Monday, October 25, 2010

Love at First Bite

The Glamorous Hotel DeLuxe in Portland

Rustic-Chic at Irving Street Kitchen

Pearl District Deco

Fall Colors in the Pearl

When Tom Douglas, Seattle Chef extraordinaire and one of the greatest chefs in the world, gives you three recommendations for dinner in Portland, you go. To at least one of them.

Taking the Amtrak “Coast Starlight” to Portland is the way to fly. A quick cab ride, a 10 minute wait, and whoooosh, you are gliding south along the river. Tom Douglas was sitting right next to us, so of course I had to pick his brains about Food. I was not surprised to see how technologically savvy he is, as he wrangled iPhone, iPad, and blueberry muffins along the way. When asked for his recommendations for Portland restaurants, he said, “You’ve come to the right city for great restaurants: Pok Pok [Thai], Genoa [Italian], and Le Pigeon [French].”

I got busy and Googled all three of them, and was excited by the reviews, my mouth watering. The Hotel Deluxe was on the Portland Cocktail Week circuit, so the place was hopping. Barely time to take in the glamorous Hollywood decor, swank lemon-colored upholstery, mirrored Moderne style, and huge black and white photos of stars like Greta Garbo and James Stewart. A few hours of shopping in the oh-so-chic Pearl District, and it was time for the Big Decision.

We decided to dine at the Irving Street Kitchen (sorry, Tom!). It came highly recommended by several other people along the way, and the location, online reviews and website finally swayed us. It was the right choice. I’ve never seen a more beguiling menu! Apparently the James Beard restaurant critics ranked Irving Street Kitchen right up there with Pok Pok, so we were in the right league. The full menu is incredible. Some of our picks for a festive Fall dinner:

Sweet Potato & Fennel Soup, Butternut Squash, Aged Blue Cheese
Seared Shrimp & Dungeness Crab Ragout, Bienville-Bread Pudding, Pickled Okra
Grilled Bone-In Pork Chop, Southern Dirty Rice, Persimmon-Sage Compote
Butterscotch Brulee topped with Crème Fraiche, Fiddle Faddle, and Roasted Peanuts

The service was impeccable and fun; Patrick made the experience joyful as he shared his in-depth knowledge of the source, preparation, and potential wine pairing of each dish. The restaurant sits up a half floor above busy Irving Street, in a concrete floored warehouse, with impossibly but successfully paired rustic country and urban chic décor, steel beams, lovely linens, and an omni-present mason-jars fetish. All the better to savor a “Low Country” with Ransom Old Tom Gin, Fernet Branca, Sage Peppercorn Syrup, and Reed’s Ginger Beer.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chrissie Hynde, Not Pretending

59 and Fabulous Chrissie Hynde

JP Jones

The band signed the set list

Chrissie Hynde and the Fairground Boys

Chrissie Hynde and the Fairground Boys played the Showbox at the Market in Seattle on Wednesday night. A good review appeared in the Seattle Times today.

Chrissie looked absolutely great. She's always been slim and cat-like, but to think she is 59 years old is pretty mind-blowing. Her voice was as good as ever, and I was struck yet again by her rock star charisma, her easy and total command of her guitar and of the band.

Apparently she is in love with her lead guitar player, JP Jones, and they had a December-May relationship that they ended and chronicled on their album together, Fidelity. Steamy is right. The setlist was primarily from the album. Only 70 minutes long, the set was tight, powerful, and bittersweet. You could feel the love.

Hats off to the Showbox, too; the sound was excellent, and we had no problem getting right up to the stage. Chrissie's "no cameras" rule was violated by cellphones, but it didn't detract from the lovely ride she took us on. I got the feeling from the crowd that no one wanted to come back from their "Fidelity" world, most especially the lead singer.
Set List photo courtesy Diane Brooks.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Proliferate, Poetic, Picasso

Entry to the SAM exhibit

The Musee National Picasso in Paris

Picasso's "Jester" Bronze

You guessed it, this is a cubist "Guitare"

Man Playing Guitare

Picasso Exhibit, Seattle Art Museum, October 8 – January 17

Amsterdam, May 1988. A friend says, “If you’re taking the train to Paris tomorrow, you MUST see the Picasso Retrospective at the Center Pompidou before it closes tomorrow night.” So I did. A genius curator had arranged the massive proliferation of Picasso drawings, etchings, paintings, sculpture, and ceramics in chronological order, through a vast maze of halls and galleries. You could actually step through the years of Picasso’s development as an artist. It wasn’t until that day in Paris that I fully registered his true genius and his impact on Art. (The Seattle Art Museum show is a smaller but no less interesting version of that.)

So, the day after that, I had to visit the Musee National Picasso which is a museum in a grand old mansion in the heart of Paris dedicated entirely to works by Picasso. The mansion is surrounded by a grove of old trees, and it’s not until you enter the driveway that it opens onto a large gravel parking de la region where they used to bring up the horse-drawn carriages. Many of the thousands of works in the museum were bequeathed by the artist from his own personal collection. It is from these works that the Seattle Art Museum’s exhibit is drawn. The SAM exhibit also includes some wonderfully obscure found-object sculpture, and a nice sampling from the other various mediums. And, we're spared the endless shelves of ceramics endured at the Musee National.

Did you know Picasso created on average three works of art per day? And that he lived to be 92? You do the math! Whether it was a drawing, a vase, sculpture, or painting, the guy was busy! And it’s not widely recognized what a superb draftsman he was. Many skeptics believed he defaulted to "primitive" cubism because he couldn't really draw. But, his early studies of nudes and hands easily rival those of the best renaissance artists. He was also a great mimic: you can see nods to the impressionists Cezanne, Degas, and Manet, as well as sculptural references to DuChamps, and African primitive art, and psychedelic morphings a la Dali.

Of course, the innovation that indelibly stamped Picasso on the art map was his kaleidoscopic cubism; he was a litmus of his times--the machine age--and he was the first to capture instantaneous views of the same object on one canvas, forcing us to see in a new way.

Some of his later works are very political, or even strongly psychedelic. A bit like an IQ test, it’s fun to stare at some of the paintings and wonder, Hmm, how did he get a guitar out of that?

Photos, except Musee National Picasso, courtesy of John Best.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rock and Roll Fantasy

Paul Rodgers, October 9, Shelton, WA

No wonder he's called “The Voice.” At 60, Paul Rodgers shows no signs that his haunting, powerful voice is in any way diminished.

Interesting that he started out as a bass player (wouldn’t you know it). With that sensitivity, he co-wrote All Right Now with Free bassist Andy Fraser in 1970. Twenty years later ASCAP recognized it for receiving over one million radio plays in the U.S. alone.

Mr. Rodgers has a powerful stage presence, and unlike some of the performers I’ve seen recently, he really connected with the audience. He talked to us (in his deep British accent), responded to us, and invited us all to come up front to the stage. It was a great experience being right up in the first two rows within reach of the band. Shooting Star was wonderful, as was Rock and Roll Fantasy. I loved hearing some of the more obscure stuff from one of his early bands, The Firm, like Satisfaction Guaranteed.

Paul has ties to many of our Seattle musicians. One of my favorite local bassists, Lynn Sorenson, again demonstrated his rock star playing prowess as well as his formidable charisma. And it was great fun seeing Jeff Kathan, who just a week ago had played at Salmon Days, pounding the drums on stage with these other superstars.

[A brief mention here about a phenomenon happening in Washington State: the Casinos. Because of Native American rights, there is now a proliferation of huge, new—and beautiful—casino/hotels popping up all over the state. Little Creek Casino in Shelton, about an hour from Seattle, is a great example. It's a strange thing, like stepping back in time, when smoking and drinking was allowed (if not encouraged) everywhere. But, lucky for us, there is a whole new circuit where our favorite rock musicians can gig.]

It was a fantastic night. To top it all off, Paul Rodgers is a nice guy. As he wished us good night, he said, “Take care, and be kind to each other.”

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Social Network

The Social Network, The Movie

Go see this movie. Forget the hype, just go. Forget that there are no “stars” in the film, that there is no typical Hollywood action. That’s a good thing. This movie rocks.

Even if you’re tired of hearing about Twitter and Facebook, and you generally steer clear of privacy-compromising internet inventions or ideas, you’ll want to have seen this movie. From the first few moments, as the story opens in a dorm room at Harvard in 2004, you will be gripped by the story. The story of a 20-year-old kid who had an "online sharing" idea that within 6 years over 500 MILLION people use around the globe.

Mark Zuckerberg is simultaneously our hero and our antagonist. If the character in the film even somewhat faithfully portrays the real man, this guy is much more than smart and interesting. He is downright scary how brilliant and quick his mind is. The screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, of West Wing and A Few Good Men fame, does a fantastic job of keeping the dialogue crackling and sharp, and I had to laugh out loud as Zuckerberg surgically taunts the attorneys in the arbitration scene.

The film is witty and sharp throughout, from the dialogue to the camera direction, to the sets, to the editing. The director, David Fincher, shows us his prowess as director of stylish thrillers, translated into an even more mesmerizing reality. And, as important, you will learn a lot about what is going on in our world right now, that is changing everything, forever.

Read the review.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Salmon Dayze

Salmon Days 2010, Issaquah, Washington, October 2-3

I thought I knew what I was getting into: lots of crowds, typical fair booths, patchouli soap and garden art. Corndogs.

What I didn’t expect was a rocking show complete with famous guitar players, drummers, and Go-Go dancers. But I should have known: Magic Bus was playing. And, thanks to the music organizer of Salmon Days for the past 27 years, we enjoyed stellar musicians, mega-wattage and great sound. I missed seeing Lynn Sorenson, who is currently touring with Paul Rodgers in Hawaii, but Jeff Kathan lit up the traps with his fierce, masterful drumming. I particularly enjoyed Terry James Young, from the Seattle band Rail, on lead vocals and bass. Lloyd DeBar played a brilliant lead guitar. Steve Hanna on guitar and keys rounded out the sound. It’s not every day you hear Rick Derringer and Led Zeppelin tunes played live and loud. The fabulous cage dancers Dannielle and Shannon added that sexy Bond Girls vibe.

And we had to see the Salmon. Their triumphant, bittersweet return home, all the way upstream from the Ocean. You see scores of these big, heavy fish, each about 4 feet long, chopping their way up the shallow river bed, and you hope they succeeded in their life-long quest to return home to spawn. That’s the interesting thing about Salmon Days; it subtly highlights a cosmic sense of connection to each other and to Earth. How can we tread lightly on our environment and the other living things that were here before us?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Roanoke Inn on Mercer Island

Sometimes the place is hopping until 2 a.m. With lots of comings and goings, a jukebox blasting anything from Rooster to Radar Love, and a demolition derby gravel parking lot, it’s not exactly quiet. But the last time one of the neighbors tried to have it shut down, they didn’t realize the Mercer Island City Council meets there every Tuesday night. The Roanoke is a regular institution. And of course it’s haunted: urban legend is that it used to be a brothel and weekend gambling escape during Prohibition.

The Roanoke was built in 1914 in the craftsman style, with large wrap-around veranda and patios side and back. It sits near the point where ferry traffic from across the lake used to land, bringing business men home from downtown Seattle.

When Island roads improved enough, more tourists went exploring. To appeal to the visitors as well as to serve the community, George McGuire built a chicken-dinner inn not far from the ferry dock. At first business was not exactly brisk, and McGuire lost the inn because of debts. A Mr. Green took over and operated it as a hotel.

Subsequently it was sold several times, sometimes falling into ill repute, rumored to be a brothel and a purveyor of illegal booze served in coffee mugs during prohibition. Then for decades they just served beer and wine, and a small menu of burgers and burritos. With an expanded kitchen and a liquor license, the ‘Noke has waltzed into the new century. It stands today, well preserved and looking much the same as it did almost a hundred years ago.

I like it for the casual old-Seattle feeling and the interesting crowd. With its dark green walls and fascinating collection of memorabilia, it has an old-world Pub character. I’ve seen everyone from famous Seattle business men to socialites, from rock stars to sports stars. If you go on a Friday afternoon, I suggest getting there by 4pm to score a booth.