Monday, August 29, 2011

Emil Bisttram, a wonderful painter

A few weeks ago my husband, Len and I were in Taos for a friend's wedding.  One morning we walked around town and went into the La Fonda Hotel right on the main plaza.  There has been a hotel at this location since 1820.  In the lobby, I fell in love with the painting below by the Hungarian born artist, Emil Bisttram
Bisttram was born in 1895 and his family immigrated to New York City when he was 11.   He studied at the National Academy of Art & Design,  Parsons and the Art Student's League.  
His first visit to Taos lead with frustrations.  He wrote, "Whenever I tried to paint what was before me, I was frustrated by the grandeur of the scenery and the limitless space.  Above all a strange, almost mystic quality of light."  Being a photographer, I can totally identify with that statement.  When I am in San Miguel de Allende, I find the lighting mystical and enchanting, especially early morning and late afternoon.  
He returned to New York and that very next year, he won a Guggenheim fellowship to study mural painting.  He traveled to Mexico where he studied under the world famous muralist, Diego Rivera.  Diego Rivera was part of the Mexican Muralist Movement that started in the 1920's along with Jose Orozco and David Siqueiros.  You can find a striking mural by Siqueiros at the Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende.
The colors and composition of the Top of The Hill (circa 1940-50) are spectacular.
After his studies came to an end with Rivera, Bisttram returned to Taos and founded the Taos School of Art. 
He became heavily influenced by painter Wassily Kandinsky which is evident in The Chief above with its bright colors and abstract forms.   Bisttram became one of the southwest's leading painters and teachers.  He  had done so much for the artistic growth of New Mexico, in 1975 April 7th was declared "Emil Bisttram Day." 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Upcoming Artisan & Architecture Tour

For years my family and I have owned a home in San Miguel de Allende, which sits in the mountains of Old Mexico.  For the last three years, I have conducted a few small, very private tours of the area.  Without exception, they have been very successful and the enthusiastic response from the tour members has been great!
Two years ago I dreamed of organizing a one-time only tour which would explore the world of Mexican artists and architecture.  That dream became a reality last February and it was a trip of a lifetime.
We started our 8-day adventure in San Miguel de Allende.
 We traveled over to the wooded mountains of Patzcuaro.
We visited 16th century painted chapels and old monasteries.
The painted interiors of the small chapels were all so different and such beautiful works of art.
We ventured out into the picturesque countryside to the small villages.
We met master weavers,
Cocucho craftsladies (above) who create huge clay pottery, Ocomicho artisans who fashion whimsical and spectacular creations in clay, Santa Clara de Cobre artists world renowned for its copper pots...
We dined at a few private homes with folk art collections that would put most museums to shame.
This is not your customary travel tour.  Every detail is planned.  And they're personal - the evening you arrive, you will have a welcome reception at my home.
I have had such a tremendous request to repeat this exact tour that I have scheduled this adventure for February 25 - March 4, 2012.
Because this is for only a small, very select group, I urge you to make your reservation as soon as possible.  Call or email me today so I can reserve your journey into the world of Mexican Artisans & Architecture and I will send you the complete itinerary along with pricing.

Robin Mullen
Mullen Design, LLC

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Deliveries made simple

Walking around San Miguel de Allende is an experience and I love the manner in which the deliveries are made.  No special boxes with elaborate shipping labels, no fancy packaging... just the basics.  These vegetables and fruits had just been bagged from the farm and brought into town to be delivered to many of the small little produce stores around town. 
The taxi came straight from the market where these beautiful floral arrangements were made and delivered to the front of the Parroquia church in the jardin (main square) just in time for the wedding.  I can't not see this happening stateside.
Not only is the truck bed loaded with poblano peppers a delight to the eye, the hearty aroma  wafting through the air when you walk by is delicious.
There are greenhouses near by San Miguel that grow these tall and vibrant Glads.  Wednesday afternoons are when the flowers are delivered to the market.  Roses are delivered a few times during the week.  Many times I have had to take a cab home because I went overboard on buying flowers for the house.
This man had pulled into the loading dock area with his truck full of heads of lettuce.  Some days there is the delivery of beef.  Men are rushing down the aisles to the back of the market where the butcher stalls are located carrying freshly butchered cow carcasses.  You definitely want to jump out of the way because they do not stop or slow down with that load on their back.
You can't get any fresher than this!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gazpacho with a Twist

Summer and long hot days sure make for a cold glass of Gazpacho! 
For a dinner party the other night, I served it in a glass cup that I had bought in my twenties years ago at Margaret's mother's garage sale. 
For a special twist on the Gazpacho, I added 1/2" cubes of watermelon which creates such a sweet and savory starter.  I much prefer a Gazpacho that has been put through the blender verses those chunky ones filled with vegetables.  I hope you enjoy my recipe!

2  lbs. ripe tomatoes, chopped
1  small cucumber, peeled and cut into large pieces
1/2 red pepper, cut into large pieces
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 tablespoons, sherry
1/2 cup extra virgin-olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Place tomatoes and cucumber pieces in the blender and puree.  Add the pepper and sherry and blend.  Add the oil and salt and blend.  If liquid is too thick, add some cold water, 1/2 to 3/4 cup.  Pour through a strainer or a food mill.  Pour into a pitcher and chill until ready to serve.  Makes about 3 cups.

Garnish options:
- Mini croutons: 1/4" square
- Seedless watermelon cut into 1/4" to 1/2" squares
- Avocado, cut into cubes
- Thin slices of fennel
- Dollop of guacamole
- Dollop of crab meat mixed with a bit of chopped mint, a dash of lemon and a hint of chili  

I also serve the Gazpacho in shot glasses as a colorful tapa.

Bon Appetit!

PS:  I like to store my Gazpacho in empty plastic tonic or club soda bottles.  It makes it easy when you are about to serve.  Shake the bottle, pour into the glasses and you are done.  It also makes it easy to store in your fridge this way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Planet Barbecue, a great cookbook!

I was given this cookbook by my friend Julie for my birthday last year and everything about it is great!  The photography, the layout, the font that was used is pleasant to read and the recipes are not complicated and very good.  
There are over 300 recipes from sixty countries.  The "starters" section has some really different recipes, such as Bacon-Grilled Enotake mushrooms.  The section on Grilled Breads is rather interesting especially since I use my grill year round to grill pizzas and flat breads.  
I made Ginger, Garlic and Honey Grilled Baby Back Ribs on the grill the other night and they were very tasty.  This particular recipe came from Siem Rep, Cambodia.
Northern Spain is one of my all time favorite places, especially when it comes to food.  There is an exotic recipe in the dessert section on how to make Smoked Ice Cream.  This comes from Spain's futuristic restaurant, Etxebarri.  Chef Victor Arguinzoniz really pushes the limits when it comes to grilling.
If you are into grilling, Planet Barbecue is a must for your cookbook library!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Artichokes in the market in San Miguel de Allende

What I find in the market in San Miguel de Allende usually will dictate my menu for the evening.  I could not resist these artichokes.  They were beautifully shaped and firm to the touch so I bought a few to take home.
Back in the kitchen, I trimmed them up by cutting the tips off the leaves and then steamed them for about an hour.  After they had cooled, I cut them in half and removed the fuzzy center.  I drizzled them with olive oil and a healthy sprinkle of sea salt (Maldon sea salt being my favorite).
I made a Remoulade sauce of mayonnaise, fresh lemon juice, dijon mustard, chopped fresh tarragon and parsley, a little chervil, minced capers and anchovy paste.  It is the perfect sauce to serve with the artichokes.
Before we sat down for dinner, I put the artichokes on the grill for a few minutes just to get a few char marks on them and add an additional flavor.  They were delicious and what a great way to start out a summer meal on the patio.
Bon Appetit.

Monday, August 1, 2011

There is so much color in San Miguel de Allende

I am a nut about color and orange seems to be on my radar the last few years.  Everywhere I look in San Miguel de Allende I see orange.  These Marigolds in the market were spectacular with the hint of the deep red Cockscomb in the background.
The facades of many of the buildings offer all kinds of orange tones from rusty ones to weathered ones in the ochre family.
I love the orange dress with the colorful appliques that this woman had made for one of the many parades in San Miguel de Allende. 
How delicious does this chili relleno look with creme fraiche drizzled on top?
This is one of my favorite window shots with the old stone carvings around the window and the delicate design of the wrought iron all framed by the orange facade.  Just lovely.
The colors of these succulents were just so beautiful especially in the full afternoon sun.  These were in Dianne's garden out at her Rancho Casa Luna, not too far out of San Miguel.
Talk about orange and what a plunging neckline!  Above is another parade participant, a Mojiganga.  A Mojiganga is a large paper maiche figure that is carried on the shoulders of the person inside it.  She really gives true meaning to "hot mama".  Orange is such a happy color.  And she certainly looks happy... I am sure many that see her are happy too!