The Arts in Fort Worth and Dallas in a Day

13 03 2009

A couple of Saturdays ago, Rob and Amanda came over early with breakfast tacos from Tamale House (on Airport — the BEST breakfast tacos in Austin) and by 7am we were on I-35 heading north, travel mugs filled to the brim.  We found ourselves in Fort Worth around 10am or so and, after navigating around an apparent marathon (i.e. lots of coned-off roads) we pulled into the parking lot of the Modern Art Museum and found ourselves face to face with one of our favorite Richard Serra sculptures — Vortex. 

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The Modern Art Museum itself is modern art — it was designed by Tadao Ando and is a simple structure of concrete, glass, and steel, with lots of natural light.  I love wandering throughout the museum and looking from one room across the pond through another and into yet another.  There were two exhibitions this time — one was a sampling of works from the collection (“The Collection and Then Some”) and the other was a small exhibition of works by Jeff Elrod.  There were some interesting pieces, but I was most interested in seeing how each piece played off the structure of the building.

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I do love Ladder for Booker T. Washington by Martin Puryear…it plays with perspective and you can see it from two different levels.

After walking through the first floor of the museum, we decided to break for lunch at the Café Modern.  Chris and I have always loved this cafe — it is to your right once you enter the building and is situated right on the pond.  While dining you can look out the glass walls, across the pond, and back into the museum itself.  The food is generally terrific and very reasonably priced.  It was here a year or so ago that we discovered the duck pb&j.  We had to order it just because it sounded so strange — and it was absolutely wonderful.  A combination of flavors I had not tasted before.  Unfortunately for us this sandwich was not on the menu the next time we came (they change their menu seasonally), but in talking with the chef I learned this was a Susan Spicer recipe and I have now tracked it down and hope to try to make it myself.  It was so good.  But back to this trip…and lunch.  I ordered the lobster and shrimp macaroni and cheese and a glass of Riesling.  How decadent is that for lunch?  It was very good…the aged Gouda and fontina sauce was very creamy…and the lobster taste really came through.

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Chris had the Asian PB&J — a sandwich of Asian vegetables with plum jelly and a spicy peanut spread served with Szechuan potato chips.  The chips were delicious.  The sandwich was good — but not the most exciting thing we’ve ever tasted.  In some ways it tasted like a spring roll…not a bad thing, I love spring rolls.  I was hoping for a bit more, though.

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After lunch we headed up to the second floor of the museum to wander a bit more.  My favorite area of the second floor is the little sculpture garden…

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Next we jumped in the car and headed East toward Dallas.  Once we got to town we did a quick drive through Dealey Plaza and the grassy knoll and looked at all the people taking pictures of a little x on the ground or looking up towards the School Book Depository trying to figure it all out.  I’ve been to the 6th Floor Museum before and it is really well done — very moving.  If we had had more time we would have gone in, but we were on a tight schedule today.  So after taking a look at the sights from the car we headed over to my favorite museum in Dallas, the Nasher Sculpture Center.  I love this place not only because it is home to another of my favorite Richard Serra sculptures (My Curves Are Not Mad) but also because the sculpture garden out back is beautiful.  The landscaping is beautiful — it almost doesn’t feel like you’re right in downtown Dallas.  On top of that, the collection is great.  I have photographed it many, many times, so this time I focused on subjects I have not photographed as frequently, like elements of the grounds I think are beautiful…

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Or pieces I revisit every time but try to photograph in different ways…

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La Nuit by Aristide Maillol is perhaps my favorite piece there (other than the Serra) and I try to shoot a different angle every time I come…

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And then this guy…La Caresse d’un oiseau (Caress of a Bird) by Joan Miró.  Miró is one of my favorite artists, but for some reason, I cannot look at this and NOT see that wine-holder guy you can buy from the catalogs on airplanes…the one that’s like an Italian waiter made from iron with places to hold wine bottles and glasses.  I’m sorry, Miró…if I had never seen that stupid wine guy think I never would have thought that….

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After the Nasher we headed toward the sculpture garden at the Dallas Museum of Art via the back of the museum where you can find a huge, beautiful mosaic mural by Miguel Covarrubias – Genesis, the Gift of Life.  Here are a few details…

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And then, on the sculpture garden.  The Dallas Museum of Art sculpture garden is also an impressive collection of works, but the grounds have nothing on the Nasher. 

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After walking around the sculpture garden we found ourselves inside the museum and decided to check out the extremely cool exhibit we had been eyeing from outside — Take Your Time by Olafur Eliasson.  The exhibition consisted of large-scale installations of cool light and color environments.  The first piece we experienced was the One Way Colour Tunnel into a room filled withvivid yellow light.  The color tunnel was like walking through stained-glass that changed the further in you walked.  And the yellow room was…kind of insane.  It made the world look black and white, except for anything that was black — which became purple.  We all stared at each other in this room and it was literally like being in black and white world.  It also made our vision ultra-clear, and the guard in the room suggested we look at ourselves in the mirrored exterior of the One Way Colour Tunnel.  That was…eh…perhaps a mistake.  With the ultra-clear vision and all. 

Once we left the museum we took turns changing into fancier duds in the car and enjoyed an early, leisurely dinner at Aló – a Peruvian and Mexican tapas-style restaurant.  The Sips menu is loaded with fantastic-sounding cocktails, and I tried a few.  My first was the jimador margarihna (muddled limes, sugar, citronage, and crushed ice).  Delicious.  Next, I enjoyed the granada (lime, orange, sugar, white wine, and pama liqueur).  Also, delicious.  Third cocktail, the pomosa (cava and pama pomegranate).  Very, delicious.

Ordering about three plates at a time, we devoured a tuna cebiche, sweet plantains and crispy plantains with three different salsas, crispy calamari potato causas, ribeye and wild mushroom gringas (corn tortillas), Peruvian tiraditos (raw tuna), pork carnitas tacos, tempura crispy shrimp tacos, and chaufachino latin0 rice with chicken (perhaps the only real miss of the night — it just tasted like fried rice). 

And after dinner, it was time for the grand finale — the symphony.  The symphony is the original reason we were coming to town.  The night’s performance was entitled To Russia with Love, and featured a young, beautiful pianist, Yuja Wang, performing the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 first.  I was brought to tears…twice.  First, by the beauty of her playing…she moved so easily from soft and gentle to fierce and frenzied.  It blew me away.  The second time I was brought to tears I was just trying to imagine what it must be like to be up there in front of an entire symphony orchestra, with however many people filling the Meyerson, and to be the center of attention.  I played the piano for 12 years growing up and played in quite a few recitals, and I was often a nervous wreck at those things.  I cannot imagine what it must feel like to take the stage, sit down at the grand piano, and nod to the conductor (in this case, guest conductor Arild Remmereit) that you are ready.  Wow.  After Intermission we were treated to a Prokofiev (Symphony No. 7) and Khachaturian (Suite from Spartacus).  Just beautiful.

Once the symphony was over we got back into the car and headed back home.  Roughly 3 1/2 hours later we were back in the comforts of our house and the long DFW arts day had come to an end.





Seattle…again

4 03 2009

No matter how many times I visit the Pacific Northwest, I just do not get tired of it.  We have been to Seattle 5, 6, maybe 7 times?  We’ve been to Portland once and Vancouver, B.C., once as well.  Chris and I are both in love with the natural beauty, with how green it is, with the sense of life (meaning, living things…in Austin, for example, I can think of one day in the past 200 or so when it actually rained and the plants do not seem very alive), with the high consumption rate of good coffee and seafood, with the healthy and outdoorsy lifestyle, with the overall vibe…  The one thing we don’t agree on is moving here.  Chris would love to live in Seattle or somewhere nearby, but I also love Austin and the ability to live near my family, so we’re staying put…for now.

That being said, a member of my family now lives in the area.  My brother moved to Olympia about a year ago, so last April Chris and I figured it was yet another good excuse to return to the Pacific Northwest.  As usual, we had a wonderful time.  We arrived around 9 or so in the evening on a Thursday, rented a car, and found our hotel — the Ace Hotel on 1st Street, a block off Bell Street.  Cool, minimal place.  Our room was decorated with various commie propaganda.  It was a small room, but I’ve never understood why anyone would want a big room unless they planned on spending all of their time in the room…and we certainly did not.  It had everything we needed, including bathrobes for the walks to the shared bathrooms, a sink, a small flat-screen TV mounted on the wall, and even a mini Kama Sutra in the nightstand.  It was an interesting place!

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The location could not be beat (except for when we wanted to sleep…more on that later).  After dropping off our stuff, we walked across the street and up the block a bit to Belltown Pizza.  This place was great.  By this point it was probably after 10, but they serve dinner late.  We sat in a cozy, tall booth along the windows and shared a medium Four Seasons pizza (portabella, tomato, black olive, artichoke, garlic and prosciutto) and a bottle of a Washington cabernet (can’t recall the name) and it hit the spot.  Delicious.  We walked back to the hotel and crashed for the night…or at least tried.  It was at this point we learned of the downside to our particular room — it was on the front of the hotel right above a bar, so it was really noisy.  Eh, what are you going to do?

The next morning (Friday) we woke up early, ate a quick breakfast in the basement of the hotel (granola, yogurt, fruit, toast, coffee and juice) and then walked over to Olympic Sculpture Park to visit Wake, a sculpture by one of both Chris’s and my favorite sculptors, Richard Serra.  Though it was a bit cold and rainy and I wiped out crossing the street (it was lovely…stepped on a slippery manhole cover…couldn’t manage to get my hands out of my pockets…I think I rolled around briefly like a helpless baby in front of the stopped cars) we spent a good hour or two wandering around the park.

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And, the obligatory picture of ourselves…

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On our way back to our hotel, we passed a beautiful little garden I couldn’t resist…everywhere I look, something is growing!

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Gorgeous.  We decided to head over to Macrina Bakery and Cafe for coffee and another bite.  This place was outstanding.  I wanted to order one of everything filling the glass cases…I can’t even remember what I finally settled on.  Only that it was great.  We sat for a while drinking coffee, reading the paper, and making contact with my brother.  He had not yet visited Seattle but was on his way in to find us.  He managed to find a place to leave his car and met up with us at Macrina for one more coffee before heading out.

We decided to walk around Pike Place Market for a while — always fun to see.  We went to Matt’s in the Market for an outstanding lunch with great views of the sound.  Matt and I both got the lamb burger on a brioche bun with goat cheese, grilled onions, bacon, and an herb aioli and a pint.  Chris had the ahi tuna sandwich.  The food was fantastic and I think we were lucky to come in when we did and get a table…it got busy fast and a reservation appeared to be essential (even for lunch).  

After lunch we decided to go check out the Seattle Public Library designed by Rem Koolhaas, an avant-garde steel and glass building.  What a great example of forward-thinking city planning and a fun place to wander…

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After winding our way down from the top of the library, we met up with another friend who had recently moved to Seattle and decided to go check out a few more sights before dinner.  We drove up to the Experience Music Project but decided not to go in…instead, we checked out the cool artwork outside…

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We headed back to our friend’s house with the most amazing view of the the skyline and sound (I think we stared out his living room window for at least an hour) then headed back in to town for dinner at a place he recommend called Quinn’s Pub, a “gastropub” located at 10th and Pike on Capitol Hill.  WOW, was dinner good.

Our group of four shared two rounds of “small plates” and everything was fantastic. T he roasted marrow bones were to die for…rich, delicious flavor…as was the seared foie gras.  The rabbit pate with fresh mustard was amazing, the oxtails and gnocchi divine, and the “duck, duck, mousse” plate was just outstanding.  Even the frites with melted gruyere were delicious. Our waitstaff was wonderful and the atmosphere was fun and casual.  The bread pudding at the end was a great close to a fantastic meal (I never thought about putting macademia nuts in bread pudding…so lovely).  I can’t say enough how much we enjoyed experiencing all of the new, delicious tastes on our well-prepared plates.  We got there early on the recommendation of our friend and were seated immediately– otherwise, it looks like there might be a wait at dinner time. I’d say it’s well worth it though…

The next day after a bit more random wandering, Chris and I had lunch at Wild Ginger, an old favorite.  We ate here (or there — it used to be in a different location) on our very first trip to Seattle several years ago, and make it a habit to eat there once every time we return.  I think Chris even orders the same thing — the Tuna Manada.  I tried a few different satays — the scallop, boar, and shrimp.  Each one came with a little rice cake and had its own sauce.  Each one was delicious (though I think the scallop was my favorite).  I also had the braised baby bok choy and one or two of their specialty cocktails — and both were fabulous. 

After lunch we relaxed a bit, drank some coffee, then wandered around the Pioneer Square area until we found a sports bar where we could catch two Final Four matchups — Memphis/UCLA and Kansas/North Carolina…the battle of the Number 1 seeds!  We enjoyed bloody mary’s and munched on bar food…the bar was a really random mix of rocker types, biker types, and then the occasional drunk guy who would run up to the life-size screen shouting, all excited, as if he was trying to actually get into the game or make a call or something.  Later that night, we went to the Showbox SoDo and caught a fantastic FANTASTIC show by the Black Keys.  Love the band, and the setting was good — small enough to really feel the music.  I’m still amazed by how large of a sound those two guys can put out.  I actually bought a t-shirt (but Chris made me get a large so he could wear it too…and really only he wears it).  I never buy concert t-shirts. 

On Sunday we headed out to Olympia to stay with my brother.  After we got to his apartment and drank a little more coffee (surprise!), he drove us out to the Olympic National Park for a hike.  He took us on the Duckabush River Trail.  It was so beautiful.  We hiked in about 6 or 7 miles to a vista, had lunch, then headed back.  The natural beauty of the park was breathtaking…everywhere I looked something was growing.  The rushing stream was gorgeous, and in the distance you could see snow-capped peaks.  There were still patches of snow on the ground.  The hike was only difficult toward the end when the switchbacks started, and even that did not last long.  This has to go down as one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever done.  Here are a few shots along the way…

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Our drive back home looked like this…

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Once we got back to Olympia, we showered and headed into town for dinner.  We ended up at a place called Mc Menamins and it was perfect.  Great low-key laid-back atmosphere, good beer, I had a burger with blue cheese and seasoned fries…hit the spot.  We ended the night watching a movie back at my brother’s place with some ice cream we picked up at the grocery store…it was a perfect day.

The next morning we had to wake up early and head back to the Sea-Tac airport.  We drove through a little drive-up espresso shack — why do they not have these in Austin?!  Fully caffeinated, we headed for the Interstate, and I have a tip for you here — fill your car up with gas well before getting anywhere near the airport, because if you think there is gas nearby, you may not find any.  I didn’t.  That was expensive.

As you can see, in a few short days we managed to pack in a ton of great food, great music, great hikes, sports, sculptures, tons of walking, hanging out with my brother who I don’t get to see nearly often enough…it felt like we were actually there for a week.  It was wonderful, and I’m already ready to go back.