Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Chronicle of Minor Cultural and Culinary Adventures, episode 1 (May 26-30)

Memorial Day by the Hudson River
I was so exhausted from all the art and culture I experienced last week that by Monday (ok Sunday) all I really wanted was a good, long, uninterrupted sleep.  So now (after a series of short, but ultimately relatively refreshing, naps (interrupted by my happy, playful little dog)) I thought I'd share some quick thoughts as a pretty excellent week in review.

Dang, that Rachmaninoff is sexy!Thursday night I had some rather last-minute luck attending a great piano recital at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall.  Co-sponsored by FIAF, Moroccan pianist Marouan Benabdallah gave us a skilled, and what must have been physically exhausting, performance of Rachmaninoff's Sonata No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 28; excerpts from Ravel's Miroirs; Asturias and Sevilla from Albeniz's Suite Espagnole; Debussy's La Soiree dans Grenade from Estampes; Benabdeljalil's Nocturne and Song Without Words; and his own arrangement of Africa, Fantasy for Solo Piano by Saint-Saens.  Although Mr. Benabdallah himself appeared quite reserved, I had a very emotional response to many of his selections.  Interestingly, all but the Rachmaninoff were played after the intermission, with almost no pause between them, forcing the audience to listen for where one composer ended and another began.  I think Mr. Benabdallah gave us much more than the price of our $25 ticket; I wouldn't hesitate to see him perform again in future. 

The Importance of Perspective:   With all the hype (and crowds) for the McQueen exhibit, it might be easy to overlook the "Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century" exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  That would be a big mistake.  The exhibit is beautifully curated and showcases a number of northern European artists I honestly had never heard of.  A few of the paintings were not really my style - in fact somehow looked more like Hopper or other mid-20th century American painters than I would expect - but, despite their relatively small size, the majority of works in this collection are really worth seeing, and examining, and re-examining.  (I even felt compelled to buy the book so I can revisit them individually at a more leisurely rate). What really appealed to me during my visit on an usually crowded Saturday evening, is that while each artist is giving us two views, the interior and often a vista through the window that the room's inhabitant may or may not be admiring, that perspective gave me more of a sense of being there myself, and of the artist's own relation to the scene.  Whether each artist is more interested in his or her immediate subject matter or telling us something about the intersection of everyday life and grand enduring architecture and landscapes, it all somehow seems quite important when brought together in the series of sparse rooms that make up this exhibit.  If you can - go see it before it closes on on July 4th! (the entrance can be a little tricky to find, but there are navigational signs once you get inside the European Paintings wing).  

Life has enough drama all on its own: Sunday afternoon my friend Val (who gave me express permission to use her name, ha!) and I ventured downtown to the Angelika to see Win WinI'd heard good things about this film from other friends, and I usually enjoy sports movies, so off we went to the uncomfortable but artsy Angelika.  Win Win is one of those movies that as soon as we walked out the door, we said how glad we were that we saw it.  Like a Little Miss Sunshine, it had clever writing and great performances from known and less known cast members (Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambour, Burt Young, and especially Alex Shaffer) and a comedic gem from Bobby Cannavale (I still can't imagine how much film must have been wasted trying to get any shot of him without at least one cast member cracking up).  But, unlike LMS, the story here was much more ordinary, something I can imagine happening in many small towns across America.  I won't give away the story by going into the plot - but let me just say that Win Win is a very well done film that doesn't really let us judge its main characters.  Simple people can have complicated lives. But that's what makes us all the more human.

  • On Saturday an Italian friend of mine (actually from Italy) took me to Keste Pizzeria in the West Village.  There is little wonder there is a line outside this place for tables.  Simply the best pizza I can remember.  Fresh ingredients, and there was not the usual mess of oil on the plate when I was done. I had the house special (Keste) and my friend had the Capricciosa (which would have been my choice but I wanted to try something different). Added bonus, I even understood the waiter when he told us the specials in Italian (not realizing I was American; don't worry they speak perfect English).  Try the Italian beer with the pizza - it came in a nicely frosted glass and was particularly refreshing.  It's a good thing I don't live near by, or I'd have to buy some bigger clothes.
  • After the movie Sunday night Val and I stopped by for dinner at Salt down in Soho.  The food was tasty, and lived up to it's name, though the menu (slightly different from what's posted on the website) seemed a little heavy for the hot weather, especially since they don't seem to have AC.  But, my chicken saltimboca over pea and leek puree was delicious - and a large enough portion that I'm looking forward to the leftovers for dinner tonight.  Val had a cauliflower soup and some sort of pacific fish that she said she really enjoyed as well.  I'd definitely go back - just maybe not when the weather is over 80 degrees.
  • After the ballet Friday night, we stopped for a drink and a bite at Bar Boulud due to its proximity to Lincoln Center.  The food is always good, but for maybe the first time ever, the service was pleasant (if sloooooow).  I'll keep my fingers crossed that this wasn't a fluke - we'll see.  (We also got a glimpse of a post-Myrtha-performance Veronika Part having what seemed to be a fun dinner with some friends - she's actually prettier off stage than on!)

1 comment:

  1. Bravo! Well done!...ok so I'm a bit prejudiced!
    Looking forward to my next trip to NYC!