Friday, April 22, 2005

Dillard-land Silence

It's going to be a little quiet at dillard57 for the next week or two, my apologies. I just started a new job, plus Somerville Open Studios is (gasp) next week. I'll be back in the swing of things in May, I hope, posting away and pontificating on all kinds of fascinating things, no doubt.

But spring is here and you all are outside enjoying the gorgeous weather and not stuck inside sitting at a computer terminal anyways, right? All except us poor suckers with our 9 to 5 lives. Sigh. Well, the flowers look really pretty on the other side of the glass, far away down the street, in the park where I am not.

Quick update: (sorry, I'm not going to link all the books up to save time, just today)
I finished a mostly silly book: The Reading Group (predictable, fluffy but well intentioned)
An OK book: The Book of Salt (Kinda interesting but a bit hard to follow)
And a perplexingly boring book: Reading Lolita in Tehran (For such an intense topic, the story wasn't terribly compelling)
And I started Herzog by Saul Bellow and couldn't manage to get past chapter three. Not my kinda book I guess.

I had yummy Ethiopian Food at Addis Red Sea with the fabulous Monica. Gosh I love that spongy Ethiopian bread and the whole eating with your hands bit is so much fun. I also highly recommend Zoe's in Somerville on Beacon Street for Szechuan food; I had my first experience with tea smoked duck and I hope it isn't my last as it was fantastic.

I saw a cool movie: Steamboy which is much more accessible and fun than you might think upon first glance (not too many folks I know get really excited about the idea of a Japanese anime film science fiction story set in the 1800s. Unless they dig it and just don't tell me for fear I will laugh. I promise I won't!). It is visually wonderful and the story is cool too.

Of course I've been cooking a lot as always. New recipes including posole, chicken adobo, atole using the blue corn flour I got in NM, and strawberry crepes using egg roll wrappers.

So there, at least a little info. My friends have been so lovely and patient about my crazy life these days, so thanks to all. Things will settle soon. But I hope to see some of you at Open Studios next week!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Show Me Adobe

Adobe Blue Door Posted by Hello

As promised, a little adobe. It is an attractive medium, soft and smooth. Keeps things warm in winter, cool in summer. In need of constant upkeep (it literally melts away over the years), but it can be built with your bare hands. And it really is beautiful.

These photos are from the Taos Pueblo, one of the most famous and oldest in the world. As in 1,000 years old or so, as in a World Heritage Site. (If you're curious about how you get on this list, their criteria are pretty interesting). So this is one serious Pueblo. Native Americans live here as they have for, well, a millenia. That means no electricity or plumbing. Just lots of dust and blue sky and light brown earth walls that are rough but cool to the touch.

The round structure at the left side of the photo is an oven, called a horno. The women use these to bake bread and pies which are sold to the public. Being ... me, I couldn't resist trying out a few. And these pastries were, well, they tasted like something that had been baked in a mud oven. Not terrible, kinda primitive, but also kinda ancient and interesting. I don't think they'll be served at Petsi's Pies (my current standard after my mom's) anytime soon, but, well, if they made pie with apricots 1,000 years ago, I think I can imagine what it tasted like.

The church below was lovely too. The inside had a very colorful, folksy painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe, one of the coolest of the Catholic Marys.

So there you are, a little adobe. Hope you enjoyed my little Santa Fe trip report! I'll likely be selling prints of these and other Santa Fe photos at this year's Somerville Open Studios. I'd love to see you there!

Taos Pueblo Church Posted by Hello

Chile Chocolate: A Very Good Idea

Really good stuff Posted by Hello

Anyone who has seen the sweet little movie, Chocolat, knows the secret of combining the heat of a chili with the earthiness of chocolate. The sweetness followed by a fiery flare at the end is a very fun little gustatory trip. And New Mexico, of course, being known for its chile, would have to use it whenever possible. However, a store called Chocolatesmith on 2nd Street in town definitely had it figured out. Their chocolates were so good they deserved a blog entry.

My favorite was the pistachio chile bark (on the right in the photo). Salty nuts, bittersweet chocolate and then that zing. Wow. That's a lot of territory in one mouthful. Second favorite was the pinon caramels. Pine nuts with their odd, piney flavor wouldn't be the first thing you'd think to combine with a salty carmel and chocolate, but it all worked just fine. They also sold these fun chocolate pates, encased in wax. Supposedly you could keep them for months in your car or backpack without their melting. You know, for chocolate emergencies. Well, OK, but who is going to manage to keep it around long enough for an emergency, may I ask?

Truly I do not normally wax so rhapsodic over an everyday chocolate shop. This place was great. So now I just have to figure out how to get some of those chocolates out to New England. I may have to have a little chat with the folks at UPS.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

New Mexican Food: The Rant

Now This is New Mexican Posted by Hello

I love Mexican food. I LOVE Mexican food. I'm not referring to Chi-chi's or Taco Bell. Oh no. Pretty much I love Mexican food you can only get in Mexico or US states close to Mexico. Food you can't get in Boston. So most of the time, there is a small hole in my life, a missing piece in my daily food intake that if I lived elsewhere, would be taken up with sopes, sopas, carnitas, tortas and lots of proper salsa. There are a few decent places I can go when desperate (the best, imho, being Tacos Lupita in Porter Square.) But mostly I just suffer quietly, waiting for my next opportunity to find culinary bliss.

So when I make a plan to go to New Mexico, there is definitely a plan for eating this kind of food. And I've heard of this "New Mexican" food concept, extolled by many tour books. Ohhh the red chile or the green chile or the mixed red and green, called Christmas. Oohh, sopapillas. So I was eager to see what this was all about. I went there and ate them. I ate red, I ate green. I ate sopapillas. It was good. Red chile was especially interesting. Kindof bitter and fiery. But you know what, real Mexican is still better.

I'm not sure if I completely determined the difference between NM food and Mexican. New Mexican seems milder than Mexican, more beany and ricey. Although in some ways it is spicier than Mexican. Mexican food is not generally that spicy unless you are eating peppers, whereas this NM chile thing can be pretty hot.

Anyhow, one of my favorite places in town was Pepe's, above. That's my other theory, still upheld. The best Mexican food is the cheapest hole in the wall. Fancy Mexican (or NMexican) is kinda just expensive blandified Mexican. This was true in Mexico as well. Not sure why or maybe I just haven't gone to the right places yet.

Blessed Tamales Posted by Hello

These are proper tamales (dulce) from a Mexican place in Santa Fe (not New Mexican). They were fragrant and wonderful and one dollar a piece. Perfect in every way. Alicia's Tortilleria off Cerillos. It helps to speak Spanish to go there. Thanks, Chowhound for the tip! I also bought a dozen tortillas there (also one dollar), still so warm and fragrant it was all you could do not to just wrap your face in them and go to sleep.

Every proper New Mexican meal supposedly includes sopapillas. I think this is a very good idea. They end up being dessert, because you spread honey on them and they are very good and fattening and fragrant and like a big donut of love. Thus ends my New Mexican culinary sojourn. For now. I still have to tell you about Chocolatesmith.

Sopapillas Posted by Hello

Folk Art Makes Me Happy

My Kinda Wagon Wheel Posted by Hello

One of the first stops on my trip to New Mexico was Tinkertown, on the way from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. It's a whole building outfitted with miniature mechanized displays as well as random sculpture and overall bottle encrustation. Just my cup of tea! The motto of the place was, "I did all this while you were watching TV." It was a wonderful place to visit, although a bit poignant as the artist, Ross Ward, died just a few years ago from Alzheimer's at only 57. I met his widow (who ran the gift shop), who felt like the place was a way of keeping him alive.

Antlers Posted by Hello

The antlers above were in a box in a mining museum in the town of Cerillos, just outside of Santa Fe. You could definitely imagine tumbleweeds blowing through this town. It was quiet and empty and a little bit eerie. But the antlers were fun and very O'Keeffey.

Speaking of O'K, I visited her winter home in Abiquiu, as well as the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. There is nothing like seeing an artist's work in the context of where she painted it. After seeing the terrain, You gain an insight and an understanding you would never have otherwise. I remember a tour in Arles of sites where VanGogh painted. All those works that seemed so swirly and abstract suddenly made sense -- they looked exactly like the countryside.

The Museum of International Folk Art was one of the best museums I've ever seen. Worth the trip in itself. Every room was crammed full of the stuff you find in nooks and crannies around the world, art that people make out of what is right there in front of them, as they are living their lives and playing around with their world. An exhibit on Carnaval, the party before Lent, and its manifestations around the world was especially cool; I really enjoyed all the costumes and music styles that each country developed.

The best part of the museum visit, however, was a tour I accidentally joined. I thought it was the 2 PM docent tour of the museum, so I gathered with a clump of people at 2 PM. The tour guide, Dr. Nunn, was one of the curators and said she was going to do a very casual, behind the scenes tour. I thought, wow, they are so laid back here in New Mexico. Turns out this was a special, anthropological tour which was part of a conference in town that week. I only realized this when I saw everyone else had special name tags around their necks when we were already downstairs in a storage room. No one seemed to be offended at my presence, so I hung around until the end when they were going to have a collective chat about the postmodern implications of anthropological whisker-growing or something like that (ha ha). But I got to meet two local folk artists, Arturo Lopez and Arlene Cisneros who explained their pieces in the museum as we asked dorky questions like, "What is that weird thing that Mary is holding in your sculpture?" The answer: scapulars. Oh. How often do you get to ask an artist in a museum stupid questions like that?

Thus concludes the end of this portion of our cultural tour of Santa Fe. I know I promised adobe but I don't have those photos yet. Hang in there.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Crazy Life but Good

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last week or two. Lots of things came flying at me all at once, and then I went on vacation! I was going to write the "watch this space" note before I left, but instead I did what I could to keep my head above water before leaving for Santa Fe, and the poor little blog got neglected.

So I'm promising lots of cool new photos, in-depth art-world analysis, and thoughtful ponderings about New Mexican style food. Really! I promise. It was a good trip. I took my REAL camera there, so I don't have much digital to share except for stealth food shots (I always feel like a dork taking a picture of my plate). I'll get my real camera photos back on Wednesday so I can start sharing then (from the cds). Prepare for the sight of a LOT of adobe. More adobe than you knew was possible.