Friday, April 25, 2014

Finding Vivian Maier.


Last week I had the opportunity to go see the documentary film, Finding Vivian Maier, about a street photographer who spent the majority of her life in and around Chicago.

Vivian's story and artwork are unique because she was virtually unknown until a box of her negatives was purchased, after her death, by Chicago resident John Maloof for a book-writing project. Not quite suited for his needs, they were set aside until he eventually began scanning the negatives and created a blog posting the images. Maier's work is stunning.

The more he investigated this artist, the more he learned about her whereabouts, career as a nanny on Chicago's North Shore, and most importantly, her pursuit of photography. Literally thousands of negatives were uncovered in a storage unit, along with other memorabilia that filled the space floor to ceiling, wall to wall. There were also boxes filled with undeveloped rolls of film.

The film follows the pursuit of Maloof to uncover what he could about Vivian Maier. What unfolds is a series of interesting interviews, interspersed with image after image of Chicago and New York streets and residents, self portraits and even short "home movies" of herself and the children she helped raise. But regardless of all the clues left behind, you're still stuck asking questions and wishing there were more details. Vivian Maier was fascinating.

Without wanting to give too much away, I'll just say it's been over a week since I saw this documentary, and I find myself thinking about it daily. Wondering about this strange, complicated woman and going back again and again to look at her beautiful, tortured, stark and emotional images. If you have any interest in Chicago, photography, and eccentric artists, this is a must-see film.

*All images from website

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Alaska: Day 3.

We drove out to Sisters this morning beneath threatening skies but also facing beautiful snow-capped sunlit mountain tops in the distance. Sisters is apparently named for an underwater "landmark" of two flats 200 feet below the surface surrounded by a large area of 400-foot deep water. Another boat – not from our camp – was in the same spot where we anchored up. Fishing for halibut began along with a new feeling of, "I almost don't want to catch one." After my experience yesterday I knew what it meant to have to drag that thing to the surface. Thankfully, it's so thrilling you ALMOST forget how hard you're working. Dad brought up a big one first and I was glad to have the rush without the work, but shortly after that it was my turn.

It's incredible when these things not only resist your pull, but also take the extremely tight line on your reel OUT while you're trying to drag them in. In order to land this first fish (and many after I found out) I had sit on the handle of the rod, reel with my right hand and raise and lower with my left arm to gain any line while I struggled to bring it up. My rod tip was almost in the water while the center of the rod was at the highest point. Then I'd lean back and pull/lift, and when I couldn't bring it up any higher, I'd let it all back down slowly, keeping the line taught, while I reeled like hell. You do this about 100 times and then the thing surfaces and you about die at the size and pray that the guy with the shark hook can stab it in its jaw while the whole mess of line and lead ball and huge hook furiously thrash against the side of the boat.

And then you thank god when the fish finally comes up over the gunwale.

After this you just sit there while your arms throb and you get your breath back thinking, "There's no way I can do that again."

But eventually, you slowly re-rig your bait, put your line back in, and gently hope you get to watch someone else bring one in before you have to do it again. We did this all morning. The sun came out in full force and despite losing an hour fishing because Brad's line got caught up on something on the bottom, I caught two more before we maxed out with our eight around noon.

Unfortunately, early on we kept one that was too small, and in our final push 3 of us had fish on at the same time. The last one to come up was Brad's but we'd maxed out by then and he had to put back one of the bigger fish of the morning.

We trolled for salmon along Home Shore the rest of the day but only caught black bass, one dolly and one pink. This was despite the ceaseless jumping of salmon all around us. I think everyone was exhausted and combined with relatively calm water, bright warm sunshine and the incredible views, we spent a nice lazy afternoon. It was the only time I took off my top layer and wool hat all week. 

Some landmarks and locations I've learned:

Grey Cabin
Green Buoy
Log Dump
Mary's Flat
Russian Flat
Home Shore

We fished 9 hours today. My first catch today was about 50# and the consensus was I brought the biggest into the boat.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Alaska: Day 2.

I slept for 11 hours last night. Woke up, ate, dressed and we were boarding the boat by 7am. Nothing, NOTHING could have prepared me for the ride out to Mary's Flat. For 45 minutes I sort of prayed the bottom of the boat wouldn't crack in two or that we wouldn't hit a whale or that I wouldn't get tossed overboard as we full-throttled through 3-4 ft waves getting pelted in the face and covered with sheets of sea water. Many, MANY times I tried to estimate how far the shore really was and whether I could swim there, in my heavy boots and layers of clothing, before I froze to death in the 45º ocean.

We arrived thankfully alive and the waters mellowed out and we alternately fished salmon and halibut all day along the shoreline. I finally got a sense of the feeling of the tap-tap of a halibut strike and was able to land 2-3 of them and one very ugly cod fishing that way. The last I caught was maybe 3x the size of the others and took everything I had to bring to the surface. My pole was literally bent in half most of the rise and I had to actually sit on the handle to provide the leverage I needed to reel it in. I couldn't believe the size once I could see it. But, it's incredibly awkward to shark-hook a flat angry thrashing board of a fish with a sharp bait hook already in its lip and a 1-pound ball hanging off the other end of the line slamming around. Disappointingly, it fell off before we could get it in the boat but that fight to bring it up – and the sheer size of what could have been – made me excited to go back and try tomorrow.

Luckily the "We'll catch one more halibut before we try for salmon" catch was Brad's and he brought up about a 50#-er, the largest we'd caught by far. A few more details about catching halibut:

What I didn't learn when we were catching the little ho-hummers (~10#) yesterday was what you have to do to catch a "big" one. Previously all it took was grabbing the V-shaped rope leader down by where the hook was set and hoisting it in. Today, the bat and shark hook came out. When someone it the boat has a halibut on, you first make sure your lines are out of their way. You might reel in, but you can fish for a while if you want because it will take the guy who's hooked one a considerable amount of time to reel it up. Halibut are shaped like huge flat, oval platters. There's tons of resistance because, as I've heard it described, "It's like reeling in a barn door." This is no joke. So you're sweating and struggling and cramping and spasming and resting and winded and straining to bring it up.

Then after an eternity, you catch a glimpse of what it could be as it comes into view, and the excitement spreads through the boat. Everyone secures their poles in a holder. Then one guy grabs the shark hook – about a 6" sharp metal hook on a short rope, and another guy grabs the bat – literally like a baseball bat but half the size. While the fisherman holds his rod up high, bringing the fish right up next to the boat, the guy with the shark hook takes a hold of the rope leader with one hand and with the other hand tries to jab the shark hook into the underside of it's jaw and pierce all the way through it's mouth so it pops out the top of it's head by the eyes. You know, so it's got the jaw bones to keep it hooked up in case the flesh around it tears.

You might imagine that the fish does not like this one bit. Just like it did not like the original bait hook stuck in it's mouth, it did not like being pulled by it's lip up 300 ft. to the surface. It did not like the change in water temperature and it certainly did not like not being able to breath now that it's being hauled out of the water with a second giant hook in it's head. So the fish? It goes crazy. Which is where the bat comes in. Now someone has to knock the fish out by bashing it a few times right between it's eyes, which lie flat on the top of it's body, not on either side of it's head like most fish. Thrash-bash-thrash-bash and the eyes roll back and it's out cold. Now "subdued", you can safely get the two hooks out before you stick a knife in it's gills to bleed it out as you put it in the "live" well.

In my opinion, fishing for halibut is more like hunting for halibut. The largest our group caught was between 50 and 60 pounds. Some groups were bringing in fish up around 200 pounds. I do not know how they manage this. I do not want to know.

The salmon fish we caught today were mostly smaller pinks, but my own personal highlight was when I had one on the line and someone else had a much larger silver hooked at the same time. Once mine was netted and on the floor of the boat Brad yelled, "Bleed that one yourself!" And I said, "But I don't know how!" And he said, "You've seen it done enough by now."

I knew I had to suck it up because there was still the other big fish to unhook and unnet and no one was free to handle mine for me. So I stared at it on the deck until finally I summoned the courage and just stuck my finger through it's gills and up into its mouth and lifted it up. Doing that alone was enough of a first for me to call it a day, but then I had to hold it up over the well, avoiding cutting my fingers on it's sharp teeth, while fitting an extremely sharp knife into the gills to cut the white strips of cartilage in between the red gill sheets while it squirmed and slapped around. Accomplishing this was an extremely proud moment for me.

We saw a ton of eagles today. And whales were so plentiful that by the end of the day it was like, Uh, there's another whale. Saw some sea otters and seals as well.

Several times I daydreamed about getting back to The Drying Room. When that moment arrives, it was just as warm as ever but now it stank to high heaven so not quite as magical. 

It's debatable whether the ride to or from Mary's Flat was more rough. We were on the boat 11 hours* straight.

*I only used the luggable loo once.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Alaska: Day 1.

I took notes every night in bed before I passed out while the sun was still shining. My next several posts will detail the days of my trip. We stayed at Doc Warner's, Excursion Inlet, AK. It was actually the second day in Alaska, but first day fishing.

Today I learned the method for fishing both halibut and salmon. First the halibut:

We set out close to camp and anchored around a spot called Waterfall. Halibut fishing was slow, deep (100-300ft) and extremely heavy. It was exhausting just to bounce a 1# weight on the bottom. My arms got really tired, and my Dad laughed at me when I asked if there was a "trick" to make it easier. I did manage to catch 1 small one though, and when you hook one you kind of forget how hard it is to lift the pole and reel it in.

It's a terribly awkward rig: ~2 inch twisted hook and a ball weight attached to a rope in an inverted V – one at each end. Then where the rope meets at the point is where it attaches to your line. You let out the line until you feel the ball hit the bottom. This takes several minutes, and you are supposed to keep your thumb on the reel as the line runs out.

Then you jig (lift the pole about a foot, which lifts the ball, and then let it drop back to the bottom – over and over). This is tiring enough on it's own. That is, until you feel dull taps of a fish at the bottom hitting your bait and you try to set the hook. Half the time or more, after several taps and a pull, I'd reel up that heavy load sure I had a fish only to find my bait gone and only the ball on the end. Speaking of bait, the typical bait for fishing halibut was a salmon head or steak, and a piece or two of herring. The salmon gives the halibut something to latch on to, the herring attracts them by the scent of their oils.

That reminds me, I also learned to catch herring, which is its own kind of fun. One pole on the boat had 6 little hooks with flies all attached to one line about a foot apart that you drop in the water down around 10 feet, and in about 1 minute you reel it back in and hope to have 6 herring and no pollock fish. That rarely happens though. So then you have to unhook all the fish as they flap all over the deck and hooks fly around. You end up keeping the herring/tossing back the pollock, all while trying to avoid stabbing yourself with one of the flailing hooks.

During the halibut lesson, Brad caught an "undesirable" fish. We thought. At orientation we heard about several species you are required to keep if you catch. This ugly bulging-eyed spiky huge orange thing was called a yellow-eyed rock fish. It was bloated and gross, a nuisance. We forgot about it even, when we took a break from the halibut fishing and went up to the lodge to eat lunch (the only day we took a mid-day break).

So we're finishing our pb&j's when some of the staff came up all giddy and excited and said they would not fillet our rock fish until we took a picture, "I've never seen one so big!"

So we walk down to the dock and all of them are down there posing with the fish, "This thing's 17 pounds!! Do you know how old it is??" Turns out about 105 years old. And basically a delicacy, similar to red snapper (see top pic).

The second half of the day we fished the salmon. Trolling along the shore with the line out until there's a strike. Like walleye fishing only with a different rig, and shallower than the halibut. While you have your line out, the countless salmon taunt you, jumping all around your boat. Then suddenly someone gets a "Fish On!" the boat stops and everyone else brings their line in to get them out of the way, while they try and land it. This is because you need a net to get it in the boat and it twists and turns and flops around like mad. So one person drives, one person reels it in, one person mans the net and one person (usually me) tries to stay out of the way and keep the boat balanced. This collective effort becomes that much more extreme when 2-3 people end up hooking a fish at the same time. We had relocated to find the salmon (Home Shore) and once we got started this fishing was exciting – we brought in some large silvers which was exhilarating and fun.

By the end of the day, wet and freezing, before going anywhere else, the first stop is The Drying Room. The Drying Room is a magical place heated by the exhaust from generators that power the whole camp. It's walls and beams are lined with a couple hundred hooks. Here, you strip off your wet, scale-y, slimy, bloody, smelly top layer and hang it to dry as you walk up from the water. Or maybe you just sit down in there for a while to thaw out. Several times a day on the boat, usually when I was at my coldest and wettest, I day-dreamed about the magical hour when I would step into this room at the end of the day. Here even the wettest of clothing was piping hot and dry within about 45 minutes.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Remembering Spring.

March 30, 2013: 

Last year was the first year I really seemed to pay attention to the details of Spring as the season slowly unfolded. It's the first warm day this year and I was just out in the yard taking a look at things. It really surprises me how much complete excitement I get from seeing the new tiny triangles of green popping through the soil. 

I had forgotten that I'd found a pot of bulbs in the garage last fall and had planted them at the last minute in sets of 3's around the border of the left bed among the spirea. I had no idea what they were, where they came from or if they would grow. And just now I was to the point of clapping – delighted* to find them: hyacinth!

I love hyacinth so much I had the following thought: They are my favorite spring flower.

Until a moment passed and I thought of forsythia. Then daffodils, then tulips. And crocus! Last year my friend Nick told me Spring was his favorite season. I thought, Really? Who picks Spring as their favorite season? Thankfully I started to really pay attention to it that day. Spring 2012 in Chicago was spectacular. It came early and just gradually rolled itself out. And the flowers bloomed: quince and lilac and all the beautiful crab trees. Magnolias! 

This season is just upon us. I can't wait to soak up every last minute of it.

*I cant believe I used the word "delighted" but that's the best way to describe it. I felt Delighted!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Josef Hoflehner

A couple weeks ago Steve sent me this link. I have gone back many times since to look at the photographs by Josef Hoflehner. I love the color palettes and the softness but especially the patience it took to create them. "Patience" is the title of a series of color land- and seascapes that Hoflehner and his son travel the world – and then wait, sometimes days – to capture. Beautiful light. Natural patterns. Subtle, calm, peaceful: Patience.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Different light this weekend.

Saturday, February 16, 2013.

Sunday, February 17, 2013.

Both so pretty.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


My Dinner Club went to Balena last week. I absolutely love this space*, so I was glad I got there early for a good look around and a drink while I waited for people to arrive. For starters, I have to say the specialty cocktails were probably my favorite thing any of us ordered. Since I've been on a brown liquor kick I was deciding between the Francesco and the Mirto. The bartender wouldn't pick one over the other so I chose the Francesco. I had two. But I tasted several others and with one exception (the Dark&Stirred), loved them all. 

So awesome – we decided to just order a bunch of stuff and share. The Kale "Caesar" Salad for starters. I try and try, but I do not like kale. I also do not like anchovies but I tried those again too. I still do not like either one. The croutons and dressing were fantastic. Then we had the Brussels Sprout pizza. Out of all the things on the menu, I was the most ho-hum about the pizzas. Big mistake. It was my favorite thing we ate.

Of course I had studied the menu before we went and was deciding between the Tagliolini Nero – crab, sea urchin and chili – and the Roast Porchetta with creamy polenta and parsley red onion salad. We ordered both. The crab on the pasta was super good, but the dish itself could have been a lot warmer, temp wise. I didn't distinguish any sea urchin and I didn't care. I love black pasta though, so this was a good choice overall. We got two portions of it – good thing, otherwise we'd have each only gotten about a bite. The porchetta wasn't quite what I was expecting but it was also decent. More like a thick slice of ham with a crust of bacon around it (this is probably normal, I just wasn't expecting it). The polenta side was YUM. Better than the additional side of Baked Polenta with tomato fondue we also ordered, I thought. 

Dessert. Not normally having strong feelings about dessert one way or another, I conveniently opted out of the discussion on which one to pick. If pressed I side with chocolate anything. This was the case when a deciding vote was needed between the Mocha Parma Cotta and the Caramel Pine Nut Tart. As we ordered the Mocha, Teresa snuck in the second choice tart. Both were delicious, but the Mocha Parma Cotta – I can see myself going back for just that dessert alone. It was ridiculously good. Only one other dessert comes to mind that similarly blew me away, the salted caramel cheesecake at Enoteca Roma

And something must have been in the air because two people also ordered Caffé Corretto + Liquor. Who knows what the other liquor choice was – she sent it back to get the Faretti Biscotti Joy had chosen. I don't want to give too much credit to this shot of a coffee accompaniment, but it prompted a passing around of the small glass and sharing stories of losing virginity. Even the server delivering it was practically drooling just from it's scent.

So basically, I'd go back for sure. But I'd like to sit at the bar for drinks, pizza and dessert (+dessert coffee!).

*Our table was under the window (and kitchen!) on the right in the top image. 
**All images are from the Balena website.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

So this happened. (Not really).

It was summer. Hot and sweaty and sunny. Girls were wearing sundresses and boys with tan backs were riding dirt bikes shirtless. The sunlight was so bright and thick you could see the yellow rays, and every color on the street was a richly saturated version of itself.

I was walking in DUMBO, looking for an art installation I'd heard about. Some creative housewife in Brooklyn had enlisted other creative housewives in Brooklyn to do a monthly "exhibit" in spots along the overpass. Each woman had a section she was responsible for designing and maintaining. There was a stairway leading to the top of the bridge, and each new theme was written in red chalk, on the vertical section of the step so it wouldn't get rubbed off by foot traffic. The first theme had been written on the bottom step. They were on the 11th theme.

Themes were single words, like SPRING or YELLOW. The current theme was SKY. One woman's section had about 100 light blue helium balloons, tied down with dark blue string, floating in the breeze.

I was noticing street signs looking for Freemont. The sign before Freemont said Magnolia, so I knew I was getting close. There were people everywhere. Sprinklers were spraying, doors and windows wide open, music playing out of speakers on the street. To my left was the overpass and to my right were the buildings, similar to homes you'd see in San Francisco. They appeared to balance on an uphill slope. Some had very tall, steep, narrow staircases to get to the front door, with garage doors underneath at the street level. Besides wanting to see the installations I was visiting a friend who lived there, Nicole.

When I got to Nicole's place, it was totally wide open. I could walk right in the front door and there was a large foyer with red Oriental rugs on the dark wood floor and the plaster walls and trim were painted in varying hues of turquoise. There were textures and fabrics draping the windows and doorways and pieces of antique furniture sparsely placed here and there. There was also a ping pong table. Then a college-aged girl stumbled in and she said Nicole wasn't home but did I want to see her room? And I also realized I was me, but my college-aged self, and of course I wanted to see her room. The house was an elaborate maze of interesting rooms, similar to a Wes Anderson film. We passed a few hippy-like kids laying around. A light breeze blew gauze-y floor-to-ceiling curtains.

Her room was pale yellow and the window faced the street. She had built a loft on the front wall and we climbed up it to get to the closet door up there, where she kept all the art she'd collected from a club she was the president of. You had to be asked to be a member to this club – it was very exclusive – and all the pieces that made it into the closet were very special. We sat up on the ledge of this loft leafing through large sheets of thick paper with intricate drawings on them.

Suddenly I had to go, and as I was making my way through the house I bumped into Nicole. People were sitting around smoking weed in a circle and we were both passing through the room from opposite doorways. I said, "You live with all these people?" Nicole is married and I found it odd she cohabited with about a dozen college students – I was back to my adult-aged self – but I also thought it was so cool. Anyway, I was in a hurry to meet Katie at the harbor for a ride on the boat she'd rented for the summer.

The boat turned out to be more like a ship. An ocean cruiser? It was massive and we were sitting on the deck at the top and there was enough room for several couches (they were made out of a woven natural fiber and covered in thick navy and white striped fine cotten upholstery) and space enough in the middle for a small dance floor. Katie's parents were sitting on one couch and her daughter Sarah was laying on the deck playing cards. Some people were fishing off the back.

I was sitting on the edge looking out at the water and trying to decide if it was littering to throw some of the pumpkins that were in a display near me into the ocean. I was debating in my head whether sea animals would eat a pumpkin, even though there was no way they'd ever have eaten or seen one in their habitat. Would they recognize it as food? Whether it would decay enough that little fish would nibble on particles or whether a whale would just pop the whole thing in it's mouth. And furthermore, would adding a thing like a pumpkin to the ocean be considered polluting the water?

Then I didn't care and I just started pitching pumpkins overboard and it was great. They would hit the water many yards below and surprise me by floating. It was so pretty to see the deep dark navy of the water, with white sunlit reflections bouncing on the waves, in contrast to these bright orange pumpkins bobbing. Some people were yelling at me for doing it but I ignored them.

Then I was back at Nicole's house. It was much more quiet and vacant than it had been earlier. I was tip-toeing back to the light yellow bedroom. When I got there it was empty and I snuck a drawing I did into the sacred closet. As I was leaving I ran into the girl and when she asked what I was doing there I said, "Just looking for Nicole," and then I got the hell out of there. I was climbing over the latched gate at the top of the stairs, and heading down the steep steps to the street and the sun was setting. The bright, vibrant street during the day was starting to fill with filthy dirty homeless people wearing layers of soiled clothing, pushing shopping carts loaded down with their stuff. They were setting up camps in between the SKY installations that the housewives of Brooklyn had actually origionally created in order to bring them some beauty. But I was afraid of them so I started to jog home. Past Freemont, past Magnolia.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Love this time of year.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Clare Elsaesser

This morning while I was drying my hair I was thinking about my bathroom for about the one millionth time, and it occurred to me it might be perfect to do a water theme. Coincidentally (there are no coincidences, right?) I came across this artist's Etsy Shop, Tastes Orangey, today. I love the darker, greener tones. These images sort of remind me of some of the older Samantha French paintings. Also these. And these.

I want one. Which is your favorite?

1. Undertow, 2. My Home is the Sea, 3. Married to the Sea, 4. Summer Girl

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

I seriously want to plan a trip to Japan around eating at this restaurant. I want to meet Jiro. What a fascinating, simple, disciplined, thoughtful, stoic man.

I want to walk in that subway. I want to breath in that restaurant. I want to watch him assemble the sushi. I want to bite into that tuna. I want to taste those damn eggs! (The egg apprentice made over 200 pans before one was accepted – then he cried). 

Jiro Dreams of Sushi was an interesting look into the life's work (literally, he started at age 10 and was still at it in 2011 at age 85) of a culinary master. The 10-seat restaurant, set underground in the subway, creates a custom 20-piece sushi menu every day for lunch and dinner. There is at least a month's wait to get a reservation, and the meal will cost around $300. I think I'd like to save up, reserve my spot, and fly around the world for dinner.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


We had Dinner Club at Ruxbin on Thursday. I loved this place.

I read about it a little online and of course studied the menu beforehand. I loved that they don't take reservations. I loved that it's BYOB. I loved their "house rules". I loved their rooftop garden. I was so excited to go.

Then I got there and one of the chefs was just hanging out outside. Totally nice. Totally approachable. I recognized him from the blog and felt awkward at first – but was quickly put at ease. So nice. I was glad I'd read about their seating policy and how our whole party was supposed to be there, but then I wasn't quite sure what to do/where to go – he was kinda blocking the door. It was nice out so I just decided to sit down on this – I don't know what to call it? – Structure? It was kind of a salvaged patio, kind of a train car, kind of an uncovered covered wagon? The seats were made out of plastic crate pallets, the end tables old elementary school desk tops, there was a "bar" with sliding glass medicine cabinet doors. The roof was simply a criss-crossed string of lights.

The other DC members started to arrive and we all sat out on the benches with the other people waiting for their complete parties to get there. It was a diverse group of people. The chef/greeter/"bouncer" went over the entire menu in extreme detail with one girl who was waiting. We listened. We drank cans of beer. At one point Jason let us know we could wait upstairs, inside, but we stayed put. (Upstairs on the landing there's a stainless steel industrial table and wooden bench on a balcony for waiting, a bathroom to the right, and an open doorway blocked with a deli-style refrigerator case and a view to the little kitchen with the chefs cooking behind it. Above the opening was a chalk board with the housemade sodas of the day: some kind of citrus passion fruit tea and a lavender lemonade (we had both, yum!)).

So before I talk about the food, I have to describe the bathroom. Remember those photography class dark room doors? That are more like a cylindrical can, and then the door spins around as you turn it and next thing you know, you're inside? That's the door to the bathroom. "VACANT --->" and "OCCUPIED <---" signs show you how to get in and if it's in use. Super cool and great. Then the walls were wallpapered with concert flyers and it was dark inside and lit by candles.

Ok, and the decor is all random and vintage and salvage and wood and metal and the overall effect is cozy and warm. Light streamed into the intimate tight dining room from the large picture window. All kinds of interesting lighting, shades, beams, bars, and colors filled the room. The ceiling is papered with pages from cookbooks.

There were five of us and we decided immediately we'd just order and share. We got four appetizers (tuna, beet salad, octopus, and garlic french fries). The octopus (grilled chickpeas, pickled green onions, radish, black soy bean, grapes and a ginger-scallion vinaigrette) – I think he said is marinated in wine for two days before it's prepared – was my favorite. But I don't think you can count the fries. Because the Fries. Were. Amazing.

For entrees we got the Tomato Tart, Sea Scallops, Amish Chicken, Pork Loin and Salmon. You can read the details here while the menu lasts. I loved it all. I think the consensus of the table, if we had to order them, went pork/chicken, tomato tart, scallops, then salmon. The dishes kind of rolled out staggered as they were prepared. Our server let us know/asked if that would be ok. We said yes.

Which leads me to, I thought the service was excellent. It was kind of service by everyone. Different people took our order, delivered plates, cleared empties, opened wine bottles. You could tell everyone there worked as a team and truly, they seemed to all genuinely love what they were describing, preparing, and serving. When we asked our waitress what her favorites are, she literally basically ended up listing everything on the menu!

I didn't get any shots of the actual food!
It was like the plates were cleaned the minute they were set down.

After dessert – we got both the berry shortcake and the pretzels & beer – we felt like we needed to beat it out of there to open up our table. So we took our leftover beer and wine and headed back to the "patio" out front for our after dinner cocktail. I have no idea if this was allowed or not, but nobody stopped us and nobody seemed to care.

Anyway, like I said originally, I loved this place. I can't wait to go back.

PS: The blog, which I kind of can't stop reading, is a thorough account of concept to creation to the opening of this restaurant. You can tell everyone involved loves it, which is probably why the people that go there love it too.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Leanne Shapton: Swimming Studies

Yesterday my friend brought my attention to the recently released book, Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton. After a quick trip around the internet, I knew I was going to have to get a copy – for myself and maybe even a couple as gifts. When I read and looked at some of her descriptions and swim-sensory memories, I knew them as my own. The smells especially. It was like she climbed into my head and woke up the old swimmer in me. I can't believe how relatable everything is. And then she combines it with her drawing and painting talents and – I'm just floored. Especially love the swimming watercolors. So beautiful!

Seriously the moments, colors, textures she's captured! How wonderful to discover these with the Olympics about to start. I was already feeling nostalgic about my years as a competitive swimmer and so so so looking forward to watching the events. I'm coming out of my skin in anticipation for the Men's 400 IM tomorrow night. Finding this "memoir" right now – it's just perfect.

Read more about this author and artist here.