Life Cafe Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Kathy Life’


1 July 2014

It was a typical lovely late morning in the hills of Tarbena of the Costa Blanca, Spain.

Tarbena Town Square

Tarbena Town Square

Lunchtime was around the corner and I had to prepare something. That’s when it just hit me — a sudden craving for steamed veggies, fresh greens, brown rice and the taste of Life Cafe’s Tahini Dressing on my tongue. Tahini Dressing was the final glorious touch on the Life Salad, the most popular salad ever at Life Cafe. Whenever I didn’t feel quite right physically, a Life Salad seemed to always put me straight. It was delicious.

Fortunately I had a small jar of white sesame tahini in my kitchen cabinet. It’s not easy to find sesame paste in Spanish supermercados. Fortunately, there are a few health food stores in the surrounding towns. Unbelievably, I recently discovered that I can purchase tahini and even miso down the street from the village square at my local Farmicia (all of 100 square feet large) in Tarbena, population 809 as of 2012!

Tarbena Farmacia

Tarbena Farmacia

They also have lots of other non-gluten and macrobiotic food items as well. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted a small bag of textured vegetable protein, an essential ingredient in Life Cafe’s Vegetarian Chili. And if there’s something that I want and it’s not on the shelf, they’ll order it for me. This is not Walgreens with their large aisle of junk food, not by a long-shot. Thank God.

Health Food Selection in Tarbena Farmacia

Health Food Selection in Tarbena Farmacia

I searched through my Life Cafe recipes and costing sheets listing ingredients and found it. Eureka. I’ve been hoarding these recipes for years as I’m including many of them in my memoir, “How Life Began”. And I was very glad I did. I got down to work and put it all together. “Perfect,” I squealed out loud once I blended the chopped parsley fresh off my terrace container garden and dipped my finger in for a taste.

Parsley on Terrace Garden

Parsley on Terrace Garden

As I poked my fork into the veggies and rice, staring at the smooth, lemony sauce dripping down the warm nutty brown rice I became suddenly overwhelmed by one thought — I must continue to share this wonderful dish. I must get Life Cafe’s recipes out there. It inspired me to plan the final edit of the book. (I finished the story but put it aside to help John edit and self publish his own memoir, On My Way to Jorvik. He had a publishing deadline with only four months left to go to have the book ready for Jorvik’s 30th anniversary.) In the meantime, I wrote this blog to share the recipe.

This recipe makes about one and a half cups. It stores well in the fridge — but I doubt you’ll have to worry about that. It’s so good you’ll probably put it on everything you eat for the next three days. Enjoy!


  • 1 cup sesame tahini (white)
  •  1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil (use toasted sesame oil for a special sesame kick)
  • 1 tablespoon soy oil

Mix all the ingredients by hand in a large mixing bowl or in a food processor. Add water to thin as desired.

Beatrice, our lovely pharmacist (farmaceutico) in Tarbena

Bea, our lovely farmaceutico (pharmacist) in Tarbena. She told me she loves New York City.




August 15, 2012

While Life is more than just food, food is also Life! Let’s eat!

Colorful Seasonal Gazpacho Ingredients

It was mid-July and it was 96 degrees in southern New Hampshire where we’re setting up our US home base. To keep cool, I’m making a refreshing, hydrating, cold summer soup, Watermelon Gazpacho, inspired by two things – heat (jalapeno) and cold (watermelon). Gazpacho was made frequently in the summer time at Life Café. I made this special soup with assistance from my sister Jeanne. I love cooking the most when I do it with friends and family!

There are numerous varieties of gazpacho. It’s the sangria of soup and there are infinite possibilities. So don’t be afraid to adjust the ingredients to your liking. And it’s vegan. If you happen to have green or orange bell peppers on hand, you can use them. Just make sure your watermelon is ripe and sweet for more flavor. You might also like to try substituting half the orange juice with pineapple juice. Some recipes call for tomatoes. And you might prefer fresh mint leaves to the parsley. Go with the flow, let the seasonal produce you have on hand be your inspiration.



Serves 6

Dice into ¼ inch pieces:

2 cups sweet, ripe watermelon

1 seedless cucumber

1 small yellow bell pepper

1 small red onion or sweet Vidalia onion


2 medium cloves garlic

1 small fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)


Fresh parsley and/or cilantro to make 2 tablespoons

 In a blender or food processor, process until pureed ½ cup of the watermelon, along with:

2 cups orange juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, cold pressed

 Transfer to a medium bowl, along with the remaining ingredients. Add:

 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Putting Watermelon Gazpacho Together

This is the perfect dish when it’s hot and you don’t feel like eating. But when you eat it you’ll want more (try it with corn chips) and you can have as much as you want without guilt. You’ll astonish your meal guests with this soup; who’s ever heard of mixing watermelon with garlic and jalapeno! But you’ll get rave reviews all around. The marriage of these ingredients is an unexpected and exotic blend of flavors. Use it as a first course or a surprising and colorful contribution to a summer potluck – just be sure to serve it in a clear glass bowl to show off the colorful ingredients.

This soup can be made several hours before serving. Some say it’s better served the same day it is made and others insist that refrigerating it overnight enhances the flavors. In this case, you might want to use half the jalapeno as the heat increases over time.

The Palate of Your Seasonal Ingredients Give this Soup Its Color

Enjoy Life and its food.

Kathy Life

Nederlander Organization Donated RENT Panel to Life Cafe


Hello All.

This is a follow up of the last blog post about the J. Larson Bench moving to Adelphi University . And it’s a story about how small a world it is….

My friend Ann Sachs provided me with the real information about the Nederlander Theatre, and also informed me that it was the Nederlander Organization that donated the RENT stage panel to Life Café. The Nederlander Organization is the client of her company, Sachs Morgan Studio Inc,  who provides comprehensive theatre design and planning services to the performing arts community nationwide. It’s a small world — Ann was the facilitator of my professional women’s group, The Woman Presidents’ Organization and she was fantastic!

The panel from the stage set of RENT at the Nederlander Theatre, donated to Life Cafe by the Nederlander Organization. Here it’s installed in the “Secret Garden” in the back of Life Cafe.

The view of the audience from the stage of RENT at Nederlander Theatre just before demolition, September, 2008

The following is a blurb about the history of the theatre, and here are photos for the theatre. Photo credit: copyright Samuel Morgan Photography.

[Interesting note about a very small world indeed: Sam told me that the Nederlander was a fantastic and fascinating project to work on. He also told me that as a Bushwick Brooklyn resident starting in 2004, he was a frequent patron of Life Café 983 in Bushwick, Brooklyn on Flushing Avenue and loved that it was an option long before there were other places like it in the neighborhood. Neither of us recalls that we ever met.  Amazing connection!]


The David T. Nederlander Theatre (1,232-seats) is one of The Nederlander Organization’s nine Broadway theatres. The legacy of the theatre began with David Tobias Nederlander, for whom the theatre is named.  It has had a long and distinguished history.

Built by Walter C. Jordan in 1921, the theatre was originally named the National Theatre; it was renamed the Billy Rose in 1959, when the famed producer/songwriter bought it; christened the Trafalgar in 1979 when it was bought by James and Joseph Nederlander and the British firm of Cooney-Marsh; and renamed The David T. Nederlander in 1980 in honor of the man whose sons now operate the Nederlander Organization.

Stage of RENT from seats just before demolition after closing September 2008


The musical RENT to the theatre in 1996. Set in the Alphabet City neighborhood of Manhattan’s East Village, the RENT production occasioned the remodeling of the façade and interior of the theatre to resemble a downtown nightclub. Following the closing of RENT in 2008, after a 12-year run of 5,124 performances, the theatre received a comprehensive renovation.

The Nederlander now houses the new Broadway hit NEWSIES.

Props being taken down from the stage of RENT at Nederlander Theatre after RENT closed September 2008










A stage hand loads props taken from the stage set of RENT at the Nederlander Theatre after RENT closed September 2008

The Nederlander Theatre after restoration after RENT closed. This photo was taken January 29, 2010.


 June 24, 2012

Nine months ago I had to close the original East Village Life Café. Today I am very sorry and sad to finally announce that I have to throw in my tea towel and close my second venue, Life Café 983 in Bushwick on June 30. A new café/bar will open immediately thereafter under a new name. I shall take a break from the restaurant business for the time being.

 I know it’s hard to believe. After 30 years, in September 2011 I had to close my East Village café because I could no longer carry the huge business losses caused by the two warring landlords who fought over structural repairs to their property.

And a few months later the landlord of my thriving Bushwick café told me that he was not going to extend my lease.

That was the same landlord who in 2001 invited me to open a cafe in the building he just bought on Flushing Avenue. At the time, Bushwick looked like a post-apocalyptic industrial wasteland, with nowhere for existing and incoming artists and loft dwellers to eat or drink. He told me the incoming residents desperately needed a watering hole. He said having a café close to his buildings would attract the kind of tenants he wanted. It was the East Village story all over again and I saw it. Except profit wasn’t my motive. Rather, it was another chance to do what I seem to be naturally compelled to do: create a sense of home and connect the neighborhood folks together, offer a safe haven with comforting food and good drink at reasonable prices.

I’m very glad to say that in the end it worked. Yes, it was risky and definitely a struggle the first several years. But eventually Life became a second home for locals and newcomers alike and became the heart of the community much as the East Village Life Café had done in the early 80s. I have met many fine folk throughout the years and have watched as their lives unfolded along with the Café’s. And it was good.

I’ve finally come to terms with the events of the last year. My husband John and I have gotten over our disbelief, anger and sadness at losing both places in one year. We see it now as the Universe giving us a less than gentle nudge into semi-retirement. We’re looking forward to some “Adventures Before Dementia.”

About the new operation, I understand the new owners will make every effort to carry on the spirit of Life. They said, why change something that obviously works, that people like and want. They said they’d make some upgrades that are due and there will be new additions to the menu. And they recognize it’s important not to tamper with the special ambience of Life. In that sense, their intention is for Life Café to live on in spirit, if not in name.

All things come to an end in Life. I leave having created something unique, a bohemian legacy. John and I are now in our sixties and ready for a little R and R, to have a little more time doing the other things we’ve wanted to do.

My experiences during the last 30 years of Life are cause for celebration in the closing of both cafes. Running and owning my cafes has been more than a job. It’s been like having an extended family of staff, patrons and friends. We have made legions of them over the years. Life Café has always been about the relationship between the staff and patrons. A café is more than a place to eat and drink. It’s where special relationships are fostered and melded through conversation, laughter and camaraderie. That’s what a good café is. It’s far more than food and drink. It’s about human connection.

I would like to thank the hundreds of staff members for helping me give something great and unique to the city of New York and the hamlet of Bushwick. But the roll call is too long and no name is greater or lesser than another, for each and every one has played their unique part. But, let me tell you, the guys in the kitchen are the heart and bones of the Café. Any staff member will concur. Hector, who has run the Bushwick kitchen since before it opened and who worked for me at the East Village Café as well for years before, has been particularly exceptional. He has been the kitchen’s foundation. He never missed a beat and has been ever reliable and always amiable. On his strong back Life 983 found its feet and prospered. He and his staff have been the inspiration of the Café. There are more memories than can be mentioned here and many relationships built over time. I will miss you all and will never forget you. Life Café has always had a lot of love about it, and that I shall always have with me.

Please stop by in the next week to check out John’s Life Café Menu Picture Riddle art installation. It is the final one. We have a catalogue on premises and he’s offering the limited edition of originals at very special reduced prices. There will not be any more produced. He would like to leave as many pieces he possibly can with our friends in the Life community.

A last thought before I go; I didn’t make time for a family of my own. Instead, I made time for you. Thank you all for being a part of my family and thank you for allowing me to be a part of yours.

Much peace and love,

Kathy Life

Life Cafe on BBC Radio York

Listen to a fun interview on BBC Radio. While Kathy Life and John Sunderland were visiting beautiful North Yorkshire in England for a wedding and several of the English family’s birthdays, the iconic Dr. Rock invited Kathy Life and John Sunderland as guests on his popular Sunday night rock radio program, May 6, 2012 at the BBC Radio studios in York. You can still hear the interview streaming via this link until Sunday, May 13th.

Between bits of  history about the East Village Life Cafe, Dr. Rock plays selections from a list of special rock hits that Kathy linked to her tale of Life Cafe. And hear a bit of “the great” John Sunderland’s legacy as the original designer of the Jorvik Viking Centre in (old) York in the UK.

Julia Sinelnikova at Life Cafe 983


Julia Sinelnikova

Life Café Bushwick, Artist of the Month

December 2011

John Sunderland

I have been fortunate in my life to live in some beautiful places, and then I came to Bushwick; which to my mind has to be one of the ugliest places on the planet, why else would the artists of the street try to paint it out?

And here this month we have someone who sees beauty where, in daylight at least I see only the beast.


I have been in two minds about Julia’s show.  To be honest I think the exhibition on the right hand side of the wall, is truly worthy of comment, but not so the three large paintings on the left, which don’t appear to belong in the company of the rest.


Sunsets and reflected light from natural and unnatural sources transform Bushwick from dusk to dawn; then it becomes a place of mystery, Chirico shadows and possible threat. But high on the rooftops above the streets the greatest show on earth is still playing.

Rather than go for the obvious iconic view of Manhattan set against a flame red sky, Julia looks closer and sees beauty in the momentary passing of light above the shadow blocks of Bushwick, and reminds us that nature gives us a fresh start every morning and wipes the slate clean every night.


It’s not easy to capture fleeting moments, and equally it takes a special skill to capture fleeting moods as the artist does so well with her interiors, where she shows us glimpses of transitory loft-life. We may want to know more but we never shall.


The one piece that really does it for me in this show is, “On the Brink”. This is a painting you could live with, it would always draw you to it; there would always be questions, never a dull moment. It could be a canvas that in the end could drive you mad.

Julia has captured here two people standing together, their naked feet in the moving water. That’s all we know, apart from the delicious fact that this is a moment set to pass and unfold. Quite how- we shall have to wait and see. Time for another glass!


Dinner Specials for East Village-1.28


Served with a Chipotle Sauce and
Marinara Sauce

Black Beans, Chicken, Salsa de Arbol, Lettuce and Cotija Cheese


With Spinach, Garlic, Olive Oil, Baby Shrimp and
a dash of Truffle Oil

Served with Mexican Rice, Black Beans and
Flour Tortillas

Penne Pasta tossed with Tomatoes, Garlic, Fresh Basil, Marinara Sauce and topped with Jack Cheese

Pan-seared Chicken Breast, Red Onions, Roasted Red Peppers, topped with a White Cream Sauce and served with a House Salad

Skirt Steak topped with Cheddar Cheese, Peppers, Onions and Mushrooms served with French Fries

Kathy Life on CNN iReport

Life Cafe on CNN

Life Cafe in NYC is NEWS

iReport —

Life Cafe founder and owner, Kathy Kirkpatrick talks about the challenges and rewards of keeping Life Cafe afloat in today’s economy.


By Kathy Life

John and I just got back from a two-week visit to Mexico. Our first. Well, I did spend a day in Tijuana when I was 16 with my mom, dad and brother, Corky. Tijuana in the mid 1960s, as I recall it, was a tourist trap and seemed pretty harmless to a bunch of touristy gringos such as us. I don’t recall eating a thing while there; Corky and I were real finicky eaters; we would’ve died before trying any “foreign” food.

I went deeper into Mexico this trip, all the way to San Miguel de Allende. Once there I remembered why I put Mexican food on the Life Café menus. I love it!

Kathy Life in San Miguel

I fell in love with Mexican food in Lansing, Michigan, of all places. David Life and I treated ourselves to dinner at one of the Mexican restaurants in town, cheap, greasy spoons actually. I loved sinking my fork into the soft chicken enchiladas drowned in deep red chili sauce and melted cheese. I always thought the owners catered to the migrant Mexicans that worked in the orchards. What I knew for sure was the food was the real thing and delicious.

When I started to develop a menu for the tiny coffee house that Life Café was in 1981, I made veggie chili and vegetarian burritos. I made burritos because you couldn’t get them in NYC. And I could wrap them up like a sandwich and hold them behind the counter easily to sell. I made them vegetarian because that’s what Dave and I ate. Eventually, I added meat options. Had to. Back then, when only the brave or crazy chanced it east of 1st Avenue and ended up at a Life Café event, I made sure there was something for them to buy. We needed the business. I had rent and Con Ed to pay. Actually, it was Con Ed who got most of my attention back then. It was a relatively big bill and they threatened to turn off service if you didn’t pay on time. If that happened, we’d be shut down. At one point, I got 5 months behind in rent. The local artists and galleries came to the rescue, but that’s another story.

It was a delight staying in Mexico. Mexicans are friendly, kind, gentle and generous – just like the ones I know in and around my two cafes. Everyone was happy too! Now so am I!

I was so smitten with Mexico, when I first got back, I went into the Brooklyn Café kitchen. “Hector, I LOVE Mexico! How do you say I love Mexico in español?” “Yo Amo Mexico,” he said. Hands raised high, I announced “Yo Amo Mexico.” When I looked around at the rest of the guys, they were beaming and laughing at me.

Well, I don’t know if they made fun of me with that, or that they were thrilled that I loved their homeland. We all had a good laugh anyway. Now, wait until I corner Hector to go over a new salsa recipe I want him to try out!