Carmel Bach Festival–The Joy of Music

Carmel Bach Festival 2017 program

Now celebrating its 80th anniversary, the world-renowned Carmel Bach Festival has just begun its summer season! If you are in the Carmel, California area sometime between July 9th and July 29th, stop by and experience the exuberant classical and contemporary music masterpieces being featured.

A touchstone of music in scenic Monterey and Carmel, this world-class music festival offers more than 25 chamber concerts, traditional chorale recitals, and full orchestraI programs. Some of the Carmel Bach Festival concerts are free, often accompanied by lectures by the Art Director and Principal Conductor. Open rehearsals and workshops for emerging musicians are educational and thoroughly enjoyable too.

I was fortunate to listen to one of the first pre-festival concerts so far this season at the beautiful Carmel Presbyterian Church. The Circle of Strings Quartet–featuring the violin virtuoso Emlyn Ngai as well as three other exceptional chamber musicians–played two 18th century pieces (by Beethoven and J.S. Bach) as well as 20th century compositions by Reinhold Gliere, Samuel Barber, and Philip Glass. Ranging from soothing, calming and undulating movements to a humorous duet and then to the passionate and poignant finale by Barber, the five selections managed to be a microcosm of the evolution of music from its baroque days to the masterful works by Philip Glass (who celebrates his 80th birthday this summer too).

The Carmel Bach Festival is held in a wide-ranging selection of venues throughout the town as well. Some concerts are held outside on the patio under the Clock Tower of the Carmel Sunset Center (the city’s performing arts center) while others are held in beautiful churches in the community (including the Church in the Forest in Pebble Beach) and the historic Carmel Mission. Candlelight concerts are particularly enthralling as the audience imagines a Mozart quintet or a baroque piece in its original lighting of the period.

And as an additional attraction for art lovers, there is an art auction raffle of miniatures by local artists as a fundraiser for the festival. This year’s theme is The Joy of Music to celebrate the cultural and musical vitality in our community. Plan to visit either this summer or next–the Carmel Bach Festival always is scheduled in the month of July.

Carmel Bach Festival Art Raffle
My “Jellyfish” print for Art Raffle

Enjoy!

Note: For tickets and more information call 624-1521 or visit www.bachfestival.org Remember, there are many free events at this festival, including music, lectures and special events. Whatever your budget, you can enjoy this marvelous event!

 

“The Broad”—A Vast Expansion of Modern Art

 

Murakami
Murakami

The Broad Museum, funded by billionaire philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, is one of the hottest tickets in downtown Los Angeles. Just scan the huge stand-by crowds for tickets (which are free) on a weekday early in the afternoon. Maybe they heard about the special selfie opportunities?

The millennial crowd seems to  swipe patiently on their iPhones while eating from food trucks parked in front of the giant white building. Origami-like corrugated folds covering a vault-like interior with glass elevator and escalator, The Broad’s architecture accentuates the contemporary art inside.

Housing more than 2,000 works of art (with about 200 displayed on rotation), this stunning museum exhibits some of the most prominent holdings of postwar and contemporary art worldwide. With its innovative “veil-and-vault” concept, the 120,000-square-foot, $140-million building features two floors of gallery space to showcase iconic examples of the prime works of Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Takashi Murakami—to name a few.

Basquiat
Basquiat

I was left speechless by the special exhibit of Cindy Sherman’s body of work. Featuring her earliest black-and-white photos to images completed this year, this expansive exhibit extends over all of her major periods. We see her chameleon-like transition as she interprets different social themes using herself as the model—woman as sex object, victim, warrior, society matron. This is nothing less than spectacular. [The exhibit closes October 2 and advance reservations are highly recommended.]

Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman

The social media star at The Broad is undoubtedly “Infinity Mirrored Room”, the creation of Yayoi Kusama (better known for her polka dots). With its colorful blitz of glimmering outer-spacelike points of light, it resembles the LACMA’s “Rain Room” exhibit. [The singer Adele filmed a music video inside Kusama’s installation.]  “Infinitely Mirrored Room”  is a selfie magnet for posting on  Facebook and Instagram. The other popular selfie is the gigantic ten-foot-tall wooden sculpture “Under the Table” by Robert Therrien.

One of my hands-down favorite works is Murakami’s 82-foot-long mural “In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow”, featuring demons, dragons and mythic Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian figures roiling in a tsunami. This has been one of the Broad’s biggest attractions for children and teenagers.  His “Red Blood, Black Blood”, is also a mesmerizing painting.

Murakami
Murakami
IMG_3139
Murakami

Breathtaking in beauty, The Broad rivals any contemporary art museum I have ever visited (including MOMA in San Francisco, NewYork and Los Angeles, London’s Tate Modern, Chicago’s Contemporary Museum of Art, New York’s Guggenheim and Whitney.) As the preeminent museum for featuring the ever-growing popularity of younger artists, The Broad provokes and challenges our appreciation of art in our own era. Reserve your tickets now!

 

“Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography” at the Getty Center [until September 6]

Light, Paper, Process
Light, Paper, Process

For anyone who loves photography, “Light, Paper, Process” is mind-blowing. Do you want to know what can be done with a photograph processed the old fashioned way? Before Photoshop? This exhibition features experimental photography from seven artists—Matthew Brandt, Marco Breuer, John Chiara, Chris McCaw, Lisa Oppenheim, Alison Rossiter, and James Welling—who focus on light sensitivity and chemical processing including smearing emulsion so that the representational is coaxed into the abstract, often dunking the amorphous semi-developed image into different liquids. One photographer even develops his own gigantic camera and climbs into it for part of the photographing. Other photographers digitize the resulting image and use Photoshop for even more dramatic effects.

Marco Breuer
Marco Breuer

The first images in the exhibition feature a brief retrospective from the Getty Museum’s twentieth century photograph collection, especially photographs by Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy. “Light, Paper, Process does indeed provide a glimpse into the ongoing reinvention of photography today.

Alison Rossiter
Alison Rossiter

Getty Center’s brilliant show breaks the mental boundary and categorization of photography’s mission as attempting to capture the essence of the object being photographed. Instead, “Light, Process, Paper” turns that mission on its head. The artists are more concerned with exploring the fundamental nature of the medium itself, the unfolding accident-driven discovery of what can be done with the process from the inside out.

Note: If you are at the Getty Center, also   try to see “Power and Pathos—Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World” (ends November 1), a dazzling collection that displays rare bronzes influenced by both Greek and Roman styles of the human form, including eyes molded by metal and marble, with distinctive copper eyelashes. Some are newly excavated and being open to the public for the first time.

 

AL’s Place—A Favorite New Spot in SF

Squash salad

AL stands for Aaron London, the young energetic chef of Ubuntu fame (renowned for vegetarian food in Napa Valley). This newly opened San Francisco restaurant on the corner of 26th and Valencia is a standout. Beautifully presented, but in a very noisy, but pristine white environs, AL’s Place seats only forty-six diners. All the dishes we ordered—including meat and fish—were standouts.

London’s confidence and virtuosity with vegetables is no surprise and is reflected in the unusual combinations of fruit and veggies he dreams up. Seafood is peppered in many main dishes, while other meat and fish options are listed as sides. In addition to snackles (small bites) and sides, the menu is divided into cold/cool and warm/hot sections and limited availability items.

We started off with a stunning cold dish of “lightly cured” trout with crispy potato, smashed cucumber, in a bagna cauda sauce (very light garlic and anchovy dip). The Coho salmon trout looked more like sushi than a smoked fish, or perhaps Gravlax: pure, ineffable freshness in a beautiful presentation on top of crispy tomatoes and cucumbers.

In the cold/cool section of the menu we had an unbelievable salad—thinly sliced yellow squash with crushed raspberry/fig oil, burrata and toasted almonds. The presentation is worthy of an artist. Another veggie dish we loved was a generous portion of royal trumpet mushrooms with fava bean mayo, and topped with green peach/pluot relish. What a mix of flavors! On the warm/hot section the stone fruit/albacore curry with black lime marinade, green beans, and a sprinkling of blueberries was a mind-game of ingredients that you would think to be mutually exclusive instead of astoundingly compatible. Going to AL’s Place for this dish alone would be worth the trip.

For sides (don’t let the name fool you), we had the smoked brisket with sieved egg, pickled mire poix, and a faint touch of maple mustard. Brisket is quite trendy now but this one was remarkable. Brisket is not easy to smoke—gristly, fatty, and dry—but this dish had none of those attributes.

In the limited availability menu we had the fish catamaran with a double dip, one of which was a lemony vinaigrette while the other was an incredible miso béarnaise. When the chef stopped by to greet us, we asked how the miso sauce was made and I was exhausted just listening to all the steps involved.

Fish Catamaran--before
Fish Catamaran–Before
Fish Catamaran--
Fish Catamaran–After

We had a sparkling rosé pinot noir (Onward) that was not to our taste so we recommended another one from Carmel to the sommelier. He was inviting and asked for the information, proving he was open to other wine selections. We did like the idea that AL’s Place was experimental in trying lesser-known appellations from all over the world for their wine list, which was very modestly priced.

For nonalcoholic drinks the freshly made watermelon and shiso sparkling soda was perfect—not at all sweet, but refreshing on that warm evening.

I don’t think you can go wrong with AL’s Place—your vegetarian friends will be in Nirvana and we carnivores and pescatarians will have just as good a time. If you are in San Francisco, check out AL’s Place—you won’t be disappointed!

Son of a Gun—On Target

 

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of going to Son of a Gun, a newish West Hollywood restaurant. Small, intimate—when we first drove by, we had to circle the block twice to find it—the food is original and delicious.

We started off with the hamachi with vinaigrette apple and radish sprouts.

Hamachi with Apples, Sprouts and Vinaigrette
Hamachi with Apples, Sprouts and Vinaigrette

Sashimi-grade yellow-fin tuna with tart apples and a light splash of rice-vinegar dressing and a sprinkling of green spouts. This precious appetizer deserves a shout-out. Next, we had the steelhead roe which was good, but not memorable, the uni with burrata and yuzu didn’t knock our socks off, and the huge mound of yellowfin tuna with avocado was just bizarre. So, stick with the hamachi!

For the entrees and small plates, we had the lobster roll—very tiny but melt-in-your-mouth delicious so we ordered two. The shrimp toast that is highly praised on Yelp as one of Son of a Gun’s best appetizers is just too deep-fried for our taste, so we would pass on it next time. The linguine with clams with an uni olio was delicious as was the cucumber salad with two kinds of cucumbers (fresh and pickled) on a delicious bed of mizuna and tiny cherry tomatoes laced with a citrusy yuzu dressing. We could have eaten another one of those.

Cucumber Tomato Salad
Cucumber Tomato Salad

The special of the night was sea bass in a Vietnamese pho-style broth but no rice or noodles, just delicious bok choy and greens with lots of cilantro. A real winner.

The towering fried chicken sandwich (one of their signature dishes) also was just too much fried batter but the pickled cole slaw balanced the oil nicely. The hamachi collar on beans and mustard greens was original and tasty.

Fried Chicken sandwich with cole slaw
Fried Chicken sandwich with cole slaw

On first reading, you might think this is a mixed review and that Son of a Gun is not a keeper. But their startlingly good dishes that we loved, we really loved and will go back for those again! For those of you who do love deep fried foods my critique of those dishes may not apply to your palate.

Go visit Son of a Gun and enjoy the ambience—the maritime, old-fashioned theme reminiscent of a small seafood restaurant you might find in Cape Cod or Boston neighborhoods. We’re going back!

 

Windhover—Where the Mind Can Hover

 

Zen Fountain
Zen Fountain

Over Memorial Day Weekend I visited Windhover, the new spiritual and contemplation center on Stanford University’s campus, a minimalist architectural style suggesting Zen and personal renewal. Windhover takes its name from the series of five giant paintings by the internationally renowned Bay Area figurative artist Nathan Oliveira (1928-2010) who, in turn, named this series after Gerald Manley Hopkins’ poem (1877).

Windhover provides an extraordinarily beautiful and serene venue for quiet reflection exclusively for use by Stanford students, faculty, and staff. If you know someone at Stanford, you can walk into Windhover, a calmly powerful testimony to the necessity for meditation and reflection in daily life. [For the general public, there are docent-led tours every Tuesday at 10:00 am.]

Windhover Contemplation Center
Windhover Contemplation Center

As I approached the landscaped grounds I saw a granite labyrinth, a small Zen stone garden, a small grove of ginkgo trees, and a reflecting pool. Floor-to-ceiling windows suggest a sense of a museum, brilliantly combining art, spirituality, and nature. To the right as I stepped through the front doors, was a room for borrowing a zafu (Zen meditation pillow). The first painting one sees is Big Red, a large abstract oil painting of a kestrel (aka “windhover”) flying in a red sky.  Oliveira’s other paintings include the magnificent Diptych, White Wing and Sun Radiating in either earth tones or sunshine yellow.

Windhover Diptych
Windhover Diptych

Windhover is an elegant and understated refuge in nature, its simple lines an eloquent design for meditative thought.

If you’re visiting campus, you could spend a wonderful day taking the Tuesday morning tour, followed by a walk around the Rodin Sculpture Garden, and then a hike up to the Dish in the Stanford Foothills. If weather proved uncooperative, the Cantor Center for Visual Arts and the Stanford Museum would be time well spent.

Zen Garden
Zen Garden

 

 

Los Angeles Book Festival—Not for Book Lovers Only

logo-FOBThe Los Angeles Book Festival attracts approximately 150,000 people each year and is the largest book festival in the country. Not only booksellers, authors, and publishers attend but also musicians, and local artisans who sell food and clothing. Movie stars present their recent memoirs and children’s books they have written. Cooking demonstrations on some stages promote cookbooks. There is even a tent where you can have your name written in Arabic calligraphy. This annual event, sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, is now held on the University of Southern California’s campus.

Authors and publishers are not the only ones to give presentations, discuss their books, and offer autographs. Young children and teenagers discuss why they love reading, what their favorite books are, and school journalists suggest what news is important to them.

A major event for people like me who are writers and who want to know what books are currently being promoted, the Los Angeles Book Festival is a worthy all-day event for anyone interested in entertainment, arts, and culture. A beautiful day of fun and stimulation — I highly recommend you check it out next year. The Los Angeles Book Festival is always held in April.

TBD–Totally Beautiful Dinner

IMG_2516-2The second San Francisco restaurant in SoMa from the entrepreneurs, Matt Semmelhack and chef Mark Liberman, TBD –“To Be Determined”– serves a very different menu from AQ (their first restaurant located next door). The menu focuses on wood-fired small plates, mostly served in cast iron pans, prepared on a custom hearth and grill in an open kitchen in a more casual setting than AQ.

Each dish was amazing. We started with warm Josey Baker bread with corn, cotijo and espelette, followed by a beet salad with grapes and walnuts just touched by a subtle fresh horseradish.

 

Beet salad with some bites taken out
Beet salad with some bites taken out

Then the heartier plates arrived: arepa (duck) with tomatillo, apples and manchego, roasted sunchokes in a red brick mole and grilled leg of lamb with carrot and mint (both part of the three-dish prix fixe menu), honey glazed brussel sprouts, octopus ceviche with lime and avocado served over a very light bed of hashed brown potatoes, and finally a shared desert included in the prix fixe selection–the lightest, fluffiest doughnuts resembling beignets and more than enough for the three of us.   All the dishes were amazing and made with loving attention to detail, encapsulating all the flavor a recipe could possibly have!

 

Grilled octopus
Grilled octopus

Moderately priced New American fare, TBD has totally beautiful dinners with a reasonable wine and beer list. (We had a delightful bottle of dry sauvignon blanc by Bodkin of Lake County.) As the acronym TBD connotes, the flavor and style of this restaurant is constantly evolving with an original menu, seasonal and artisanal freshness, and a culinary philosophy emphasizing experimentation!

 

For reservations–TBD, 1077 Mission Street, SF tel. 415-431-1826.

 

 

 

 

GORGEOUS: Confronting Beauty in Some Extreme Forms

[Guest post from artist Tracey Adams who currently has her own show at the Bryant Street Gallery,  Palo Alto, and K. Imperial Fine Arts, San Francisco.   In addition, The Huffington Post interviewed Tracey in “Everything in My Life Is Interconnected” on art, music and math.]

 0904-14-Gorgeous-exhibition-majorLast week I had the pleasure of seeing GORGEOUS, an exhibition of works  from both the SFMOMA and the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.  The curators mentioned, this exhibition is not about the context or meanings of the objects. Rather, the focus is on what the objects look like and how we react to them.  What grabbed me the most were the text plaques alongside each piece. The subject of Beauty is one I’ve been exploring and reading about for the last 2 years. I’m including a few highlights from the “Gorgeous” catalog:  excerpted text  from the curators, Allison Harding and Forrest McGill.  

 Lotus-deer-and-maple-leaves-1800-50-School-of-Sakai-Hoitsu-set-of-3-hanging-scrolls-ink-and-colors-on-silk“The gorgeous challenges the limits of conventional beauty, often approaching the grotesque, abject, overwrought or kitsch. It catches us off guard with an attraction to that other thing, the under belly, where beauty gets messy and unpredictable. Some may feel attracted, others repulsed. We can’t look away. S/he may not be beautiful; s/he is gorgeous.”

“Beauty is always bizarre. I do not mean to say that it is voluntarily, coldly bizarre…I mean that it always contains a bit of strangeness, not intentional, but unconscious, and it is this strangeness in particular that creates Beauty…Reverse the proposition, and try to conceive of a commonplace beauty!” – Charles BaudelaireEllsworth-Kelly-ntitled-Mandorla-1988-bronze

 

Go experience GORGEOUS at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, through September 14, 2014!

Green Chalk Contemporary–It’s All About Fish

The year-old gallery, Green Chalk Contemporary,  in Monterey, is currently presenting “FRESH FISH “, a show of  over 50  artworks  contributed by local, national and international artists.  Emotionally resonant subject matter, expressive brushwork, vibrant colors, deep and rich paint and ink tones, mixed media, found objects and industrial materials all are evident in eclectic compositions.  Squid ink, seaweed, threads, epoxy and glass, and dried anchovies screamed out “FISH.” This exhibit ( part of the Lighthouse District’s Big Splash” events going on in various parts of Monterey, including the Aquarium) will be open until August 9.

Higgins
David Higgins

While I would have difficulty selecting standouts in an exceptional show, the sculpture by David Higgins, “Ghost Fish”–hand built of epoxy– is a marvel and almost irresistible to refrain from touching.

Jerry Takigawa
Jerry Takigawa
Nakashima
Tom Nakashima

Jerry Takigawa’s photograph of the fluid movement of a fish into almost an abstract animated image is stunning.  Not to be missed is Tom Nakashima’s “It’s Natural”,  a whimsical oil painting of a school of sheephead, the fish that morphs from female to male.

Go and explore, engage the eye in some one-on-one fish gazing.   The opening reception featured fish heads and other corporal parts artistically laid out in an ice bucket at the front entrance to entice passersby to come in and take a look!  And mission was accomplished–this was a very well-attended event.

Green Chalk

[Green Chalk Contempoary, 616 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey, CA 93940]

 

SideTour–When You Don’t Want to Feel Like a Tourist

SideTour2

On a recent vacation in New York City, we thought we would try out SideTour (www.sidetour.com), an online marketplace for unusual, offbeat experiences and activities.  Originally designed not for tourists but for locals who want to discover secret treasures in their own neighborhood, the company has now begun to expand to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego,  San Francisco, and Seattle. Acquired by Groupon in mid-2013,  SideTour continues to gain momentum and expand its repertoire while continuing to keep group size between 5-12 participants on average and costs within the $25-85 price range. These are not cookie-cutter offers and even more customization can be provided by some of the “hosts” who offer “side tours”.

Competing with other sites,   SideTour’s  website claims  to focus on events led by experts who have been screened for experience, personality, and expertise.   In New York you can get together to dine at a chef’s home, take private or semi-private cooking classes, see art collections after the museum is closed, and sketch from museum collections onsite, just to list a few of the  imaginative selections online.  We signed up for five tours including  sushi and dumpling classes, sketching at a museum, and a tour of the Met emphasizing gossip about the particular art being viewed.  The fifth side tour was cancelled two weeks in advance for lack of additional participants.  Although I read online that refunds were slow to be credited, we did not have that problem!  SideTour3

 

We did notice that tours which had been given repeatedly, seemed to be more polished in terms of preparation and information.  We tried a couple of “newbies” and enjoyed them too, even though this time next year they will have undoubtedly improved.  SideTour was fun and different. I highly recommend that you check out the offerings before planning a trip to one of the SideTour cities!

 

Bottega Louie–A Mega Bottega

Bottega Louie opened in 2009 in downtown Los Angeles and is in good company with some of the finest restaurants in the area.   The 10,000-square-foot paean to the good life is more than a marble and brass palatial restaurant/gourmet market/patisserie with 20-foot ceilings.

No detail has been overlooked. More than three years under construction, Bottega Louie also has a European style bakery and about 200 employees. The bakery creates 800 pastries a day and is a destination throughout the city for its pastel-colored macaroons.  In addition there is a counter devoted to 20 kinds of breads and  a brick oven churning out pizzas for takeout. It is a crazy place–exuberant and boisterous–and all the time we had to turn our backs to the sumptuous patisserie for fear of ruining our appetites.

After a ten minute wait to get a table (not bad!),  we selected from the Sunday brunch menu, starting off with two appetizers:  prosciutto and burrata (since we are burrata bingers),  a delicate dish with basil and olive oil drizzled on top, nested on a crispy potato pancake.

Portobello Fries and Sliders

And then their famous portobello fries. Forget the mantra about no fried foods.  These were absolutely (and mysteriously) greaseless, in a light flaky batter subtly spiced with rosemary and served with a very small cup of aioli so we couldn’t overdo the fat content. We cannot figure out how to duplicate this dish–mushrooms absorb everything so they should have been limp and soggy with oil, instead of erect and crispy.

For our main dishes we had a salmon millefeuille, delectable smoked salmon with crème fraîche, layered on thin sheets of puff pastry, similar to spanokopita.  A wonderful dance of flavors and colors.

One of my favorite sandwiches is meatball parmesan and the restaurant’s interpretation is a plate of three sliders, each with fresh gooey mozzarella and a light tomato sauce on each giant meatball.

 

We like to finish with a light veggie or salad dish and chose the Mache,  a green salad of frisée, bay leaf-brined roasted chicken, avocado, celery, scallions, julienned snap peas, Meyer lemon & extra virgin olive oil.  A delicious, super fresh collage of greens with wonderful textures and crunch.

The next day we ordered out a burrata pizza– thin wood-oven baked crust with creamy burrata cheese, prosciutto, and kale,   Bottega Louie has been ranked the #1 pizza place by many food websites, often neck-and-neck with Osteria Mozza (see my last post).  I don’t think you can go wrong with this restaurant! So, for all those of you in the downtown area or just wishing to explore, this is a great find!

A word of warning:  Reservations are not taken, but people-watching is entertainment in itself and makes the time pass quickly ogling fashionistas and more unusually-dressed attention-seekers.  Now next time I simply must taste the macaroons!