room for tea pop-up

Pop-up exhibits are becoming the thing in NYC, and I have fallen victim to three of them – two by choice and one because of work. The first one (Color Factory) was cool because they set up cameras to capture and email your participation to you without impeding the fun, and the second (Rośe Mansion – for work) had a bit of educational value in addition to the obvious perk of drinking wine throughout the journey. The actual Room for Tea exhibition had plenty of Instagram-worth moments (which weren’t that appealing to us), but nothing to school me in tea.

What was really interesting and contributed heavily to my tea literacy was the tea ceremony add-on. A group from 7s Art hosted a traditional Chinese tea ceremony among the hustle and bustle of the exposition. The rite, starting and ending with a guided meditation complete with closed eyes and three strokes of the gong, was both relaxing and informative. I drink tea daily and even purchased an electric water kettle recently to ensure the proper brewing temperature for my weekend amusement, but it was a delight to take part in a formal process led by experts.

Breathing in the dried green tea leaves prior to brewing, inhaling the essence during the drinking, and both sniffing and eating the soaked remainders enhanced the experience. The pot was so tiny and so cute – just enough to give each participant a shot of each pour. I was surprised at how rich the tea was with the abbreviated steeping time and how the sweetness changed with each subsequent brewing. Did you know that some teas can be brewed up to ten times? Another revelation was how delicious and fragrant jasmine tea can be without smelling perfumey. Also, we learned you can fry used tea leaves and add them to eggs and other dishes. Really want to try this!

I wish I could duplicate this experience every afternoon. It’s probably not realistic since it would involve purchasing another electric water kettle for my office, along with the tiny teapot and several other accompaniments for rinsing and draining. Instead, I will continue to enjoy my daily tea and schedule one of 7s Arts Friday night sessions for a break after a hectic week.

marc straus gallery

We considered ourselves patrons of the emerging art scene in Atlanta when we lived there. I mean very emerging or in other words, very low cost to fit our budget. None of our purchases were for investment purchases. The requirement was just that we both fell in love to some extent with the piece. It was a little tough to only bring half of our collection to NYC with us in the move, but we’ve slowly retrieved almost every piece from my father-in-law’s basement.

We’re trying to find our way in the NYC art world – visited a few galleries here and there and bought one piece, a lucite sculpture by Phillip Low from Totokaelo of all places. Of course, our art-buying budget has greatly decreased as our cost of living has increased, and our walls are pretty full, but there is still the possibility of an interesting find out there.

Enter Marc Straus Gallery. Still not quite in our price range, but closer and fun to visit with each new exhibition. Opening night brought a world of amazement. The first floor was occupied by Antonio Santin whose beautifully-crafted textile renderings took our breath away. Piping vibrant paint into textural patterns and then spraying the shadows on top for dimension, Santine creates amazingly realistic two-dimensional compositions that appear as three-dimensional folded cloth.

The second level continued the textile theme with Sutures, a group exhibition of artworks that celebrates the crafts of sewing and weaving to create colorful and textural pieces with yarn, fabric, and other materials.


Photo from marcstraus.com/exhibitions/jong-oh-sept-2018/

Jong Oh appropriates the top floors with his architectural pieces crafted from string, nails, wire, stones, and plexiglass. The precision and illusionary quality he achieves mystifies the viewer and conveys serenity and fidelity.

Check it out while you can. On view until October 16, 2018.

wanda the movie

I’ll admit that the main reason I wanted to see this movie is that it is my namesake. As a 46-year-old woman named Wanda, I asked my parents how they came up with my name. They have always said they just liked it, and I have had no clue as to the origin until now. I received an email from the Alamo Drafthouse, our cinema of choice, advertising the movie Wanda. Not A Fish Called Wanda, just Wanda. The film was from 1970, just 2 years before I was born, so maybe there is a connection.

Regardless of the initial reasoning, viewing this film was the right choice. Props to Barbara Loden as the writer, director, and lead actor. The picture delivers beautifully framed shots, compelling personalities, and an engaging plot. Wanda is not a character most people would respect for her brains or her ethics, although she has a pretty face (see below – isn’t she beautiful?!?). Born in a coal town and willing to leave her children in an uncontested divorce because she believes “they will be better with him”, she finds two more paramours before the night is out and begins her adventure.

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I won’t give away the ending, but you come to love the child-like innocence that is Wanda and root for her to rise from the ashes of her birth. It not likely the movie Wanda had anything to do with my naming, but I’m glad the title enticed me out to Brooklyn to see this masterpiece.

russ and daughters cafe

We were even more impressed with Russ and Daughters Cafe on this visit. As part of the Stone Series Music Series, Bill Frisell was scheduled to play, and we made reservations well in advance. Emily, the General Manager, emailed my husband to ask if we wanted to be close to the music or in the back, where it was quieter. She gave us the perfect seats – close, but out of the way of the crowd. The bartenders were lovely also. Since the musicians performed in the bar section, the staff waited for breaks to add ice to the shaker for mixed drinks, gently lifted the wine from the ice bath, and tenderly placed each dish on the counter to avoid disturbing the music.

Kudos to the restaurant for sponsoring this series. A popular venue, yet management allowed people to stand and enjoy the show with minimal (or any) purchases. The concerts demonstrate a real commitment from the restaurant to the community.

Russ and Daughters Cafe specializes in smoked fish, putting its unique spin into dishes like Pastrami Russ, a pastrami-cured salmon sandwich similar to a Reuben.  The Chopped Liver with matzo escorted me back to my childhood days helping my mom prepare the communion “crackers” at our small town church and sneaking a couple for a snack. The fennel, dill, and capers added character to the Mixed Green salad. We finished off the meal with the Russ & Daughters Knishes – light, fluffy, with a hint of sharp mustard.

Our beverage choices included the Lower East Side, a fragrant gin cocktail with lime, dill, and cucumber. Derek couldn’t resist the Smoked Martini, gin-based, with the smokiness coming from a rinse of Laphroaig. It’s always nice to see more savory beverages. The Daniel Dampt & Fils Chablis was a bargain at $56 a bottle.

russ and daughters bill frisell updo

It was one of those crazy hot Manhattan Summer nights, so I ended up having to hack a pen into a hair accessory to beat the heat. All in all, it was a delightful evening of food, drinks, and music.

staycation 2018: day 3

One of the keys to a fantastic staycation or vacation is the ability to pivot when needed. Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night to Derek reading, which meant he could not sleep. We didn’t really have to leave for the Cloisters at 10:00, so I decided we would sleep in a bit.

I was craving Ethiopian, but there seems to be a dearth of this cuisine in NYC, especially for lunch. There may be lots of great places, but no one is writing about them. We tried Meskerem several months back, and it was fine, but we wanted to find something better. Injera has gotten some press, as well as several spots in Harlem, but all dinner-only. Derek volunteered to research the genre while I showered. He found Awash, which took us over to the East side, somewhat on the way to The Met. We walked a bit over a mile, only to find the restaurant closed. Time to reboot. Fish Cheeks had caught our attention on the way over, so we decided to go back and revisit it. Some of the dishes we have had here before are so amazing, it was hard to not reorder them, but we ventured into all new plates this time. Happy hour starts at noon, so we began with six $1 oysters, served with fried shallots and a spicy sauce that was uniquely Thai, and discounted glasses of wine and beer. Next came a raw shrimp with spicy fish sauce, basil, and garlic appetizer, a side of morning glory (described as a Thai watercress ) sautéed with Thai Chiles and fish sauce, and a whole fried snapper, covered with chili peppers, red onions, and fried kefir lime leaves and shallots. All excellent choices for an authentic and delicious Thai meal.

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Next was The Met. I wanted to see the Heavenly Bodies exhibit (catholic costumes), and Derek was excited about the Souls Grown Deep outsider art sector. The outfits were exquisite with their gold accents and precise embroidery. So beautiful, but hard to imagine necessary when the church’s mission should be to help the poor, feed the hungry, etc. We paused for a refreshment on the rooftop while taking in the Huma Bhadha sculpture. Cast in bronze, the colors and textures were mesmerizing while at the same time creepy. On to the outsider art in the modern department. Many of the artists are from my home state of Alabama, and their assemblages are pretty amazing. They used such elementary objects and made them into beautiful pieces.

existing conditions cocktail menu

1st round – Professor Plum + Banana Justino

existing conditions cocktail menu

2nd round of Saratoga Paloma + The Remedy

After the museum, we decided to skip The Pool and go for Existing Conditions, which was more in our neighborhood. I had been excited to share this place with Derek, but it just wasn’t his thing.  He appreciated the fact that the fizz lasted the entire Saratoga Paloma, but the rest didn’t impress him. Oh well, hopefully, the rest of the staycation will appeal to both of us. This cocktail lounge probably won’t be your food destination, but the inventiveness of the beverages are worth a trip. I thought every drink we ordered was amazing.

staycation 2018: day 2

I’ve been dying to try Korean BBQ in Murray Hill Queens, so it seemed a natural choice for day two of our staycation. An easy 20-minute ride from Penn Station and a walk across the street gets you to Mapo BBQ. Make sure to show up hungry, because the dishes do not stop. It’s not easy to order only one entree. I hear it is possible, but we always end up getting pressured into buying one per person. There were nine different banchan sides – the classic kimchee, two types of seaweed, potatoes, potato salad, pot roast, tofu, broccoli, and salad. Lettuce, marinated onions, bean paste, and a sesame oil salt and pepper sauce were delivered to the table to make wraps. The beef is grilled over hot charcoal right next to you. And the steaming hot dishes keep coming – a fluffy egg in broth, sweet corn kernels, and a spicy tofu hot pot. We had way too much food but wanted to experience everything, so we also ordered the mul naeng myu, icy cold buckwheat noodles in a beefy, vinegary broth. Once is enough for us with this dish. The quality of the meat was impressive, and the coals provide a deeper flavor than the electric grills you find in Manhattan, but we will probably not venture out very often for this feast (especially since it the round trip costs $15 per person and trains only run every hour).

Next on the agenda the Color Factory, a travelling interactive exhibit. Celebrating color as well as serving up perfect instagrammable moments snapped by strategically-placed, QR code-triggered cameras, the project was an ideal outing for us. We never take photos, so it was helpful that the venue took them for us. The shot where I am drowning (I really could not get the orbs out of my face!) in the balls just may make it to our holiday card, which has a tradition of featuring quirky photographs. Bring your sweet tooth, because there are various treats throughout the rooms – mochi ice cream, macaroons, candies, raspberry soda, and gelato.

For a little snack before the play, we ran by Sake Bar Hagi 46, a Japanese izakaya in the Theatre District. Staying the course with our standbys, the fried squid legs, takoyaki (octopus balls), and veggie yakitori, we also ventured out by ordering the sautéed mushrooms. They were good, but I agree with Derek’s assessment that they would be improved with some salt or marinade and a bit of a char on them.

On to Broadway. Mean Girls took the best parts of the movie and updated for the stage and today’s top issues. Just a quick plug for the lotteries – try and keep trying for the ones that seem interesting. I won tickets to Shakespeare in the Park on my first try, but this one took a while. If you are like us – enjoy a play here and there, but are not die-hard fans, it’s worth the wait (and minutes it takes to enter – still keeping fingers crossed for Hamilton!). Also, don’t miss the double sippy wine cups. Although, after drinking three-quarters of one I was dying to go to the bathroom at intermission. If you are counting the minutes until waiting in the ladies’ room line, know that intermission comes past the halfway mark – not as expected at the end of the vengeance song. Keep holding – the good news is that the line moves quickly. Our tickets were in the front row, which I would recommend trying at least once. You are able to see what’s really going on in the orchestra (the conductor was adorable), the wigs, the pantyhose that creep up below the midriff tops, and the funny forehead microphones.

mummies!

moved from old blog site – originally posted march 29, 2009

It’s been on our list to do for months, but we finally made it yesterday to the Michael C. Carlos Museum on Emory University. I always thought it was just an Egyptian museum, but they also have some great artifacts from South American, Africa, Europe and Asia. The High has some nice pieces now with its Louvre relationship, but the Carlos Museum is a much better value. For a $7 donation, we wound our way through the many rooms, perusing case after case of jewelry, urns, coins, musical instruments, and other artifacts. Derek was probably tired of hearing me say “Look at that!” and “That would look great in our house.”, but there were so many great items. Some were obviously very primitive, but there were some extremely elaborate designs with intricate patterns.

In addition to the artifacts on the middle level, upstairs you can see the pictorial documentation of the discovery of the lost tomb of King Tut. All of the photos were in black and white, but the quality of the photos and the details they revealed were amazing. Harry Burton, the photographer, even experimented with some moving pictures, and footage was included in the exhibit.

Of course, the biggest “wow” factor is still the room with the sarcophaguses (I think I’m spelling that correctly) and mummies. There were at least nine caskets (or parts of caskets) and three mummies. It’s hard to not be awed by the majesty of the sarcophaguses and the fact that you are standing inches from a body that is over 2000 years old and is still preserved.

On a side note, if you are thinking about going to see the King Tut exhibit at the Atlanta Civic Center, keep reading. We went to the Tutankhamun the Golden King and the Great Pharoahs – King Tut Exhibit a few months ago, and were disappointed in the value. They did a good job of presenting the history of the discovery, and displayed lots of artifacts from the tomb, but they didn’t have most of the items we were expecting on display, namely the sarcophaguses and mummies. The biggest disappointment was the fact that the famous mask (below), which is prominently shown on every advertisement for the exhibit, is not part of the collection. We kept looking for it as we went through the maze, and then realized we were at the end (the gift shop) and still had not seen it. We speculated on whether or not we had just missed it, and then asked one of the volunteers. He said that it was in Egypt, and that it was not allowed to leave after damage it sustained when it was a part of a travelling exhibition in the 70’s. Save your $27.50 (plus massive Ticketmaster fees) and go to the Carlos Museum, and you’ll experience no buyer’s remorse.