The Sculptural Culinary Tools of Sweet Gum

The sculptural culinary tools of Sweet Gum can bring a whole other sensory experience to the enjoyment of preparing and eating food, especially if you appreciate the workmanship and beauty of the tool you are using.

I recently discovered Sweet Gum, handmade, sculptural spoons and culinary tools for your kitchen by Joseph Huebscher, a talented woodworker in Tennessee. His artistic pieces marry form and function beautifully.

Sweet gum sculptural spoons on Art Is everywhere

Photos via Sweet Gum

Sweet gum 2 on Art Is Everywhere

Sweet gum spoons on Art Is Everywhere

Sweet gum 3 on AIE

Sweet gum scoop on Art Is Everywhere

Sweet Gum has been featured in Food & Wine, Harvest & Honey, Spoonful among others. Here’s a wonderful Vimeo video, explaining his creative process, emphasizing how the different grains of the wood become the unique artistic marker of each piece.

Joseph Huebscher from Make Beautiful on Vimeo.

Be sure to review Joseph’s Instagram for more inspirational spoons and handcrafted culinary tools by Sweet Gum.

Sweet Gum brings back memories of stepping on those spikey balls that covered my yard while growing up in New Orleans. I cursed them then but I appreciate what can be done with them now through science and woodworking. Who knew it had medicinal properties and it contributes to Tamiflu along with the star anise?! “The only edible part of the tree is the dried sap which makes a fragrant, bitter chewing gum. Despite its name the gum is not sweet,” as explained on Eat the Weeds. But, its wood can be used too.

Sweet Gum balls via Eat the Weeds on AIE

Sweet Gum balls via Eat the Weeds

Here’s another interesting video about unusual culinary tools. Although this apple peeler is purely practical in nature and lacks the stylistic refinement of the previous pieces, it can make the endeavor of peeling an apple truly magical and very “appealing” indeed.

This is a short post and the only one, as it turns out, for the month of June, as I’ll pick up with more cultural and culinary delights when I come back online in July.

Happy Summer!

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Thievery Stole the Show

We attended the Thievery Corporation Concert at the Kennedy Center last week. It was a one night show and I was glad to get affordable tickets with great seats in the front orchestra!

We attended the first performance. It was the first time Thievery Corporation had played at the Kennedy Center. Their normal venues might be less-upscale concert halls. This performance was a collaborative effort with Mason Bates, the Kennedy Center’s Composer-in-Residence. It was part of the KC Jukebox, which is a studio-lab that experiments with blending acoustic sounds. This was the first time to my knowledge that Thievery Corporation had the accompaniment of a full symphonic orchestra. The conductor was Teddy Abrams, Director of the  Louisville, KY Orchestra.

Before entering the concert hall, we enjoyed a glass of wine with nuts on the Concourse overlooking the Potomac River. The weather was gorgeous, sunny, 70’s and breezy. You almost didn’t want to go inside. I wish I had taken a picture but it wouldn’t capture it entirely. Here’s the Center Hall instead.

Kennedy Center Hall 1_AIE Kennedy Center Hall 2_AIE

Upon entering the concert hall there was heavy bass, electronic music by 2 DJ’s out of Chicago, Striz and Justin Reed. The music was in keeping with Thievery Corporation’s style of mixed funk, hip-hop, ambient, soul, techno, lounge with an international-cultural-bent. After Mason Bates’ composition, The Rise of Exotic Computing, (with some Radiohead-phonic inspiration) was played by the NSO Orchestra along with a more classical Astor Piazzola (finale from Sinforietta), then the showstopper started.

I’ve been listening to Eric Hilton and Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation with their own genre of lounge-style-music for 20+ years but had never heard them live. I still enjoy their Jet Society CD they produced and the actual 18th Street Lounge DC venue, where I remember some of the best dancing to African-beat rythyms. Their music adapts and it never gets old. In fact, there were fans of all ages including those in my age group, who had even brought their teenage children for the next generation to discover Thievery. The symphonic arrangements only added to the full experience. They played a few of their classics like: Richest Man in Babylon, Sweet Tides, Lebanese Blonde (below – I love the sitar and trumpet mix with sultry singing) and others from their newest album, The Temple of I & I, which is heavily based on Jamaican beats.

This video gives real insight into their creative process while recording in KEXP studio in November 2016.

Here’s a great review of the performance we enjoyed from DC Metro Theater Arts, describing the perfect combination between club and concert hall. Everyone was dancing in their seat with lots of head-bobbing.

Here’s a composite of some video clips and photos I took of the performance.

There were so many good songs to share; however, you’ll see more professional versions in these below that present the songs in their best light. Both are sung by LouLou, who sings many of their songs and in other languages. Interestingly, the second video I recognize is filmed at the National Gallery of Art’s concourse. Cool!

You can view some behind the scenes photos from the concert on their Facebook Page.

Seeing the Depth of My Soul video. Makes me think of Scandinavia…

This audience photo by Rob Myers shows the view from the stage. This could have been after the second performance because I don’t recognize those who would be on the right side near us but I think I see myself, which is weird, and I remember them taking the picture.

Attendees at Thievery Corporation Concert DC on AIE

Afterwards, we ate at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Restaurant, which was pretty good and then walked around the entire center on the rooftop terrace. It was such a lovely night that we’re considering becoming Kennedy Center members.

Kennedy Center Terrace_AIE

Outside Kennedy Center_AIE

Catch Thievery Corporation at one of these upcoming tour dates. They’ll steal you away from the present surreal-real world, at least for a little while, with their music.

In the meantime, you can go to the 18th Street Lounge, where Thievery Corporation got their start, and is the namesake to their affiliate ESL record label. You can also enjoy some of the many restaurants around town owned by Eric and his brother, Ian Hilton. The Brighton is the latest, coming to the exciting Wharf Development this fall, along with other venues. But for now, The new Pod Hotel will host their Crimson Diner and View (opening in June & July) — another place to enjoy a good drink and dinner! Looks like a great view of the city too on the rooftop!

Pod Hotel DC home lobby on Art Is Everywhere

Pod Hotel home lobby

Crimson Diner_View_Pod Hotel_AIE

via Pod Hotel DC

Wharf Development Rendering via Washingtonian on AIE

via Washingtonian

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Roses and the Luxury of Homemade

It’s an interesting juxtaposition that something homemade can be luxurious but I’ve recently experienced the luxury of homemade and there’s an art to making it work. The “homemade” I’m meaning is the essence of making one feel at home and making something from scratch — not mass produced. This post is timed with the appreciation of this upcoming Mother’s Day when mothers’ “homemade” talents are nationally celebrated.

Rose’s Luxury is well known restaurant in DC where it’s expected to wait in line. It’s where my friend Patsie wanted to celebrate her birthday. Our ELDC group decided to make it happen. We took an Uber ride from Alexandria into the city. We weren’t anticipating a Cap’s game; otherwise, we would have been there 30 minutes earlier than 5pm. It didn’t really matter because the line would have still been there. As it turned out we only waited about 20 minutes when the hostess came out to ask which seating those in line wanted. We chose the earlier seating @ 6:00 pm.

Roses Luxury on Art Is Everywhere

Roses Luxury outside on Art Is Everywhere

Front of Rose’s Luxury. Photo credit by Alice Wang

The restaurant is located near the Naval Barracks on 8th Street, SE, near my old haunting ground while living in DC, right up the street, so many years ago. It’s actually located near where the former Homebody store was and where I had staged a photo shoot of my Peacock Damask reusable wallcovering. This is a unique home store that has moved just around the corner. Rose’s entrance is unassuming and reminds me of someone’s home. Seeing inside further confirmed this notion and surprisingly made me think of the Georgetown townhouse where I first lived when moving to DC. The ambience has the perfect combination between being welcoming and magical. It also seems to bring that magical feeling of eating outdoors while being in the comfort of dining inside — without worrying about weather.

Roses Front Exterior on Art Is Everywhere

Roses exterior front. Photo credit Ahmad Ibrahim

While eating downstairs, you’re under a ceiling of skylights, letting the sun and sky shine through with natural lighting. I’ll have to go back for the later seating to see the evening stars. Outdoor patio lights are strung overhead. Upstairs has an enclosed front dining room with a bar area that seems dark in comparison — except from the front windows & bright overhead bar lights. There is an intimate “back porch” area for private dinners. What’s noticeable about the downstairs dining is it appears as if it might have been a side alley that was enclosed. Part of an exterior brick wall and possible door opening remains by the wide-open kitchen.

Rose's Luxury downstairs with kitchen_Art Is Everywhere

Rose’s Luxury downstairs with kitchen via DC Dining

Roses Luxury entrance on Art Is Everywhere

Entrance. Photo credit Michel Thouati

Roses Luxury view from our table on Art Is Everywhere

view from our table downstairs. Photo credit via thestreet.com

Regrettably the website doesn’t really have a full menu, perhaps because it changes so often. I can’t exactly remember what I had over a month ago — it was the week before a fabulous week to remember — but I remember I had these dishes below and they were delicious, as was everything, even the cocktails.

FOIE GRAS TART W/ HAZELNUT, WHITE CHOCOLATE & ASIAN PEAR

EGG YOLK & RICOTTA RAVIOLO W/ SPRING ONION & PEAS

This dish looks below familiar because it was ordered by someone else in my group and passed around to share. All the dishes were meant to share.

Rose's Dish on Art Is Everywhere

Rose’s Dish. Photo credit via Curt Barnard

Tom Sietsema, the Washington Post food critic’s, recent review in the Spring Dining Guide knocks down his first rating by 1/2 star but still excellent, if not a little over salty. Fortunately, his descriptions of his most recent meal compare with mine and with what I had above along with the Rose’s Signature Cocktail with gin, lavender and lemon – delicious, simple, refined and balanced.

What’s so impressive to me about Rose’s Luxury is the experience is not only eating exceptional food but enjoying the company of your friends as if it was in your own home, without you having to do any of the work, or more importantly, the cleanup.

I was inspired when I read recently in the Washington Post a reader’s question about where could one linger for dinner in DC on a similar scale to The Inn at Little Washington for under $300 / person? Well, Rose’s isn’t this expensive or this high-end but it reminds of the top-notch dinner one would remember with friends while eating gourmet food but without being ostentatious.

The answer was Kinship, which happens to be Eric Ziebold’s restaurant — the lower end version of Metier, where we were lucky enough to eat with friends — as their guests.

We’re looking forward to having our own friends over soon to leisurely spend time enjoying fresh food without rushing or worrying about it being too complicated.

We’ll be using lettuce from our rooftop garden for homemade Caprese salad – simple, tasty, fresh and uncomplicated.

Homemade Caprese salad on Art Is Everywhere

Homemade Caprese salad with fresh home-grown basil,  bibb and arugula lettuce

Happy Mother’s Day and hope you receive a homemade experience with a meal and maybe a rose or two.

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A Celebratory Week to Remember

Well it was a fun, celebratory week to remember — one for the recollection record books!

Easter Sunday started it off — after a month of prep with finally getting a new garage roof completed. We still have some refinement to do so I’ll have to post a picture later. My Clivia plant, also known as a Kaffir Lily, seemed to be waiting to bloom on this special occasion. How appropriate and really beautiful this African plant is. My father-in-law gave it to me with multiple “babies” as offshoots that I divided and gave to my sister and sons. I’m waiting to hear if theirs’ bloomed.

Kaffir Lily blooms on Art Is Everywhere

Other plants that are flourishing are on our roof. The two types of butter/bib and arugula lettuce are three times the size of this now and nearly ready to harvest. Snap beans, beets and cauliflower seeds are coming along. I’ll need to replant the carrots though.

Rooftop Garden GlowPear Containers on AIE

You can read more about these hydroponic GlowPear planters on Houzz, where we purchased a second one.

My husband was able to get tickets through his office to the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC), which is near impossible since they are sold out already through July. There was a special viewing between 8 – 10 am midweek and I took my friend Liza. Although we needed Peter with us to enter, he decided not to attend in order for us to be able to when security discovered my miniature pairing knife in my purse that I had forgotten all about. Ugh!! They wouldn’t let me leave it with them so Peter took it back to his car and missed the museum opportunity but he’ll get more tickets. He also had a meeting that was going to shorten his time anyway and you really need a full day, as we discovered, to take it all in. We didn’t return home until 4:30. It took over 7 hours to go through at a leisurely pace, which you need to do to be able to read and process all the info. Fortunately, I had cleared my work calendar in advance. There is a tremendous amount to cover and the museum does a good job of showing viewers the progression of the African American history through three sub-terrain, what I call the “oppressive” concourses that move through the start of Slavery to Freedom > Defending Freedom and Segregation > Changing America 1968 & Beyond. Although there is still a sense of uncertainty at the end of the exhibit, one leaves with a positive appreciation of the African American history and all its accomplishments as well as the strength of the American Spirit.

The African American experience is the lens through which we understand what it is to be an American. — Lonnie Bunch (Founding Director)

NMAAHC museum building on AIE

NMAAHC museum

The first sense one has upon entering the museum is from the exterior grill work that suppresses the light, yet fills the space with ornamentation. It is supposed to recall the grill work in New Orleans that was made by slave labor and you do get a sense, especially in the lower galleries, of being in a cargo hold of a slave ship with only one way up and out.

NMAAHC grill work on Art Is Everywhere

You start at the bottom and walk through each concourse and move onto the next via ramps. There are no elevators or restrooms on any of these floors. If the intent was to be somewhat uncomfortable, then it works. There are, however, plenty of places to sit and rest, watch a movie, reflect or just take a break. I had to use the restroom and needed to walk all the way up while Liza rested. There was a placard at the top warning that once you exited you could not re-enter. I had to flag someone down to ask them if I could come back in. Although it wasn’t a problem, I can’t imagine the planners didn’t think this common occurrence through. It must happen a lot. There were hoards of people in line a this point and we were only half way through the exhibit. I hustled back to get a move on before it became crowded. It was starting to on the third concourse, especially when we visited the Emmett Till Memorial, where no pictures were allowed. This was a horrible event about a 14 year old African American boy who was lynched simply because some “white” folk were looking to make examples of blacks. The outcome is what sparked insurgence, uprising and riots, along with the tragic death of Martin Luther King. However, the final part of the main exhibit shows the progression of the African Americans to assimilate within the middle class, become major TV and music celebrities. In fact, America has a lot to be thankful for with their cultural contribution.

Colonial Slavery figures on Art Is Everywhere

Prominent Colonial historical figures including Thomas Jefferson and Mum Bet, who sued the State of Massachusetts to win her freedom and consequently abolished slavery in MA

Ashley's Sack 1 NMAAHC on AIE

This story is pretty heartbreaking. There were many that were but this one spoke to me.

Ashley's Sack 2 NMAAHC on AIE

It was interesting to note that at the very start of the Slave Trade, which was sparked by the sugar trade, Creole Africans were wealthy diplomats and highly sought after for their language capabilities and cultural knowledge.

Concourse 3 - 2 NMAAHC on AIE

Moving from Concourse 3 to 2

slave and free houses at NMAAHC on Art Is Everywhere

Juxtaposition between Slave House on lower Concourse 3 and Freed Slave’s own home on upper Concourse 2

Stereotypes at NMAAHC on AIE

Stereotypes in toys and paraphenalia

Segregated clinic hours at NMAAHC on AIE

These segregated clinic hours are hard to believe in this current time

Maple Leaf Rag on AIE

My parents used to dance to the Maple Leaf Rag

Angola guard station_interactive bar at NMAAHC on AIE

Angola Prison Guard Station and the Interactive “Segregation Bar” where you can follow a movement as if you’re a member

Soul Train on Art Is Everywhere

1968 & Beyond brings up Soul Train, which was big part of my childhood

Assimilating into Middle America on Art Is Everywhere

Assimilating into Middle America

Another Rat Pack Digs on Art Is Everywhere

The other Rat Pack Digs in Chicago

Foxy Brown and Sly and Family Stone on AIE

Foxy Brown movies still play on TV and notice Sly & Family Stone written on his piano keys

Main NMAAHC exhibit end on AIE

Main exhibit ends with highlights from the 2000’s like Hurricane Katrina and the Obama Administration, how could we forget.

We decided to break for lunch. The food at the Sweet Home Cafe was excellent! You could choose which regional fare you wanted to try. Of course I went right for the Creole Southern Duck / Andouille Sausage Gumbo but then changed my mind at the last-minute to get the Shrimp and Grits because the shrimp were gigantic! The meal was delicious and a generous portion! The dining hall was in the shape of the “ark” or museum Congo ship, yet each layer had vines growing in the indented, internal troughs. The back walls were mirrored to make the space look twice as large as what we thought it could hold. We didn’t wait around for that test because the buses of people were now streaming in.

Panoramic Mall view from the top of NMAAHC on AIE

Panoramic Mall view from the top

Looking down on the Gift Shop on AIE

Looking down on the Gift Shop

Reproductions of Mary Jackson's baskets in the gift shop on AIE

Reproductions of Mary Jackson’s baskets in the gift shop

After a much needed energy refresh, we tackled the top four floors. Similarly to the sub-floors, where you start at the bottom and walk up, we started in reverse at the very top and moved downward. We visited all the floors but only experienced three. There were elevators and escalators and restrooms on all of these. The top floor Culture Galleries was my favorite. It showed the importance of the African American culture in food, music, arts, fashion, and sports. I by-passed the last, but fully savored all the others. I was just as impressed with the exhibition layout as I was with the rich content. The first oval room had double display bays with the interior, bench-seating to the double-sided, wall-alcoves with a musical entertainment-video that changed visuals with the continuous music that wrapped around the top of the room. We moved from here to the Visual Art Gallery with primarily contemporary art (not my thing) to the Musical Achievement wing with Chuck Berry’s car greeting us at the entry. I breezed through the Theatre section and will have to go back.

Food & Culture greet you on the top 4th floor of NMAAHC on AIE

Food & Culture greet you on the top 4th floor. Chef Leah Chase is prominently featured with her Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans.

Earth Wind & Fire at NMAAHC on AIE

Earth Wind & Fire is one of my favorite bands highlighted in the Musical component

Allen Toussaint is mentioned in the Jazz sectionAllen Toussaint is mentioned in the Jazz section on AIE

Allen Toussaint is mentioned in the Jazz section

Level 3 housed the Community Galleries, where some of the main exhibit details were further explored. For instance, there was an entire room dedicated to Muhammad Ali, another section to Ben Carson, and another to the Military Experience. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see any recognition given to Clarence Thomas but did see Thurgood Marshal and Anita Hill mentioned in regard to the Supreme Court. There were also mini exhibits dedicated to Making a Way Out of No Way with progress in medical, religion and school, etc., highlighted.

We didn’t have enough energy to explore the Explore More Gallery on the 2nd level, which was mainly interactive exhibits. I popped my head in and saw one older white woman, who was the only one dancing to an instructional video by an African American dance troupe. Others were watching and encouraging her as if she was playing “Wei” by herself but doing a pretty good job.

We took an Uber home and had an interesting discussion with our American-Cuban driver, Marisol about the experience. Funny, we missed Oprah by one day, as she was there the next day to screen the Henrietta Lacks movie airing on HBO. I read the book several years ago and am interested to see the movie. It’s definitely a story that needs more exposure.

Earlier in the week, Peter and I celebrated our wedding anniversary by finally visiting the Trump Hotel to see how the Old Post Office was revamped. We had drinks in the main lobby, which is huge but well decorated. The main architecture and iron struts of the original building remained and painted gold. I liked the peacock, teal blue and green velvet seating paired with amber and gold throughout the expansive room. The bar wall was mirrored to the top and filled with clear glass decanters and glasses situated on dark mahogany shelving. Very impressive. Two large TV’s were playing Fox News. We were seated next to what had to be a bevy of beautiful friends of The Real Housewives of DC. No kidding. This was entertaining to say the least.

Trump International Hotel anniversary for drinks on AIE

Trump International Hotel anniversary for drinks. The ladies had left by this point.

Trump Hotel Bar area on Art Is Everywhere

Although the ambience was captivating, the service was off. We had to call someone over after 15 minutes. They gave us water and nuts without napkins and the hostess took our initial order. The place was nearly filled but not that busy. We sampled the signature cocktails, which were unfortunately too expensive at $25 – $29 and actually did not taste very good, which is too bad! We stuck with wine and cheese choices which were good and surprisingly affordable. All in all, it was a different way to celebrate an off-year; even though, there can be some improvements made, especially if you’re expecting the best.

Trump DC Hotel at night on AIE

Trump DC Hotel at night

Meanwhile, the rest of the week was enjoying the gorgeous spring weather. Even the cats seemed to relish this indoors and out.

Cats sleeping on AIE

This picture cracks me up. These cats sleep so differently.

Cats outside on AIE

Ingrid enjoys outside on AIE

Ingrid just turned 1 year old

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The Curious Incident of the Dog is Delightful

We saw the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time two weeks ago. I just haven’t had time to write about it.

It was more than delightful; It was one of the best plays that I’ve seen!

It was a family affair with our older son and his wife joining us at the Kennedy Center matinée. We had front row seats in the third tier with these gorgeous starburst cluster-chandeliers above us.

kennedy-center-ceiling lights_aie

I had read the book by Mark Haddon and loved it. They were unfamiliar with the story line and it was interesting to see their heartfelt reaction for the first time. Libby teaches public high school students, so I thought she might appreciate the challenges for this teenager in the play.

 It was one of the most active and physical plays I’ve seen going from a somber moment to a super-energized cacophony. The book fully captivated me and the play even more so because it added the visual and auditory layer that the book couldn’t fully generate, except in your imagination.

Both the book and the play put you in Christopher Boone, the 15 year old protagonist’s head, as if you were the one who was experiencing what it is like to have Aspergers first hand. It is a dichotomy in that he is brilliant but unable to manage social situations easily. Everyday hectic living can present crippling sensory overload for him.

Christopher sets out to solve the mystery of the death of his neighbor’s dog, who he discovers is killed on the front lawn with a pitchfork. The adventure leads to revelations that even “normal” teens, much less adults, would be shocked to their core to learn. Because Christopher has Aspergers, a milder functioning form of autism, he takes everything at face value and in some ways is able to deal with the truth better than most.

curious-dog-play_aie

Just like when I read the book, I found myself getting uncontrolably emotional because you can’t help but be moved by Christopher’s accomplishments.

The entire set was a digital sight and sound box that was brilliantly used and constantly changing. I can’t really describe it more than let this video speak for itself — and even it doesn’t do the play justice. If you have the chance while it is on tour, it’s just something to see!

There’s a reason it has won 5 Tony awards!

Afterwards, we have a wonderful dinner at Centrolina in the new City Center area in DC. Piers company, Clark Construction, had built the project.

centrolina restaurant_aie

We sat at the table closest to the center dark wall

Centrolina drinks_AIE

Their special cocktails: a Negroni in back (without Campari) + Rimini in front with 2 different amaros, cachaca and pineapple. Both are excellent!

Views of CityCenter below.  city-center-gateway_aie

palmer-alley-city-center-dc_aie

plaza-city-center-dc-aie

Side note: Although there is so much, actually endless topics to write about, this blog may be posted 2 times a week after this post, due to the time involved to write, which I don’t have as much as I used to with other things taking some priority. Plus, I welcome reducing some of the load.

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More than Just Work at Métier

Métier is simply described on the restaurant website as a French word that means a field of work, an occupation that is someone’s area of expertise and for which he or she has received specialized training. Métier, the restaurant, is much more than just work. Although the chef’s expertise and the staff’s work goes into every aspect of the dining experience, they serve you a long-lasting memory of food-rapture and delight.

Before traveling for a needed getaway to Rhode Island, Peter and I were invited by our good friends to sample an evening reconnecting while experiencing one of the most delectable meals at Métier, Chef Eric Ziebold’s newest restaurant. I was fortunate that my ability to taste had just returned; even though, I still had the unfortunate and uncontrollable symptoms of coughing that I hope did not disturb the other guests.

The evening started with us “metro-ing” to the 7th Street, NW location near Mt. Vernon Square, in between Downtown and Noma (N. of Massachusetts Ave.). The area is undergoing a resurgence so not necessarily the safest place to be at night.

We were standing outside of the restaurant but it wasn’t apparent to us that it was Métier. The exterior was dark and easy to overlook. One had to walk into an alcove to open the door and at first we only saw Kinship written on the left side. Then we saw Métier written on the right.

kinship_metier-restaurant-exterior_AIE

Kinship, as it turns out is the “less fancy” version of Métier. There’s not a waiting list of months to get a reservation.

After passing through the unassuming doors of the black entryway near the still iffy-area of the Convention Center, we walked through Kinship, Ziebold’s a la carte version of Métier. It’s on the street level. We were directed to a “secret” elevator that brought us to the basement floor where Métier is located and where our friends were waiting. We had hand-crafted drinks, like The American Quarter, which seems to be a version of our favorite Vieux Carré. It has the perfect mix of Ambler Bourbon, Nardini Amaro Bassano, Gran Classico, Cointreau and Orange Bitters. The taste of their appetizer with the lemon verbena granita in a fresh herb consumé served in Japanese tea cups was the most interesting flavors to simulate the Chef’s version of summer. It was perfect on a hot day and that happened to be the last official day of summer. This was all served in the front salon, an intimate French Chateau looking room that could have been someone’s home.

salon_metier_Art Is Everywhere

We had our drinks and appetizers right here.

The dinner with wine pairings was exceptional. I just wish I could remember exactly what it was because they’ve changed their summer menu to fall and it’s no longer available on the website. [Be sure to read the Menu Stories about the chef’s inspirations.]

dining room_metier on Art Is Everywhere

We ate at the table in the front lower right corner

Our server asked us if we wanted to be surprised with the chef’s pics? We all agreed, however, I commented, “as long as it didn’t have sea urchin because the last time I had it at Restaurant Eve it was over the top and unpleasant.” The server said there was one dish that did have sea urchin but it was not the main ingredient and I said let’s go for it. Well, it was my favorite dish!

Fletan at Metier_Art Is Everywhere

I think this is the sea urchin! It’s mixed in the risotto and foam.

We have a history with Eric Ziebold’s interpretation of food. CityZen, which was in the Mandarin Hotel, is where we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. It has since closed, but I remember the experience. We had our private dining alcove, the food was superb as was the service and I couldn’t believe Radiohead was playing in the background, which just added to it being one of the best meals, with the only exception being the sea urchin, which coincidentally, I had forgotten that we also had that evening. What is it with chef’s and sea urchin? This time it was perfected. Funny, when the chef came to visit our table, I’m glad I didn’t have this particular recall detail, only that we had a wonderful meal at CityZen and proceeded to thank him for such a wonderful meal at Métier.

I had heard about Ziebold’s new restaurants but it’s rare when Peter and I get such incredible opportunities to experience. Our friend, Adele, had been calling for months. We are lucky for having been the ones chosen to attend. After I broke out the old-fashioned stationary to write our friends a thank you note, which was certainly the very least we could do to express our gratitude, I read this article, The $1,000 Date Night: Had D.C.’s Tasting-Menu Culture Hit a Tipping Point?, about the value meeting the cost of the expensive fine-dining experience. Other restaurants in DC are also testing this market. Ziebold is smart in having two restaurants that offer similar fare but different experiences. You really do get what you pay for.

We were even given the staff’s hand-written thank you note and a bottle each of their home-made vinaigrette with herbs from local farms. We’re going to have to have some friends over to use and celebrate ourselves.

metier-vinagrette_basil-bounty_aie

Métier Vinaigrette and our roof-top basil bounty. This only a small sampling. We have to make pesto this weekend!

I tried my hand recently at a home-made roasted beet salad. Not bad but I couldn’t compare with the above. Coincidentally, I learned two unexpected things in the process: 1) I didn’t know you could roast beets. I’m so used to steaming them. Roasting only took 15 minutes at 420 degrees and I tossed with mustard ginger and oil, so you can add other flavors. 2) If you freeze the beets, they don’t dye your hands red when handling. I learned this quite by accident. Our fridge temperature needs to be adjusted now that it’s no longer hot outside and consequently, many items inside froze a bit; the beets being some.

Next on the list is making pesto cubes with all the tons of basil from our roof-top garden.

roasted-beet-salad on Art Is Everywhere

Roasted Ginger-Mustard Beet Salad with Cheese and home-made spicy dill dressing dribbled with honey. This recipe was from the newspaper Food Section, so I can’t take credit for the concoction only the substitutes, of which there were many.)

 

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What the Doctor Ordered

A RHode Island Getaway

Now that I’m better and coming off my sick-leave, I had an opportunity to travel for an impromptu getaway to Rhode Island to visit family. It seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. It also seems like I’m not ready to give up the beach combing yet — just because it’s no longer summer.

It was right after the big marketing push for announcing new designs so I knew there would still be some work to do but I relished the opportunity to relax. We had Hurricane Matthew that is brewing in the tropics on our tail. We survived a harrowing drive all night in the rain where people were using their hazards because it was so difficult to see and trucks were spaying us with tire-mist and constantly coming in our lane.

Fortunately, my husband did all the driving and made reservations at a boutique hotel in Connecticut, just outside of New York City, right off the Merritt Parkway. This meant we only had 3 more hours to drive to RI and hopefully the morning would be better.

Don’t let the name or stark location fool you but the Hi-Ho is a pretty cool place, boutique indeed with its 70’s retro styling and Andy Warhol prints and Palomino pillows in the bedrooms. Old-fashioned phones and red high-top tables set the contemporary breakfast room decor. We had one of the best continental breakfasts with one of the staff making sure everything was fresh and filled and greeting all the guests warmly.

Hi-Ho Hotel on Art Is Everywhere Hi-Ho Hotel bedroom on Art Is Everywhere

hi-ho-bathroom-feature-wall_on Art Is Everywhere

Like this one wallpapered feature wall.

There was an interesting Barcelona wine bar/ restaurant to try that was attached to the hotel but we weren’t staying for dinner. We’ll have to go back! As it turns out, I believe this  is a chain restaurant and each location may make their own unique adaptations. At least when we want our Spanish-fare fix, we can go a little closer to us in Reston, VA, but may not be as good. The one at the Hi-Ho has cabanas and their own vegetable garden and their award-winning food looks exceptional. Another reason to go back. In fact, this may be our regular pit-stop on our way to RI. I’m glad we discovered it!

hi-ho-barcelona restaurant on Art Is Everywhere

Beach + Food + Family

We weren’t expecting the weather in RI to be in the 50’s! We mostly brought short-sleeved tops but layering with sweaters and jackets kept us warm while we attempted to catch fish in the surf. Although our luck wasn’t good, the striped bass were biting as others were more lucky catching them on the beach (and throwing them back).

We tried some new places for food, like 210 Oyster Bar & Grill as well as some old favorites, like Haversham Restaurant & Tavern right off Post Road (road to the beaches).

two-ten-oyster-bar_AIE

210-oyster-bar-inside on AIE

Where we ate inside overlooking Salt Pond

210-oyster-bar-aerial on Art Is Everywhere

210-oyster-bar-outside-front on Art Is Everywhere

Front “tiki” bar to try in the summer

clam-cakes_on Art Is Everywhere

Clam Cakes!

haversham-restaurant-exterior_aie

“The Sham” as locals affectionately call it

haversham-restaurant-interior_aie haversham-about_aie

We were happy to have clam cakes in the off-season and see Green Hill in a peaceful state as all the transplanted vacationers had mostly packed up for the summer and had gone back to their other New England homes. The residents, however, and those who have long-time connections to the area were enjoying the calm. Everyone was friendly and was waving hello as almost a code that suggested we all have something in common for being here.

Here are some of the photos from our trip. Our (left) side of the beach had all the sand this time but this will change as the currents shifts from year to year.

Our sandy left side of Green Hill beach_AIE

Our sandy left side of the beach

green-hill-rocky-right-side_aie

The other — rocky and seaweed right side. Our beach usually looks like this.

Notice this change as you turn the corner on AIE

You notice this change as you turn the corner. (Photo Credit – The Rev. Peter Spencer)

Algae covered rocks on AIE

Algae covered rocks (at low tide) harbor lots of wildlife

mussels-and-snails on Art Is Everywhere

Mussels and Snails

One of our favorite days was the very last, when we spent time walking in the Trustom Pond Wildlife Refuge. It’s right next door to these beach properties, which is wonderful that is protected from being developed and serves as a safe haven for many wildlife. In the summer, a big part of the beach is closed off in an attempt to protect the nesting grounds of the piping plover.

Trustom Pond on Art Is Everywhere

Right as we started walking on the first path by the field that leads you to the pond, we saw a bobcat — first time! Initially we thought it was a dog. It was sitting on the path looking at something (probably for dinner) in the clearing. Another couple coming our way walked around the corner and scared it but didn’t even realize it was a bobcat. They thought the strap on our binoculars was a leash and therein the bobcat was a dog. It simply turned around and walked into the woods. It was not very afraid but we picked up a large stick as we continued on our way.

One of our favorite spots walking back is the lily pad pod. This is where Peter caught a bullfrog and pretended to kiss it when our boys were younger. They were grossed out!

lily-pad-pond on Art Is Everywhere

Frogs are everywhere on AIE

Frogs are everywhere you look

Frogs are everywhere 2 on Art Is Everwhere

This time, we saw a beaver!

See the beaver in trustom pond on AIE

See the beaver?!

The pictures reflect for me the magic a much-needed break can bring. Getting back to Nature, sharing meals and the importance of spending quality time with family all leave lasting, life-sustaining memories.

Beautiful Skylit Boulders on Art Is Everwhere

Beautiful Skylit Boulders

Pear cherry tomatoes from our roof top garden to share on AIE

We shared our pear-shaped cherry tomatoes from our roof top garden.

Bird imprints left lasting impressions on window on AIE

Bird imprints left lasting impressions on the beach house window

Getting Your Southern Fare Fix

Before vacationing in Ocracoke, North Carolina, we tried out the new Hen Quarter restaurant, in Alexandria. It took over the old Austin Grill but is managed by the same owners with this new Southern cuisine concept. It’s a way to get your Southern fare fix, complete with porkbelly pops, down-home collard greens, fried chicken and some of the best fritter waffles you’ll ever taste and a very smooth-balanced mint julep. Now that’s something coming from a native New Orleanian and still one at heart!

Love their décor and their Southern phrases and charm:

“You’re like the butter to our biscuits…

…and whiskey that warms the heart”

and wouldn’t be the South without the, “Bless your heart” sign hanging.

fried chicken and biscuits_hen quarter_AIE

Classic Southern Biscuits and Fried Chicken

Belly pops prep_Hen Quarter_AIE

How they make their Belly Pops

Belly Pops as appetizers_hen quarter_AIE

Pop ’em in – porkbelly pops melt in your mouth

Here’s the play-by-play video with some good Southern, bluesy music too!

Egg Basket lighting_hen quarter_AIE

Egg Basket lighting that I’ll have to make someday. Love this idea!

Hen Quarter upstairs decor_AIE

Hen Quarter upstairs décor with wood plank walls that kinda remind me of….

Hole in the wall entrance at Captain Gregorys on AIE

You guessed it. It’s a hole in the wall entrance. The flag is the “doorbell”

Now we’re back to thinking of  mint juleps and….

Bourbon flight_hen quarter_AIE

Bourbon flight but where’s the Pappy?

“Free Range Cocktails” (Hen Quarter’s slogan)

…but looking forward now to some much-needed relaxing days while waiting for the green flash at sunset. We haven’t seen it yet but keep hoping!

Pre sunset porch time_AIE

Pre sunset porch time

Sailboat view from dock on AIE

Sailboat view from dock

End of day starting on AIE

Sun Rays – End of day starting

Picture perfect sunset and kayaker in silhouette on AIE

Picture perfect sunset and kayaker in silhouette in Pamlico Sound

Ahhh, summer and cicadas, don’t want it to end…

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Summer’s End and Olympics Begin

Just as Summer is ending soon, the Olympics begin.

It makes sense to reap Summer’s bounty before it fades — be it memories of carefree, less stressful days, or travel and being at the beach or even with Nature’s provision.

I thought these Nature murals were a wonderful to show off Ocala, Florida and the bounty of Her regional produce, while at the same time beautifying the city’s water tanks. I really like their colorful, illustrated style.

Ocala Nature water tank Mural_AIE

As the Olympics begin with the Opening Ceremonies this Friday — tomorrow evening — in Rio, here’s an updated mural announcement on my last post regarding Eduardo Kobra.

His longest mural will be unveiled at the start of the Olympics. Click the image to watch the movie.

Kobra Summer Olympics begin mural_AIE

Although not in Rio or associated with the Olympics per se, this Corpus Christi mural is so vibrant with a Latino flair that I thought it made sense to post with the timing of the Olympics. It’s entitled “Endless Sunset” by Sandra Gonzalez of Laredo.

Corpus Christi Mural on AIEHave fun watching the Olympics! I know I will.

Click here for previous posts written about the Olympics.

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Captain Gregory’s is a Sweet Hole in the Wall

It was sometime back when I mentioned Captain Gregory’s and my intension to visit this sweet hole in the wall speakeasy sometime soon. Well, we finally had the chance over July 4th weekend. We decided to drop by the Saturday the week before but it was booked and we got on the waiting list. After an hour @ 10pm and rain pending, we cancelled when they texted us. Instead, we made reservations for the following Saturday.

There is a $25 / person minimum on Friday and Saturday nights. We had no problem meeting this and then some, with just 2 drinks, it’s easy to do.

Captain Gregorys Front Room Seating on Art Is Everywhere

Front room seating

We went early for the first seating at 6 pm, when our cocktail hour usually starts. This was a good idea, as we could also get some appetizers and start the evening early. We had a chance to view the Sugar Shack — the doughnut shop — where Captain Gregory’s exists, located behind a secret wall.

Disco doughnuts at Captain Gregorys on AIE

Love these doughnuts and crafty decor. One is even a disco doughnut.

Hole in the wall entrance at Captain Gregorys on AIE

It’s a hole in the wall entrance. The flag is the “doorbell”

We sat right at the bar, far left side, as seen in their website homepage photo. This was the perfect placement to watch the bartenders command their craft. This is about as big as the place is. Seats 24 with two rooms and around the bar. The ambience is just right with low lighting and the great range of music sets the vibe. Thursdays happens to be bring your own vinyl night, which we’ll have to try.

Captain Gregorys Speakeasy on Art Is Everywhere

Sam Brooks was our bartender extraordinaire. However, if you forget anyone’s name their chalkboard sign says just call them “Captain.” Sam, our cocktail captain, really knows what he’s doing. I started with his Sudden Downpour in Manila an unusual pairing with Banana and red miso infused bourbon and burnt sugar with Angostura bitters. Peter started with (13th Street Cocktail) with Rittenhouse Rye, homemade sweet vermouth, Yellow Chartreuse, Frenet Branca, Angostura, and Applewood Smoked — served room temperature. This takes a special palette to enjoy but reminds me somewhat of a Last Word.  Both were wonderful with flavors that I would have never thought to use together.

Sudden Downpour in Manila cocktail on Art Is Everywhere

Sudden Downpour in Manila cocktail

Unfortunately, the menu on their website is not current, and after another 3 drinks, I don’t remember all the details for the remaining ones.

Captain Gregorys Cocktails sample menu on Art is Everywhere

There were too many tempting cocktails to try but I decided to put Sam to the test with a custom Vieux Carré and a Cardamaro Sour, because afterall, we were there because of Tyler’s suggestion from when we experienced Magnolia’s, with his same custom cocktail creation. Sam’s was good but Tyler’s seemed better, however the Captain’s had more, so toss up…

Specially concocted Cardamarro Sour at Magnolia's_Art Is Everywhere

Specially concocted Cardamaro Sour at Magnolia’s

Peter like his 13th Street Cocktail so much that he had another; whereas, I wanted to try different drinks.  My final concoction was the homemade daiquiri with singed anise. This important detail added taste through smell every time you took a sip and exemplified the true art to making a cocktail terrific.

We enjoyed a wonderful cheese board and because there is a 2 hour limit, which is a good cutoff time, we had a couple of doughnuts to enjoy on our walk home, which fortunately, is nearby. Luckily for us.

Homemade Daiquiri with singed anise on Art Is Everywhere

Homemade Daiquiri with singed anise

We’ll be back of course but may have to make reservations way in advance as the place may have lost its secret status with this recent bit of great press they’ve experienced. Otherwise, you’d never guess such a sweet spot exits in this unassuming doughnut shop.

Sugar Shack in Alexandria on Art Is Everywhere

Unassuming Sugar Shack entrance right on Route 1 highway in Old Town Alexandria, VA

Dallas Daily News – Seven Places to Toast the Art of Drinking in Alexandria, VA

Southern Living – The Sweet Life of Alexandria, VA

In A DC Minute – 5 Places to Get Cocktails in Alexandria

DC Refined – 8 Cocktail Bars that Command More Attention

Washingtonian – Captain Gregory’s Speakeasy is Serving Doughnut Sliders and Sundaes

 

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