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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.

There’s been a lot of negative coverage lately around Tom Brady but no matter what anyone thinks about Deflategate, he’s a stand up guy when it comes to Best Buddies. He’s been involved with this charity for years and just hosted another successful event in Hyannisport this past weekend. He’s generously given his time and money to support the organization, so he’s a touchdown as far as we’re concerned. We were lucky enough to talk to Tom after a previous race, check out Linda’s Off The Field.

perfect pairings

Ever heard of a Tom Plumbs Blues? Our friends at Church share their recipe for this gin cocktail, which is perfect for the summer. Watch here to see what pairs best with this stirred but never shaken craft cocktail.

On Thursday May 14, 2015, at the Seaport World Trade Center, BCRF hosted The Boston Hot Pink Party, which raised $1.2 million dollars for breast cancer research.

The event honored actress Elizabeth Hurley, a longstanding advocate and The Estée Lauder Companies’ Global Ambassador for Breast Cancer Awareness, as well as ABC News Anchor and breast cancer survivor Amy Robach and her husband, Andrew Shue. Also in attendance were designers Tommy and Dee Hilfiger and Fidelity’s Peter Lynch. The 10th Anniversary of the annual gala featured a special performance by Broadway star Megan Hilty as guests celebrated their local commitment to the global health issue of breast cancer, upheld by the night’s theme: “Pink Locally, Act Globally.” styleboston’s Zoey Gulmi was there and has all the interviews you want to hear…

video produced by V-Neck Media

clambake3Fresh off Memorial Day, we’re keeping things all American with our traditional New England clambake segment featuring Jasper White, chef and partner of Summer Shack restaurants and Steve DiFillippo, owner of Davio’s restaurants. Watch and learn as one of the master chefs takes you step by step, with Steve as his digger, on how to create the best beach clambake around. Impress your guests and wow them with this exciting presentation.

It’s not always easy being a vegetarian in Spain. Because I also eat fish and seafood–and I live in Barcelona, which is smack on the sea–it’s a challenge, but it’s not impossible. In Madrid, I would call it impossible. There is a big deli there, for instance, called El Museo del Jamón.  Generally, all over Spain there is a general suspicion of those who do not follow the cult of the slaughtered cow and pig. That small club would include both my husband U.B. and me.

So, we greet with joy the discovery of an extraordinary Spanish dish that is not based on meat. And there is a family of soups whose ingredients have never been near a pig.  The chilled soups are a refreshing thirst-quencher in the parched southern reaches of Spain’s Andalucia, where summer days can be broiling.

GAZPACHO

Everybody knows about gazpacho, the perfect chilled tomato-garlic-and-vegetable first course on a hot day, and in Spain it is as readily available in the local grocery store as orange juice.  My family slugs it down right from the carton if we’re on the road, and it’s one of our daughter Stassa’s favorite after-school snacks.  Still, nothing beats the homemade version, which is not difficult to make in either a blender or a food processor; recipes abound on the Internet.  Crucial to its success is the crunch factor of the accouterments that you add when serving gazpacho at your table:  diced green (or red) pepper and cucumber, little cubes of fresh tomato, and crispy croutons of bread that have been toasted with olive oil.  I like a sprig of rosemary or basil in mine.

 

 

SALMOREJO

Salmorejo from gildedfork.com

Salmorejo from gildedfork.com

The other tomato-based soup that has not found the international fame of its cousin gazpacho is called salmorejo.  A search for the etymology of the word led me nowhere, but it almost certainly has something to do with salt (“sal”) in spite of its being not exceedingly salty.  When I plug the word salmorejo into Google translate, the English translation is…(fanfare): “Gazpacho!”

As far as I can tell (after hundreds of tastings), salmorejo, whose origins are in the Andalucian city of Córdoba, varies from its more famous cousin mostly in the inclusion of a higher proportion of bread amongst its ingredients, which renders the soup a slightly lighter shade of red, and considerably thicker, than your average bowl (or glass) of gazpacho.  The ingredients list is also shorter, focusing on vine-ripened tomatoes, green olive oil, garlic and bread.  It is often garnished with cubes of ham and hard boiled egg.

AJO BLANCO

Ajo Blanco from Mercado Calabajio.

Ajo Blanco from Mercado Calabajio.

An unsung cousin to the red chilled soups is little known outside of Andalusia, and almost completely unheard of outside of Spain.  The secret of the creamy white, refreshingly chilled ajo blanco or “white gazpacho” summer soup seems to be well guarded.

U.B. and I first discovered ajo blanco in the swank restaurant of one of Spain’s most charming paradores, a converted fourteenth-century Moorish castle in Carmona, outside of Seville. Since my lactose-tolerance is not high, I at first shied away from the white soup in spite of U.B.’s swooning response to it. Only after asking the waiter, “Que es esto?” and hearing the list of ingredients, did I dive in and become a life-long fan.

Ajo blanco is more than the sum of its parts. In fact, the ingredients at first seem to be seriously at odds with each other: Bread. Almonds. Olive oil. Grapes. Vinegar. And of course garlic (ajo).

 

Here is a recipe, freely adapted from a version that I found at EPICURIOUS.COM:

Toast several slices of country bread without its crusts and soak in a cup of ice water.

Toast about a dozen sliced almonds in a skillet until golden, then grind them in a processor with one clove of garlic.

Squeeze the bread dry and add it to the almond/garlic mixture, along with half a pound of seedless green grapes.

Process until smooth then put it into a bowl and mix it together with 3 Tbsp. of wine vinegar, a half cup of extra virgin olive oil and two cups of ice water.

Strain it through a sieve, forcing as much bread through as possible. Add salt and cayenne pepper, and chill well, at least one hour.

Serve the soup with freshly toasted croutons and more green seedless grapes, cut in half.  I know it sounds weird, but trust me.

Once while traveling around the south of Spain, we came across a thicker, dip-like version of ajo blanco, which is usually a rather thin soup. Quite a surprise and just as yummy.

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Guest Contributor: Dylan Connor

THE MUSTS

  • Ultimate Value Driven Destinations within a 20 block radius.
  • The Transport: By car from Boston; Walking.

THE STAY

The Morgans Hotel – Madison Ave

Morgans Hotel Dining

Located at 237 Madison Ave., the Morgans Hotel is the original jewel in Ian Shrager’s boutique hotel empire. The instinctively modernist interiors are timeless and were created by the emissary of Parisian chic:Andre Putnam. This hotel is full of thoughtful luxury including rainfall showerheads, down duvets and pillows, Malin & Goetz bath amenities and complimentary breakfast, complete with homemade granola and classic New York bagels. It remains a best kept value secret in town with an unbeatable location.

THE EATS

The Meatball Shop -9th & 22nd

The Meatball Shop

The Meatball Shop – 9th and 22nd streets (one of five locations). They’ve got balls and a not so secret weapon in chef Daniel Holzman, who hails from Le Bernadin. He and business partner Michael Chernow have created an irreverent and nostalgic haven of affordable comfort foods with a best in class aura. Locally sourced meats (Heritage Pork, Creekstone Farms Beef and Murray’s Chicken, which they grind themselves) are transformed into an innovative menu that is frugal in its pricing yet high in style and flavor. Dig in to the Meatball Smash – two balls on a Brioche bun with sauce and cheese or a purely simple slider. Wash it down with a Shop Specialty Cocktail: the Fool-Aid Punch ( brandy, rum, citrus and grape sugar) or a Homegrown Classic: Moscow Mule: Brooklyn Republic (vodka, lime and ginger beer). Whiskey lovers should check out the whiskey grid. Have it neat or cleverly disguised in a Whiskey float with Vanilla (citrus liqueur, root beer and vanilla ice cream). And finally, we suggest The Sweet Ending: an ice cream sandwich concocted with house-made ice cream and freshly baked cookies. Our favorite? Chocolate chip with brown sugar ice cream. That’s just the surface of a comprehensive menu that does not disappoint.

Virgil’s BBQ-44th right off Times Square

Virgils Times Square

 

Located on 44th Street, Virgil’s real barbecue is right off Times Square in the heart of the Theater District. Classic Roadhouse décor sets the tone in an atmosphere that is casual and welcoming. The streamlined service is a fast and friendly group of aspiring actors. Stick with Virgil’s favorites and you can’t miss. Two genuine Southern Pride Smokers churn out the tastiest Carolina Pulled Pork and BBQ Chicken in the North. Split an order of Trainwreck fries or BBQ nachos. (These are not for the faint of heart in portion or calories.) Beer aficionados may rejoice in choosing a flight of “Three of Your Choice,” or indulge in Virgil’s Own Ale, Coney Island Lager or Skrumpies Cider.

THE RAMBLE — Central Park

The Shakespeare Garden

Shakespeare Garden

Central Park is 843 acres that were curated by preeminent landscape architect Frederick law Olmsted in 1858. With daily official guided or self-guided tours, we have three scintillating suggestions and they’re free!: Brush up on your Shakespeare! Don’t miss The Shakespeare Garden, named for the famed English poet and playwright and includes four enchanting acres of scattered quotes, flowers and plants all drawn from his illustrious works.

The Chess & Checkers House

The Chess & Cracker House

For the gamer in all of us- compete in The Chess and Checkers House—BYOC or borrow Chess, Checkers or Backgammon and Dominos.

The Carousel

The Carousel

The Carousel—Legend has it that the original ride was powered by a live mule or horse hidden beneath the carousel platform. Today’s vintage carousel was found in an old trolley terminal on Coney Island. It was crafted in 1908 by the Brooklyn firm Stein & Goldstein and is considered one of the finest and largest examples of American Folk Art in existence. With its 57 majestic horses, it is the fourth to stand in Central Park since 1871.

THE SHOWS

Hedwig and the Angry Inch- Starring John Cameron Mitchell

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” starring writer/creator John Cameron Mitchell, at the Belasco Theatre. The Tony-winning revival has been updated and revamped from the original Off-Broadway and film versions, which serves the larger-than-life character of Hedwig well. Mitchell is a true manifestation of stage charisma, and the music seamlessly bridges rock’n’roll and musical theater. The Tony-winning lighting design by Kevin Adams rounds out a glamorous, hilarious, and heartfelt experience. Day-of lottery tickets provide great seats for a very low price.

Finding Neverland — with Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer

finding neverland

“Finding Neverland,” starring Matthew Morrison, Laura Michelle Kelly, and Kelsey Grammer, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Directed by the incomparable Tony-winner Diane Paulus with fantastic music by first-timers Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, it is also a first for Harvey Weinstein as a Broadway producer. It is a surprisingly sympathetic turn from Morrison, complemented with grace by Kelly, and rounded out by Grammer’s panache. The simply designed set perfectly frames Paulus’ elegant staging and the stunning choreography from Mia Michaels of TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance” fame. An overall excellent adaptation of the 2004 film, while still establishing its own style and take on the story of J.M. Barrie and his inspiration for “Peter Pan.” Stand in line a few hours before the box office opens, and experience the spectacle from amazing seats for an incredibly affordable price.

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