Category Archives: 10 of 10

Chihuly Exhibit, Dallas. AKA, “Dafuq did I just see?”

When I first visited Seattle I noticed a glassblowing studio on 5th Ave. My tourism map labeled it as a popular city sight, letting me know nicely (and with a cartoon likeness of the building) that my interest was not in any way unique ….womp womp. Unfortunately that also meant the products, made desirable by an inherent wonder of the glassblowing world and ‘exotic’ inclination generally felt towards blown glass creations, would cost me a firstborn.  The beautiful designs in the window caught my eye at first, but the thought of sneaking in a glassblowing lesson before flying enticed me more. The class was booked, of course, and I sighed as I left, restricting my Seattle shopping to a few boutiques and steering clear of more foul temptresses 0f gorgeous home goods.

A few weeks ago I was in Dallas for work and stumbled on something called the “Chihuly” glasswork at the Arboretum. I had an hour free between site visits, so I skipped inhaling carbs at a deli in favor of the Chihuly Glass Garden Art Exhibit. Rumors flew between crowds that this artist was from Seattle. Could it be that this artist followed me to Dallas (in my fantasy world where glass artists know me) and gave me another shot at seeing his work? My eyes darted between wonders looking for signs or photo-ops, a chance to visually identify the artist whose name I never learned before flying back to the Maryland that one fateful day, all Sleepless-In-Seattle (never mind that I could have googled him if I cared that much about his identity. Also, he was old.). As it turns out, no–Seattle is just a hotbed for glass artists. This particular artist I had never met. Still, his works astounded me nonetheless.

The exhibit was enthralling for an afternoon. The fragile components were so carefully joined together and with extraordinary color arrangements. Each formation clearly took a great deal of time, love, and care to construct. Still, I have one complaint…. *gasp* I know I never have anything critical to say about glass blowers–likely because I want to add that to my repertoire of hobbies one day, when I have simply too much money to manage and must throw it at some studio or other for the lessons and the work bench. There’s certainly a limit to what one can do with glass in a garden, I grant that…. However, I felt that he found three or four comfortable formations and then just repeated them in different spots in the arboretum in different colors. That was why I lingered so long at both the boat area and the water fern formation, as they were unique and “fresh” in the context of the other exhibit pieces. With that said, I was still very impressed with the quantity of work and care each formation boasted.

Here is my anti-artsnob commentary: When I see massive, fragile art like this my very first reactions circle around thoughts of expense and transporting care. Guilty. I will never be a large scale artist because I have no vision beyond “the bother of it”.

As a side anecdote, I embarrassed myself at this event to boot. In typical fashion I stepped too casually, and my right leg made a splash into a postmodern subterranean pool. I felt like the king’s fool at the garden party as “oooh”s resounded through the exhibit, all eyes darted to me, and a tiny Asian man bent down to grab me out of the pool, hitting me with his Nikon as it swung around his neck. But I have one small victory: at least I didn’t break anything.

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Large Appetites at Etete

My intellectual interest in trying new cuisines comes from seeing how regions make the best of their materials. Ethiopian cuisine, I discovered recently, is a delightful example of regional culinary ingenuity. Beyond the curiosity, I also just enjoy shaking up my comfort zone, and I don’t want my taste buds to get too comfortable. Old friends will attest to this not always being the case…. I did, in fact, used to have a very bland palate and an innate determination that I disliked most foods. My parents raised me in a strictly “American” cuisine household, where the only exceptions to the generic meat-and-potatoes rule was spaghetti, or *gasp* a stir fry. Anything else constituted “foreign food” and was not to be meddled with. Thankfully, time away with worldly friends brought me out of the shell I was raised in and out into the light of day, where I realized: I live by Washington D.C., where every cuisine imaginable is readily available!

Friends and I decided to try an Ethiopian restaurant, Etete, before a pub lecture (which in fact was sold out). I believe I was the only one in attendance with no Ethiopian cuisine experience. Stephen recommended a sampler we would like, and the rest is history. For anyone who might not know (as I didn’t know before the visit), the cuisine’s flagships are vegetable and meat dishes, primarily thick stews eaten with a cold, spongey flatbread. The samples I decided upon were primarily lentil or potato based as well as mild of spice. My lack of hearty spice tolerance prevented me from daring the mysterious “red potatoes”, as our table called them. I have to say that while I usually love my new foods, the spongey pancakes did nothing for me. By the end of the meal I was avoiding them, which is difficult to do since the sponges are supposed to be both your utensils and your side dish. If I could replace it with pita, the meal would have been perfect. The dish-of-the night, taking home the prize, was a kind of green lentil mash. What I neglected to notice before it was too late was a regional honey wine, and I must make a note to try that next time.

If Medieval Times taught me anything beyond cheesy equine-related insults, it’s that eating with one’s hands is great, and Ethiopian cuisine agrees!


Nauwlins Sights and Cuisine

I recently returned from a sparklingly glorious trip to New Orleans, marking my first appearance in Louisiana. My tripmate and I began in Baton Rouge, couch surfing with friends and discovering that a city named after a red stick that may or may not have been used by early settlers to beat the natives is a great place to begin a trip, because it can only go up from there. While he was unimpressed, I was a complete and willing victim of Old Worldization. Outside of Williamsburg, VA, and a small archeological preserve in St. Mary’s City, MD, it is incredibly difficult to feel “old world” anywhere in my area of the USA, and certainly not “old world urban”.

The New Orleans French Quarter is extremely well preserved, and I tip my hat to the local historical society–although I do understand the locals’ frustration when required to complete n different inspections and forms before being “allowed” to change a leaky pipe. Perhaps I simply romanticized the architecture and atmospheric appeal from too many southern epics like Gone with the Wind and Interview with the Vampire, but I immediately fell for the mysticism (albeit capitalized mysticism) and southern homes. ….Homes half outdoors and open to the wind, intertwined with nature as flowers cascade down every wall and out the windows! I’m sure I was allowed to adore it only due to the small window of the year where it’s not 90 degrees F with 100% humidity. I’ll ignore that fact and continue fantasizing about New Orleans the way I experienced it (i.e., not sticky).

I got the impression that only well-to-dos who love the atmosphere afford the beautiful antique homes and live on the upscale streets (which seemed to be most streets) in the coveted French Quarter. Even the modest single floor homes were alluring while simultaneously being rustic and dirty. Comfortable residents peered out from their porches with drinks in their hands soaking up the cool, breezy 7 o’clock air. Bourbon Street, even on weekdays as early as 4pm (and weeks past the celebration-that-shall-not-be-named), was bustling with raucous crowds. Those crowds tended to be non-French Quarter residents who drive or trolley into the city, according to locals. The only explanation I can derive for this is when one is wealthy enough to live on a second story French Quarter flat, one can buy top shelf whiskey and drink from the comfort of the porch with no need to sally on down to Bourbon for $4 plastic cup cocktails. I don’t blame them. I’m a more relaxed drinker, myself, and Bourbon Street held little appeal to me beyond the people watching.

The Cajun and Creole cuisines were prime directives for my trip. My goal during my 5 days was to have a local dish for every meal. This wasn’t always possible with my company for multiple reasons, namely budget and dietary restrictions, but by the end I was very pleased with what I was able to achieve. As luck would have it, my very first Cajun foray remains my favorite: The Jumbalaya Shoppe. There I was bewildered with a hodge podge of brown jumbalaya, crawfish pies, the greatest potato salad on the planet, greasy grilled boudin, and gumbo. A franchise needs to open in Maryland, because my fits of withdrawal are fierce. Next on my Cajun & Creole adventure was a giant beignet covered in powdered sugar. I was impressed that the art of funnel cake made its way into a more enjoyable shape than the East Coast string-like “funnel” that looks less like pastry and more like it was cranked out of a sausage maker. Or perhaps beignets are the original source of funnel cake. I could Wikipedia the relationship and tell you who came first, but honestly I think I prefer the mystery. Along the way I had the pleasure of consuming crawfish ettouffeè, crawfish gumbo, crawfish cakes (are you picking up a trend?), grilled crocodile, and traditional red beans and rice. I didn’t have a single dish without thorough enjoyment, and I recommend everything there is to taste of both cuisines.

Personally, I find it a testament to how incredible both cajun and creole food are that even the cuisine at the airport was mouth-watering. Really, airport meals. You heard correctly.

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go cry myself to sleep because Mapquest tells me the closest Jumbalaya Shoppe is 17 hrs 43 mins and 6 states away.


The Great Cherry Conflagration

There are the moms who sprawl dough fixin’s over their majestically sized marble island counters and create pie art. Then, there are 20-somethings with tiny apartment kitchens who make pie with Pillsbury ready crusts and cherry filling. Guess which stereotype I am?

To me, cooking is one of those rare exceptions where it’s actually not about the journey—only about the results. If circumventing difficult and costly (in terms of a grocery trip) steps can still give me a pie at the end of the day, then I’m going to do it, and Pinterest-ites and baking bloggers be damned. I must say, too, that for a five minute prep time, it truly was delicious. Rolling out crusts from a wax paper bag gives me a rush….. the kind of rush that says, “I will finish this pie before Game of Thrones comes on in thirty minutes.” Surely the crust would have been flakier and richer had I made it from scratch, but I had no intention of dropping $40 on pie ingredients when I had no one to impress but my manfriend–and he’s already my manfriend. The conquest is complete. Why whip out the big guns and make scratch crusts?

This was a double-edged effort. Not only had I never baked cherry pie, but also had I never eaten it. The results of the taste test are in: “It wasn’t awful.” Cherry is by no means a food I enjoy casually. After all, it’s a fruit, and I am not a fruit bat. I’m a marpoo, and so, naturally, eat carbs and seafood.

Now please enjoy while Warrant sings of my success.


Jigsaw Puzzling

Call it an old-fogey hobby, but I have a soft spot for a good jigsaw puzzle. It was a favorite of mine when I was younger and had no personal industry or entertainment recourse outside the home. Now that I have all those things, jigsaws have escaped my mind. THE HORROR! So, at New Year’s I bought an antique world map jigsaw puzzle (1000 piece only. What an ameteur move, I know….), and Matt and I went about the three week undertaking to assemble it.

4 admired historical contributors, numerous biblical scenes, and an unsaid number of tiny sea vessels later, we had a completed puzzle on our hands!

But to disassemble it would be akin to saying it never happened. What’s a puzzle-assembling duo to do, then? Glue it together and frame it, obviously. Now the apartment has a large antique map on the wall to welcome visitors into our home and into the 18th century.

Anecdotal fact: Did you know that ordering a custom frame at Michael’s is abhorrently expensive? Hatred…..


Sushi Taquitos Exist!

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Now I’ve been educated: There exists Japanese, Peruvian, and Brazilian Fusion cuisine in the form of upper class restaurant chain Sushi Samba. Who knew? Apparently many people–I just wasn’t deemed awesome enough to be in The Know. Well, now I am. Their menu highlights for me were sushi, sashimi, and tempura, but there were various other appetizers that sushi-loving folks would also appreciate. Off the top of my head, I also recall meat skewers (courtesy of the Brazilian vein, I imagine) and a slew of seviches and ramen options. The sushi rolls were incredibly unique, with combinations I would have never dreamed up. The tapas were enough to sate curiosities and provide for the small group of colleagues in attendance at the NYC 7th St location.

Three rolls I either tried or meant to try (excerpted from the online menu):

  • Samba strip: maine lobster, mango, tomato, chive, crispy rice, soy paper, peanut curry
  • Neo Tokyo: bigeye tuna, tempura flake, aji panca
  • Rainbow Dragon: freshwater eel, red bell pepper, cucumber, mango, avocado

I think you’ll agree that a restaurant so full of itself that it has club music thumping during dinner and a hoochie mama hostess sporting a dress so tiny that if she were wearing a tampon I would have seen the string is probably expensive, but only has a slight chance of actually serving delicious food. Luckily for SushiSamba, it ended up delicious. For the record, I have now eaten yellowtail sushi taquitos. I SAID YELLOWTAIL SUSHI TAQUITOS. You read correctly.


Crew

Anyone who knows me also knows that I appreciate sleeping a full 10 hours uninterrupted. But when I was 18, I decided to become a BAMF somehow and–a secondary concern–make friends. BAMFhood trumped friends. (Looking back, that might just be the first step in becoming a BAMF. ..Nice! Nailed it.)

Sports is a quick way to achieve both. “Now, which one should I pick?”, I asked. But what I should have asked was, “Which one will send my GPA into the toilet the fastest?” Because that’s what I chose.

I had few selection criteria in mind. Chiefly, with no prior experience in sports, I needed a sport that had no joining standards beyond showing up and giving it your all, and with minor expense attached. That left three: crew, rugby, and frisbee. Perhaps I’ll talk about my brief (to the 10th power) encounter with rugby later. But since rugby came later, and frisbee is for dogs and stoners, you can be sure I went with crew. Maybe I had checked out and gone to the chocolate factory in my mind, because there is nothing in this world that interferes with a beautiful, restful slumber in quite the same way as a rigorous weight lifting and rowing schedule.

The Positives

  1. Watching the sun rise over the hills in the distance and seeing the thousand-color-effect reflecting off the water, which surrounded me for miles. This also combined with the soothing morning bird chirps.
  2. Amazing abs and thighs
  3. Increased lung capacity x10
  4. Eating a Paul Bunyonesque breakfast after 3 hours of exercise and then taking a nap, confident with myself.

The Lame Parts

  1. Knowing that post-breakfast nap is concurrent with my first class of the day, and that I haven’t attended it in over a month.
  2. Hearing that alarm clock and shuffling down to the docks in cold, wet weather bundled in three layers of track suits.
  3. Pneumonia
  4. The shitty people.
  5. Hearing your asshole, 5 ft tall coxswain teeter about her navy boys and then shout commands,  interrupting the bird chirps.

To be sure, I don’t regret joining. For 6 months I was fit as a whistle, confident with my self image (somehow, despite not having made friends yet), and experienced the wonderment of the morning from an amazing (but exhausting) perspective. If I could have done crew twice a week only, with no regatta trips, and with more interesting people I would have done it for the full four years. But 5 days a week was ruining my GPA as well as my rest, and the pneumonia put me over the edge. Whenever I hit a gym with an Urg machine, I dig in and have a nostalgic go of it. Truth be told, I’ve been investigating prices at Sears Online and will likely purchase one of these over a bike in April.


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