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Lunch at Home

July 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Having just written about our lunch yesterday at Rover’s, I need to add a post about the meal we just had at home that was every bit as good, thanks to Joel and Gail. You can see it above.

Joel made the entrée, Masitas de Puerco, using the recipe he found at a blog called Cuban in the Midwest, which in turn credits epicurean.com. He prepared the marinade yesterday, mixing together garlic, chopped onion, orange juice, olive oil, oregano, cumin and salt, and letting this sit overnight in the refrigerator along with the pork chunks. Today, he cooked it up with sautéed onions.

To complement the masitas, Gail prepared a massaged kale salad. She cut the kale into thin ribbons and rubbed salt into the leaves, altering both the flavor and the texture. Then she added nectarine pieces, green beans, and a lemon vinaigrette. Although the recipe didn’t call for it, she also added pink peppercorns. And avocado, as you can plainly see.

The result in both cases was a sublime mix of flavors. We’ve had some pretty good meals lately, but none better than this.

Categories: Food

Lunch at Rover’s

July 2, 2011 Leave a comment

[From slideshow at Rover’s website]

Two summers ago, we became lunch regulars at Rover’s, famed Seattle restaurant that is just over a mile from our house, and I wrote a series of posts about our meals there. They serve lunch on Fridays only, so there are weeks at a time when getting there for lunch isn’t convenient. As a result, we fell out of the habit. Indeed, our last lunch visit was with Joel two Marches ago, and our last visit altogether was for a magnificent dinner last August courtesy of our visiting Glaswegian friends/houseguests. I never did write about that. I meant to.

Yesterday, at long last, we returned for a Friday Rover’s lunch, again with Joel. This time I’ll write about it.

We arrived at noon, when they open for lunch. Seated before us at a two-top were a mother and son. We were put at a four-top at the other end of the restaurant, in a quiet corner. There are usually just four entrées to choose from, plus maybe seven or eight appetizers and two desserts, so there isn’t much to think about, other than that it would be nice to have all four entrées. You can see one version of the lunch menu here. It is close to yesterday’s menu. In fact, the same four entrées were available, but with slightly different treatments.

Gail and I chose the farro appetizer. The menu lists it as follows: Farro, Asparagus, Pickled Lemon, Almond, Snow Pea. We had a variant: farro, peas, spinach, pickled lemon, basil oil. Boy was it good. That pickled lemon! Joel had the soup, a chilled almond soup poured over marcona almonds. I wouldn’t have minded a small cup of it along with the farro. Gail and I got small tastes of it and it was a perfect summer soup.

For his main dish, Joel chose the black cod, which came with green garbanzo beans and cous cous. He said he liked it. We didn’t taste it, but I’m sure we would have been happy with it. Instead, Gail and I chose the roasted Wagyu beef, which was served with cubed potatoes, pearl onions, and peas. And something else that neither of us can remember right now. Very frustrating. I meant to write everything down. No matter. The beef was beautifully prepared, the sauce superb, the vegetables vivacious. Well, okay, maybe not vivacious. I’m over-doing the alliteration. But they sure were good, and I could have eaten more of them.

For dessert, Joel chose the espresso crème brulée. The menu mentions almond tuile, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t come with that. Gail and I had the Chocolate Bavarian, with some sort of cream, but maybe not the “praline creme” of the online menu. Whatever the cream, the plate came with three chocolate cylinders — large, medium, and small. The large one was all chocolate with a dab of cream on top. The middle one had a cylindrical cutout in the center, filled with cream. The small one was the cylindrical cutout of the middle one. A lovely presentation.

Oh, I forgot that the beef and sauce were topped with little flowers of some sort.

I can’t imagine why we went over 15 months without a Rover’s lunch. We did eat multiple times in the interim at Rover’s new, more casual sister restaurant Luc, next door. A wonderful place. But not a reason to bypass Rover’s. The good news is that summer is just beginning and I should be able to get away from other duties for additional Friday lunches in the coming weeks.

Categories: Food, Restaurants

Nantucket Living

July 2, 2011 Leave a comment

[Trent Bell for The New York Times]

Regular Ron’s View readers know how much Gail and I love Nantucket. It was thus a pleasure to see the featured article in the NYT Home section two days ago. It’s hard to miss, right on the top of the front page, a photo of a house that couldn’t be anywhere but on Nantucket.

Except that I did miss it when I pulled apart the sections of the print edition Thursday morning. I got lucky Thursday night and noticed the article online, along with a 17-photo slideshow that makes the online version the better one to read in any case.

I carried the printed Home section into the den to show Gail, and she shared my reaction that we must have walked past this house. I suppose we haven’t. It’s just that the 1800s houses in town pretty much look alike, and we’ve definitely walked past this house’s brethren.

The focus of the article is on how the new owner furnished the house rather than on the house itself. The wonders of eBay. You can get a good sense of what she has bought by going through the slideshow. I don’t imagine we’ll ever buy a house on Nantucket. It wouldn’t make sense, on many levels. But we talk about it on occasion. And we have yet to decide whether we’d look in town or a ways out. I did find the perfect location three summers ago. We got back from our visit and out of curiosity I looked at listings online. There was a house available in Wauwinet, on the thin bit of land on the eastern edge of the island that extends northward, separating the Atlantic Ocean from the eastern end of Nantucket Harbor. There are just a couple of dozen homes there, north of the Wauwinet Inn, beyond which is several miles of undeveloped (and undevelopable) land on the way to Great Point. These are unique properties, and in case I thought otherwise, the listed price of the house confirmed it — $14 million. Oh well. We’ll just visit.

Categories: House, Travel

The Box

July 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Three nights ago, I finished reading Marc Levinson’s The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger. My interest in it stemmed from a short post Paul Krugman wrote at the end of January, a post I quoted before in explaining what led me to William Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. Krugman:

some commenters argue that the really transformative change came in the 19th century. There’s a lot to that.

As it happens, I’m rereading William Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West — yes, on my Kindle, which has made a serious improvement in my life. And everyone with any interest in economics should read his account of the rise of the Chicago Board of Trade. Railroads changed everything. It wasn’t just the fact that stuff could be shipped further, faster, cheaper; the railroad also led to the replacement of concrete with abstract forms of ownership (the farmer owned a receipt for a bushel of grain, not a particular sack), standard-setting, futures markets, and on and on. If you’ve read Marc Levinson’s The Box, about containerization (which you should), it’s startling to see how many of the themes were prefigured by the grain trade, as standard-sized rail cars replaced flatboats, as grain elevators essentially began treating grain as a fluid rather than a solid, as conveyor belts replaced stevedores toting sacks.

Cronon found himself unexpectedly in the national news in late March when he wrote about political developments in his home state of Wisconsin and found himself the target of a far-reaching freedom-of-information request by the state’s Republican party. I wrote about this at the time and was inspired to download Cronon’s book to my Kindle. A couple of weeks later, I wrote that “the book was a thrilling experience. It is the most astonishing blend of history, geography, economics, and ecology that I can imagine.”

The Box went on my list of books to read some day. Some day turned out to be Father’s Day, when Joel bought it for me. It doesn’t have the scope or the beauty of Cronon’s book, but it tells a great story nonetheless, of how containerization changed world trade. This is examined at many levels, with Levinson examining the impact on port authorities and local governments, unions, the US military, cities, trains, truckers, manufacturers, national economies, and so on. Typically, each major subject is discussed in its own chapter. Union negotiations. Shipping goods to Vietnam. Developments on the East and Gulf coasts of the US plus the West coast. Developments in Britain, the rest of Europe, and Asia.

Many of the key developments coincided with my youth, as the Manhattan and Brooklyn port collapsed, with most of the action moving to new container terminals in Newark and Elizabeth, and as the longshorement’s unions fought their final big battles against modernization and automation. I was vaguely aware of this from reading the local news growing up, but I didn’t understand just how dramatic and swift the changes were. By the time I moved to Boston, as the book explains, its life as a major port had ended. Because it didn’t invest quickly enough in containerization, shippers could truck containers to New Jersey and have them put on boats there at lower cost. Similarly, the relative roles of west coast ports underwent a dramatic shift, with Oakland taking from San Francisco the dominant position in the Bay Area, but the Bay Area as a whole losing out ultimately to LA and Long Beach.

I learned when I moved here that Seattle was growing as a port because of containers and its location closer to Japan. As the book explains, shipping wasn’t a matter of getting goods to a port to serve the port’s local region. Rather, the key was to make the ocean crossing and get the goods off the ship as quickly as possible, to be put on trains or trucks for distribution nationally. But, as the book mentions in passing, Seattle took a big hit when Tacoma opened a new container port and stole a large part of Seattle’s business. This kind of story was played out all over the world. How London and Liverpool lost out to Felixstowe is an especially interesting tale.

I found a couple of annoyances as I read the book. Basic facts are repeated time and again, as if the reader is assumed to be inattentive. Or maybe the author or editor was. And the Kindleization of the book is not well done, at least for the first half of the book, with frequent breaks in the middle of words and occasional concatenation of the second half of a split word with the subsequent word. There’s no loss of meaning when this happens, but it stops the reader every time, even if just momentarily. Annoyances aside, the book tells a fascinating tale. And as Krugman noted, after reading the Cronon book, I couldn’t help but notice the overlap in themes between the two books.

Alas, re-reading Krugman’s post, I realize I have yet another book to read. Following the passage I quoted above, he goes on to say, “Add in the telegraph — the Victorian Internet, as another must-read book puts it — and it was an incredible change.” That other must-read book is Tom Standage’s The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers. I’ll add it to my list.

Categories: Books, Economics, Geography, History

Beauty & Bounty

July 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Narragansett Bay, 1861, John Frederick Kensett

Two new exhibitions opened two days ago at the Seattle Art Museum, Beauty and Bounty: American Art in an Age of Exploration and Reclaimed: Nature and Place through American Eyes. Having upgraded our SAM membership level half a year ago, we were invited to attend a preview Tuesday night that included the art, lectures, food, and even free parking. Hard to pass that up (though we did three months earlier for the opening of the Nick Cave exhibition).

We arrived around 6:15, checked in, got our parking validation coupon, and headed down to the area that served as the museum’s main entrance until the recent expansion. There, just outside the auditorium, we joined the crowd in partaking of cocktails and hors d’ouevres while awaiting the program. After a few minutes, people began to head into the auditorium and we followed.

Charlie Wright, chair of the museum board (and son of Bagley and Virginia Wright, whose gallery we had visited a week earlier), made some general remarks about the shows and the sponsors, then introduced SAM director Derrick Cartwright, who would be stepping down in two days after only two years of directing, and thanked him for his service. Director Cartwright then gave some background on the two exhibitions and their curators, each of whom proceeded to give a short slide show presentation of her given show.

Patricia Junker, the curator of American art, spoke about the Beauty and Bounty exhibition. I followed her remarks closely. But as Marisa C. Sánchez, the assistant curator for modern and contemporary art, spoke about Reclaimed, I fell asleep. That’s what happens when the lights go off. Before I knew it, Charlie Wright was back at the podium, then the lights went on and we shuffled out.

Food or art? Which one first? We chose art and headed up three floors to the special exhibition space. It was a delight to see Beauty & Bounty in relatively uncrowded conditions, as only a modest number of fellow members wandered through the rooms with us, Director Cartwright, Curator Junker, and assorted SAM board members. I’ll lean on SAM’s website for a description:

The paintings and photographs brought together in this exhibition show how adventuresome America’s artists were in the nineteenth century, and how critical their role was to enlightening the rest of the population as to the natural wonders of the far west. When the first surveyors went westward to the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific coast, they took painters and photographers with them to create images that would fire the collective imagination of a nation and draw emigrants westward.

Albert Bierstadt’s painting of Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast for example, a centerpiece of the show, was deemed a virtuous enterprise for attempting to transport viewers to a still unknown region of the country. “Few can look upon it without the desire to see this wondrous Western land,” a critic wrote, adding “the art is indeed noble that awakens these yearnings.” We tend to think of landscape art as a record of an artist’s personal, intimate experience in nature, but in the nineteenth century, artists painted the American landscape as a response to the enthusiasms of their audience, too. Art happily served commerce—railroad building, tourism, land speculation, and settlement. Artists enthusiastically portrayed America’s beauty and bounty to call their countrymen into the wilderness, onto the railroads, and across the Continental Divide. They led us to remote places of natural splendor and abundance, and we followed, leaving our own marks upon the land.

In addition to the northwest, some of the paintings in the show depict eastern sites. For instance, as you see at the top of the post, there is a painting by John Frederick Kensett of Narragansett Bay. As I looked at it Thursday night, I was transported back to a day trip I took to Newport, Rhode Island, in May 1980, when I looked out on the bay from a rock just like the one in the painting’s foreground. You can see several of the works in a slideshow here. Just click the arrow button at the bottom right corner of the screen.

It’s a great show, consisting of works mostly owned by SAM or local collectors, so as Derrick Cartwright explained in his remarks, the show gives a glimpse of what SAM’s American collection may some day look like.

We spent a little time in the Reclaimed exhibition, but will need to come back again to give both shows a closer look. It was time for food. We returned to the main lobby, to be met by a server with a plate of tiny shortcake desserts. Just as we grabbed one each, we were greeted by a delightful couple we have been fortunate to get to know in recent years who are supporters of the arts in Seattle. Soon, one of their neighbors joined us, and then the director of the Henry Art Gallery. When they moved on, we wandered over to a small buffet table set up with sliced steak, potatoes, a salad, and a couple of other dishes I can’t remember, all from Taste, the restaurant in SAM’s bottom level. Everything was good, but especially the potato dish. After eating our light supper, we went down to the parking garage, drove out, and headed home.

A lovely evening.

Categories: Art, Museums