Art and Bugs in Montreal

June 19th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

A very rainy last full day in Montreal. La Famille split up. SJ, EM, and the grandchildren Haru and Teru braved the downpour and were off to Montreal’s Botanical Gardens where they braved the moisture and explored some of the beautiful Asian gardens. Dried off at the Insectarium which has a very diverse collection of creepy-crawlies. Culture Vultures HG/BSK went to the Musee de Beaux Arts. On last visit, HG/BSK immersed themselves in the museum’s collection of The Group of Seven, Canadian painters (of the 1920’s-30’s) who explored modernism while retaining a passionate engagement with the Canadian landscape. Today, HG/BSK started with religious art of the the 14th and 15th centuries. Gems by Veronese, Tintoretto and Mantegna. Then off to a room of contemporaries. Stella, Olitski, Hoffman, Bacon, Soulages, Beuys, Richter,. etc. A very witty Tansey. First interesting Jim Dine HG ever saw. Rested eyes over a ham-cheese-baguette in the cafeteria. With sharpened vision, HG/BSK explored an intelligently curated display of modern design. Yes, all of the masters were on display but there were plenty of the more eccentric innovators like Bonetti, Sottsass, Arad and Starck. HG/BSK reflected: Everything at the museum is beautifully lit and displayed. The attendants are courteous and helpful. Lots of clean restrooms. Two words describe it: Museum Heaven.

Tonight is HG’s last meal in Montreal. Going to L’Express. A true French bistro, Features all the golden oldies: Bone marrow, kidneys in mustard sause, beef tartare, steak frites, pot a feau, grilled calf’s liver, etc. A report will follow.


Santa Fe — Art and Appetite

May 6th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

One of the wonderful things about Santa Fe is that you can see high quality, ever changing art exhibits every day. And, it’s easy. Ample parking (or once you’re in the center of town you can stroll to dozens of galleries). And, the galleries are never too crowded.You can really see the art and pause before a favorite without being jostled. HG and BSK visited the Monroe Gallery of Photography a few days ago for a knockout show: Stephen Wilkes’ Day to Night. This was a show of panoramic photos of New York City landmarks in which Wilkes captures a 15-hour time span of a single day. Astonishing. Time is condensed. Colors shift from night purple to the golden sunlight of day to the the heady contrasts of afternoon shadow. Yes, all in a single photo. These photos of the Flatiron Building, Coney Island, the High Line, Park Avenue, Bethesda Fountain, Washington Square, Central Park in winter, New York Public Library, Gramercy Park, Times square are unique examples of artistic imagination and technical mastery. In order to achieve these photographs, Wilkes perched for 15 hours on a 50-foot crane taking hundreds of shots. In the post production phase, Wilkes studied each individual image and chose elements which he digitally merged into a single photograph. These works don’t look like a composite, just a seamless compression of time and space. Wilkes describes these photos as “a love letter to the City of New York.” The big town is lucky to have a lover like Wilkes. In any case, the exciting show made HG and BSK hungry. So, the fortunate duo picked up some Prince Edward Island mussels and a pound of squid for a dinner of linguini and sea critters. Life’s good in the Land of Enchantment.

Santa Fe Evening: Exciting Art And Food

June 1st, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG and BSK enjoyed the perfect Santa Fe evening. Following a day of intense, blue sky and golden sunshine, HG and BSK went to the William Siegal Gallery for the showing of the paintings of Jane Cook. Indebted to the legacy of the action wing of the abstract expressionist movement, the physicality of Cook’s paintings yield to an immediate visual pleasure; yet, beneath the grand gestures, there is a deep, contemplative element that seems grounded by and inspired by nature.

Art encourages appetite so HG and BSK joined Colorado friends for dinner at Eric Stapelman’s Shibumi Ramenya, a lovely, small restaurant that features both lusty Ramen and an Izakaya menu of small plates. Started with Izakaya: squid salad with a very light lemony dressing; cod and potato croquettes and house smoked salmon croquettes. These croquettes were fish cakes that died and went to heaven. Crisp, greaseless exterior. Fluffy, flavorful interior. Grated daikon set them off nicely. Then some Ohitashi spinach, an inventive preparation that balanced sweet and sour flavors accented with bits of raw tuna and dry bonito flakes. Tsukune ( ground chicken meatballs) grilled on wooden skewers. BSK had the special pork Ramen “Fujimaki Gekijyo”, a big bowl of the most robust flavors with hints of seemingly more than a dozen herbs and spices. Unforgettable. HG and his Colorado companions opted for Eric’s more conventional pork Ramen — a flavorful broth, juicy pork and perfect noodles all melding together for a perfect bite or slurp as it may well be; the delicate lick of pork fat in the broth lingering on our lips and mouth. Icy Kirin accompanied the feast. Only disappointment was our inability to try everything on the Izakaya menu including such delectables as bacon wrapped mochi, meatballs with leeks and corn; Steak Kusiyaki, chicken yakitori and more–much more.

HG and BSK will be back.

Many times.

Getting Even With The White Guys.

March 20th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Big disappointment in Taos today. Promised Glorious Granddaughters Ms. A. and Ms. S. a trip to Taos, NM to see the famed, still functioning Taos Pueblo. Alas, when we pulled up to the Pueblo road it was roped off and a big “Closed” sign was prominent. This often happens at the Native American pueblos in New Mexico. Their website says “Open” but when you get there all is closed. Getting even with the palefaces? A bit of inconvenience to combat a policy of genocide?

Of course, the gaming casino next to the Pueblo was open and busy. Consoled ourselves with some super green chili smothered breakfast burritos in the Doc Martin’s Restaurant in the historic Taos Inn. Went to the Millicent Rogers Museum to see the superb collection of silver, torquoise, pottery, weavings, santos, etc. A lovely overview of New Mexico’s complex culture. Saw a beautiful group of Doel Reed’s acquatints at the Fechin House/Taos Art Museum. Ended the day by visiting the most painted and photographed church in the United States: San Francisco of Assisi in Rancho de Taos. It is pure sculpture, always changing as the light changes. Glad we saw it at the end of the day because Taos itself, the town and region of artistic glory, has become a mockery of itself, a tourist trap. A pity.

Art And Great Indian Food. Hey, This Must Be London.

March 6th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Last day in London. HG back to normal (almost). Sunny day. Lovely walk over the Millennium Bridge to Tate Modern. HG loves this place. The building, the volumes of space. It all comes together as one giant sculpture. There were some enticing special exhibitions but HG and BSK concentrated on the permanent collection. No, it’s not the encyclopedic look at modern art you get at MOMA and it doesn’t have the depth of the French Biggies (Picasso, Braque, Kupka, Leger, etc.) you get at Centre Pompidou. What you do get is space (nothing too crowded); wit (artists’ comments on the works are illuminating and sometimes acid); curatorial discipline (each piece is vital and necessary to the drama of modern art). It is a museum where you are stimulated but not eye exhausted. It is all very friendly and comfortable. Loads of elevators, rest rooms. A pleasant recognition of mature museum goers. The cafe is a joy. A long, long stretch of tables facing the Thames, St. Paul’s, the financial center, the startling “Gherkin” building, etc. Perfect venue for tea.

Dinner at Chutney Mary in Chelsea. Beautiful, tri-level Indian restaurant with great style. The food is reminiscent of Vij’s in Vancouver, HG’s favorite Indian. Same creative fusion cusine, same light touch. HG and BSK started with monkfish filets steamed in banana leaves and crisp fried stuffed artichokes. There were touches of cilantro, basil, mint and cumin. All perfect. Then a platter of super tender, medium rare lamp chops in a fenugreek, cream and tomato sauce similar to Vij’s famed lamb lollypops (and just as good). Then a rich and fragrant butter chicken curry. Rice. Chutney. Raita. Bread from the tandoori. Very good English ale to drink and rasmali (the Indian cheese, cream and almond dish) for dessert.

Lovely farewell to London.

London Swings Again

March 4th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

HG and BSK haven’t been in London for ten years. The changes are immense. The city is shining, crackling with energy, spruced up, diverse. A true world city. Makes Paris look a bit diminished and dingy.

Off to the Victoria and Albert. Wandered the sculpture galleries. Wonderful Rodins and Canovas. Outstanding collection of postwar Britons (Eric Gill, etc.) not seen much in USA. Design section with all of the usual suspects (Mies, Corbu, Aalto, Breuer, Ruhlmann, Hoffman,etc.). Beautiful screen of lacquer cubes by Eileen Gray and one of chrome and mirror by Syrie Maugham. Timeless glamour approached in two different ways by two very different female sensibilities. Came away with renewed appreciation of inventive genius of Israeli/Brit Ron Arad. (HG must confess, however, that nothing tops the bravura rhinoceros bar by Lalanne at the Paris Arts Decoratifs).

Tea. Scones. Clotted cream. Marmalade. Strawberry jam. HG and BSK nibbled it all in the V & A’s civilized complex of cafes. A glimpse at the state of English dining 2011: The cafe has a tea bar, of course, but another counter of French treats like pates, terrines, celeriac and lentil salads, etc. A counter offers some very good looking hot meat pies and steak and kidney pies, British staples. There’s deli, fresh salads, soups, etc. All fresh. All savory. This is London mass feeding today.

Dinner at J. Sheekey, the venerable theater district seafood restaurant off Leicester Square. J. Sheekey is a collection of small, nicely lit old rooms lined with red leather banquettes and theatrical photos. Noisy buzz in the air. Deft, professional (but warm) service. Chiiled Muscadet. HG and BSK shared eight oysters from various spots along the British coast. Better than the best of Paris (but missed those French bulots). Then a dish of two razor clams. The long shells were filled with tender strips of the clam, very thin crisps chips of Spanish chorizo, fava beans, chopped herbs, fragrant olive oil. No garlic. Nothing to interfere with the purity of the dish. This was followed by perfectly done John Dory, moist, firm and flaky. The fillets nested on a bit of whipped celeriac and were topped by sea kale and a few long strips of poached celeriac. This was seafood cuisine that followed the Mies dictums: Less Is More. God Is In The Details. Need HG say more? HG got robust with a Welsh Rarebit (splash of Worcestershire) and a glass of Spanish Tempranillo. Sweet Italian Muscat for BSK. Finale: Salted caramel ice cream.

Home to sleep the sleep of the good, the pure and the blessed.

How To Scare Your Kids

March 3rd, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

HG’s favorite philosopher, the Hyman Roth character in “Godfather Two,” says to Michael Corleone: “Good health. The most important thing!!”. The old villain had a point.

Paris cold and damp, crowded Metro cars gave undeserving HG pneumonia and landed the food maven in the acute emergency ward of London’s University College Hospital on Euston Square. Entered hospital late Monday afternoon (had to cancel trad Sunday roast beef gluttony at Dean Street Town House) and was discharged midday yesterday (Wednesday). All in all, a diverting stay. Was cared for by a platoon of sympathetic women led by a respiratory disease specialist. Lovely accents. Irish. Jamaican. Russian. Indian. Nigerian, etc. Food was not shockingly bad though still don’t understand the English love of cold, breakfast toast. (Horror food is that served on the Eurostar Paris to London train.)

Side effect of HG illness: A big scare for HG and BSK kids. All had read the touching Joyce Carol Oates piece in the the New Yorker about the unexpected death of her husband (much younger than HG) from pneumonia. Pneumonia can be scary stuff.

However, all seems to have ended well. Victoria and Albert museum today and dinner at J. Sheeky, HG’s favorite seafooder. HG and BSK had lovely light lunch yesterday (after hospital leavetaking) at the Mess Cafe in the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. Duck legs and greens salad for BSK and Bufala mozzarella and caponata salad for HG. Early to bed after light supper of smoked salmon, smoked mackerel (best ever) and buttered Poilane bread. Good to be back among the living.

Rain. Rain. Rain. Paree Day Eleven.

February 23rd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Serious rain today. That meant the perfect time for a long visit to HG and BSK’s favorite Paris museum, Les Arts Decoratifs. It is a beautiful museum, occupying a lyrical wing of the Louvre. Very well organized. Starting on the ninth floor you descend the history of design and decor. All of the eras–from the Renaissance through the 20’s’ 30′, 40’s’ 50’s into the present. Great art deco and art nouveau sections. The museum is encyclopedic without being dull. Always an interesting special exhibition. This time the show was of 100 posters by the extraordinary Polish graphic artist Michal Batory. He is in the great tradition of Polish poster art, a tradition he combines with French surrealism. The result is gripping.

A sardonic sidelight for any of us with long experience in public relations and advertising. One of Batory’s poster clients is a major theatrical group. New management came in. They fired Batory and turned poster design over to their ad agency. So, even one of the world’s greatest poster artists can get tossed when there is a change in bosses. HG and BSK pondered this truism over a rump steak and wine at the museum’s cafe (a showcase of modern design). Dinner tonight Chez HG and BSK. Irish smoked salmon and a wide variety of salads (cucumber, carrot, mesclun, etc). BSK has been sniffling all day so True Grit is postponed until tomorrow.

Perfect Paree: Day Ten

February 22nd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Perfect. Sun. Cloudless sky. A walk around the Assemblee Nationale to Musee Rodin. Then an amble through the beautiful garden dotted with Rodin masterpieces. HG and BSK were blown away by the temporary Henry Moore show. It focuses on his drawings, maquettes and the bits of bones and shells that inspired this extraordinary artist. The show brings you into his studio and lets you participate in the artistic process. The plaster works are breathtaking. The interplay of interior and exterior and concave to convex is riveting. In many ways, the best pieces are an homage to women.

HG and BSk dined at Rech in the 17th. This is a traditional brasserie, founded in 1925, that had gone downhill. It has been reinvigorated by the brilliant Alain Ducasse (he has also revamped Benoit and Aux Lyonnais). Cut to the chase: HG and BSK had the best seafood meal of their lives. It started with a few bits of salmon mousse (a freebie to whet appetites) and continued with brandade. HG loves brandade, that lush combination of salt cod, garlic, sweet cream and potatoes. This was a brandade that broke new ground. Not a puree (the cod retained its integrity). Not a garlic explosion (a restrained amount). The key word was: Balance. The result: Delight. This was followed by raie grenobloise: A thick juicy tranche of skate swimming in a (once more) perfectly balanced sauce of butter, capers, parsley and lemon juice. Accompanied by a silken potato puree (enhanced by generous thin slices of black truffle) and caramelized endive. Wow!! The wine was our favorite Muscadet. Then the famous Rech camembert ( with glasses of Pomerol). Dessert: Vanilla ice cream enclosed by crisp pastry. The grace note: Warm bittersweet chocolate poured by the maitre d’.

Thank you chef Julien Dumas for your artistry. Thank you Maitre d’ Samy Mir-Beghin for yout warm, deft service. You created dining magic.

Paree: Day Eight. These Boots Were Made For Walking

February 20th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Lots and lots of walking today. Started in the Montparnasse neighborhood where HG and BSK walked to the Musee and Atelier Zadkine. Ossip Zadkine was a cubist sculptor and painter whose works mark many Paris public areas (adjacent to Cafe Deux Magots and in the Luxembourg Gardens). HG met Zadkine during one of his U.S. visits in the 1950’s. A lovely man. The museum, studio and sculpture garden are small but beautifully organized. Zadkine’s work holds up — it is strong Cubism, rhythmic and powerful.

HG was sorry to ever see only one work–a painting– by Zadkine’s wife, Valentine Prax. HG was gifted with a beautiful drawing by Prax in 1952. As fresh today as it was almost 60 years ago. Zadkine and Prax are very celebrated in Paris but virtually unknown in the United States. A pity.

After viewing the Zadkines (and the Prax), HG and BSK strolled around the Luxembourg Gardens where forsythia was in bloom. Watched the boules players, the kids on ponies and the other sights of this most exquisite and civilized park. HG and BSK retraced their first visit to Paris footsteps of 46 years ago along the Boulevard St. Germain to Rue Du Bac. Lots of street music along the way. An exuberant, young (not very good) brass ensemble outside the Luxembourg gate and a very good Dixieland group of oldsters outside the St. Germain church. A cliche: Where did the years go? Back to the loft and a chilled bottle of very good Sancerre. Much red wine, pate de campagne, fresh baguettes await at dinner Chez HG and BSK. Hemingway called Paris “a moveable feast.” Surely it is a feast for all of the senses.

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