July 8, 2020

Manifold Motion’s Under

It would seem that all sorts of interesting things are happening at the former INS building in the International District, first the fabulously clangy, bangy, wacked-out Smash Putt Mini Golf, and now a new production by local modern dance company Manifold Motion called Under. I know that not everyone likes their art so up close and personal, but after my experience earlier this year with Lingo’s one-to-one dance performance, I’m starting to appreciate the very different experience one has in a small group, feet away from art in action.

For this particular performance, a group of 20 or so of us were led through three different rooms by a guide named the “Moldy Minstrel.” Appropriately named, as Under examines natural growth and decay, the sensation of being trapped and bound, and the struggle to break free. It was light and sound and smell – that last the result of the primarily dirt-covered floor of the third room – and dance that happened sometimes an arm’s length from where we were sitting or standing. The creeping vines that you see in this photo, the fabric-covered ceiling that “breathed” in another space, or the wall of motion-activated dangling eyeballs that reached out at you all helped to create a feeling of the underworld.

For me, this feeling was most clearly expressed in a portion of the performance that happened in the last space, where a sort of decayed doily hoop-skirted creature glided out, carrying an enormous parasol and slowly dragging two long ropes on which eventually appeared two cowering minions. The interplay between these three, the enveloping music of what I thought was very accurately described to me as industrial electronica, and the overpowering root cellar-like smell were the perfect culmination of an extremely interesting experience.

I’m sorry to say that we caught one of the last performances of Under, but clearly the former INS building, which is slowly morphing into a collaborative art space called INSCAPE, is a place to watch. I suspect that many more interesting projects will be coming our way soon…

[Photo courtesy of Manifold Motion]

Will Bake for Food — Saturday, November 20

With a catchy title like that, how can you NOT check it out??

This event on Saturday is a benefit for Northwest Harvest and gives you the chance to contribute non-perishable food items – or good old fashioned cash – to this worthy cause and get what I imagine will be excellent baked treats in return. I’ve included the pertinent details below, and check out all of the info, including links to each of the bakers, at the WBFF website.

Who: Seattle food bloggers, Northwest Harvest, and YOU!

What: Food bloggers from all over this fair city will be baking up their favorite tasty treats with proceeds benefitting Northwest Harvest.

When: Saturday, November 20, 10am-2pm (or until we run out!)

Where: University Congregational Church, Ostrander Hall, 4515 16th Ave NE, Seattle

Why: Because everyone needs healthy, nutritious food. Northwest Harvest supplies over 300 local food banks and food programs in our community.

How: Bring your sweet tooth, along with non-perishable food items or a monetary donation. For a list of the items Northwest Harvest needs most, click here. Special consideration will be given for donations of diapers, formula, and gluten-free foods.

Travels abroad: London Part III

We took advantage of a day off work to get in the car for a short jaunt out of town, this one an hour and a half drive west to Bath. Before making our way to the historic Roman Baths we made a quick stop at a pub for a bite and a pint of the Bellringer ale produced at Abbey Ales, the only brewery in this world heritage city. (In the event that you’re not familiar, as I wasn’t, UNESCO’s World Heritage List “includes 911 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.” One week in London and I’ve heard more about such sites during this time than in the sum of my life thus far.)

This photo was taken from one corner of the famous Roman Baths complex, with the large hot pool in the foreground looking up to the Bath Abbey and the late afternoon sky. Built in 43AD by the Romans in one of the corners of their far-flung empire, this primary building and the ones that surround it were constructed around the only thermal spring in Britain and functioned as a destination spa for the ancient world. It was dedicated to the goddess Minerva, though during Roman times retained its original Celtic origins through the name Aquae Sulis or “waters of Sulis,” the goddess to whom a shrine on the site was originally dedicated. It’s really a beautifully done museum, somehow built around and over the ruins, with projections of how the Great Bath and Roman Temple would have looked at the time. I particularly liked the audio tour, where at various points in addition to the official narration you also had the opportunity to hear commentary by the very pithy Bill Bryson.

Friday was the big trip to Borough Market, an experience recommended to me by other people who enjoy food as much as I do. My mother went just before I arrived, and in order to give me a frame of reference gleefully described it as “Pike Place Market on steroids” and she wasn’t kidding. Divided into three different sections of farmer’s market-like stalls and tables, you’ll find every kind of fish, fowl, sausage, cheese, bread, fruit, and vegetable you might need. So in that respect, it’s an every day market outing. But it’s also a destination and a half, with an entire section of prepared food, not to mention all of the carts dotted here and there as well as the fixed-location shops all around the market itself. We picked up a number of things for an eventual “one plate meal,” a favorite of my sister’s that I think she cultivated the first time she lived in England. Some of the images from Borough Market:

Shaving off Parma ham, in the company of sausages and a tower of cheese

Just a few of the olives available at this stand, along with marinated artichokes and stuffed this and that

Check out the selection of fowl hanging up top, and the rabbit down below

The fabulous Neal's Yard Dairy, started as a creamery in 1979 in Covent Garden making their own cheese, but eventually relocating to this storefront near the market

The lovely Andrew at Neal's Yard spent all sorts of time with my sister and me, explaining all about animal rennet and its origin in the lining of a cow's fourth stomach (!)

The spoils of our trip to Borough Market: a little venison salami peeking out at the top left, red pesto, English cheddar, Irish smoked salmon, tapenade, the last of the season's goat cheese from a particularly good producer, black forest ham, and a few scotch eggs for good measure

It pays to know the right people, and in this instance knowing the right people landed me that evening at the Tower of London for a short tour and the just-pre-10pm Ceremony of the Keys. The ceremony is basically the locking up of the tower for the night and is a ritual that has been performed as such for some 700 years. The tower itself is enormous, a complex of multiple buildings — including a chapel — that has been used variously as prison, fortress, armory, and menagerie throughout its history. While all of that history is fascinating and wonderful, without a doubt the best part of the evening was the time spent in the private pub of the Yeoman Warders, also known as Beefeaters, the guards of the Tower of London. All former armed service members, they live at the tower with their families and perform mostly ceremonial duties. My pints of Guinness tasted especially good when consumed in a pub not open to the public, listening to Yeoman Warder Terry tell us about his favorite celebrity meet-and-greet, the one with Ozzy Osbourne. I loved it!

Travels abroad: London Part II

On a day out and about with my sister, our motto was “half pint at every pub,” meaning not a WHOLE pint, mind you. That motto was coined many years ago on my first trip to London, when it was me with both sisters out and about, painting the town — particularly Old Compton Street in Soho — red. This time we were a bit more reserved, with only a couple of pubs in between tube and double decker bus rides, with a quick stop into St Martin-in-the-Fields, a beautiful Anglican church in Trafalgar Square that also happens to be used for lunchtime concerts and such. They have what I hear is quite a lovely crypt, including the charmingly named “Cafe in the Crypt.” Worth a visit, I should say.

In that neighborhood, somewhere between Trafalgar and Leicester Squares we made our first stop of the afternoon — and had our first half pint — at a nice little pub called The Bear and Staff. That was the home of this little nibble of fried brie and strawberry jam, the deep fried aspect of which I think of being very pub-like. The second stop, on our way to the Italian Christmas Bazaar at Chelsea Center, was at the Sydney Arms in Chelsea, a French-themed pub where we had a lovely little platter of foccacia and spreads, and a (half pint) of cider along with. The bazaar itself was chock full of handmade knits, leather goods, jewelry, and my favorite, a fantastic selection of meats, cheeses, crackers, and spreads. Also a number of vendors selling whole truffles and truffle-heavy products. What’s with truffles and the Italians?

One of my favorite things about travel is getting to see how the locals live, and I’m certainly getting a bit of that here in London. Just one example… On the way home we stopped at Waitrose for groceries, eggs among the items needed that evening. As seems to be the practice seemingly everywhere else but the U.S., the eggs are on a shelf and not in a refrigerated case. My sister picked up a dozen of the West Country Free Range variety and opened the carton to check that all were whole, and what should we see but a chicken feather clinging to one of the shells. Yep, these are fresh all right. The real question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In this instance, I’d say they appeared simultaneously.

The next day we set off for the Tate Modern by way of the St Paul’s tube stop in the City of London, the square mile that was the whole of London in the medieval period. A stunning example of the area was our first stop upon exiting, St Paul’s Cathedral. Though the iteration you see here (the fourth) was completed as recently as 1710, a cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood on this spot since 604AD. Seeing this sort of architecture certainly reinforces the feeling that American history is just a drop in the proverbial bucket in the history of humankind. You’ll note in the photo the stunningly blue sky, such a reversal of weather after the previous day’s rain and bluster though not at all surprising a change for Londoners, I’m told.

Post-St Paul’s and pre-Tate we stopped off at The Centre Page for a bite and a half pint of Blackthorn cider. It was my first fish and chips of the trip, along with this rather tasty posh pie and mash, for which we chose the steak and ale version. The fish and chips came with a choice of sides, either salad or mushy peas. I’m hoping that the latter was more a proper name than a description of the state of the peas, though having chosen the salad I’m not certain that was the case. The most interesting thing about this particular pub was the enormous autographed photo of one Mr. David Hasselhoff, which didn’t make too much sense until we noted that the address of the pub was 29-33 Knightrider Street. Awesome. It was then that I noticed the music: Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, J Geils band. One wonders if the 80’s theme followed or preceded the photo of The Hoff.

From The Centre Page it was a hop, skip, and a jump across the Thames via the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for the big Gaugin exhibit, but certainly no shortage of other fantastic things to see. A few of my favorites: etchings by Picasso from late in his life; the screenprints of Victor Pasmore; and the photographs by Alexander Apostol, in which he alters images of modernist buildings in Caracas in the 50’s, removing all windows and doors transforming them into “enigmatic monuments.” Fabulous! The only glitch was that we didn’t get to experience the Rothko Room because after something like ten years everything was out for restoration. Though we DID see — up close and personal — the enormous sculptural installation by Ai Weiwei, a football field-sized carpet of one hundred million, quite individual, porcelain sunflower seeds.

This day ended with culture of another sort, a pub crawl through Covent Garden: four hours, four pubs, four (almost) half pints. Something about the carpet of The Salisbury made it seem very “English pub” to me, though the Lamb and Flag definitely had one of the best names of the evening. The Maple Leaf is, as you might expect, a Canadian pub and had an extraordinary number of televisions. The only good thing about that was my first experience of 3D sport, when a nice bloke (clearly English and not at all Canadian) handed me his glasses so that I might see how fabulous football could be in 3D. Fabulous, indeed. The Nell Gwynne was in a teeny tiny alley off a slightly larger side street and was so small we huddled outside on the cobblestones. The last of the evening, The Coal Hole, on The Strand, was probably the most upscale of them all but with its own checkered past lurking in the basement pub. Apparently its river-side location and proximity to the Globe Theatre made it a handy location for, shall we say, ladies of the night. Such interesting history to be found at every turn! Ah, London…

Travels abroad: London Part I

From the moment that I boarded the British Airways plane and the flight attendant greeted me with a cheery “hiya” I knew that I was in for good times. I’ve been to London before, but it has been a few years and I was very much looking forward to seeing the city from a more food-appreciative point of view, one I’ve acquired since my last visit. Thus I’ve come armed with ALL sorts of great suggestions from several different quarters, many of which I’m sure that I won’t be able to get to on this trip. I’m with family and I know that they, too, have things they want to show me (markets, pubs, oh my!) but they also like the wander-factor: Going from place in place in what might look to the casual observer like aimless wandering, coming upon something new and interesting, and stopping in for a croissant, or a pint, or a bit of cheese, whatever might look appealing at that moment. And so it began…

In what might perhaps have run contrary to the effort to keep me awake after a 9am arrival in London, the big activity for my first day there was an afternoon supper or “Sunday roast” at The Windsor Castle in Kensington, a pub dating back to 1835 and named as such because at one time from the top story it had quite a view to the actual Windsor Castle. Though mostly I like the thought of this as a pub frequented by the farmers of that era, stopping off for a pint after taking their livestock to Hyde Park on market day. It’s just as a pub should be: a beautiful garden out back and tiny, low-ceilinged rooms with the smallest doors through which one has to duck in order to get from room to room. Several great beers on tap, my favorite of which was the IPA, Jaipur, though manager/server James also enthused about Chase, the “hottest gin in England” and soon to grace their bar shelves. It wasn’t coming in for a couple of days, however, so either I’ll have to return to The Windsor Castle or track down the gin in the U.S. And as the name of the meal implied, we did indeed have a couple of roasts (beef) but also a fantastic plate of slow-cooked pig cheeks served with creamy mash and buttered leeks. As much as I liked the beef roast — and particularly the Yorkshire pudding that came alongside — I loved the very tender pig cheeks. Oh, and the velvety mushroom and chive soup. Delicious!

It must have been the brisk walk home from the pub, but somehow I managed to stay awake into the evening and thus was ready and willing to sample a reprise of the cocktail made the night before for a black tie ball pre-funk. It’s a Vodka Rosemary Lemonade Fizz, from the May 2009 issue of Gourmet, sweet and tart and delicious. Ah, the international language of Epicurious…

Monday brought torrential rain and some further investigation of Kensington high street, this time with my 70-year-old mother showing me how to navigate the bus from here to there. (She has been in London for a month now, and knows the ins and outs of the Oyster card and all of the transportation possibilities in and out of the neighborhood. I love that she’s the expert in this situation!) From there it was a VERY extended lunch at Mandaloun, a Lebanese restaurant with some of the best hummus I’ve had in my life — must have been the sesame cream noted on the menu. Among the other mezze plates were chewy halloumi cheese, a perfectly seasoned lentil soup, couscous salad, and Kebbeh Meklich, lamb meatballs mixed with crushed wheat stuffed with minced onion and pine nuts.

Though without a doubt, the highlight was the beverage that we drank throughout the meal — and for an hour after — called arak, advertised as the Lebanese national drink. It’s made from grapes distilled with anise (thus a strong licorice taste) which then matures for two years in a terracotta amphire. They pour just a bit in the glass, then fill with water and top with a couple of ice cubes to chill. Perhaps an acquired taste, but it definitely grew on me and went down quite easily after a glass or two.

It’s interesting, really, because on this visit London feels more international to me than English, the result of a fresh wave of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, apparently. So no surprise that I had something other than your standard English food so soon after arriving. Now I just need to have some of that fantastically traditional non-traditional London cuisine: Indian food!