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LOS ANGELES – L.A. Live, the entertainment complex with a 40,000-square-foot, open-air plaza that features giant LED screens as well as a red-carpet site for special events, celebrated its 10th anniversary on June 8 in Microsoft Square.

A press conference, hosted by ESPN co-anchors Neil Everett and Stan Verret, kicked-off the festivities while the chemistry between the two filled the outside space with positive energy.

 

Neil and Stan introduced us to the friends and driving forces behind L.A. Live, which includes Dan Beckerman, president and CEO of AEG; Lee Zeidman, president of Staples Center and L.A. Live; Curren D. Price Jr., 9th District Council Member of Los Angeles; Luke Walton, head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers; chef/restauranteur Wolfgang Puck; and Luc Robitaille, president of the Los Angeles Kings.

The press conference concluded with a special performance by the Conga Room Foundation’s “Conga Kids.” Once the Conga Kids were done wiggling their little hips to “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley, Wolfgang Puck surprised us with the grand finale—a three-foot tall, tiered birthday cake designed especially for the occasion.

Later that evening, L.A. Live transformed into the ultimate anniversary celebration called “Dark Nights Birthday Edition” sponsored by Absolut Vodka. The celebration reflected the name of the location “LIVE” with outstanding performances including Weekend Celebrity, Ryan & Liz Dueling Pianos, and Phobik Vyal.

For the past 10 years L.A. Live has hosted more than 204 million guests and 15,000 events, including 93 award shows, 125 movie premieres, 1,700 sporting events, and more than 2,000 concerts and live events so it’s no secret why L.A. Live is Los Angeles premier sports and entertainment district.

Happy Birthday LA Live and we at LeftCoast.LA wish you many more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We asked photographer Steven Tackeff to select some of his favorite images from the summer radio station concerts that are always a tough ticket in Boston, New York and Los Angeles. Steve picked some of his favorites from Kiss 108’s annual concert, including Alanis Morissette, Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears, Ricky Martin, and Lenny Kravitz.

 

IMAGES BY STEVEN TACKEFF

 

Keala Settle’s soaring performance of “This is Me” nearly stopped the Oscar broadcast on Sunday night, but to theater buffs and careful viewers her amazing stage presence and vocal range wasn’t a surprise. Settle, you see, originated the role of Becky in “Waitress: The Musical,” which made its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater in August 2015 before transferring to Broadway.
A Tony Award-nominee, Settle was backed by a diverse choir for her rendition of the Best Original Song nominee “This is Me,” the signature tune from “The Greatest Showman,” in which Settle played the bearded lady. The song (written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who won the Tony Award for their score for “Dear Evan Hanson,”) did not win the Oscar.
So what is everyone talking about? You can watch Settle’s emotional performance on the Oscars.com website.

One thing that you can count on when talking about Wyclef Jean is that he is not going to walk a familiar path. From running for office in his native Haiti to leading humanitarian efforts after natural disasters, this Grammy Award-winning performer always seems to be on a road less traveled. For his current “Carnival” tour is making stops from cities as varied as Harrisburg, Pa., to Boston, where Jean will play the Wilbur Theatre on March 1. styleboston pulled our interview with Jean from our archives to share. You can view it here.

https://vimeo.com/257992275.

Britney Spears performs

Photographer Steven Tackeff is a Boston area native who recently returned to his favorite professional subject: photographing concerts and capturing the music scene.

While working as a freelancer in the mid-1990s for The MetroWest Daily News, Tackeff went out one night in search of a cow escaped from a Hopkinton slaughterhouse, a story that was dominating the daily’s news pages. Emily the Cow, as the bovine was named by the local community, wandered in area backyards, living off of what she could glean (or, was left for her by the residents), but many still doubted the tale. That all changed when Tackeff tracked the cow and took the first photographs. With the addition of the cow’s photo the story garnered international attention and was developed into a movie.
From then on, Tackeff continued to work with one of the editors in charge of the Emily the Cow story ( our own Carol Beggy) who then assigned him to photograph a concert. That lone assignment lead to Tackeff “shooting” photos of more than 400 music acts from Tony Bennett, to Sinead O’Connor, Steven Tyler, Pink, and U2. He has taken the portraits of an estimated 1,000 celebrities, including shots of Christina Ricci when she was in her early teens and Ed McMahon on his last public appearance in Boston.
“I had been doing news assignments when Carol sent me to a concert,” Tackeff says. “I returned to the paper and told her and the arts and features team that all I wanted to do from then on was shoot entertainment.”
Tackeff approaches his work as an artist who loves not just his work, but that of the artists he photographs. His photos have been published in numerous publications including The Boston Globe, Metro and other papers. An agency picked him up and started selling his work worldwide. He was approached by Rolling Stone to shoot concerts for their online site weekly sometime 3 to 4 times a week from that point on for a several years. Overall his work has included covering the the Grammy Awards and several MTV-hosted events. He also toured with No Doubt as their photographer. “Music moves me like little else,” Tackeff says.
With this gallery of photos, Tackeff is launching his presence on the styleboston.tv and leftcoast.la sites. His work will appear regularly.

The most striking element of opening night at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre for the musical adaptation of “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, was the diversity of the audience and the connection that was made by people of all colors that evening.

In a world where the media seem to barrage people everyday with negativity around race relations in this country, the congeniality and shared excitement for the evening was the prevailing sentiment among the crowd. The performances by the cast of “The Color Purple” were filled with raw emotion, and the audience responded enthusiastically. Strong and natural yet controlled, the actors spun a powerful version of Walker’s story that was more upbeat and positive and less focused on the horrific treatment suffered by these southern African-American women during the 1920s and 30s because of their race and culture.

Moving quickly through the story, the vocal capabilities of the lead actresses, Adrianna Hicks in the starring role of Cecie, and Carla Stewart as Shug Avery, were worth the trip alone. The arts play an ever more important role in bringing people together and encouraging them to find common ground in the things they love. This is the message that Americans need to hear and for a few hours that magical evening all agendas were checked at the door, making opening night’s achievement truly worth the standing ovation it received.

Tickets are on sale now at the Boch Center Box Office, bochcenter.org, or by calling (866) 348-9738.

 

 

 

A researcher plays David to a seagoing Goliath at Birch Aquarium at Scripps. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Imagine you are walking into a 12-foot cube with reflective mirrors on all sides and a music score begins, transporting you underwater, where you are surrounded by light radiating off the tiny organisms, and you can imagine what it looks and feels like to be a deep-sea diver who weaves in and out of its radiance.

At Birch Aquarium at Scripps in San Diego, part of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and UCSD, this cube will soon exist. The installation is called the Infiniti Cube and is being created by a Scripps scientist who studies bioluminescence, a renowned London artist in residence at Scripps Oceanography and a New York musician and composer who teaches math.

Scheduled to open soon, the Infiniti Cube is just one example of how Birch Director Harry Helling is adapting to the times. The priorities for public engagement at the aquarium have changed along with the urgency of understanding and protecting the planet, so his focus is on education, conservation and engagement in the community, which Birch has served for the last 100-plus years.

Read more: San Diego Community News Group – World class science community support fuel Birch Aquarium

 

 

 

 

 

Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Photo by Liane Brandon

As executive producer and founder of Spy Pond Productions, Eric Stange has produced, directed and written a dizzying array of work, mostly telling unique, often lost stories of American history. His work, which also covers science, has been broadcast on PBS, The Discovery Channel, and the BBC. Before becoming a filmmaker he wrote about art and culture for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic Monthly, and other publications. Eric has been the recipient of a Harvard University Charles Warren Fellowship in American History. He’s on the board of Common-Place, a website devoted to early American history, and writes a column about media and history for American Heritage magazine. “Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive” stars Denis O’Hare as Poe, and was shot on location in Boston. A screening will be held on Saturday, April 29, 1:30 p.m., at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square as part of the Independent Film Festival of Boston (http://iffboston.org), and will be broadcast nationally next fall on the PBS series American Masters.

 What was it like working with Denis O’Hare?

Denis is one of the most talented actors in the business. Virtually everyone has seen him in his many TV or movie roles (“American Horror Story,” “The Good Wife,” “True Blood, Dallas Buyer’s Club”), but like a lot of great character actors he isn’t a household name. He should be.

What sold us on casting Denis was that he spent a whole season of “American Horror Story” playing a leading character who’s mute. Our film doesn’t have a lot of dialogue—Poe is often alone and silent, though very expressive. When we saw that Denis did an entire season of episodic TV without saying a word —we knew he could be our Poe.

In addition, it turns out Denis had studied a lot of poetry in college, so he did a wonderful job reciting Poe’s poems. And we didn’t even realize until we started with hair and make-up how much he actually looks like Poe!

Left: Actor Denis O’Hare Photo by Liane Brandon

 Edgar Allan Poe is already a well-known figure, is there new information about Poe revealed in the film?

One of the reasons I made the film is because I came to realize Poe is a hugely misunderstood figure. Most people think of him in a one-dimensional way —as a brooding, mad, perhaps opium-addled denizen of the dark. Until I started researching this project I didn’t know that Poe was an important literary critic, and an influential magazine editor. He was a powerful player in the literary scene of the 1830s and ’40s—a tastemaker—one of the glitterati of his time. He helped define what American literature would be in the early decades of our nation.

I knew Poe had written detective stories. What I didn’t realize is that Poe invented the detective story as we know it today, with all the conventions we’re used to. Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, said he had modeled his stories on Poe. And virtually every detective writer since has followed suit.

 Poe is one of those iconic figures who appears in popular culture decade after decade. Even people who haven’t read his works know his face. Why?

Yes it’s amazing how often Poe pops up. He’s in “The Simpsons,” on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and on and on.

Poe himself is partly responsible for his enduring image in pop culture. He knew that to sell his stories in a competitive marketplace he needed more than just good writing—he needed a public persona that would give him an edge. He was a fan of the English bad-boy poet Lord Byron, and he saw how a reputation—even a dark one —could help sell literature.

So he had daguerreotypes made that portrayed him a certain way, and he wrote falsified biographical materials that made him seem a more adventurous and romantic figure than he really was.

But what really cemented his reputation—and in a bad way—was the first obituary after Poe’s untimely death at age 40 in 1849. His literary enemy, Rufus Griswold, wrote the obit, and he described Poe in all the negative ways people still think of him today. So Griswold’s negative portrayal, along with Poe’s own self-mythologizing, have played a big role in keeping Poe famous —or rather infamous.

Daguerrotype of Edgar Allan Poe

What’s the real story? Was Poe just a regular guy who was terribly misunderstood or is there some truth to the dark, Halloween-figure side of Poe?

Well, like any complicated person, it’s a bit of both. If Poe were my buddy, I’d think twice when I saw him come up on caller ID. He could be a terrible friend, and a worse enemy. He was dead broke and in debt most of his life. He had a terrible time with alcohol, though he could be sober for long periods. At the same time, he was brilliant, witty, had lots of friends and was a loving husband, most of the time. Though he married his 13-year-old cousin when he was 26!

One thing I discovered is that practically anything you say about Poe, the opposite is also true. That’s part of what made the film challenging, and fun!

Why the title: “Buried Alive”?

Poe was fascinated —maybe even obsessed—with stories of people who were buried alive by mistake, which happened fairly frequently in the early 19th century. Medicine hadn’t figured out how to determine death with certainty, and particularly during epidemics there was a lot of pressure to get corpses underground quickly. One of his most famous stories is “The Premature Burial.”

I also love the metaphorical meanings. Poe lived his life under a constant cloud of grief —virtually all the women he loved died young. He struggled with a mountain of debt, and even before he died his bad reputation had begun to overshadow the reality of his life. And then, of course, there’s the never-ending mystery of his death. For all those reasons, it feels like an appropriate title.

Mystery of his death?

You have to see the movie.

 

There’s no mistaking when Mario Frangoulis takes the stage. The only thing that is crisper than his clothes is his remarkable voice. A sterling tenor that has taken this singer-actor to some of the world’s greatest stages and allowed him to perform in opera, classical theater and popular West End musicals. Born in Africa and raised in Greece, Frangoulis was trained at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he was discovered by legendary Broadway creator Sir Cameron Mackintosh. His “Mario Frangoulis: Sing Me An Angel” tour launches on Saturday, March 25th at the Sanders Theatre at Harvard University in Cambridge. The concert starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are still available. (https://www.mariofrangoulis.com/concerts)

 

STYLEBOSTON: Classical performers, particularly tenors, are known for being put together (tux, tails), but traditionally haven’t been known as fashion-forward trendsetters (those tux, tails). And then there’s you. You have made headlines for your “style.” Where does your sense of style come from? 

MARIO: I have always cared about fashion and how it is influenced by the various changes in our society, the political climate, the style of music and the arts. In so many ways, styling itself gives an “identity” to an artist, “signature” clothes, and one’s own style. I have been extremely lucky to meet great designers at such a young age in my life and career. Donna Karan, for example, dressed me on my first album “Sometimes I Dream.” Valentino designed my first tuxedos early on in my career and let me launch his Red Label tuxedos. Giorgio Armani designed all of the suits, costumes and clothes for the movie “De Lovely” starring Kevin Klein and Ashley Judd in which I wore a great Shakespearean period costume designed by Armani himself! He was also a very cool person to meet. Lately I have been dressed exclusively by Ermenegildo Zegna.

 

STYLEBOSTON: Do you have a favorite designer? A favorite piece in your wardrobe?

MARIO: I had the chance to meet the unique Ralph Lauren at an exclusive party at Bloomingdales and I have to admit that his casual-wear clothes are the best! Very comfortable and all time classic. I have many jackets by Ralph Lauren that I also wear with jeans for press conferences and casual smart occasions. One of my very favorite designers these days is Tom Ford. His tuxedos are incredible —especially the great thick and old-fashioned but contemporary lapels. Tom Ford’s tuxedo has to be my favorite piece in my entire wardrobe!

 

STYLEBOSTON: Just as you have made an impression for your style, you are known for your versatility on stage. Do you prefer traditional opera over Broadway or West End musicals? How does traditional Greek music fit into your repertoire?

MARIO: Opera is my first love. West End musicals, however, especially “Les Miserables” was my first big adventure on stage. The costumes were actually designed by the Greek-Cypriot English costume and Tony Award-winning designer Andreane Neofitou. Playing Marius, the romantic lead, gives me so much theatrical and stage experience.

As you said in your question, I truly enjoy being versatile on stage, and this really represents who I am. I enjoy being different in every role I play: from Raoul in “The Phantom of the Opera” to Tony in “West Side Story” at Teatro Alla Scala to the King in “The King and I” and so many leading roles in ancient Greek drama, like “Prometheus Bound,” a Titan who defies the gods and gives fire to mankind, acts for which he is subjected to perpetual punishment. Achilles was a great role for me in the ancient theatre in Epidaurus in the year of the Olympic games in 2004. It was the first time this great Ancient Greek play was presented after 2,500 years. It is a trilogy by the great dramatist Aeschylus and was so full of great adventures, heroic battles and fate itself which one cannot escape from. Dionysus, however in “The Bacchae” was the most challenging of all roles. Dionysus, the protagonist of Euripides, “Bacchae,” is one big contradiction. The character embodies many of the dualities that we see throughout the play. First of all, in some ways he represents both human and god. Dionysus definitely has all the powers of a god. He summons earthquakes, lightning, and has a knack for getting into people’s heads, driving them insane!

Another interesting duality is that Dionysus is foreign and Greek at the same time. He was born in Greece, but his religion, for some reason, first spread in Asia. Another contradiction is that Dionysus in some ways represents both male and female. Yes, he is a male god, but the mortal form he takes is said to be quite effeminate. Dionysus also had a strange birth. The play itself is full of dualities and that is what I love about it!

Perhaps the play is trying to say that everything that exists is also its opposite at the very same time—more specifically, that we as human beings are inherently contradicted. We’re all both rational and irrational. All humans are animals, but there’s also something special that undeniably separates us from the rest of Earth’s living creatures.

Though we all (or at least most of us) belong to one gender or another, there are things about all of us that don’t quite fit into the role that society prescribes to specific sexes. Even though everybody is from somewhere, we’re all a foreigner somewhere else. Sometimes we even become foreigners in our own homes. Lastly, even though we’re certainly mortal, maybe, just maybe, some part of us is eternal and divine. It seems to us, that in the character of Dionysus, Euripides captured many of the amazing contradictions that make up every human being.

Mario & Justin Hayward

In music and in theater, I must be flexible, adapting to what’s happening around me, and experimenting with new and unique combinations of music and acting skills—this also translates to my sense of personal style. Life is a mosaic of experiences that make up who we are—there is no one “right” way to do anything…everything I do has to do with my truth, my feelings and my identity. That is why Greek music is always part of my repertoire—not only because of the beauty of the language, but also because it is core to who I am and my identity as a human being. I can’t imagine a performance without Greek music…my style is the same way… in everything I do I strive for simplicity… I was trained to respect simplicity in my voice/singing, I was raised to admire simplicity in my personal life, and my aesthetic reflects this value.

 

STYLEBOSTON: Do you have a favorite stage to perform on or favorite venue to perform in? A favorite performer to appear with? Or, symphony to perform with? (No pressure to say Symphony Hall or the Boston Pops…)

MARIO: I love Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops! Symphony Hall in Boston is an amazing venue and acoustically one of the best in the world. We did an “epic” show there in 2012 that aired on public television across the country and I will never forget it. I have performed in Boston many times. It is one of my favorite cities to perform in. I love the combination of history with young energy (all the students). It has a European feel to it, and it is next to the ocean, which is so beautiful. Of course performing in venues like Milan’s La Scala and my favorite Herod Atticus at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens is tough competition! But Boston is certainly up there!

I have had the pleasure of performing with such a huge range of talented artists—from Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras to Justin Hayward and Klaus Meine to Lara Fabian and Sarah Brightman to Natalie Cole, Tina Arena and Smokey Robinson. The list goes on and on!

What I have enjoyed so much about Boston are the fantastic young and talented musicians, many of them from Berklee College of Music. I have a passion for supporting young musicians and I love to walk the halls at night when we are rehearsing and feel the energy of all of that great young talent ready to take over the world.

 

STYLEBOSTON: How did it come to be that Boston was the first location on this US tour?

 MARIO: We have been talking with my team for a while about returning to one of my favorite venues in Boston—the Sanders Theatre at Harvard. That theatre is amazing and the acoustics are fantastic. We’ve always performed great shows on that stage full of amazing positive energy. I always get so much energy and love from this city and have many friends here who I can call my family. We decided that since WGBH has been such a supporter over the years, and we got a great date to start the 2017 concert series here, why not “come home” to Boston?

 

STYLEBOSTON: Do you have any favorite haunts, places or stops in Boston? 

MARIO: Of course I love to walk around the Boston Common and Newbury Street; Harvard Square and brunch at the Charles Hotel is always a great favorite! Lobster and crab at Legal Sea Foods on the Harbor is great as well. There is a long list and it, of course, includes Symphony Hall, and also Harvard Yard. I love to walk in Boston. Bostonians have a certain casual sophistication that makes me feel very at ease.

 

 

 

 

Project Bread - The Walk for Hunger - Boston, Massachusetts - May 1, 2016

Project Bread – The Walk for Hunger – Boston, Massachusetts – May 1, 2016/David Leifer photo

BOSTON—Despite a rainy May 1st, the 48th annual Walk for Hunger & 5K Run brought together more than 35,000 neighbors to raise money to fund hunger-relief programs throughout the state. In the morning, participants were greeted by some of Boston’s biggest on-air personalities from Project Bread’s partners, including iHeart Media radio stations, Kiss 108, JAM’N 94.5, and 101.7 The Bull. Kiss 108’s legendary morning show host Matt Siegel was joined by Frankie & Ashlee, Lisa Donovan and Billy Costa. WHDH-TV Boston’s 7News anchors Kim Khazei and Adam Williams joined Jeremy Reiner on location for the morning weather, and Sarah French cooked up healthy school lunch recipes with Project Bread’s Chef Educators in the Snack Station.

The Snack Station was a new feature to the Walk for Hunger’s Walk Village, presented by the Walk’s flagship sponsor Arnold Bread. After crossing the finish-line, completing a 10-mile scenic route through Boston and Cambridge, Walkers were entertained by performances from the Main Stage while re-fueling with an Arnold Bread sandwich and sampling other treats from Shake Shack, KIND, Polar, and more.

All money raised from participants of the Walk funds more than 300 critical hunger-relief programs, including: food pantries, soup kitchens, community gardens, summer meal programs, and more. To make a donation to support the Walk for Hunger please visit www.projectbread.org/walk.

 

Steve FisherDespite having one of the best records in the country, the San Diego State Aztec men’s basketball team will not be going to The Big Dance this year. Coach Steve Fisher, who was recently named one of the top ten college coaches in the country by ESPN, is undoubtedly disappointed but most assuredly focused on his team’s victory as the number one seed in their league. Now gearing up for the National Invitation Tournament, Fisher and his team will most likely shrug off the fickle process of the NCAA bid and focus on winning again. We sat down with this iconic coach to talk about how he wins on and off the court.

http://sdnews.com/view/full_story/27121981/article-Courtside-with-SDSU-s-Steve-Fisher—the-architect-of-the-Aztecs–success?instance=most_popular1

 
Beverly Hills w Craig @ Craig's

Craig Susser with Terri Stanley and Melissa White at Craig’s

Craig Susser, a good friend of ours and the super cool, low key owner of Craig’s in West Hollywood was just named among the Wall Street Journal Magazine’s top six restaurants, where some of L.A.’s biggest names love to dine.  We were there a few weeks ago and were not disappointed-the food, especially the filet mignon with blue cheese ravioli, was outstanding and we caught sight of a few stars close by. If in LA in the near future, be sure to check the article out so you know where to go.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/6-l-a-restaurants-that-bring-out-the-stars-1446126150

Brendan Cieko and Elizabeth Dobrska

Brendan Cieko and Elizabeth Dobrska

The theme, “Something Blue” kicked off the Museum of Fine Arts annual summer party with fantastical lights that illuminated the beautiful gowns on the steps of the Huntington entrance. This best dressed crowd of 25-46 year old revelers gathered to celebrate artist Juan Travieso and show their support for one Boston’s finest cultural institutions. Guests raised the fashion bar even higher this year, influenced I’m sure by the fact that Valentino was the lead sponsor. Boston and New York designer Michael DePaulo created a beautiful black, full petticoat, hi-lo gown with feathers and leather trimmings pour moi, while Abby Cushman stunned the crowd in a Michael DePaulo Valentino-red, floor length, off the shoulder trumpet gown. Blogger babes Jessica Diaz and Alisa Kapinos both sported floral—Jessica in a beautiful low cut, floral Alice and Olivia gown, which was news to me since I had no idea designer Stacey Bendet was doing ball gowns. But this was obviously a trend because Pia Miller, one of the co-chairs, also chose Alice and Olivia—a beautiful gold and auburn print floor length gown.  Co-chair Dobrska had a gorgeous vintage white and lavendar floral gown. I admired creatives like jewelry designer Maria Stokalska, who put together unexpected fashion combinations for the evening with her emerald green knee length circle skirt and a silk animal top-perfect for the night.

Endangered Bird #55a

Endangered Bird #55a, Juan Travieso

Aside from the gowns, the highlight of the evening was Juan Travieso. An artist we claim as our own, he was trained at the MFA Museum School and has since moved to Miami, where I saw his beautiful murals on the Walls of Wynwood. Juan came to Boston for three days to create one of his signature murals  and he enlisted a team of 5 local artists, (@graves_miller, @bruceybluejeans, @pt35mm, @farzanehsafarani, @paulkotakis), who were his cohorts at The Museum School. Working around the clock, they helped him finish the mural, each one being assigned separate triangles to paint to ultimately construct his Picasso-like, brightly colored, cubist mural with a deer head bursting out of the center.

The Summer Party kicks off the season for young and stylish Bostonians. A social calendar highlight for over ten years, this annual event raises vital operating support for the Museum of Fine Arts. A portion of the proceeds from this year’s Summer Party benefits an endowed Museum Council Special Exhibition Fund. I love supporting emerging artists and giving them this platform where art collectors, young and experienced, can bid on juried works of art. The event took place in the main gallery—50 foot ceilings, bodies bustling about taking pictures in front of the 10,000 pound, green glass Chihuly tree and partygoers snacking from the antipasto buffet. Ben and I snuck downstairs to view the Pupils of Hokusai Exhibit and unfettered by hoards of people, we sat in the calm, silent room, where our thoughts could roam as we pondered the beautiful Japanese paintings.

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Photography by Todd Mazur and Michael Blanchard

Greek-Dolmades-recipe-Stuffed-Grape-Leaves1One of the bi-products of the wine-making biz that keeps us busy on weekends in our vineyard in El Penedés, the wine region of Catalunya, is the proliferation of fresh grape leaves on our vines. (Duh!) In May or June, grape growers undertake the labor-intensive process of “leafing” and “suckering” the vines, which means that you remove all of the stems that have no fruit, and you also snap off big leaves that are casting shadows on the baby grape clusters. The leafing also gives the fruit more air and minimizes the possibility of icky mold growth. (“Sin miedo!” our local helper tells us: Snap off the excess growth WITHOUT FEAR!)

Last year, during our first season with the white grapes that are now slowly fermenting into “cava” (Spanish champagne), we were pretty thoroughly focused on getting all of the steps right. This year, I had the wherewithal, with the help of daughter Stassa, to collect a few of the largest grape leaves and tuck them away in a plastic bag for later use, after we recovered from the very hot and sweaty leafing process!

My motive? DOLMADES! I had read up last year on the quickest and easiest way to stuff your own grape leaves, guided by Martha Stewart and a dozen other on-line cooking websites, many of them Greek-oriented. And then I promptly forgot it. So while the leaves were still mostly green and supple, I consulted the Internet once again, and I went for what seemed like a fool-proof and remarkably rapid method of preparing the grape leaves for stuffing: blanch them for a few seconds in boiling water.

It worked pretty well, and the results were tasty if a bit chewy. The stuffing process itself was less laborious than I’d anticipated, and it helps if you can make it into a fun assembly-line process in the kitchen.

Here’s how…

First you go in the vineyard…

vineyard

Filling: I used some leftover risotto

risotto

Steam:

steam

Blanche:

blanche

Stuff:

stuffing

Enjoy!

finished

They came out a little chewy but I’m working on it…

“Kali Orexi!”

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clapton is god originalMy husband David proposed to me during an Eric Clapton song and one of our sons was conceived to a Clapton song. Am I over sharing here? Probably, but I’m not going to tell you which of his songs or which of my sons. I will tell you that Clapton has been our soundtrack from the beginning and although we have seen him many times in the states, seeing him in London at the Royal Albert Hall has long been on our bucket list. Eric was going to celebrate his 70th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his first performance at the Royal Albert by playing there once again. Touted by the press and “sources in the know” that this would be his last concert, we had to be there and if we were going to be there it would have to be the last night of the series.  We weren’t the only Americans to have come in for the concert; many Yanks we met were in London for the same reason. We all had our own Clapton stories and we all shared the same questions: how is he going to sound, what will it be like inside the Royal Albert Hall, and will this be the last time he preforms as a headliner?

clapton on stageWhen Eric took the stage I was immediately struck by how he looked.  He appeared thinner, grayer, and okay I’ll say it…. older. But that thought flew out of my head the second he started to rock, as his guitar playing remains unequaled and his voice sounded strong and right. Is the Royal Albert Hall gorgeous? YES. It’s like being inside a decadent crimson and gold jewelry box with an amazing sound system. Was it all worth it? YES! I prayed to hear “Bell Bottom Blues” or “White Room” but got acoustic “Layla” and “Tears In Heaven” instead, my least favorite songs of the night.  I like my “Layla” in its original version, all glorious angst on a Stratocaster with the haunting instrumental. “Tears” is just too sad and I don’t know how he plays it knowing its genesis, making it the perfect song for this girl to run to the bar.  Overall the set list didn’t seem to disappoint the crowd and hearing “Can’t Find My Way Home” live and in that venue was almost a religious experience for me. Moving quickly from song to song, shifting eras and playing selections from both his solo catalog and magic he created with the band, the concert was a dream that went to fast.

clapton on stage 2One of the many things I enjoy about seeing Clapton live is that he doesn’t really talk to the audience, doesn’t preach his politics, and doesn’t waste your time together yipping when he could be playing.  Eric tells his story thru his music and what he choses to play. He didn’t say much to the crowd but did comment on how grueling the series of concerts have been on him. His closing song “High Time We Went” was also telling and he and his band seemed to linger longer than what you would expect as they took their bows. Was May 23, 2015 Eric Clapton’s last concert as a headliner? Probably.  Is Clapton still God? YES.

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