Time to Look Back?

March 16, 2014 Leave a comment

difeinstein
[AP]

I’ve been quiet for months on a range of political issues that used to occupy a fair bit of space on Ron’s View. largely because I’ve run out of things to say that aren’t said better by many others. But today I’m going to devote a post to quoting one of my betters, in the context of Dianne Feinstein waking up to CIA abuse in its years-long coverup of torture.

Here are Mark Mazzetti and Jonathan Weisman, reporting last Tuesday in the NYT:

A festering conflict between the Central Intelligence Agency and its congressional overseers broke into the open Tuesday when Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee and one of the C.I.A.’s staunchest defenders, delivered an extraordinary denunciation of the agency, accusing it of withholding information about its treatment of prisoners and trying to intimidate committee staff members investigating the detention program.

In a New York Review of Books post yesterday, David Cole urges us not to lose sight of the more important story, the torture itself.

The old Washington adage that the cover-up is worse than the crime may not apply when it comes to the revelations this week that the Central Intelligence Agency interfered with a Senate torture investigation. It’s not that the cover-up isn’t serious. It is extremely serious—as Senator Dianne Feinstein said, the CIA may have violated the separation of powers, the Fourth Amendment, and a prohibition on spying inside the United States. It’s just that in this case, the underlying crimes are still worse: the dispute arises because the Senate Intelligence Committee, which Feinstein chairs, has written an as-yet-secret 6,300 page report on the CIA’s use of torture and disappearance—among the gravest crimes the world recognizes—against al-Qaeda suspects in the “war on terror.”

[snip]

But the crime that we must never lose sight of is the conduct that led to the investigation in the first place. To recall: in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration authorized the CIA to establish a series of secret prisons, or “black sites,” into which it disappeared “high-value” al-Qaeda suspects, often for years at a time, without any public acknowledgment, without charges, and cut off from any access to the outside world. The CIA was further authorized to use a range of coercive tactics—borrowed from those used by the Chinese to torture American soldiers during the Korean War—to try to break the suspects’ will. These included depriving suspects of sleep for up to ten days, slamming them against walls, forcing them into painful stress positions, and waterboarding them.

The program was approved by President Bush himself, as well as Vice-President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and CIA Director George Tenet. John Yoo and Jay Bybee, Justice Department lawyers, wrote memos to whitewash the program. These acts were war crimes under the laws of war and grave human rights abuses. Yet no one has yet been held accountable for any of them.

[snip]

As I have argued before, accountability comes in many forms; there is little likelihood that former officials will be criminally prosecuted, even after the report is issued. But an official report can itself be a form of reckoning. … A secret report, however, is no accountability at all. In an encouraging sign, President Obama on Wednesday said that he favors making the report public so that the American people can judge for themselves the CIA’s conduct. You can bet the CIA will fight tooth and nail to frustrate that pledge. We must insist that President Obama keep this promise.

In law, we say that torture “taints” an investigation. The legal doctrine that precludes reliance on evidence obtained from torture is called the “fruit of the poisonous tree” rule. But as this latest saga reflects, torture does far more than merely “taint” evidence. It corrupts all who touch it. The CIA’s desperate efforts to hide the details of what the world already knows in general outline—that it subjected human beings to brutal treatment to which no human being should ever be subjected—are only the latest evidence of the poisonous consequences of a program euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation.”

Obama has been the national leader in allowing his predecessor and colleagues to duck accountability. (Recall that in January 2011, shortly before his inauguration, Obama stated his “belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”) Let us hope that he does insist on release of the report at long last.

Categories: Politics, Torture

The Good Life Gets Better

March 16, 2014 Leave a comment

cadburykitkat

Last April, in my post The Good Life: Cadbury Fingers, I wrote about the arrival from Edinburgh of our friends Tom and Carol with four boxes of Cadbury Fingers. Let me quote again from the Cadbury website.

This little biscuit is a national treasure and with its delicious combination of milk chocolate and crunchy biscuit, along with its compact size, it’s the perfect treat for the whole family. But be warned, one is never enough!

Two nights ago, on the occasion of her latest visit, Carol outdid herself. Yes, seven boxes this time, plus packs of KitKat bars, the British version being far superior to our local variety.

And it’s still true, one is never enough. Thank you, Carol.

Categories: Food, Travel

Obituary of the Day

March 16, 2014 Leave a comment

jackdaniels

The Cape Gazette, covering Delaware’s Cape Henlopen region, offered an unexpectedly delightful obituary last Tuesday of Walter George Bruhl, Jr. (Hat tip: Philip Gourevitch.) The start is unusual enough: “Walter George Bruhl Jr. of Newark and Dewey Beach is a dead person.” We soon learn that

he was surrounded by his loving wife of 57 years, Helene Sellers Bruhl, who will now be able to purchase the mink coat which he had always refused her because he believed only minks should wear mink.

Moreover,

Walt was preceded in death by his tonsils and adenoids in 1935; a spinal disc in 1974; a large piece of his thyroid gland in 1988; and his prostate on March 27, 2000.

Alas,

there will be no viewing since his wife refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand so he would appear natural to visitors.

Cremation will take place at the family’s convenience, and his ashes will be kept in an urn until they get tired of having it around.

Follow the obituary link at the start to get more details.

Categories: Obituary

The Resistance Man

March 3, 2014 Leave a comment

resistanceman

Back at the start of September, 2011, I learned in Marilyn Stasio’s Sunday NYT mystery roundup about Martin Walker’s crime series featuring the delightful police chief Bruno, based in the fictional Périgord town of St. Denis. Stasio gave brief mention to Black Diamond, the third in the series and then newly out in the US. (She also wrote about “Sebastian Rotella’s remarkable first novel,” Triple Crossing, which I read the following December and commented on here. Superb book.)

As I explained at the time, I decided that if I were to read a Bruno book, I should start with the first, Bruno, Chief of Police. I downloaded it to my Kindle while we were in Nantucket the next week and began reading. Within three more weeks, I had moved on to The Dark Vineyard and Black Diamond.

That’s when I went to Amazon to find out when number four was due to appear, only to discover that it had already come out in the UK, with US release the next summer. Why wait? I ordered the hardcover UK version of The Crowded Grave, reading it in November. The pattern was set. Number five, The Devil’s Cave, would come the next August in the UK. I clicked on pre-order at amazon.co.uk, reading it on arrival.

Alas, Bruno fatigue had set in. The books are charming. Bruno is good company. But five of them in eleven months was enough. When the UK version of number six, The Resistance Man, came out nine months ago, I passed it by. I was content to wait for the US release.

That release was last Tuesday. It’s queued up now on my Kindle and iPad, waiting for me to start. All I need is a bottle of Bergerac, so I can drink along with Bruno as I read.

Categories: Books

Having It Both Ways

March 2, 2014 Leave a comment

johnkerry

I don’t see much in the way of effective options for the US in response to Russia’s move into Crimea. Thus, I’m inclined to give Secretary of State Kerry some leeway in his efforts to address the crisis. Plus, I’ve felt a close connection to John ever since we ate dinner ten feet apart at Nantucket’s Ventuno three Septembers ago. (Last September we would eat at their very table, the best two-top in the house.)

Still, Kerry’s remarks this morning on Meet the Press were a bit much.

“It’s really 19th century behavior in the twenty-first century,” Kerry said of Putin ordering Russian military forces to move into Ukraine.

“You just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests,” he said.

Uh-huh. We may have ceded the moral high ground on this one a few years back.

Categories: Language, Politics, War

Lee Lorch

March 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Lee Lorch, mathematician and civil rights leader, has died. I don’t have much to add to what has been written elsewhere. The NYT has a lengthy obituary that I recommend. Some excerpts:

Lee Lorch, a soft-spoken mathematician whose leadership in the campaign to desegregate Stuyvesant Town, the gargantuan housing development on the east side of Manhattan, helped make housing discrimination illegal nationwide, died on Friday at a hospital in Toronto. He was 98.

His daughter, Alice Lorch Bartels, confirmed the death. Mr. Lorch had taught at York University in Toronto, and had lived in Toronto since 1968.

By helping to organize tenants in a newly-built housing complex — and then inviting a black family to live in his own apartment — Mr. Lorch played a crucial role in forcing the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which owned the development, to abandon its whites-only admissions policy. His campaign anticipated the sit-ins and other civil rights protests to come.

But Mr. Lorch’s lifelong agitation for racial equality, not just in New York but later in Tennessee and Arkansas, led him into a life of professional turmoil and, ultimately, exile.

[snip]

Mr. Lorch became vice chairman of a group of 12 tenants calling themselves the Town and Village Tenants Committee to End Discrimination in Stuyvesant Town.

“When you got into Stuyvesant Town, there was a serious moral dilemma,” he recalled in a 2010 interview with William Kelly of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Video Project. “In the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, people had seen the end results of racism.”

Some 1,800 tenants eventually joined the group. “Stuyvesant Town is a grand old town; but you can’t get in if your skin is brown,” went one of its chants, wrote Charles V. Bagli of The New York Times in a book about Stuyvesant Town’s history. A group of 3,500 residents petitioned Mayor William O’Dwyer to help eliminate the “no Negroes allowed” policy, and supported anti-discrimination legislation before the City Council.

But Metropolitan Life held firm. And in early 1949, Mr. Lorch paid the price. Despite the backing of a majority of colleagues in his department, the appointments committee at City College blocked his promotion, effectively forcing him to leave.

[snip]

in September 1950, he accepted a new academic post, becoming one of two white professors at Fisk University, the historically black institution in Nashville, Tenn. His wife, a longtime activist herself — she had led the Boston School Committee in its effort to stop women from being fired as teachers the moment they married, as she had been — returned to Stuyvesant Town, where the Teamsters union supplied protection for protesting tenants.

In January 1952, as tenants barricaded themselves in their apartments and picketed outside City Hall and Metropolitan Life’s headquarters, the company compromised: Mr. Lorch and two other organizers would move out, but the Hendrixes got to stay.

Seven years later, only 47 blacks lived in Stuyvesant Town. But the frustration the campaign helped unleash culminated in the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing.

At Fisk, Mr. Lorch taught three of the first blacks ever to receive doctorates in mathematics. But there, too, his activism, like his attempt to enroll his daughter in an all-black school and refusal to answer questions before the House Un-American Activities Committee about his Communist ties, got him in trouble. In 1955, he was again let go.

One of those three students at Fisk who received doctorates in math is Gloria Hewitt, who came to my own department here at the University of Washington to study algebra and went on to a distinguished career at the University of Montana.

I heard Lorch speak many years ago. I can’t remember where. Perhaps at an American Math Society meeting. That’s the extent of my contact with him. The video embedded above is a film by Rachel Deutsch, produced by Science for Peace,, which “explores his experiences with: social justice, civil rights, de-segregation, communism, housing, boxing, music, activism, love, memories, change.” I’ve watched part of it. I look forward to seeing it all.

Categories: Math, Obituary

Halibut-Cauliflower Curry

February 23, 2014 Leave a comment

dhalwalahalibut

[Christopher Testani for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Heather Meldrom, Prop Styling by Stephanie Hanes]

I was looking through the Saturday “Off Duty” section of the WSJ on my iPad Friday night when I came upon a “Slow Food Fast” feature with the title “Chef Meeru Dhalwala’s Chili-Rubbed Halibut With Cauliflower Curry.” I don’t know if I would have paid attention otherwise, but the subtitle “A quick, creative curry from the Pacific Northwest chef” caught my eye.

Earlier in the evening, a Facebook friend had posted that his family was at Shanik, an Indian restaurant that opened to great fanfare a little over a year ago in the bustling South Lake Union neighborhood just north of downtown, near Amazon headquarters and adjacent to a concentration of Tom Douglas restaurants. (I wrote about one, Cuoco, around the time Shanik was opening.)

We have yet to go to Shanik, scared off by articles previewing it before the opening that mentioned the long wait to get a table at Vij’s, the Vancouver restaurant that spawned it. The text of the WSJ article doesn’t identify Dhalwala, but I had a feeling she was the genius behind the two restaurants, which a quick check confirmed (sharing credit with her husband, the eponymous Vikram Vij). … And now I see that the caption under a drawing of her does list her restaurants as Vij’s and Rangoli in Vancouver and Shanik in Seattle.

Here’s a description of Shanik, taken from its website:

Shanik is a modern Indian restaurant that serves Meeru’s personal Indian cuisine which is creative and daring, yet comforting. We invite our customers into a version of India that is not intimidating, cliché, or a rehashing of what is traditionally marketed as Indian. Our restaurant is the same version of Indian that Meeru is: North American in lifestyle and attitude, while rooted in Indian heritage and cuisine. We take pride in making our own yogurt, paneer and ghee, as well as; sifting, grinding, and roasting our spices in-house. Our open kitchen is designed specifically so our diners can experience the warmth of our cooks, and signifies a sharing of heats.

And here’s an excerpt from the WSJ article.

“I’m very careful about buying fish,” said Meeru Dhalwala. “I don’t want my karma affected by the fact that we have messed up the oceans.” For her first Slow Food Fast contribution, Ms. Dhalwala has selected halibut, which is sustainably caught in the Pacific Northwest, where she has three restaurants. Rubbed with ancho chili and cayenne, the flaky white fish is steamed and topped with a cauliflower curry enriched with yogurt.

Like many of Ms. Dhalwala’s recipes, this one is rooted in the culinary traditions of India, where she was born, but it does not reference any particular region. “I’m not afraid to blur boundaries and break rules,” the chef said. “My mother would never have mixed fish and dairy, for example. But I find that a little a bit of yogurt adds a nice tartness.”

I sent the article on to Gail, suggesting—since halibut is one of our standard fish dishes and cauliflower has become a favorite of hers—that maybe we should try the dish.

Now we have. Gail picked up halibut on the way home from the theater this afternoon. Cauliflower was already in the frig. With only a week in our kitchen (following ten months of remodeling), this would be a perfect test of the new cooktop. The result below.

gailhalibut

[Photo by me, food styling by Gail]

The WSJ staff may be a little better with their styling and props. They’re certainly better at photography. But I doubt their version tasted any better. Gail, Joel, and I had a wonderful meal. And Gail recalled as we ate that she has one of Dhalwala’s books, Vij’s At Home: Relax, Honey, written with Vij.

VijsAtHomeCover

A visit to Shanik is in order. Though with book in hand and kitchen done, we could work through the recipes first.

Categories: Food

Long Shadows

February 17, 2014 1 comment

longshadowwines

One of the stops on our Walla Walla wine trip two summers ago was Forgeron Cellars, where winemaker and managing partner Marie-Eve Gilla gave us a splendid introduction to her winery. We learned while there that her husband, Gilles Nicault, was involved with another local winery, Long Shadows, but the name didn’t mean much to us.

Half a year later, our friends Brooke and Robin brought a bottle of Nine Hats Sangiovese to my birthday dinner. Nine Hats didn’t mean much to me either, but when we tried the wine, we quite liked it. Searching on the web, I learned that Nine Hats wines are made by Long Shadows. As the website explains:

Nine winemakers. Nine hats. The nine renowned winemakers of Long Shadows’ signature wines discover after each harvest that a percentage of their resulting barrels are more than they require to achieve that perfect balance in their final blends. These extra barrels now produce NINE HATS…wines of complexity and distinctive character.

Ten days later, Gail and I made an excursion to Bainbridge Island, at the end of which—with time to kill before the next ferry back to Seattle—we stopped at Harbor Square Wine Shop & Tasting Room. I wrote at the time that the

wine that immediately caught my eye was Saggi, produced by one of the Long Shadows winemakers. Just a week ago, we were given a bottle of Nine Hats Sangiovese. In reading up on it, I learned the story behind Nine Hats and Long Shadows. … [Quote above.] … Reading further, I discovered that the “signature wine” corresponding to the Nine Hats Sangiovese is the Saggi, a Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah blend. I thought—last week, this is—that we might enjoy trying both and comparing. First we would try the Nine Hats. If we liked it, we’d look for the Saggi.

But here it was, a 2008. No looking required. I put the bottle on the counter to buy.

It was months before we tried another Long Shadows wine. Our local grocery store had a bottle of the Pirouette, which we bought last spring but didn’t drink until our Yom Kippur pre-fast dinner in September. I devoted a post to it, prompting me to learn more about Long Shadows. Let me quote from that post.

Long Shadows is becoming one of our favorite Washington wineries. From the website:

Long Shadows brings seven highly acclaimed vintners from the major wine regions of the world to Washington State, each an owner-partner in a unique winery dedicated to producing Columbia Valley wines that showcase the best of this growing region.

Founded in 2003, Long Shadows is the brainchild of Washington wine luminary Allen Shoup. As president and CEO of Chateau Ste. Michelle and its affiliated wineries, Allen spent 20 years building the reputation of the growing region … .

After leaving Ste. Michelle in 2000, Allen’s commitment to advancing the Columbia Valley remained undaunted. He spent the next three years developing Long Shadows, a proposition that was as simple as it was complex: recruit a cadre of the finest winemakers in the world; give each vintner access to Washington State’s best grapes; and outfit a winery to accommodate a diverse group of winemakers’ exacting cellar specifications.

With the vision in place, Allen began by introducing a dream team of celebrated vintners to the vines and wines of the growing region. The idea quickly sold itself; and from the beginning, the wines have enjoyed critical acclaim that has continued to grow, vintage after vintage.

The Pirouette is made by Philippe Melka and Agustin Huneeus.

Philippe Melka and Agustin Huneeus, Sr. teamed to combine the traditions of old world winemaking, the advancements of new world technology, and small lots from Washington State’s finest vineyards to craft this enticing red blend.

The 2009 is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Malbec. Oh, right, it says so right there on the bottle, pictured at the top. I really didn’t need to add much. The bottle just about says it all.

What the bottle doesn’t say is that it was as fine a bottle of wine as we have drunk in ages. Unfortunately, we bought just the one, and they’re now sold out. Perhaps we should invest in the 2010.

It was around that time that I signed up for the Long Shadows mailing list, subscribers to which learn about and are offered the opportunity to order each of their new releases. I also discovered that Long Shadows had a tasting room in Woodinville. If we ordered some wine, we wouldn’t have to drive to Walla Walla or pay for shipping (and be home to sign on delivery). Gail and I could just drive up to the tasting room.

Later still, I realized through one of their emails to the list that they have regular Friday programs in the Woodinville tasting room, listed on the events page of the website under the heading “Unwine’d in Woodinville.” The calendar listing for each has the note:

Please join us at our Woodinville tasting room to unwind for the weekend and enjoy a sampling of our wines. Choose from a selection of small pours, by the glass, or by the half bottle. With live music from [name of musician or group] to help kick off the weekend.

How could we resist?

Well, resist we did, for months. The drive out to Woodinville after work on a Friday never seemed all that enticing. Then, a couple of weeks ago, Long Shadows sent out an email announcing special Valentine’s Day events at both the Walla Walla and Woodinville tasting rooms. Gail and I agreed that this would be our opportunity to get up there. Only later did I realize that the Valentine’s event was just the usual Unwine’d evening, with dessert options thrown in. Still, we planned on going.

Last Tuesday, three days before our planned outing, Long Shadows sent out an email to the list announcing the establishment of a wine club.

As many of our current releases are selling out quickly, some of our customers are discovering it is difficult to find our wines. We are excited to offer new supporters the opportunity to have guaranteed access to their favorite Long Shadows wines by joining our Winery Key Club. As a member you will be assured early notification of all regular releases, with special pricing included. You’ll also receive complimentary admission to release events, VIP experiences at the winery and tasting rooms, priority access to library wines, large formats and gift boxes, and other exclusive benefits available only to our valued club members. If you have been interested in our wines but were waiting for the right opportunity to discover them for yourself, Key Club membership is a wonderful way to begin your relationship with Long Shadows.

Perfect. There were three club levels, as described in the email and also at the website. The lowest level offers two shipments a year of six bottles each, with 10% discount on those and any other purchases, pick up available at either tasting room or shipping at extra cost. Other perks were listed with the parenthetical comment “as available.” By stepping up to level two, we would get three shipments a year of six bottles each—three bottles of each of their six red wines—with 15% discount on those and other purchases plus guaranteed access to events, library wines, and so on. I signed up that night.

The next day, at work, Brooke asked if I had read about a Long Shadows wine being served the night before at the state dinner. I hadn’t. I knew French president Hollande was in DC to visit Obama, but I hadn’t heard about the dinner. As it turned out, while I was joining the Long Shadows wine club, President Obama was serving Long Shadows’ 2009 Chester-Kidder. The news was covered even before the dinner took place, Eric Degerman writing:

Political blogs in our nation’s capital are buzzing with the choice of wine for tonight’s State Dinner at the White House for French President François Hollande, and Washington state will be represented by Long Shadows Vintners‘ 2009 Chester-Kidder from the Columbia Valley.

Politico.com reports the other two wines being served by President Barack Obama’s culinary team are Morlet 2011 La Proportion Dorée from Napa Valley and Thibault-Jannison Blanc de Chardonnay from Monticello, Va. Dinner entertainment will feature pop singer Mary J. Blige.

Dylan Byers of Politico.com poignantly pointed out the French connection at Allen Shoup’s rockstar winery in Walla Walla.

The affable and talented Gilles Nicault has overseen the production at Long Shadows from the start. And while he works alongside such world-renowned winemakers as Armin Diel (Germany), Randy Dunn (Napa), John Duval (Australia), Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari (Italy), Philippe Melka (France) and Michel Rolland (France), the Chester-Kidder brand is a separate collaboration of Nicault and Shoup.

“Gilles Nicault was born and raised in southern France, and received his degree in viticulture and enology from a French university. And yet, he chose to move to Washington state to make wine,” Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission, told Great Northwest Wine. “His story is a testament to the quality and international reputation of our grape growing region. We hope the French President appreciates the balanced style and food friendliness of this and all Washington State wines.”

Shoup spent 20 years at Ste. Michelle before retiring as CEO in 2000. Soon after, he developed Long Shadows and one of his first moves was to hire Nicault in 2003 from famed Woodward Canyon, where the graduate of the University of Avignon had worked seven years for Rick Small.

Nicault made wine in Champagne, Côtes du Rhône and Provence before he arrived in the Yakima Valley in 1994. He worked for Staton Hills and Hogue Cellars before landing a position with Woodward Canyon.

The first vintage of Chester-Kidder was 2002, and the blend is a tribute to Shoup’s grandfather, Charles Chester, and grandmother, Maggie Kidder.

The 2009 Chester-Kidder ($50) will be paired with Dry-Aged Rib Eye Beef served with Jasper Hill Farm Blue Cheese Crisp, Charred Shallots, Oyster Mushrooms and Braised Chard. That vintage of Chester-Kidder was a blend of Cabernet Sauvigon (50%), Syrah (28%) and Petit Verdot (17%) using grapes from Candy Mountain near West Richland, Wash., and StoneTree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope. Production was 989 cases.

Between joining the club and learning about the White House dinner, we were even more excited about our Valentine’s plan. Then again, by joining the club, we had signed up for regular visits to the tasting room to pick up our wine, so getting up there that Friday night was less urgent. This is the quandary we faced when I got home from work Friday afternoon. And didn’t we need dinner anyway, not dessert?

Finally, around 6:30 PM, we headed out. The unwine’d evening ran from 6:00 to 9:00, so we had some time and really needed a meal. But not too much time. What to do? Burgermaster!, It’s a beloved Seattle-area institution with a charming drive-in site in Bellevue, just off State Route 520, the road we needed to take to get to I-405 and up to Woodinville.

One might not have guessed, but the drive-in turned out to be quite the Valentine’s Day hangout. Boy was it crowded! We ordered, ate a most satisfying meal in the car, and headed out.

Fifteen minutes later, we were lost in Woodinville. We headed up 202, the Woodinville Redmond Road, coming to a traffic circle just north of which was a concentration of winery tasting rooms and other commercial establishments. But where was Long Shadows?

There was Brian Carter Cellars, off to the left, and more wine rooms in a strip mall just north of it. To the right was a Mexican restaurant, Mazatlan, and more wine rooms, some with well-lit signs, plus a sign along the road listing Mazatlan and the wine rooms but not Long Shadows. We drove past, then back south, way south on discovering no good place to turn around, then back north, then finally into the crowded parking lot on the left, even though I knew from the address that Long Shadows should be to the right by Mazatlan.

We got out, crossed the street, wandered toward Mazatlan, passing a crowded room with small unlit signs high up on the walls. A guard was in the parking lot, so I asked where Long Shadows was. It was the crowded place, and when we got close enough, it turns out that the sign I couldn’t read said “Nine Hats.” Another sign said Long Shadows. Unreadable though unless you’re close. How would we have known, especially given that neither they nor Nine Hats was listed on the big sign along the street that had all the other establishments?

No matter. We had arrived. We walked in, went to the counter in the back, past people sitting and standing, with featured artist Billy Brandt singing and a small jazz band backing him up.

At the counter, we were given menus. You could choose any of the six Long Shadows wines, $12 each, or order from a small dessert menu. I asked if we could buy bottles using our new club membership. Sure, 15% off. And we had privileges in the private tasting room in the back, though nothing was being served back there.

We ordered two glasses of 2010 Sequel:

John Duval, formerly of Australia’s iconic Penfolds Grange, chose the Columbia Valley as his “Sequel” for the continuation of his life’s work with Syrah.

Cool spring temperatures delayed flowering and reduced fruit set, while the summer temperatures remained moderate. In response to these conditions, we opened up the leaf canopies and dropped clusters so that the vines were well positioned to finish ripening when the warm weather arrived in the fall. The 2010 vintage was a cooler than average growing season that produced bright, fresh wines with excellent acidity, color, flavor and varietal character.

Deep and inky in color with vibrant aromas of wild blackberries, crushed rock, smoked meats and spicy oak. Concentrated dark fruit flavors are accented by a savory mid-palate and excellent acidity that provides a seamlessly balanced finish.

Syrah from Yakima Valley’s Boushey Vineyard (40%) gives Sequel its bright, fresh fruit character. These grapes are the perfect complement to the dense, dark fruit grown at Bacchus Vineyard (23%), from one of the oldest Syrah blocks in the state. Grapes from Candy Mountain (26%), adjacent to Red Mountain, give the wine its backbone. The remaining Syrah is grown at Sonnet Vineyard at The Benches in the Horse Heaven Hills, planted to a Shiraz clone that John recommended for its dark, rich and complex character. Dionysus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon contributes structure and adds to the wine’s appealing mid-palate.

Glasses in hand, we wandered into the back room, then returned to stand at a counter supported by two barrels, then grabbed two seats at the end of the bar and focused on the music as we drank an outstanding wine. The set was soon over, and Billy, the singer, headed toward us to start up a conversation. It turns out he’s from Boston. I mentioned that I lived there for twelve years and soon we were talking college hockey. He played on Boston College’s JV team one year (BC is currently ranked #1 in the country, was national champions three of the last six years) and described his career highlight scoring a goal against Harvard in a preseason game.

If not for Billy, we might have finished our wine, bought some bottles, and left. But now we wanted to hear his next set, so we stuck around. Gail bought a glass of the Chester-Kidder, allowing us to taste what Obama and Hollande had drunk three nights earlier. I had just a sip, and without benefit of dry-aged rib eye beef, but I imagine they were happy with it. With a bottle of Pirouette at home, we decided to buy the other five Long Shadows wines, using our new 15% discount. We paid, listened to some more music, then headed out between songs, with Billy calling out our names and saying goodbye as we exited.

Back home, we read up on Billy.

Having an affinity for the bluer side of jazz that rocks as much as it swings, Billy tends the musical bar with playful and wise originals and standards. A smooth and smoky voice with a swingin’ jazz combo mixes a delicious melodic libation best served up or on the rocks.

Bringing his New England background to the fore against the breathtaking backdrop of the Pacific Northwest, Billy entertains audiences drawn to his humor and storytelling. While immersing himself in the rich music community of Seattle, Billy has played at Tula’s, the Triple Door, the Columbia City Theater, Egan’s, Lucid, and the Paragon. He’s also busy writing songs, collaborating, and producing shows such as the popular annual The Big Gig (of which there have been four; the last two sold out the Triple Door).

With style and showmanship that is warm and easygoing, possessing a hint of swing and a blues sensibility, Billy is sure to charm as he celebrates the release of his first album, The Ballad of Larry’s Neighbor.

Here’s a video of Billy just last month at Seattle’s Triple Door.

We saw him on Friday singing with a guitarist, upright bassist, and drummer.

We look forward to seeing Billy again. He mentioned that he’s at Long Shadows about every six weeks. Indeed, we’ll be happy to return to unwine’d on any Friday, regardless of who’s playing. Maybe next time we’ll eat at Mazatlan first. Even with Burgermaster, it was a lovely evening.

Categories: Music, Wine

Miró at SAM

February 16, 2014 Leave a comment
Woman, Bird and Star (Homage to Picasso), February 15, 1966/April 3-8, 1973, Joan Miró

Woman, Bird and Star (Homage to Picasso), February 15, 1966/April 3-8, 1973, Joan Miró

The latest exhibition at the Seattle Art MuseumMiró: The Experience of Seeing—has just opened. It is organized jointly by the Seattle Art Museum and Madrid’s Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

Here is the description of it by Chiyo Ishikawa and Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s curators of European painting and of modern and contemporary art:

This exhibition, drawn entirely from the collection of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, offers a fresh assessment of the late period in Miró’s work—a body of work that audiences in the United States have not had the opportunity to fully appreciate. The exhibition brings together over 50 paintings, drawings and sculptures made in the period between 1963 and 1983 that testify to the artist’s ingenuity and inventiveness to the very end of his life. Bold and colorful paintings employing his personal visual language alternate with near-abstract compositions. Although Miró had experimented with sculpture in earlier periods, it is only in the late years that painting and sculpture stand in direct dialogue with each other—a principal feature of this exhibition.

The paintings and sculptures in the exhibition plumb the process of making art, part of Miró’s concern since his earliest works. In his quest to transcend easel painting, Miró expanded pictorial space across vast canvas fields, using an increasingly simplified language to turn accidental or fortuitous motifs into calligraphic signs. In his sculpture, the inspiration of found objects is more overt, linking the work to his Surrealist explorations of the 1920s as well as the sculptural inventions of his contemporary, Pablo Picasso. Miró also employs many of the same forms and signs in his sculpture, as in his paintings, creating a synergy between the two bodies of work. His work during these mature years represents a personal language where painting and sculpture are equally valued.

We went to the opening celebration on Tuesday evening. Normally we arrive at these events just in time for the program of talks, then eat and see the art in one order or the other. This time we made it a point to arrive early so that we could see not just the Miró but also another show that would close today: Robert Davidson: Abstract Impulse.

Here’s the description of the Davidson show by Barbara Brotherton, the curator of Native American Art:

In partnership with the National Museum of the American Indian, NY, SAM is proud to organize the first major U.S. exhibition of the Haida artist, Robert Davidson.

Robert Davidson has been a pivotal figure in the Northwest Coast Native art renaissance since 1969, when he erected the first totem pole in his ancestral Massett village since the 1880s. For over 40 years he has mastered Haida art traditions by studying the great works of his great-grandfather Charles Edenshaw and others. More recently, Davidson has interjected his own interpretation of the old forms with forays into abstraction, explored in boldly minimalistic easel paintings, graphic works and sculpture, where images are pared to essential lines, elemental shapes and strong colors.

The exhibition will feature 45 paintings, sculptures and prints created since 2005, as well as key images from earlier in his career that show Davidson’s evolution toward an elemental language of form.

We’re sure glad we didn’t miss the show, but we wish we would have been able to make a return visit. You can get a sense of it by looking at the photos accompanying John Seed’s artist interview in the Huffington Post. Here’s one:

Bird In The Air, Acrylic on canvas, 40" x 60"

Bird In The Air, Acrylic on canvas, 40″ x 60″

And another:

There is Light In Darkness, Acrylic on canvas, 30" x 60"

There is Light In Darkness, Acrylic on canvas, 30″ x 60″

On leaving the exhibition, we headed up a floor to get a preview of the Miró. We figured seeing some of the works ahead of time might make for more informed listening during the program. We were enjoying our viewing when we ran into someone I know who hinted that we might find the program less informative than usual. he would turn out to be correct.

With program time drawing near, we headed back down with him and caught the tail end of the pre-program reception, at which locally based Spanish guitarist Andre Feriante performed while people mingled and drank. We stopped only briefly before heading into the auditorium.

SAM director Kim Rorschach opened with the usual greetings and thank yous, then brought up João Fernandes, the Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, who gave us some background on the show. Carmen Fernández Aparicio, the Chief Curator of Sculpture at the museum and featured speaker, followed.

Ms Aparicio told us in perfectly clear English that she was sorry she couldn’t make her remarks in English, then switched to Spanish, with two women at microphones on the side taking turns translating. This got off to a slow start, first because we couldn’t hear Ms Aparicio (not that it mattered if we wanted the English only), then because the translators couldn’t hear her, and at some points later because the translators appeared to struggle in search of the most effective way to convey her thoughts. The result was that her ideas didn’t come through all that well, and no one seemed unhappy when the remarks came to an end. Kim came back up to release us.

Back in the main entry, a Spanish-themed buffet was provided by SAM’s usual caterer, the in-building restaurant Taste. It was a good one. A platter of cured meats and cheeses, a dish of grilled, bite-sized potato chunks, a tray of raw vegetables, flatbread, some green dipping sauce, a vegetarian paella, and chicken breast slices with an orange sauce. In addition to the usual passed drinks—red and white wine, water—there were glasses of Sangria. And for entertainment we had music by New Age Flamenco. There was also a flamenco dance performance, but we were eating with our vision blocked through most of it, moving up to see it only as it ended. The program card indicates that this was offered by Deseo Carmin and Marisela Fleites.

After listening to a couple of post-meal songs, we decided to head home. The Miró exhibition deserves a much closer look, which we will give when we return for a curator tour. I’ll say more about the exhibition then.

Categories: Art, Museums

Cats Settling In

February 16, 2014 Leave a comment
Charlee

Charlee

[Click on photos to download higher-resolution images.]

We brought Charlee and Ruby home six weeks ago. As instructed by the adoption organization, we confined them to a small space, gradually expanding their range as they acclimatized. Except only one of the sisters, Charlee, seemed to be doing much acclimatizing. Ruby continues to be reticent, either by nature or as a response to her first adoption experience, in which she found her self in a home with an overly friendly dog.

They started in a bathroom, then had run of a bedroom, then the bedroom and an adjacent bathroom, and then that space along with our master bedroom. Charlee took quickly to each expansion, Ruby less so. Eventually we extended their range during the evenings to part of the first floor, keeping them out of the kitchen remodel. Charlee would sit with us, occasionally escaping to the basement if we left the stairway door open.

Finally, the remodel reached a point two days ago at which we could begin to use the new kitchen. It’s not finished. There’s a long list of items to be dealt with. But it’s functioning, and so we have been moving in. The cats too.

You can see, above, how settled in Charlee is. She has made the kitchen hers. And below, Ruby is checking out the birds. However shy she is, she shares Charlee’s curiosity. She just doesn’t want us to be in the way when she’s exploring.

Maybe they’re beginning to enjoy life.

Ruby

Ruby

Categories: Cats, House