A few evenings ago, my roommate and I embarked on a delightful after work/cure the monday blues culinary adventure. Granted, I work in a restaurant, so most days are some sort of culinary adventure, but this one was of quite a different breed—and it was off the clock: a two hour course on american cheeses at the Cheese School of San Francisco.
We arrived excited and eager to shed our Monday attitudes, and entered a delightful loft space that was practically glowing with inviting foodiness (not sure how I come up with this stuff, but you can thank my verbose father for genetically sharing his gift of the written gab). We were immediately handed a glass of Sauvignon blanc which was crisp, refreshing and much needed. The cheese school occupies the top floor of a building in San Francisco’s North Beach area, and is a lovely open space filled with books pertaining to fromage. We were then led to an adjoining part of the space where two long tables had been set up. At each place setting was a plate with 9 cheeses, two additional wine glasses, some cheese accompaniments (bread, apricot preserves, dried cherries), a list of cheeses with thoughtful space for notetaking and a small card with our names on it ( you have to sign up for these classes in advance).
After a short introduction by one of the owners of the cheese school, our instructor Lisa, who has written many a book on American cheeses and grilled cheese sandwiches, began the class. We started with a mild goat cheese and moved through a variety of other sheeps milk and cow milk cheeses, and ended with a hard Dubarton blue. My favorites were the Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill pasteurized cows milk cheese which literally was so buttery and delicious It was a double cream cheese, (which I learned means it has 60% butterfat) and made the cheese look very yellow and buttery. It wasn’t strong, but it was creamy and lovely, and was recommended to have with a sparkling wine to cut the richness. YUM I also really liked the Vermont Butter and cheese “Bijou” which was this super soft goats milk cheese—very salty, but really nice, gooey and textured and excellent with bread. Comte is one of my absolutely favorite cheeses—i love the nutty but very cheesy and generally mind altering flavor, and the bendable texture, and the Hidden Springs Ocooch Mountain Sheeps Milk cheese from Wisconsin we tasted reminded me a lot of comte, with its tanginess and slight grainy texture. The last cheese we tasted was a Wisconsin Dunbarton Blue raw cow’s milk cheese that was really lovely—sharp and a bit piercing. So delicious.
I learned so much about the different types of cheeses out there, the variety in processes, and the fact that when pairing wine and cheese, you must taste the wine first! I also gained an even greater appreciation for the developing American cheese world, which is really coming into its own. The class wasn’t pretentious or too serious, but very informative and enjoyable. So go to a SF cheese school class if you can, I’ll probably be there!
Depending on who you speak to, when the name Jay DeFeo is mentioned, the response varies greatly. For those who know of her, they often think The Rose. For those who’ve never heard of her, they think she’s a man.
To give a quick summary of DeFeo’s life, the artist moved to the bay area prior to high school. She attended UC Berkley for art school where she received her masters. After traveling throughout Europe for eighteen months, the artist returned to San Francisco and married Wally Hendrick. Their shared apartment on Filmore Street became a social and creative epicenter of beat culture characteristic of the Bay Area in the 50’s and 60’s. Within the bay window of this apartment is where DeFeo created The Rose, a painting, that morphed over several years into what could be considered a sculptural piece. In total, The Rose stood at 11 feet high, nine feet wide, eight inches thick, and weighed 2300 pounds. When the couple moved in 1965, the artist Bruce Conner documented its removal from their apartment in the film The White Rose. As a result of the extensive process of The Rose’s creation, and possibly the use of poisonous lead paint, DeFeo was worn out and seemingly driven mad by the loss of her work and thus produced no art from 1966 to 1970, resulting in the loss of much the momentum she had garnered during the 1950’s and 60’s. For a great three minute clip narrated by Bruce Conner click here.
However, The Rose, which most would assume references the flower, is actually about the compass rose, as Todd Hosfelt, Owner of Hosfelt Gallery, would suggest. Setting a course that had no foreseeable end is what made this piece, and thus Jay’s outlook on the creative process so unique. Starting this month, an exhibition of DeFeo’s pieces from 1971 to 1989 will be on display at the Hosfelt Gallery in San Francisco. This will mark the first time in fifteen years that her work has been on display on the West Coast. The overarching theme of the compass as a tool for guidance is present in the painting, photography, and drawing brought together for this show.
Todd Hosfelt’s full essay on the works in the show can be found here. The show, entitled DEFEO, will be on display until the 22nd of October, 2011. You can also find more information about the artist, her life and her work at http://www.jaydefeo.org/. Additionally, a major retrospective of DeFeo’s work, which has been assembled by The Whitney Museum of American Art, will be on display in Autumn 2012 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Michael Light is an unbelievable aerial photographer who shows at Hosfelt Gallery. These are a few shots from his recent show at the Bolinas Museum called, “SOME DRY SPACE: Architecture of Subtraction.” I had the opportunity to visit Mike’s studio a few months ago and he showed us shots from this series in which Light says he photographed the, “the environs and edges of Las Vegas, that great Western phenomenon that was until recently the fastest growing city in the republic but now suffers its highest unemployment and second-highest rate of home foreclosure.” His works are then bound into over-sized books that are displayed on tripods in many shows.
Please visit his website to see more of his work. It’s very much worth the time. I also am completely enamored with his “100 Suns” series!
An insanely delicious sub from Molinari delicatessen here in San Francisco. Mild coppa, fresh mozzarella, artichokes, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, mustard, Italian vinaigrette, basil spread on the last sourdough roll they had …. Incredible! And so apropos of Saveur’s new sandwich issue!
I recently took a business trip to Saratoga, California for the day. While there, it turned out to be a lovely day and I had some extra time to poke around and explore. I visited two great sites, the Montalvo Arts Center and the Hakone Japanese Gardens.
The Montalvo property is comprised of 175 acres of land on which the former vacation villa of Senator James Duval Phelan stands. He donated the property and the villa to the state for the purpose of fostering both local and international arts and culture. The property has expanded and now houses the oldest artist-in-residency program in the country as well as two theaters, an art gallery, a culinary residency program, and vast gardens and grounds. According to Wikipedia (not the finest source I know), “Phelan named Villa Montalvo in honor of the popular 16th century Spanish writer Garci Ordonez de Montalvo. Montalvo coined the name “California” in one of his fables. In it he described an island rich with gold and jewels, peopled by Amazons ruled by a queen named Calafia. The Amazons in the fable rode griffins, mythical winged guardians of precious treasure. Griffins can be found throughout the arts center grounds, standing guard over Phelan’s precious gift.”
The Hakone Gardens were really amazing as well. They are the oldest Japanese and Asian Estate gardens in the Western Hemisphere. After viewing the Pan Pacific Exposition of 1915, Isabel Stine, wife of philanthropist Oliver Stine, traveled abroad to Japan to research Japanese garden retreats. With the information she gathered, she returned to Saratoga to establish a family retreat in the Santa Cruz hills for her family and for entertaining guests and friends. From 1932 until the mid 60’s, the estate passed in and out of the hands of family members and wealthy buyers until it was sold to the City of Saratoga in 1966. Kyoto-trained landscape professional Tanso Ishihara took charge of the estates restoration. However, again in 1999 the future of the gardens became cloudy. High maintenance and operating costs threatened the survival of the property. A charitable donation from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation established a fund for the continual preservation of the gardens. Since then, several large-scale events have been held on the grounds. Hakone also served as one of the primary filming locations for the movie Memoirs of a Geisha.
The City of Saratoga is well worth the trip is you are looking for something easy to do within a short driving distance. Here’s to hoping business will take me back there soon!
*I apologize in advance for the poor quality of these photos (iPhone cam). As previously mentioned, my free time was unexpected and I didn’t bring my usual camera.
Short of Chicago, a weekend at most is enough to cover what other Midwestern cities have to offer. You can drive for hours and your surroundings will virtually looks as they did at your starting origin. This was a constant frustration of mine and one of the foremost reasons I moved to San Francisco. I have spent the vast majority of my free time since moving to the Bay Area exploring. And on just such a day, I discovered the Sutro Baths.
Saturday afternoon, per my birthday request, Leah, Lauryn and myself ventured to the far Northwest corner of San Francisco to walk the Lands End Trail (my sense of adventure has been piqued lately due to the fact that I’m currently reading Into Thin Air and have recently finished a two-part mini-series on the Louis and Clark Expedition. Short of climbing a mountain without supplemental oxygen this would have to do…but I digress). The trek was littered with interesting landmarks and views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Pacific Ocean that really were breathtaking. At the Southern-most end of the trail, just before the Cliff House (known for its amazing brunch and views), lie the ruins of what once were the Sutro Baths, and what I considered to be the most interesting part of the entire hike.
I use the use the words “ruins” and “baths” loosely as those two terms usually conjure thoughts of Ancient Rome and Caracalla’s capacious structure on the outskirts of the city. However, the Sutro Baths (http://www.sutrobaths.com/) have been labeled “modern ruins” - this is California after all. Nothing is older than a century.
Built literally upon the coastline, the project was the brainchild of somewhat aberrant San Francisco mayor, Adolph Sutro. Upon their completion in March of 1896 they featured an amphitheater that could seat 3700, six salt water tanks each with over a 1 million gallon capacity, one fresh water plunge tank, seven tobaggan slides into the baths, swinging rings, diving boards, and private dressing rooms. The tanks, which were continuously replenished by the rising and receding ocean tides, could fill in an hour. The structure also featured the makings of a natural history museum where Sutro displayed his eccentric collection of oddities.
Over the years, the baths fell in and out of use having been re-appropriated as an amusement park and an ice skating rink. However, in the 1960’s, as the structure was being demolished, it burned down leaving only the visible architectural footprint of the original structure.
I love history…I love history even more when you are allowed to walk amongst its ruins. The Sutro Baths are a real treat to visit. Visiting on a misty, morose day I think would be particularly apropos. I highly recommend.
*All information/facts used in the post were acquired from the official Sutro Baths website
Today was an active day for the triumvirate (the triumvirate consisting of Lauren, myself and our friend Lauryn) and we hiked around Lands End Trail (yes, I too made the catalogue connection). We followed it by a delicious lunch at Outerlands. It was delightful day if a bit overcast, but here are a selection of photos to be followed, I’m sure, by some lovely snaps by Lauren.
I know I’ve mentioned them several times on the blog in reference to the gallery so I thought I would finally show a few. They’re punchy and fun, they brighten up any wall, and they really convey the silly yet masterful side of contemporary art. Although his subjects can seem as though they require little thought (drains, fruity drinks, etc.), don’t for one minute underestimate the artistry and skill of Volker.
Amei Wallach wrote:
“Cornelius Volker has chosen “Meerschweinchen,” guinea pigs, as the subject for his series of some 60 oil on linen variations on the themes of abstraction, color, gesture, and material. The grounds of the paintings are incandescent bleeding bands of color so improbable that a student once asked him what computer program he used to achieve them.
Guinea pigs are synonymous with the scientific experiments that are done upon them. The guinea pigs that dominate but are not quite centered on Volker’s canvases are experiments in brushwork, in how many ways you can depict fur, by building layers, slashing, dabbing, shading, scraping, swiping. He looks for the moment when the fur becomes the means of depicting it. It becomes color and stroke. And then, to the mercurial eye, it becomes fur again.”
I admit it, I gush over the views in San Francisco almost constantly. I’m lucky enough to live atop a hill with the most gorgeous views, so I just had to put up some photos of what I get to see on a daily basis…