adventurous and deboned a turkey, which was stuffed with a sausage pistachio dressing, reshaped into a “bird”, then roasted it for Thanksgiving dinner. It came out very good, but I never did it again as it was a lot of work.
I used a few toothpicks to help keep the leg/thigh meat attached to the breast meat, as it's only held together by the skin. I grabbed some sunflower oil, as it is good for high heat cookery, and got that shimmering in a very large, 12” nonstick skillet. Just before placing the chicken into the pan, I gave it a good wipe with paper towels to get it nice and dry, and then a heavy dose of salt and white pepper to both sides of the bird. I gently slid each half carefully into the very hot oil, and it did splatter a bit, so beware. I let it cook for about a minute, and you can see it browning and crisping up very quickly too, before placing the pan in the oven. I checked the temp after about 5 minutes, and took it out when it reached 165F, overall time about 8 minutes in the oven.
I let it rest about 10 minutes before serving it. The skin was wonderfully brown and crispy, the meat luscious. I just gave the chicken a brief spritz of lemon juice, and I felt it didn’t need much else in the way of added flavor. This is a good “make ahead” meal for a small dinner party as most of the work can be completed earlier, only a few minutes on the stovetop, then it’s into the oven and plating the final meal.
Next time I might leave the chicken on the stove top for an extra 30 seconds to a minute to get the skin even crispier. An added bonus, I gave a quick roast to the wingtip and carcass, then simmered the bones with some veg and spices to make a stock for using later. The little bits of meat left on the bones were saved as a treat for Tommy, our cat, who can never get enough chicken!
To get the skillet to the proper temperature for crispy skin, I cheated here, as I always do—I put the skillet in the bottom of the oven for 5 to 10 minutes to preheat before putting it on the hot burner.
The cooking time was about 15 minutes, but this was largely due to the size of the chicken I used. I cut each chicken half in half again, and with the large chicken used it was still a bit too much for four people. I think a smaller chicken would serve 3 to 4 easily.
I served the chicken with steamed broccoli and pasta, to rave reviews.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Nearly two years ago, when I was a sprightly young thing who planned elaborate birthday weekends for myself, Alex and I went to The Little Owl to celebrate, an infinitesimally small and adorable restaurant in the West Village that has an Italian/New American thing going on. Never ones to study up on a restaurant before going, we simply ordered whatever sounded good (in fact, I tried unsuccessfully to replicate my fideos appetizer at home) which went really well until we told people what we’d eaten the next day and they near-universally gasped “You didn’t have the meatball sliders?”
Apparently, the meatball sliders at The Little Owl are All, the embodiment of everything great about the restaurant in three golf balls on buns and to skip them is to may as well have not gone at all. The good news is that the chef, Joey Campanaro, turns out to be incredibly generous with his recipes and nearly a year later, I had a chance to redeem myself when I found the recipe for his beloved meatball sliders in two places, New York Magazine and Bon Appetit.
Alas, when I finally got to cooking them for my friend’s Oscars party this Sunday, I unfortunately picked the wrong, or shall I say, unedited version. Oh, they were delicious. But I ran into so much trouble along the way. There was unnecessary shallow/deep-frying and an excess of parsley and too much water in the meatballs and too much water in the sauce and too much sauce altogether and not enough yeast in the rolls and you know, just trouble. I mean, we still ate the heck out of them. They came out deliciously. But when I came home and revisited the Bon Appetit version of the recipe, I saw that they’d literally run into every problem I had in the test kitchen and swiftly edited the recipe back into working order.
And because I like you, no, I mean, really really like you, I will give you that version to make at home instead. You’re welcome!
Surprise me! I am ridiculously excited that my WordPress Guru (aside from doing all sorts of behind-the-scenes stuff I won’t bore you with) implemented a new randomizer feature on the smitten kitchen! At the top of the sidebar, right beneath the logo, in the “Welcome!” section there is now a “Surprise Me” link. Clicking it from any page on the site will send you to another random page. Can’t decide what to make for dinner? Hit it until something good comes up. And hopefully, if I am doing my job well, that shouldn’t take long at all.
Joey Campanaro’s Meatball Sliders
Adapted from The Little Owl restaurant, two sources, and a long afternoon cooking
I made a doubled version of this but you should by no means attempt the same unless you have a serious crowd to feed. Although we did our darndest to leave no leftovers.
Also, worth considering, this is a lovely recipe for meatballs — the Romano really sings in there — but there are a lot of recipes out there, and around here, for great meatballs. If you have a favorite recipe, that would work equally well.
Makes 6 3-slider appetizer servings
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
18 very small soft rolls, split horizontally, or Roasted Garlic Buns (recipe below)
Mix all meats, panko, 1/2 cup water, 6 tablespoons cheese, egg, egg yolk, 1/4 cup parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in large bowl. Form into eighteen 2-inch-meatballs.
Heat vegetable oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry meatballs until brown all over. Transfer to plate. Pour off drippings from skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Add olive oil to skillet. Add onion, garlic, basil, and fennel seeds. Sauté until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add all tomatoes with juices. Bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Reduce heat to low, cover with lid slightly ajar, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Puree sauce in processor until almost smooth. Return to same skillet. Add meatballs. Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes longer.
Do ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover chill.
Place arugula leaves on bottom of each roll, if desired. Top each with 1 meatball. Drizzle meatballs with some of sauce and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and 2 tablespoons cheese. Cover with tops of rolls.
3/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoons molasses
1/8 ounce fresh yeast or 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast*
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 whole bulb garlic
In an electric mixing bowl using the hook attachment, mix the warm water, yeast, olive oil, and molasses. Add the flour and the salt. The dough will become a wet mixture but will remain a little sticky. Remove the dough and place onto a floured clean surface and gently knead into a soft ball. Place the dough in a mixing bowl brushed with olive oil and cover. Store in a warm humid area for 30 minutes or until the dough rises to double its size. (For me, this took over an hour, but our apartment is really cold and I used less yeast.)
Wrap two bulbs of garlic in aluminum foil and roast in a medium heat oven until very soft, about 45 minutes. Squeeze the whole bulbs of garlic to release the soft interior. Slightly chop the roasted garlic until it resembles a puree. Portion the dough into 1 inch round balls, kneading in the roasted garlic while doing so.** Place the portioned raw dough balls on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper approximately 2 inches apart. Cover with plastic and allow the dough balls to rise again. After 20 minutes, spray the raw dough balls with cold water, sprinkle with a pinch of the freshly grated pecorino, salt and pepper, and bake for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
* I had trouble with the yeast level in my dough. Honestly uninterested in seeking out fresh yeast, I looked up an exchange with it for instant yeast — it was said to be 3:1, and that the equivalent amount of instant yeast would be 1/4 teaspoon. In the end, I felt that this was too little. Everything took forever to rise and even though the rolls were tasty, they had a density I associate with bread that has not risen as much as it should. Thus, I’ve suggested doubling the yeast, an amount that seems more in par with what you’d see in a bread dough based on two cups of flour.
** Next time, I will add the roasted chopped garlic into the dough in the mixer, before the first rise. However, I am nervous to tell you to do this without testing it in case it in any way affects the rising. It would certainly have been easier that way — kneading roasted garlic into already risen dough is a messy chore, that overly deflates the rise.
TT Culinary Institute: Pork Chops
Even though they're a weeknight staple in many homes, pork chops can be intimidating: All too often they end up tough, dry and drab.
However, there's really no need to fear the chop: We've found that the way to cook it to perfection is to treat it like a T-bone steak: with care and attention𠅊nd butter basting (see the recipe). And speaking of that T-bone, forget boneless options: You're going to want a thick, bone-in cut.
"My favorite pork chop ever is at The Little Owl in NYC," Jenn Louis, chef of Lincoln in Portland, Oregon, says. "It's the perfect neighborhood restaurant, and they serve a huge cut on the bone, perfectly seared and cooked." Of the chefs we talked to, she wasn't the only one who waxed poetic about the ideal chop—take their advice (and ours) and find our why our chops are tops.
Lay it on thick. As much as keeping the bone in is important to flavor, thickness also plays a key role in mastering the pork chop. "I don't love those super, super thick ones, and typically not a thin cut either," Ford Fry, chef/owner of The Optimist in Atlanta, explains. "One inch is good for me, as it has enough time to caramelize on the outside, while resulting in a juicy medium interior." We took his advice and settled on a one-inch thickness, because it's the ideal width for cooking the chop completely on the stovetop. Any thicker and the outside would burn before the center was cooked. And any thinner, the meat would dry out before it reached a golden brown exterior.
Use the right pan, man. As for which type of pan to cook our chops in, every single chef we reached out to said without hesitation that cast iron is the way to go. Providing even heat, the cast iron allows for the surface of the pork to sear without burning. Just make sure to use a 12-inch pan to allow for enough space for two chops. If they crowd the pan too much, the chops will sweat instead of sear𠅊nd trust us, nobody wants beige chops.
Oil before butter. Matt McCallister of FT33 and Filament in Dallas recommends oil to start the sear of the chops without burning, explaining, "I prefer rice bran or grapeseed oil, because both have very high smoke temperatures." Alternatively, you can use pork fat like they do at The Bywater in San Francisco for an intense pork flavor and golden color.
After searing, finish with butter to flavor the pork and serve as a medium to evenly finish cooking. Add whatever you want with the butter to season the pork chops. The resulting pork takes on the fragrance of the herbs added but also the nutty flavor of browning butter.
Just like our recipe, Louis recommends classic herbs like sage and thyme. On the other hand, Fry uses bright herbs like Thai basil and mint to cut through the richness of the pork.
Think pink. Don't be afraid if the center is pink—it should be. "Yes, medium always!" Louis exclaims. We couldn't agree more. Many cooks make the mistake of serving chops well done (read: dry and chewy). But you actually want a medium, perfectly pink center.
Your thermometer is your friend: Cook the chops to 140 degrees, then let them rest to carry them to 145 degrees, the perfect rosy medium doneness.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Fedora in the west village
Last night my husband and I had dinner out with our friends at Fedora. Same guys who own the Little Owl, Joseph Leonard and Jeffrey's grocery run this place. You have to call day of at 11am to get a reservation. I literally stood by my phone waiting for the clock to strike 11 and I hit the dial buttons as fast as humanly possible. I got through and got the reservation. I couldn't have been more excited. Isn't it funny how the harder it is to get the reservation, the more desirable the restaurant is to go to? Pretty genius…keep this in mind if you're thinking of opening up shop one day. ha.
It was dark and cozy and the food was fabulous. I loved every bite. I started with an egg in a hole and then moved on to the fried chicken. But it wasn't like normal fried chicken it was delish really well seasoned and breaded. I'm not quite sure how to explain it to you but it was really juicy and tasty and I highly recommend this dish if you're not on a diet.
We ended the meal with the Madelines and ice cream sammies. Both fab. Not to mention Oliver Platt was sitting a few seats away from us…and I think he's hilarious always and especially in the currently airing Big C on Showtime. This place gets two greasy chicken fried thumbs up from LMF.
*photo above taken from NYMAG.
Frnt A, 239 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10014
How Does The 'Friends' Apartment In NYC Look IRL?
Listen, guys: I'll be there for you, because you're there for me too, or whatever — we all know how the Friends theme song goes (despite all you weirdos who watch the opening credits without the music). Consider those lyrics very applicable right now, not only because I really like the Friends theme song, but also because I'm about to help you out. Look, I know you're just as nosy and curious and preoccupied with fictional worlds as I am, and since I care about you all, I took the liberty of taking on one of the hardest hitting research projects any Friends fan can face: Where exactly is Monica's apartment in Friends? And, furthermore, what does it really look like? It's an iconic building both in the show and in pop culture in general, so this is a big question.
The answer, thankfully, does not disappoint — because, well. turns out, it sort of looks exactly as the show pictured it. Even now, over 20 years after the show's premiere!
So, how do I know this? Simple: In the season 4 episode "The One with the Invitation," it's revealed that the building Monica, Joey, Rachel, and Chandler all occupied is located at 495 Grove Street. While that is most certainly a real address. that "real address" is in Brooklyn, not Greenwich Village. So, that's a bust. But! The building and location are real, despite the invalid numbering: The building is in between Grove Street and Bedford Street, and the actual address that you're going to type into your GPS after this so you can hike on over there is 90 Bedford Street, New York, NY 10014, according to Four Square. It's also the address of The Little Owl restaurant that sits underneath it.
Here's what it looks like in the most recent picture taken in 2014, per Google Maps:
Husband charged after Little Falls woman went missing, later found dead
LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — The husband of a central Minnesota woman whose body was located Sunday on the surface of the ice under a bridge south of Little Falls faces second-degree murder charges.
Jonathan Greyblood, 30, was charged Tuesday in Morrison County District Court with two counts of second-degree murder — one count alleging the Little Falls man caused his wife’s death with intent and the second count alleging he caused her death without intent. Both counts carry a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
Jonathan Greyblood reported his wife, Jeanine Greyblood, 37, missing Saturday. The Little Falls Police Department issued a missing person alert through the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and asked for the public’s help in locating Jeanine Greyblood.
Morrison County sheriff’s deputies located her body Sunday afternoon. Jonathan Greyblood was arrested and Jeanine Greyblood’s body was taken to the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office to determine cause and manner of death.
According to court documents, Greyblood told police he and his wife went to a bar Friday night in Little Falls to socialize with friends and then went to a friend’s residence afterward. He stated they got into an argument so they decided to leave. Jonathan Greyblood reported he and his wife drove to Pine Grove Park, where they continued to argue.
Greyblood told police his wife got out of the vehicle without a coat and told him she was walking to a nearby friend’s house. He claimed his wife told him to go home to get her coat and when he returned to the friend’s residence, she was not there. He said he searched the area and couldn’t find her, so he called to report her missing.
During a second interview, Jonathan Greyblood acknowledged something bad happened to his wife, according to police. He said when they went home after being at their friend’s residence, she continued to be aggressive toward him. He allegedly told police he tried defending himself by putting his hands around her throat and he squeezed her throat until she went limp. Jonathan Greyblood said he started to do CPR on her but it wasn’t unsuccessful and she died.
Greyblood told authorities he panicked and put her body in the passenger seat of their vehicle and drove her to a bridge south of Little Falls, where he dropped her body under the bridge.
Op-Ed: Lee Harvey Oswald&#8217s little green book shows JFK wasn’t the real target
In the hours after the Kennedy assassination, after Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit and was identified as the president’s assassin, a Secret Service officer named Mike Howard was dispatched to Oswald’s apartment. Howard found a little green address book, and on its 17th page under the heading “I WILL KILL” Oswald listed four men: an FBI agent named James Hosty a right-wing general, Edwin Walker and Vice President Richard Nixon. At the top of the list was the governor of Texas, John Connally. Through Connally’s name, Oswald had drawn a dagger, with blood drops dripping downward.
Special Agent Howard turned the address book over to the FBI and, ultimately, to the Warren Commission. Only some time later did he learn that the list with its hugely important insight into the killer’s motive had been torn out of the book.
I didn’t hear about Howard until after I published my book “The Accidental Victim” three years ago on the 50th anniversary of the assassination. In it I argue a circumstantial case that it was Connally, not John F. Kennedy, who was Oswald’s target in Dallas. It is the story of a smoldering grudge in which Oswald came to associate Connally with all the setbacks in his disastrous, hopeless life.
In her testimony to the Warren Commission, Oswald&#8217s wife, Marina, definitively named Connally and not Kennedy as her husband&#8217s target.
This grudge got started in January 1962. Oswald was in the Soviet Union, where he’d gone after being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. When the Marines learned he wanted to defect, Oswald’s discharge was summarily downgraded to undesirable. (The defection was never consummated.) Oswald was angry and for good reason his actions after his discharge had nothing to do with his three years as a Marine.
By early 1962, Oswald was disenchanted with Soviet life and wanted to return home. He was now saddled with a wife, Marina, and a child, and he knew that someone with a ninth-grade education, who had spent time in Russia and had an undesirable discharge on his record, would have few prospects in America.
Oswald wrote a heartfelt plea to Connally, a fellow Texan and the head of the Navy Department, the civilian overseer of the Marines. In poignant terms Oswald asked Connally to redress what was a transparent miscarriage of justice. What he got back a month later, in February 1962, was a classic bureaucratic brushoff. The dismissive letter arrived in an envelope with Connally’s smiling face on the front, bursting from a Texas star and announcing his bid for the Texas governorship.
In the months after Oswald’s return to America, his worst fears were realized. He did, indeed, have serious trouble finding and holding jobs in Texas. According to the testimony of Russian emigres in Dallas who knew him during this period, every time his discharge came up in a job interview, Oswald froze, and his blame of Connally deepened.
In her testimony to the Warren Commission, Oswald’s wife, Marina, definitively named Connally and not Kennedy as her husband’s target. She repeated this belief in testimony to the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978. Dallas emigres also testified to Oswald’s obsession with Connally. Moreover, there was ample testimony that Oswald bore no animus toward Kennedy. Indeed, he admired JFK’s important initiatives like the president’s efforts at detente with Russia.
Why was this evidence on motive ignored and buried in the official investigations? More pointedly, why is Oswald’s little green book – which I’ve examined in the National Archives – missing that pivotal page? For many years, in a community college class he teaches, retired Special Agent Howard has put forward his view of the assassination: Connally, not Kennedy, was Oswald’s target.
To the question of the missing address book page, Howard suggests two possibilities. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, would not have wanted his agency, through agent Hosty, to be implicated in Oswald’s murderous rage. As it turns out, Hosty had vigorously interviewed Marina Oswald over her immigration status just weeks before the assassination. An infuriated Oswald left a written threat at the Dallas FBI office in early November 1963. Hosty testified to Congress that on orders from higher-ups he deep-sixed the threat after the assassination. President Lyndon Johnson might have had an even stronger motivation: He would not have wanted Connally, his closest friend, to be identified as the catalyst for the crime.
For 53 years, a cottage industry has developed over the motive for the Kennedy assassination. It had to be connected to the Mafia or the Russians or the Cubans or Oswald’s Marxist beliefs or Jack Ruby’s petty crimes in the Dallas underworld. The public has embraced the notion that the greatest crime of the 20th century must have been the product of an equally grandiose conspiracy.
But none of these conspiracy theories hold up when the events of the six months before Nov. 22, 1963, are carefully studied. Oswald was no coldhearted professional assassin under orders. The real answer to the reasons he took aim are to be found in his frustrations and obsessions. And the real tragedy of Dallas lies in the accidental death of a president who just happened to be in the line of fire.
James Reston Jr. is the author of, among other books, “The Accidental Victim: JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald, and the Real Target in Dallas” and “The Lone Star: The Life of John Connally.” He is a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook
The Little Owl: Both Restaurant and Friend - Recipes
Little Palm Island Resort & Spa has become one of the most in-demand retreats during a time when wide-open spaces and seclusion are more valued than ever.
It’s almost like sailing over the top of a roller coaster—the wind tousling your hair, the sun beaming down on your face, the feeling of near-weightlessness and pure exhilaration as you soar across the Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon with almost nothing on either side except the color blue, from the sky to the water, just blue. To the right, a bevy of fishermen cast from the bows of their skiffs into Florida Bay. To the left, the Atlantic Ocean splays out like the base paint of a watercolor, its surface dancing with activity.
If you’ve driven the route, then you know what I mean: the uplifting blast only felt when you’re cruising through the Florida Keys. For all Floridians, the Keys are somewhat of a backyard escape, a way to forget, especially now, after this year we’ve all had. That rush is the promise of the Keys, a reminder of the greatness of this state and something we all need now more than ever. So many of us crave the kind of mental reboot that comes from spending days surrounded by the water and wildlife here. And on this perfect 10 of a spring day, my wife, Jill, and I are headed to the best of what the Keys can offer, as close as most of us will get to our own private island.
How to make Little Palm Island Resort’s signature Gumby Slumber cocktail
A trip to Little Palm Island Resort & Spa begins for many at the Shore Station, a one-room cottage on Little Torch Key and the shoving off point for one of the nation’s most exclusive retreats, Little Palm—as it’s known to locals. As we pull up to the small bungalow perched on the water’s edge, a smiling receptionist dressed in Bermuda shorts and a matching mask greets us as if she’s been awaiting our arrival for days. She offers us a signature rum cocktail, the Gumby Slumber, while we wait on the shaded dock for the tender that will deliver us to the island. “Would we like to make it a double?” she asks.
“Well, sure, why not?” I reply.
A few minutes later, we board a runabout with our cocktails in hand, luggage already loaded for us, and head east on a 15-minute ride punctuated by sea spray. This is our maiden voyage to the lauded enclave, which was ravaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and then rebuilt three years later in glorious splendor worthy of its historical ties to presidents and pop stars. As the resort and its commanding dock come into view, the stresses of the work week, and really the entire year, begin to evaporate in the salt air. I’m reminded of how great it feels to travel again, especially to a resort with such promise. I take another draw from my straw and wonder: What will Little Palm mean for us in this time of global reset?
Little Palm Island Resort & Spa underwent a $34-million renovation after Hurricane Irma in 2017. Photography courtesy of Little Palm Island Resort & Spa.
The boat pulls up to the main dock on the island’s southwest corner, where a concierge leads the way along winding paths covered in crushed shells, past fountains in the Zen garden and the spa. There are just 15 thatched-roof bungalows. With an adults-only policy and the total guest count capped at 60, it’s not hard to find a spot that makes this island feel like it’s only yours. Cabanas hide behind palm fronds and bamboo stalks that rise from perfectly manicured bits of jungle. We could at this point book fly-fishing or snorkeling excursions or simply do nothing, the concierge explains as we arrive at our bungalow, which bears a wooden sign with our last name: Barton. But it seems most everyone here spends days with a schedule dictated only by sunrises and sunsets and passing clouds.
Inside, the plantation shutters keep the cottages shaded in the heat of the day, and a romantic canopy bed draped in linen faces a private outdoor deck with an inviting copper tub. A bottle of bubbly chills in an ice bucket, and we take two glasses down onto the landing that overlooks the water and toast to what is certainly one of Little Palm’s greatest assets: its seclusion.
Old Florida Elegance
Be sure to try a signature Gumby Slumber cocktail from the bar inside the Great House.
Already succumbing to the resort’s mantra to “get lost,” whether that be in the giant copper tub on our porch or on one of their Boston Whalers, we decide to meander to the Great House and find something to eat. At Little Palm, you’re almost certainly going to eat every meal at The Dining Room, the restaurant situated in the heart of the property with elegant interior seating as well as open-air tables on the veranda overlooking the beach. Chef Luis Pous helms the kitchen, which he led for more than seven years before stepping away in 2020 and finally returning to his roots at Little Palm this spring. The restaurant takes up most of the island’s Great House, a new structure built in 2019 as part of a $34-million overhaul to remake the 4-acre island after Irma swept much of it into the sea in 2017.
Most everyone here spends days dictated only by sunrises and sunsets and passing clouds.
The renovation created a place that feels like a dazzling version of Old Florida, with subtle, well-oiled wood finishes throughout the property juxtaposed with crystal chandeliers dangling over poolside cabanas, an ornate shell-encrusted mirror above the Great House fireplace and life-size portraits of Bess and Harry Truman hanging upstairs.
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“Would you like to have dinner down on the beach?” the hostess asks as we enter the Dining Room. Jill points out a table on the sand. We follow the young woman to a peninsula sandbar that sticks out into the water toward Cuba, waves lapping on both sides, pencil-shaped fish darting in the clear water nearby. Although the vibe is casual, there’s a bit of a formal flair to everything—collared shirts are required, but it’s acceptable to pair them with flip-flops and shorts. We peruse the menu and decide on a bowl of cheesy pasta and mushrooms to start, followed by a simple grilled snapper with citrus and seared scallops alongside a tangy frisee salad.
Debating a wine to order, we watch the sun’s slow descent into the ocean, a sight that in the Keys always feels like the day’s most important moment, waiting for that green flash that may or may not actually exist. It’s like those last few seconds of sunlight last longer than others as you watch the orange glow disappear—and the couple two tables away from us seem to freeze as we all wait. The glow sinks and then vanishes, the air feeling almost immediately cooler.
Prohibition and PresidentsFormer President Harry Truman (right) at Little Palm Island with a former Florida State Senator. Photography courtesy of Little Palm Island Resort & Spa.
The next morning, we take our espressos to the Atlantic Dock, which runs along the east side of the island, and search for the sun we had seen slip into the horizon just the night before. We look out toward Cuba over a blue mirror of sea that simply fades into sky, no horizon, just every shade of blue, like a Sherwin-Williams paint guide, the sun cloaked by a backlit fog. We sit there for a long time, partly because Little Palm is the kind of place where you rarely have somewhere else to go and also because this sunrise is among the main draws. In Florida, none of us live far from the water or a pretty sunrise, but too often we overlook them. These stunning views have been drawing people to Little Palm for decades, but its reputation as a top-end resort is relatively new. During Prohibition, the island was a respite for rum-runners and then a 1940s fishing camp frequented by Bess and Harry Truman. By the time Irma devastated the Keys in 2017, the Little Palm Resort that occupied the island was an Old Florida icon, in need of its own refresh. The resort reopened to much fanfare in March 2020, just in time to have no choice but to shut down again. It came back in June, and by early 2021, with many of us looking for driving vacations and getaways where it’s easy to be away from everyone else, Little Palm became so in-demand that rates soared—positioning it comfortably among America’s most expensive resorts.
It’s no secret why. Everything is steeped in luxury, from the vaulted ceilings of the bungalows to the fluffy white lounge chairs on the beach we find ourselves in after breakfast. Another couple is just returning on a pair of stand-up paddleboards. “We went into the channel, but I chickened out,” the woman says.
Fluffy lounge chairs scattered on the sands beckon guests for an afternoon snooze.
“Chickened out?” my wife asks, but before we can learn why, Ethan beckons us over. He’s the island’s boat tender, for now, until he heads off to graduate school and eventually, he hopes, a job in the foreign service.
Ethan has just hosed down one of the resort’s 12-foot Boston Whalers, and Jill clutches closely the map he hands us, where he’s drawn big, wide circles on the sections that are too shallow. Nearly the whole map is circled.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” Jill asks as I angle the boat into the channel that runs between Little Palm and the neighboring uninhabited island. Most of my boating experience was before we were married, when I was a kid on New Hampshire lakes. So the answer is partly yes, partly no, since navigating the bay’s shallows will be new to me. We motor on.
We pass through the main boating channel on our way to Picnic Island, a spit of land in the bay that’s no bigger than a Starbucks parking lot. With a half-mile to go, we can see the sand and the rocks just inches below the boat’s bow. With the engine raised, we chug along, my wife’s knuckles going white gripping the handrails.
We finally get close enough to the tiny beach that I cut the engine and jump out, pulling the boat behind me as my feet navigate the limestone. I tie off the rope to a sea grape and hope my shaky memory of how to tie a slip knot is enough to keep our vessel from drifting off.
It seems most everyone here spends days with a schedule dictated only by sunrises and sunsets and passing clouds.
We have Picnic Island to ourselves this warm morning. Boaters have covered the palm tree trunks with colorful signs pointing back to their homes in Wisconsin or New Jersey, and Ethan has said it’s typically a busy tie-up spot. But we lucked into being alone, exploring the paths between mangroves and imagining where we’d put the house we would build on the high ground.
The trip back to Little Palm is less harried now that we know where to find the deep water, and I open up the engine through the channel, heading to the little patch of lush landscape in the distance.
After lunch by the pool—a fried-bread veggie sandwich with yucca and a salad with a mustard vinaigrette and quinoa—we head back to the beach.
“Where y’all from?” a woman dipping her toes in the water asks with that friendly drawl of North Carolina. We figure out we have that in common, since we spend our summers up in Asheville, and then we swap our impressions of this place where we have found ourselves.
“Isn’t it lovely?” she asks. She remarks on the comfort of everything, how the beds and the couches and the loungers placed seemingly everywhere just beckon you to stop and sit, maybe have a nap.
Little Palm Island Resort & Spa offers an array of outdoor activities, from paddleboarding and fly-fishing to kayaking and scuba diving.
Ethan is prepping a couple paddleboards for us, but our new friend from North Carolina is talkative, in the way so many of us have become in this past year, desperate for human interaction—maybe even more so after a stay on Little Palm. This short chat on the beach is our longest conversation with anyone else staying on the island. Before going to Little Palm, we thought it might be like the dude ranch we stayed at a couple summers ago, where you got to know everyone else there well enough to friend each other on Facebook. But here, it’s almost difficult to have run-ins, with the cabanas purposely private and the Dining Room tables spaced well apart. Quiet privacy is a key element of what makes the place so special.
From the beach, we set off on the paddleboards toward Big Munson Island, which sits just across the skinny channel to the east. The Boy Scouts own Big Munson and keep its 100 acres looking as the Spanish might have found it half a millennium ago. Irma came over Big Munson like barber shears the hurricane took the mangroves that once circled the shore and tossed them just off the beach. Those mangroves are stark and foreboding, a reminder of the hurricane’s devastation and also a foreign sight to those of us who frequent the Keys, who expect those trees to line the shore like knobby knees rising from the shallows. Instead, they rise like a line of razor wire made of bleached bones.
We cut between the dead mangroves to find the most native of beaches before heading farther out to sea, where a shallow reef is occupied by rays and nurse sharks and barracuda. I pull the paddleboards up on the shore, making sure the fins pierce the sand so we won’t be stranded. We walk gingerly, barefoot, over the shell-speckled beach to explore a strip of sand occupied only by ink-black cormorants holding their wings out to the breeze and pelicans doing that dance they do, their heads in the air, their tote-bag-like necks flapping a prehistoric hello from the locals.
Waste away the morning in the Zen Garden, a lush tropical oasis nestled in the resort.
Later that morning, I have a spa visit booked: the Organic Slimming Seaweed Leaf Wrap, an experience that involves getting first exfoliated with crunchy dried seaweed and then wrapped in kelp that smells like oysters. Getting a massage while wrapped in kelp promises detoxification and relaxation, and 80 minutes later I feel two drinks into happy hour, long before we order another round of those rum cocktails.
All that time in the sun left us feeling lazy for the rest of the afternoon, so we find our bungalow’s most comfortable spot, a king-sized bed facing the water. The sunlight filters through the palms above as we watch a seaplane deliver a couple of new guests to the island.
We have dinner again that night at a table on the sand, arriving just in time to watch the last of the orange sun blend into the sea. Afterward, we head up to the Great Room, a comfy living room–like space above the restaurant. The island’s only TV luckily isn’t turned on. We have the place to ourselves, a space that could hold 30, and we play the REM greatest hits record on the turntable while deciding which board game to break out.
In Florida, none of us live far from the water or a pretty sunrise, but too often we overlook them.
When we return to our bungalow, the gas fire pit is raging, casting a sunset-like glow on palms that rustle busily. Nights end early, it seems, on Little Palm, where the entertainment comes from the sunrise and what’s hiding in the mangroves and maybe the waves lapping up on the rocks. That’s the point, you’ll come to realize here, a place where you’re reminded of the joy in finding an ancient-looking blue heron peeking through the mangroves in listening to the wake of a seaplane hitting the shoreline and in the sunrise tomorrow, looking maybe entirely different than the one before.
Back at the Shore Station the following morning, there are no Gumby Slumbers ahead of our long drive heading back up the Overseas Highway. As we take a right onto U.S. Route 1, still giddy from our adventures, a flicker of that Keys magic stirs up again as we steal one last look in the direction of Little Palm, a tiny speck of lush green in the distance, a luxuriant respite, a place that inspired us to get lost in order to find that reset we needed.
Enjoy one of Little Palm’s signature sunsets beside an oceanfront fire pit.