June 23, 2015

SOMETHING OLD AND SOMETHING NEW IN DENMARK


When I visited Denmark a couple of years ago, I knew I would come back for more—not simply because I found Copenhagen utterly charming then but also because some important people in my life have decided to call this city home. We came back over the weekend to attend the wedding of my dear friends Céline and Michael, and got to appreciate Denmark on a deeper level. We celebrated in Aggersvold Gods, a stunning property with stables and a beautifully restored barn nestled in the Danish countryside of Jyderup. There we participated in many Danish and Belgian wedding traditions (e.g. cutting the groom's socks for the former and waving napkins in the air when the couple arrives at the reception for the latter); dined on heaps of sumptuous salmon, beef and cake; listened to tear-jerking heartfelt speeches; watched a beautiful fireworks display; snacked on addictive Danish-style hotdogs from a food cart that magically appeared after midnight; and danced until daybreak on the day of the summer solstice. It was such a treat to see the lush Danish countryside, dotted with wildflowers, windmills, cows, sheep and horses, for a change.

We also got to spend a little bit of time in Copenhagen, where we visited some of my old favorites and discovered some new ones with J. I spent my previous trip to Copenhagen mostly on my own, which can be a nice way to experience a city but is wholly different from doing so as a couple. 

Last time, I ate at Torvehallerne every chance I got, sampling different types of Danish smørrebrød and local treats. This time, J and I enjoyed the innovative Nordic cuisine at Restaurant Höst. We tried both of Höst's Evening experiences, which are listed on the menu as including an aperitif, three courses with wine pairing, dessert and coffee or tea. In fact, the meal ends up as an eight-course meal with all the little extra treats they give you. Amazing value at prices well appreciated by this food-enthused New Yorker.

Almost everything we were served was fantastic but there are a few worth talking about in more detail. The Signature Menu's first course was inspired (though perhaps not for the less adventurous), with a fried chicken foot and succulent Norwegian lobster served on a slate plate alongside a smoldering juniper branch. Underneath the plate was a bowl of glas-cabbage, toasted hazelnuts and juniper, all of which was topped off tableside with decadent lobstercream. Absolutely delicious and so inventive! The main course was everything I could possibly want on a plate but impossible to photograph by candlelight so my description will have to suffice: ribeye steak with smoked lettuce cream, cabbage, pea sprouts, and fried chips made of squid ink. The most delightful dish of all, however, was an unassuming pre-dessert of house-made yoghurt served over berries ... and sprinkled with pop rocks! We couldn't stop smiling with every crackle-topped bite. These pictures were the best I could muster in the dark and intimate cellar where we were seated, as I do so hate ruining the experience for myself and other guests with flash photography. But this webpage gives a better indication of Höst's beautiful food and interiors.


The next day was somewhat of a departure from our sophisticated evening but still a complete delight: an afternoon spent seeking thrills in Copenhagen's charming Tivoli Gardens. The world's second oldest amusement park, Tivoli first opened its doors in August 15, 1843. Like little kids, J and I got on the park's famous rollercoaster, Dæmonen, which despite its comparatively dimunitive size includes a zero-gravity roll that will make your heart jump into your throat for an exhilarating millisecond. We also got on the Star Flyer, which provides panoramic views of the city—if you can withstand being flung about on a spinning chair 80 meters above the ground!


Despite now having been to Copenhagen twice, I still feel like I've only scratched the surface. It's a rapidly expanding and evolving city, with so much to tease and tickle one's imagination. Thankfully, I know that there will always be more occassions to visit. I can't wait to see what this sparkling city will show me next!

June 10, 2015

PLEASE TOUCH THE ART

Now that school's out and summer is in full swing, I'm taking every opportunity to be outside. Whether it's a picnic, al fresco dinner, or a quick a run, there's plenty to enjoy in these extended daylight hours and balmy temperatures. 

It hasn't been effortless to get back into running after my grad-school imposed hiatus. Thankfully, there's a little something extra to motivate me to get out and pound the pavement in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Commissioned by Public Art Fund, Danish artist Jeppe Hein has filled the park with 18 pieces that call us to come close and play. Please Touch the Art is an 18-piece installation composed of an entrancing labyrinth of mirrors, delightful water fountain "rooms", and bright red modified "social" benches—all meant, not just to be looked at, but to be experienced.

The "Mirror Labyrinth" is about as much fun as being in a house of mirrors. My favorite parts are the angles that allow me to see swathes of the historic Brooklyn promenade set against the modern architectural marvels of Downtown Manhattan.

"Appearing Rooms" is good fun when there are children running through in glee. Hein engineered this installation with timed fountains that create "rooms" between the jets of water. According to the artist, one can remain dry by keeping to the individual rooms. I haven't quite gone in just yet; each time I've passed by there have been little children running around with gleeful abandon in their bathing suits and I couldn't bear to throw cold water on their fun (pun unintended).


The "Social Benches" are comparatively less elaborate, but I've come to enjoy seeing how different people interact with them. One child's playground is another man's meditation spot.

Perhaps that's why I keep coming back for another look. Every time I run past Hein's pieces, there seems to be something new to see, whether it's bright blue skies or sunset casting a new light on the mirrors or people using the benches in a different way. That's the beauty of interactive art; being able to touch the art ensures it remains a living and evolving thing.

Please Touch the Art will be in Brooklyn Bridge Park until April 17, 2016. As much as I love and wish summer would never end, I'm excited to see how Hein's pieces will evolve with the changing of the seasons!

May 5, 2015

SPRING AT LAST!

After what felt like an endless winter, spring has sprung at last! Though I am still on my last frantic weeks of tying up loose ends for graduate school, I've stolen time here and there to enjoy the beautiful magnolia blooms and cherry blossoms all over the city, even whipping out my laptop on a park bench just to do so. I noticed today though that the petals are starting to fall, bringing this beautiful time of the year to a close. So if you haven't done so already, I urge you to take every spare second to enjoy this gorgeousness while it lasts!

March 25, 2015

MIAMI VICE

Oh Miami, how can I quit you? I'm experiencing serious vitamin sea withdrawal after five blissfully balmy days in Miami. Back in New York, it's winter that simply won't quit. So until it lets us out of its chilly grasp, I'll have to count on the memories from our little spring break to keep me warm!


After months of nonstop work, school and thesis research, it was heaven to lie on the beach for days and (mostly) do nothing (ok, I did some grad school reading from my lounge chair but you know what they say about old dogs). We found the perfect quiet little spot near 30th and Collins and parked our towels there practically every day.


We instantly fell in love with the city's long stretches of beach, aquamarine waters and art deco style. Miami is a city full of enticing contradictions: relaxed but also exciting, historic and yet rapidly emerging on the scene.


Strangely enough, the best meal we had was at Indomania, which by some quirk of fate, serves the Indonesian rijsttafel - an Indonesian tasting menu concocted by the Dutch back in colonial times. If there ever was a way to give a Dutch guy and a Southeast Asian girl an existential crisis about why they are living in frigid climates, it's finding a fantastic rijstaffel in a glorious location like Miami.


Further deepening this aforementioned existential crisis, we got a very cool peek at how the lovely people of this city live, thanks to my friend Alida, who has come to Miami by way of New York and Lima. We enjoyed sunset drinks and dinner with a Miami Vice feel at The Standard's Lido Grill, wine in what felt like someone's very cool backyard at Lagniappe, solid Miami-flavored music by Spam Allstars at Hoy Como Ayer in Little Havana, and dinner surrounded by wicked urban art at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar.


But if there was one place that truly stole my heart, it was the Broken Shaker at the Freehand Hostel. While our dutiful consumption of (and subsequent knockout from) the requisite salad bowl-sized mojitos in an Ocean Drive tourist-trap was unforgettable in its own way, it is the Broken Shaker's Thai Tea Old Fashioned that I will be pining for constantly: Old Forester Bourbon stirred with Thai tea reduction and a touch of cream. YUM. The poolside sunset view is not too shabby either.


It was extremely heartbreaking to return to a New York blanketed in a fresh coat of snow after 5 days of summery bliss in Miami, but we were grateful for the chance to get to know this amazing city and look forward to coming back. So goodbye for now, Miami ... pero hasta luego, sin duda! 

February 15, 2015

CHIHULY GARDEN AND GLASS

In the middle of this gray and unrelenting winter, we need all the color we can get. On our visit to Seattle's Chihuly Garden and Glass, we got a much needed boost of light and color that made us forget all about the dreary weather outside.


This exhibition showcases the breathtaking glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly, whose work you may have already encountered if you've been inside the Bellagio in Las Vegas, where the stunning 70 feet long Fiori di Como glass sculpture hangs above the lobby.

Visiting Chihuly Garden and Glass is like entering a glassblown wonderland full of fanciful forms and saturated hues. One of the most stunning pieces inside is the Sea Life Tower, all 20 feet of undulating blown glass in various shades of blue cradling intricately detailed starfish, sea urchins, coral and other underwater creatures.


Entering the Mille Fiori room feels like entering a beautiful alien landscape. Inspired by the garden tended by Chihuly's mother during his childhood, this installation manages to convey a feeling of familiarity and fantasy at the same time.


The Ikebana and Float Boats' visuals and backstory are equally delightful. When Chihuly was in Nuutajarvi, Finland in the 1990s, he had an idea to throw his sculptures from a bridge into the river below to treat the glass. Finnish teenagers would then take the glass sculptures, load them into their fishing boats, and bring them back to the shore. Chihuly took a liking to how the sculptures looked all piled up in the boat and immortalized the memory in this piece.


We also really enjoyed the Chandelier Room, filled with monumental pieces suspended from the ceiling. These luminous and organic chandeliers have such an otherworldly feel.


The centerpiece of the exhibition is the Glass House, which holds Chihuly's most tremendous piece yet: a 100-foot glass wreath of fiery-hued blossoms that manage to convey a feeling of light and playful movement, in spite of its enormity. This gorgeous piece can make even the gloomiest Seattle day bright, I tell you!


Outside, the garden is dotted with more of Chihuly's work. Despite being constructed out of glass, Chihuly's pieces have an organic feel to them that make them seem right at home in nature.


The exhibition closes with a row of chandeliers leading to a small theater where films of Chihuly's exhbitions and installations around the world are shown. We daydreamed of someday having one of these chandeliers in our future home—dreams that were promptly shattered under the harsh light of reality when we stepped into the gift shop, where small Chihuly vases were sold for $8,000 apiece!


I suppose Chihuly's work is meant to remain in my dreams ... but I'm quite content with such vibrant and glorious dreams. If you find yourself in Seattle looking for a jolt of color and light to brighten up a gloomy day, I highly recommend paying a visit to Chihuly Glass and Garden.

Chihuly Garden and Glass is located at 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, Washington 98109.
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