Museums/Galleries: the artist behind the artwork

How often do you go to a museum to marvel at the works of art showcased and wonder about the artist behind the art work? As I travel the world, I find it revealing to check out the museum listings. It gives me a sense to the cultural awareness and interest of a place. The museum may or may not reveal the actual culture of a given area, but more that the city has a healthy curiosity to the multiple ways people look at life in the world around them.

A museum is defined as a place where important things are preserved. This place may be created for the specific display to share with the public like The Metropolitan Museum of Art or The Louvre. Or it might be a gallery in a private home. The medium can be anything from painting to sculpture to photos to artifacts. These pieces are the brainchild of an individual and their desire to create a tangible form of passion.

Passion is the catalyst of every artist I have had the pleasure of meeting, and others I have read about. Very seldom does an artist set out to create with the sole purpose to make money. Hence the starving artist mantra we so often hear. Even those who set out to make money from their artwork, create from a passion or deep interest in a process. An artist is born with an innate desire to craft something that speaks to them. It often isn’t until a friend or colleague see’s a piece of artwork, is wowed and convinces the artist they need to share their work with others.

Artists are often a school teacher or doctor by day and an artist by night. Or it’s their weekend anecdote to their hectic weekday life. Of course there are those artists who set out to be artists very young in life and are able to achieve a level of success early enough they can rely on the income from their artwork to live comfortably.

I believe there is an artist in all of us, and that is a major reason I am so drawn to museums or seeing artists in the throes of their passion. It is inspiring to see such commitment and desire and release of emotions into an object. And no piece of artwork has the same reaction to every person. I love watching people sit and ogle over a piece of artwork. If you ask them what they see it is often something that had not dawned on you as you looked at the same piece.

Evolution seems to be a constant for artists. One element of design leads to trying something new. Creating a new texture or color or light. Or even creating new tools to achieve a certain look or quality. I love looking at artists work tables to see everyday utensils turned into tools of the trade. Or going as far as designing and building equipment to allow the artist to take their craft to another level. I think it is all these elements why true artists are artists for life. It is generally not a passing fancy, even if you just “…dabble in it…” you usually dabble throughout your whole life.

Following are some artists I have had the pleasure of meeting and watch them create:

Seguin Poirier: born 1949; learned metal enamel artistry at age 17; designed the world’s largest kiln to bake his enamel on copper pieces. With exhibits in Rockfellar Center, NYC to collections at The Bank of Montreal, Montreal and a Royal Palace, Saudi Arabia, Monsieur Poirier has earned an international mark with his work.

http://www.seguinpoirier.com/?lang=en

https://nomadicnarrator.com/global-gallery/canada/seguin-poirier-gallery/

Seguin Poirier working on an original for our group

Seguin Poirier working on an original with ideas he got from the audience.

 

Seguin Poirier enamel original made especially for our group with our input

The Seguin Poirier finished enamel original from above.

Specially designed kiln, created by Seguin Poirier to fire oversized pieces. Only kiln like it in the world.

Kiln designed by Seguin Poirier so that he could expand his work to large format pieces.

Randy Strong: started off in photography, having worked with the likes of Ansel Adams, Strong moved on to glass blowing in the 1970’s where he has worked with Dale Chihuly. His work has been on display in The Corning Museum, in New York City and The Louvre, Paris. Strong still creates, designs and teaches this waning form of artwork.

http://www.rstrong.com/about-the-artist/

Randy Strong, world renowned glass blower, San Francisco

Randy Strong, world-renowned glass blower, San Francisco

Some of Randy Strong's masterpieces for sale at the demonstration.

Some of Randy Strong’s masterpieces including his famous flower where different colored petals are interchangeable.

Vicki O’Connornew to the world of public art display, O’Connor has been a passionate artist her whole life. But it was a bout with the often debilitating disease, Valley Fever, that Vicki gave a focus to her love of creating art on a level that finds her showcasing and selling her art with 500 other artisans (booth D-11) November 14th-16th at the Fountain Festival of Arts and Crafts (http://www.fountainhillschamber.com/festival-of-arts.asp), Fountain Hills, AZ. Her works have found their way into public locations, Starbucks, Fountain Hills, and private homes.

http://vickioart.com

See more of Vicki’s growing gallery of artwork: https://nomadicnarrator.com/category/favorite-authorsartists/vicki-oconnor/

Budding new artist Vicki O'Connor may not have exhibits and collections all over the world - yet, but her passion for the art creates is no less passionate than those have achieved widespread acclaim.

Budding new artist Vicki O’Connor may not have exhibits and collections all over the world – yet, but her passion for the art creates is no less passionate than those who  have achieved widespread acclaim.

The key to Vicki's works of art are her one-liner or one word messages. She says what we all think, or what we should all think more about.

The key to Vicki’s colorful works of art are her one-liner or one word messages. She says what we all think, or what we should all think more about.

Following are the listing of museums I have visited and artists I have learned about because of these visits:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York City; classic architecture; one of the expansive and diversified exhibits in the world; historical to modern. Check out the Cloisters in Harlem.

The Guggenheim Museum: New York City; modern architecture; exhibits displayed from the ceiling and/or along walls of this multi-tiered spiral walkway overlooking an open center; modern and contemporary art.

The Frick Museum: New York City; Frick residence turned into a museum; Renaissance to the late 19th century artwork.

The Neue Galerie: New York City; once a Vanderbilt residence; now a museum to early 20th century German and Austrian art and design.

Museum of Modern Art: New York City; modern architecture; the name says it all – generally showcases some the most thought proving exhibits in the city.

American Museum of Natural History: New York City; classic architecture; natural exhibits and scientific collections; great place to take the kids.

New Museum: New York City; modern architecture; new work by living artists; five plus floors of open floor plan that encircles the freight size lime green and mirrored elevator.

The Morgan Library and Museum: New York City; classic architecture and once private library of Pierpont Morgan, father to J. P. Morgan, Jr.; collection of rare printed manuscripts and works of art, Egyptian to Renaissance to Chinese art and artifacts.

Whitney Museum of American Art: New York City; modern architecture; 20th and 21st century American art – many living artists. Whitney is presently closed while they prepare to move into a new building in 2015.

Brooklyn Museum: Brooklyn, NYC; classic architecture; diverse collection and exhibits ranging from ancient Egypt to cutting edge modern.

Walker Art Center: Minneapolis; modern architecture; modern concept art pushing for creative expression of art, some with audience participation. Check out the outdoor Sculpture Garden.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Minneapolis; classic and modern architecture; one of the finest wide-ranging art collections in the country – from Matisse to Monet, from Africa to Asia, 40,000 year old artifacts to world-renowned pieces.

SmithsonianWashington D.C.; classic and modern architecture; inclusive of 19 museum and galleries – what doesn’t it include? Obviously a great place to take kids – of all ages.

Montreal Museum of Fine ArtsMontreal; classic and modern architecture; diverse forms of art from antiquity to today.

The Louvre: Paris; classic with a small touch of modern architecture; one of the world’s most renowned museums because of it’s history and collection of Masterpieces such as: the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and King Louis XIV.

Musee de l’Orangerie: Paris; classic architecture with simple oval interior galleries. Claude Monet designed this museum to showcase the huge panels of his Water Lilies collection.

Belvedere Museum: Vienna; classic architecture for this one-time palace that is a piece of artwork in itself; Austrian art dating from Middle Ages to present day, most notably Gustav Klimt.

Some of my favorite artists are: Claude Monet, Gustav Klimt, Edouard Manet, Vincent Van Gogh, Renoir, Dale Chihuly. I’ve always been drawn to the traditional painter whether from the Renaissance era or Impressionist era, but I am learning to appreciate some of the modern forms of art that really make you think and imagine. So turn off the TV and head to your local art museum or gallery and expand your horizons! And take time to get into the passionate mind of the artist!

Fall is for Feasting, part 2 – October: MN & NY

October found my daughter and I having a much quieter travel month than we did in September. But that doesn’t mean we went hungry. Allison found two more destination eateries in NYC, and then we trekked to the shores of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota to check out the local fare.

Fruits de mer – Two nights, two opposite ends of the city (NYC), by Allison Malecha

I never thought I would get my dad all the way to Crown Heights—the Caribbean-bred, newly bohemian-infested Brooklyn neighborhood that is thirty minutes by express subway from Manhattan. Besides being the home of Silver Rice, which I wrote about in last month’s post [https://nomadicnarrator.com/2014/09/26/fall-is-for-feasting-part-1-september/], Crown Heights borders the monumental Brooklyn Museum, and its main drag, Franklin Avenue, is bursting with culinary life.

Owned by New York City native Lev Gewirtzman, Mayfield is the neighborhood’s most prominent fine dining staple—the first place my friends who live in the area take their parents for dinner. In a city of two-tops, this restaurant also has a whole array of hefty picnic-style wood tables that seat six. After attending the opening of the Brooklyn Museum exhibit “Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond,” my dad and I walked the 15 minutes down Franklin Avenue and got right in without a reservation. Suffice to say, he was much more into the food than the art (his take: “I could make this in my garage”—I disagreed).

We missed the $1 fresh oyster happy hour but were happy to settle for the $13 fried cornmeal ones, served on a slick bed of smoked salmon and celery coleslaw and topped with big dollops of horseradish cream. We then had an unnecessary but 100% delicious Italian interlude of homemade ricotta gnocchi ($12) before moving on to the main courses: buttermilk fried quail ($20) for my dad and sautéed scallops for me. The quail, though striking the requisite balance between moist meat and crispy exterior, was shown up by its side of spoon bread: a ramekin full of hot, butter-sweet, perfectly browned goodness. My dish, a quartet of large sea scallops and a smattering of mini ones, was decidedly lighter fare, fortified by a sizable mound of corn-speckled risotto. The wine list here is also reasonable. We washed our dinner down with a $32 bottle of côtes du rhône. And after all that liquid, it’s worth a trip to the bathroom—the stall on the right is plastered with one of my favorite wallpapers, inspired by architectural blueprints.

Enjoying starters of fried oysters on a bed of coleslaw and smoked salmon, and   at Mayfield, in Brooklyn.

Enjoying starters of fried oysters on a bed of coleslaw and smoked salmon, and ricotta gnocchi at Mayfield, in Brooklyn.

Buttermilk fried squid with sides of spoon bread and sautéed spinach at Mayfield in Brooklyn.

Buttermilk fried squid with sides of spoon bread and sautéed spinach at Mayfield in Brooklyn.

Sauteed sea scallops perfectly browned and put to rest on a bed of corn infused risotto.

Sauteed sea scallops perfectly browned and put to rest on a bed of corn infused risotto.

The next night, my dad was kind enough to pony up for an even fancier affair—a full-on fish fête at Barchetta. Though the New York Times’ Pete Wells gave it only 1 star in September [LINK: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/10/dining/restaurant-review-barchetta-in-chelsea.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Aw%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A8%22%7D], I was intrigued enough to book a table at the six-month-old brainchild of chef and restaurateur Dave Pasternack (known for Esca, in Hells Kitchen). The light-wood tables, soft lighting, and cream walls lined with a row of understated abstract paintings were a welcoming sight at the end of a grey day.

Cocktails to start: a traditional Manhattan for dad (fitting, for the location), while I tried on a “fiaschetta” for size (carpano antica, Campari, elderflower, and Woodford reserve). It fit quite well. Our first bites were many and varied—a six-part crudo tasting ($28), consisting of fresh wedges of fish, from tuna to Spanish mackerel, sitting in pockets of beautifully flavored oil. We were either lucky enough to hit the restaurant on a non “off night,” or my hunger for high-quality fish was too large for me to care. The server recommended that my dad fillet his porgy ($17) himself, but we both settled for having the hard work done for us. My de-boned black sea bass ($17) arrived glistening and flaky. The slightly dry side of acorn squash and lemon tart dessert were an ideal offset to the many bites of rich, meaty fish.

A crudo of varied fresh fish soaking in flavored oils at Barchetta in Chelsea.

A crudo of varied fresh fish soaking in flavored oils at Barchetta in Chelsea.

Freshly de-boned blackened sea bass with a side of acorn squash at Barchetta in Chelsea.

Freshly de-boned black sea bass with a side of acorn squash at Barchetta in Chelsea.

These were just two nights in a whole week of feasting while my dad was in town. I probably should have fasted for a week afterwards – but I didn’t.

Next:

Mid-October my daughter and I took a road trip to the North Shore, with my Dad and his wife. This large peninsula of Minnesota lines the shores of Lake Superior and many of the states 10,000 lakes dot the inland landscape.

We made a pit stop along the scenic North Shore drive at the appropriately named Scenic Cafe’. Talk about using fresh local ingredients; each dish at Scenic screams flavor by infusing unique food combinations like the special starter of the day – figs and walnuts bathed in a maple syrup molasses surrounding a tower of blue cheese served with crudités.

The specialty starter dish of the day used local Minnesota ingredients to create this abundantly flavorful dish.

The specialty starter dish of the day used local Minnesota ingredients to create this abundantly flavorful dish.

Further up the avenue we settled in the area of Tofte and Lutsen for a weekend of reading, walking, spa-ing and of course -eating!

The first night we headed to Lutsen for locally caught walleye and harvested wild rice, which make up the key ingredients to one of Lutsen Lodge‘s traditional menus choices at the Dining Room. The starter of Minnesota Wild Rice soup and finale’ of Swedish Cream round out this flavorful dinner selection.

Potato crusted walleye served with wild rice pilaf – a tradition along with a starter of Minnesota Wild Rice soup, served at Lutsen Lodge Dining Room.

If breakfast fare is more to your liking than head back down the road to Waves of Superior Cafe at Surfside on Lake Superior, spa and townhomes. Acclaimed Chef Judy Barsness, (my Dad’s wife’s sister-in-law) showcases her signature culinary style ‘Minnisine’ using locally caught, grown and handcrafted ingredients to make delectable Minnesota contemporary cuisine. The Sunday brunch is an absolute must after indulging in a relaxing spa treatment.

Chef Judy Barsness presents a Sunday brunch buffet to satisfy even the most discerning palate.

Chef Judy Barsness presents a Sunday brunch buffet to satisfy even the most discerning palate.

Next month I’ll showcase cuisine from our neighbor to the north – Canada. Butter tarts, perogies, poutine….. And of course Thanksgiving – American style!

New England fall colors

To continue on with the road trip theme from my previous post, today I will take you on a journey to New England. I am 50-years-old and this is a trip that has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember – even before I could drive. Fall is my favorite time of year: I love the crisp fresh air and the vibrant hues that fill that air. I love wearing worn out jeans, cozy baggy sweaters, and boots made for hiking – my favorite fall activity, besides sitting by a roaring fire reading a good book and sipping a glass of wine.

My first annual road trip with my daughter took place two years ago. My daughter is a lover of fall and all the activities mentioned above as well, so this is a trip we sank into with ease and intent. It was an easy first trek, with my daughter living in NYC. I flew into JFK on a Friday and she met me at the airport where we rented a snazzy black Camaro to help us navigate the back roads of Vermont, New Hampshire, MaineMassachusetts and back to New York.

New England

We set out at Friday afternoon rush hour, which meant in our first 3 hours we made it all of 10 miles. But we persevered with good music, a hot cup of Starbuck’s Chai Tea and great classical music – rock and pop. We were in no hurry this weekend, and in the dark of night we finally made our way to the Windham Hill Inn, in Townshend, Vermont. A quaint Inn tucked into the hilltops of Vermont off a windy two lane road. After checking in, we climbed two flights of stairs up to our one-of-a-kind room and fell into our comfy king bed, with a fire roaring creating a low glow paired with a soothing warmth.

The Windham Hill Inn - our room was the triple windowed upper level.

The Windham Hill Inn – our room was the triple windowed upper level.

We awoke to a beautiful sight. A light rain was falling, but it didn’t dull the vibrant colors that filled the hillsides spreading out in every direction from the Inn. We raced downstairs, oh that’s right we weren’t in a hurry – we ambled downstairs to find a hearty breakfast menu fill with amazing food choices to fill our bellies and energize us for an adventurous hike around the grounds of the Inn. Apparently most of the other Inn’s guests were adverse to a little rain as we had the hiking trails to ourselves. We slipped and slided our way along the wet and leaf ridden paths, giggling as we looked for the colored arrows guiding our way as if we were on a treasure hunt.

The rolling hills of Vermont alight with vibrant fall colors

The rolling hills of Vermont alight with vibrant fall colors

Upon our return to the Inn we took up residence in front of the main house fireplace and read while warming our hands around a mug of cider. This left us sufficiently relaxed and ready for our next excursion – a massage in the refurbished barn on the grounds of this old estate, that also housed more rooms and a rustic one room spa. There was only one thing left to do after a day like that – take a nap!

Our room at the Windham Hill Inn, Vermont

Our room at the Windham Hill Inn, Vermont

Waking refreshed after an hour of deep, unfettered sleep, we changed and made our way down to the dining room. But first we made a stop at the two-seater bar and ordered up a couple of Manhattan’s – I’m a bad influence on my daughter, but it’s fun to share passions. Another hearty meal of New England fare, and we were down for the count after all that fresh air and exercise, a relaxing massage and the warmth from the fireplace food and drinks. We awoke to a sunny day, and after a lighter breakfast we headed out to explore other paths around this Vermont countryside Inn.

By mid-morning we hit the road to our next destination – the White Barn Inn, Kennebunk, Maine. We wound our way through the New Hampshire countryside, popped into the lower quadrant of Maine and took in the sights and sounds of Portland, shrouded in fog. We indulged in a lobster roll – not quite what I thought it would be. It’s like a lobster salad on a soft white bun – a little less mayo and a lot more lobster would’ve better suited my tastes. We walked through the streets of this quaint historical town, watching a big cruise ship takeover the harbor.

Checking into the White Barn Inn, Kennebunk, Maine

Checking into the White Barn Inn, Kennebunk, Maine

After our bite to eat it was time to head on into Kennebunk – which sits across the Kennebunk River from Kennebunkport – home to the Presidential Bush families. The White Barn Inn is a sister Inn to the Windham Hill Inn in Vermont, but they were very different experiences. The White Barn Inn is right on a main roadway through Kennebunk, within walking distance to the ocean. We stayed in a single level cottage, but had our meals in the main dining room at the Inn.

After checking in at the Inn, we headed across the street to walk the grounds of a working Franciscan Monastery – lush and quiet with lots of little private praying areas. Then we made our way down Beach Avenue, which appropriately took us to the beach. We walked along the seaboard, feeling very out-of-place because we had to be the only people there without a dog. We decided that somebody should offer a ‘rent-a-dog’ service for those of us just popping in for a quick visit. It was so fun to watch the dogs frolicking around in the waves, chasing after balls and sticks and their masters.

The waves crashing into the beach along the Kennebunk seaboard - could that be the Bush compound in the background??

The waves crashing into the beach along the Kennebunk seaboard – could that be the Bush compound in the background??

Back at our room we changed and headed over to the main house where we tracked down the sitting room. It had a roaring fire (seems to be a New England theme) where we sat and read for a bit, but then our eyes settled on a glass chessboard. We grabbed a glass of complimentary wine and settled into a heated competition of chess moves while we waited to be called to our table for dinner. Of course we had to dine on live Maine lobster! It was sweet and oh so delicious.

The restaurant at the White Bar Inn serves up their live Main Lobster all decked out

The restaurant at the White Bar Inn serves up their live Main Lobster all decked out

After dinner we returned to our room where a bottle of champagne was sitting on ice in our sitting room, the fireplace at the foot of our bed was stoked and lovely music playing softly in the background. We settled into bed with our glasses of champagne, our books and chatted about the highlights of our trip so far. It wasn’t long before the long day of driving and fresh ocean air found us fast asleep.

In the morning we enjoyed a wonderful complimentary full meal breakfast in the main dining room. Our time was ticking away and we had to have the car back to New York by evening, but first a stop in Boston to see my niece/my daughter’s cousin on her dad’s side. We took Highway 1 as far south as we could trying to stay as close to the ocean as we could, but eventually we had to pop over to the main highway to get to Boston in time for lunch.

This was my first time to Boston and my daughter’s second. What a an amazing engineering wonder Boston is – the way it winds around the waterways connecting different parts of the city. We wish we would’ve had more time to stay, but we figured Boston is a destination spot that someday we will take a road trip to and spend a long weekend in and around the city and down to the Cape maybe even Martha’s Vineyard. It was a beautifully sunny crisp fall day and I can see why so many people fall in love with this city. The food was great and the streets full of life, but in a very different, more laid back way than the busy streets of NYC.

It was a weekend chockfull of miles, great eats, vibrant fall colors and a multitude of new memories. As we wheeled the road weary black Camaro back to its stall at JFK, we proclaimed a new-found desire to repeat this kind of weekend to a new destination annually – at least. Thus endeth our first annual mother-daughter road trip!

Taking a pit stop in fog shrouded Portland, Maine on our New England road trip

Taking a pit stop in fog shrouded Portland, Maine on our New England road trip

 

Fall is for feasting – Part 1, September: CA, NY & SC

Throughout the last 16 months since I started this blog, I have shared many travel experiences and many of those have been with my daughter. The one constant theme we revisit over and over again, no matter where our actual travels take us, is our love of food. We are self-professed foodies to the point that many of my posts were becoming as much about food as it was about the destination.

I probably have enough memories from our eating experiences to start a whole new blog on food. But for starters, or appetizers as the case may be, I have decided to dedicate one post a month on places we have eaten in the last month. Whether that be on our travels, or just great local fare where we live – NYC, Kansas City and the Phoenix Valley.

By doing this, it will also allow me to expound more on the travel destination highlights and my personal reviews in experiencing my travels, and leave the food portion of the trip for these monthly posts.

So grab a cold one, throw a sheet of chicken wings in the oven, and while they are crisping up, enjoy a journey through the eyes and stomachs of two food lovers:

NEW YORK CITY:

Nowhere to sit, but plenty to eat by Allison Malecha

Almost anywhere you go in New York, the food will be more than passable. The portion may be smaller than you wanted. The price higher. And sometimes that C Grade on the door might give you pause. But I can’t think of a time that I’ve pushed my plate away in this city out of distaste.

Usually, for me, atmosphere counts for a lot. If I know I’m going to have a pretty good meal, I like to enjoy where I’m eating it. But in the last week, I’ve tried out two places with chow so enticing, and prices so reasonable, that I didn’t bother to care about much else: Silver Rice ($$), in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, and Brooklyn Taco ($$), on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

At Silver Rice, Kombu Kelp and Beet Pate are wrapped up into innovative sushi bites that are scarcely more expensive than a California roll in Manhattan, but the real draw are the eponymously named “Silver Rice Cups.” I had the spicy tuna one–a mouth-watering stack of flaxseed-threaded white rice, diced raw tuna, fresh scallion, and punchy mayo served inside a plain white paper cup for $6.50. Alternate with sips of the $1.95 organic miso soup, and you won’t give a damn that the only place to sit is at a slip of light-wood high-top next to the door.

Silver Rice Cup from Silver Rice Cup in Brooklyn

Founded by a Brooklyn native with South American roots and a Danny Meyer alum, Brooklyn Taco can take a while just to locate within the maze-like Essex Street Market. Last Saturday, I sat perched on another tiny bar stool in full view of a fish stand with a coconut shrimp taco that took two hands to hold and about two seconds to eat. The friend I was with told me her chipotle chicken one was the best tacos she’d ever eaten–she didn’t spare a bite to see if I agreed. And while their regular prices aren’t a total steal, the lunch deal is: $10 for two tacos and an agua fresca to wash them down.

Fish Taco at Brooklyn Taco, Lower Manhattan

More NYC… by Lisa Malecha

One of our favorite mother-daughter outings is to check one of the many boutique NYC neighborhood hot spots, and Jeffrey’s Grocery ($$$) fits the bill. Set in the West Village, the seating might be tight, but their seafood is big on flavor. Like the Blackened Flounder served on a Jalapeño-Cheddar Polenta Cake and smothered in an Andouille Gravy.

Blackened Flounder served up at Jeffrey's Grocery in the West Village of NYC

Blackened Flounder served up at Jeffrey’s Grocery in the West Village of NYC

Jump on the subway and head to 78th St. and Woodside Avenue and head to Ayada Thai ($$) restaurant in Queens for some really tasty food. The ambiance is pretty plain Jane, but the food infuses so many great flavors together it’s hard to stop eating when you know you don’t have any more room for another bite. A great starter is the Papaya Salad served with Salty Crab. Follow that with a Crispy Duck in a Red Curry Coconut Sauce and a wide noodle Pad Thai – all washed down with a Lychee Sangria.

Papaya Salad with crispy Salted Crab – yes you eat the whole crab, shells and all – at Ayada Thai Restaurant, Queens

If you’re in upper Manhattan, in the Upper East Side, taking in all the amazing museums and galleries, stop in at Cafe’ Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie and enjoy some authentic Austrian cuisine like the very flavorful Pikantes Ei mit Gurkerl und Paprika – a/k/a Spicy Eggs with Cornichons and Paprika. After a filling lunch be sure to take in the two levels of German and Austrian exhibits in this architecturally classically ornate museum.

Spicy Eggs on Cornichons with Paprika served at Cafe' Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie in the Upper East Side of NYC

Spicy Eggs on Cornichons with Paprika served at Cafe’ Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie in the Upper East Side of NYC

CHARLESTON:

Early September found my daughter and I sweating our way through Charleston. Thank goodness Charlestonians like to eat and drink as much as we do. We had no problem staying properly nourished to have the energy to walk the historic streets of this beautiful town, meander through their immense plantations and stroll along the water fronts.

We stayed at the Wentworth Mansion, an old estate home turned hotel, and also home to Circa 1886 restaurant, housed in the old carriage house. Our room included a complimentary breakfast – and “…honey this weren’t no slim pickings,..”-  a plate of fruit and a basket of pastries for starters, and then a menu to compete with any restaurant in the area. I chose a heaping helping of Shrimp n’ Grits so flavorful I could have had that for every meal and been content. My daughter chose Crab Cake Eggs Hollandaise. We also enjoyed a fine dining experience with dishes of Beef Tenderloin with a Chantilly Mustard Demi-Glace or Atlantic Lobster Tail with Vanilla Mascarpone Grits.

Wentworth Mansion in Charleston has a complimentary breakfast serving local favorites such as Shrimp & Grits

Wentworth Mansion in Charleston has a complimentary breakfast serving local favorites such as Shrimp & Grits

For lunch we checked out two local favorites. Charleston native, Stephen Colbert, recommends Hominy Grill. The line was long when we arrived, but an exterior bar window was serving chilled spiked beverages to keep us cool while we waited in the sweltering heat. Inside this old Colonial style home, we were given a starter of boiled peanuts in the shell and then ordered Cornmeal Crusted Flounder served with Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens and Tomato Jam. Husk, another local favorite restaurant, also housed in a renovated old mansion, had a line-up of hungry patrons. The menu here was a little more avant garde’ when it comes to southern cooking. We had starters of Shishito Peppers and Crispy Pigs Ear Lettuce Wraps. For lunch we split a Fried Chicken Po’boy sandwich and washed this all down with a couple of southern sweet teas.

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder served with Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens and Tomato Jam, at Hominy Grits in Charleston

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder served with Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens and Tomato Jam, at Hominy Grits in Charleston

At Husk we enjoyed a Fried Chicken Po'Boy sandwich topped with peanuts, red peppers and slaw.

At Husk we enjoyed a Fried Chicken Po’Boy sandwich topped with peanuts, red peppers and slaw.

Our favorite dining experience in Charleston was a placed called Edmund’s Oast. An upper end Brew Pub, we were seated at a bar that fronted the open kitchen where we watched mouth-watering after mouth-watering dish by us. Good thing we had 49 cold brews to choose from to calm our taste buds. We selected a tender Grilled New York Strip that was teamed with Smoked Potatoes and Okra, with a side of Collard Greens.

Some of the delectable dishes being served up at Edmund's Oast in Charleston

Some of the delectable dishes being served up at Edmund’s Oast in Charleston

Enjoying a fun dining experience at Edmund's Oast - brew pub with a front seat to the kitchen.

Enjoying a fun dining experience at Edmund’s Oast – brew pub with a front seat to the kitchen.

The next weekend found my husband and I spending time on the west coast in both Napa and San Francisco. In Napa, we had some great meals at the Lakehouse Restaurant, at Calistoga Ranch where we were staying. But one night we took a ride down the road to its big sister Auberge resort, Auberge du Soleil which showcases a Michelin Star restaurant, appropriately called, “The Restaurant“. When you eat at a place like this, you should make great effort to try something you wouldn’t find on many other menus – like Squab (a young pigeon) served with Figs, Foie Gras, Caramalized Onions in a Port Wine sauce. For lunch in Napa check out Solbar Restaurant at Solage Resort for a menu full of unique delectable dishes like Sweet Scarlet Peaches with Prosciutto or Lucky Pig Roasted Pork.

Squab served up Michelin style with Figs, Foie Gras, Carmelized Onions and Port.

Squab served up Michelin style with Figs, Foie Gras, Carmelized Onions and Port.

Lucky Pig, roasted pork, served with lettuce or black sesame seed crepes, at Solbar at Solage Resort

Lucky Pig, roasted pork, served with lettuce or black sesame seed crepes, at Solbar at Solage Resort

In San Francisco we took checked out Eno Wine Bar right around the corner from the The Westin St. Francis Union Square where were staying. A flight of wine is their specialty teamed with a plate of cheeses, sausages and chocolates. Need I say more!

Check out the numerous wine flights to pick from and pair with a plate of cheeses, sausages and chocolates at Eno Wine Bar in Union Square, San Francisco

Check out the numerous wine flights to pick from and pair with a plate of cheeses, sausages and chocolates at Eno Wine Bar in Union Square, San Francisco

Check out more food pics in the Food Gallery under the Global Gallery!

Brooklyn Bound

Brooklyn (71 sm) may live in the shadow of it’s smaller but better known sibling Manhattan (23 sm) in terms of being a destination location, but Brooklyn can certainly hold its own in being well worth the effort to cross the bridges over or take the subway under the East River. It’s about a 15 minute ride either way. If you are feeling energetic, the best way to cross back and forth between the boroughs is to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan across the bridge offers up some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline. With the new 1776′ One World Trade Center looming off to the left views along the bridge on the southeastern tip of Manhattan. To be able to view those two iconic landmarks in one sighting is an amazing site to behold. With this week being the 13th anniversary of the 911 attacks, One World Trade Center is a beautiful reminder to the strength and character of the NYC people and the throngs of well-wishers that come to the site on a daily basis to pay their respects and honor the fallen.

One World Trade Center looms off to the left of the Brooklyn Bridge, in the southern tip of Manhattn

One World Trade Center looms off to the left of the Brooklyn Bridge, in the southern tip of Manhattan

The Brooklyn Bridge is a historical reminder of the foresight and engineering abilities of a generation long ago. Construction began in 1870 and was completed in 1883. To think that the designers, Jason and his son Washington Roebling, built a bridge for an era of horse and buggies, but built the bridge six times stronger than code required and so has stood the test of time as vehicles became heavier and a lot more of them. In the days that followed Hurricane Sandy, the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian and bicycle walkway became a main artery to get back and forth between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Old glory waves in the in the window of the west tower of the Brooklyn Bridge - days after two German's exchange the flags for bleached out American Flags - apparently to honor the 130th anniversary of the German designer of the bridge - Joseph Roebling

Old glory waves in the in the window of the west tower of the Brooklyn Bridge – days after two German’s exchange the flags for bleached out American Flags – apparently to honor the 130th anniversary of the German designer of the bridge – Joseph Roebling

The Brooklyn Bridge gives you fairly direct and easy access to great Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene and many more. Walking through these neighborhoods gives you a good feel of the diversity of inhabitants of Brooklyn – from the more family oriented Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens to the heavily sought after quaint neighborhoods of Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights that still boast larger units for less money when compared to equal sized units in Manhattan.

The promenade or walkway leading from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Cobble Hill to the Brooklyn Bridge and on into Manhattan

The promenade or walkway leading from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Cobble Hill to the Brooklyn Bridge and on into Manhattan

Williamsburg Bridge, which takes you in and out of one of the more well-known neighborhoods in Brooklyn – Williamsburg – was completed in 1903 and with a bike path that is the most heavily biked bridge span in all of North America. Williamsburg itself continues to attract an eclectic crowd of tenants. Either those who tend to be more artistically minded and feel the slower pace of Brooklyn allows for a good atmosphere to let the creative juices flow; or for those who work in Manhattan to come home for a respite from that fast pace that usually accompanies daily life in the streets of Manhattan.

Enjoying an $8 glass of wine in the relaxing setting of Wine Bar in Brooklyn, where the owner talks to you like an old friend

Enjoying an $8 glass of wine in the relaxing setting of Wine Bar in Brooklyn, where the owner talks to you like an old friend

There are great one-off restaurants that are independently charming and keep it that way by not trying to venture into the realm of franchising their success lest they lose that personal touch they offer their patrons. You may have to wait upwards of an hour to get into one of these quaint eateries, but the wait is usually worth it. When I’m in Brooklyn, my whole demeanor takes on a laid back attitude and I’ve learned to sit back and enjoy the people watching, the conversation of people around me, and the looks of a city and a neighborhood in the throws of becoming a destination spot.

Brooklyn certainly has its fill of high-profile restaurants that are also worth the effort. Peter Luger Steak House has been a mainstay in Brooklyn for decades (opened in 1887), with picture walls showcasing the well-known clientele that have dined at this historical establishment. Serving only aged short loin bone-in steaks, a minimally available premium cut of steak. Or check out The River Cafe’ that sits at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge and offers up a fine dining experience to match the views of the Manhattan skyline – day or night.

Enjoying the tender short loin bone-in steaks at Peter Luger Steak House, Brooklyn

Enjoying the tender short loin bone-in steaks at Peter Luger Steak House, Brooklyn

Brooklyn is a strong appeal to readers and writers. Or those who just need a quieter place to work, but want a little more social interaction than their apartments might afford them. With the advent of wi-fi accessibility at most places, there are several great little bistros and cafes that have set up their seating to accommodate several small, but open working quarters. Enjoying a locally brewed coffee or an organically and freshly made sandwich at Toby’s Estate allows you to settle in for hours at a time. Something that is often frowned upon in similarly appointed cafes in Manhattan – as there is usually a waiting line to get a place to sit.

The espresso lab, where employees of Toby's Estate create specialty brews for their patrons.

The espresso lab, where employees of Toby’s Estate create specialty brews for their patrons.

If museums are your thing, you’ve come to the right spot. Manhattan may boast world re-known museums, but Brooklyn can certainly hold its own when offering up cultural activities. The Brooklyn Museum is a beautifully housed museum that sits adjacent to the equally visited Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. It has amazing exhibits, entertaining openings, and often teams up with other Brooklynites to offer things such as spinning class in the museum. If you like something a little more on the thought-provoking side – check out the Morbid Anatomy Museum and Library. It takes a look at how the generations have viewed and dealt with death.

One of many bookcases at the Morbid Anatomy Museum and Library, offering insight into the subject of death

One of many bookcases at the Morbid Anatomy Museum and Library, offering insight into the subject of death

Rooftop bars may be the in thing in Manhattan, but rooftop patios abound in abundance on the tops of many of the apartment complexes in Brooklyn. Grab an $8 bottle of wine from Nini’s Wine Cellar on Havemeyer, stock up on several great cheeses, sausage, olives and chocolates at the Bedford Cheese Shop off Bedford Ave. (be sure to read the creative descriptions) and head to the rooftops to watch the sun set over Manhattan.

Two gals enjoying a glass of wine rooftop in Brooklyn

Two gals enjoying a glass of wine rooftop in Brooklyn

Everytime I visit Brooklyn, I realize more and more what this borough has to offer that can successfully grab my attention as equally as any amount of time spent in Manhattan. And I know there is still so much more to discover: Coney Island, Brighten Beach, Rockaway Point, Dumbo, Red Hook. Besides how many people have you heard with the name Manhattan compared to those named Brooklyn (both female and male) – i.e. Brooklyn Decker, Brooklyn Beckham.

For more pics on the sites of Brooklyn check out the Global Gallery.