Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kirkland Museum's "Colorado 15" Exhibit

A big stir among the art world and the press happened in 1948 when a group of 15 Colorado artists broke off from the Denver Artist Guild.  For they wanted to express themselves in "modernist" styles.  The Kirkland Museum has a fabulous exhibit right now featuring these 15 artists; "15 Colorado Artists: Breaking With Tradition."  Sixty-three years ago, columnist Lee Carey of the Rocky Mountain News wrote, "The influence of decadent Parisians... Picasso and Cezanne... has even been felt in the west.  Santa Fe has been damaged by it and Denver has not wholly escaped the blight... In western art, western literature and bourbon, I'll take mine straight."  Don't you love it?  I wonder what Mr. Carey would have to say about some of the art today.
Paul Smith's painting, Hillside and Houses, was inspired by Cezanne's landscapes.  I can easily picture this scene in many of the old mining towns in Colorado.
 Keeping with the influences of Picasso, Smith also was attracted to Cubist abstracts.
I really like this self portrait by Jean Charlot.  Originally from Paris, he worked as a muralist along side Diego Rivera. 
 An overview of one of the rooms at the Kirkland Museum with a mix of its permanent collection and works of some of the Colorado 15.
Mina Conart main medium was painting but she also experimented with textiles, serigraphs, mosaics and ceramics, all with an underlying reference to spiritual and medieval themes.
I bet Mina's painting of the bull, titled "Jupiter," was heavily influenced by this lithograph of Pablo Picasso's.
My husband, Len, and I particularly liked Angelo Di Benedetto's "Burlesque."  He incorporated the faces of David Rockefeller, Joseph Stalin as well as his cousin and barber into the painting.  Bendetto commented on his work that "the painting shows the vulgarity of the audience, not the girl."  This reminds me of the post I wrote on May 5, 2010 on the mural that was painted in 1941 by O'Gorman in the library in Patzcuaro, Mexico.  He incorporated the faces of Mussolini and Hitler into his work, comparing them to the evils of the conquistadors.  O'Gorman also worked with Diego Rivera.
I love the movement of Frank J. Varva's "Topsy - Turvy."
Varra was also a successful impressionist muralist.  This is his work titled "Old Washington Park" which today is better known as Roxborough State Park which is in the outskirts of Denver.
Then there is Vance Kirkland himself.  He was years ahead of the group, already immersed in the world of aabstracts.
It is a wonderful show and should you be in Denver, go see it.  It runs through the end of July.

Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art
1311 Pearl St.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Meeting Diana Kennedy in San Miguel de Allende

When I was at my casa in San Miguel de Allende, I was fortunate to meet Diana Kennedy at her book signing that Jim and Alfredo hosted at their lovely store, Camino Silvestre (Calle Zacateros No. 46).  Just around the corner from my house, my friend Shelley and I walked over that Saturday afternoon to meet her.  Ms. Kennedy has put Mexican cuisine on the map with her in depth knowledge from over 50 years of research and travels through out the country.  She has introduced the world to the authentic cuisine and flavors of Mexico, just like Julia Child did for French cuisine.  
Awarded the 2011 James Beard "cookbook of the year," Oaxaca al Gusto is an intensive cookbook featuring the cuisine of the diverse regions in the state of Oaxaca.  Ms. Kennedy pays special tribute to three "Pillars of Oaxacan Cuisine," chocolate, corn and chilies.  It is a rather unique cookbook with great photography (many by the author herself) and one that I have enjoyed reading over and over again and learning about the variety of cuisines and techniques that the state of Oaxaca has to offer. With 16 officially recognized cultures and indigenous peoples and with the most biodiversity in Mexico, it is no wonder that Oaxaca is noted for its vast cultural diversity from languages, foods, dress to its customs.
Oaxaca al Gusto is a great reference cookbook but not one for the occasional cook.  For example, I don't think I will be whipping up Tamales de Iguana anytime soon but the Pato en Guajillo (Duck in Guajillo sauce) looks really delicious.  Both recipes are from the 
south-eastern coastal region of Istmo.
You can see some of the wonderful Gorky Gonzales plates on the wall behind Ms. Kennedy.  Many of Gorky's pieces in the store are exclusive designs just for Camino Silvestre.
I have seven of her eight cookbooks and if I were going to recommend one of her cookbooks to first time buyers, it definitely would be From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients.  When visiting with Ms. Kennedy, she was pleased to hear that I thought From My Mexican Kitchen was my favorite and she was interested to know why is was on the top of my list.  What a great afternoon, what a nice lady!
From My Mexican Kitchen, the reader is introduced to spices, chilies, herbs, various cheeses, vegetables, beans, fruits, meat, poultry, seafood, rice, pasta and more.  There are chapters on making antojitos (little snacks), moles, salsas, tamales, tortillas, vinegar and breads.  There is a section on food and cooking terms.  I just really like the layout, the history of the ingredient with notes to its origin and the photography. 
Next time you are at the bookstore, check it out and let me know what you think.
Buen provecho.

Friday, June 24, 2011

La Petit Four is a gem of a place!

La Petit Four is a gem of a pastry shop and cafe right in the historic center of San Miguel de Allende.  The aromas that waifs out the window from the pastries that are baking in the oven are soooo good. 

Paco Cardenas and Norma Guerrero opened La Petit Four about twelve years ago. Paco's passion for cooking began in his grandmother's kitchen in Mexico City where he grew up. I too have fond memories of baking bread and caramel rolls with both of my grandmothers when I was young.  I even had my own little mini bread pans.

I think this painting of Paco is great!

Here's Norma, on the right, preparing something really good I would bet.There is a variety of pastries, cookies, tarts, croissants, brownies, cakes, baguettes, truffles, sandwiches... Some days, they have Lavosh which is the perfect cracker to have with a little goat cheese. On the way home from the market, it is always a treat to sit at the little table by the front door, sip on a cold chocolate frappe, nibble on a pastry and watch the people walk by.  And of course, I always buy something to take back to the house for later.

This cake with the fresh figs and almonds makes my mouth water.  Yumm!

La Petit Four
Mesones 99-1
San Miguel de Allende

Tuesday - Saturday: 10:00am - 9:00pm
Sunday: 10:00am - 6:00pm

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All kinds of bags can be found in San Miguel de Allende

I am a sucker for the bags that you can find in the market or doorways of the little tiendas (stores) in San Miguel de Allende.  The "Catrina" with her bouquet of flowers and umbrella is pretty cute.
Pancho Francisco Villa caught my eye in the market the other day.  He really kinda looks like Diego Rivera with a mustache.
These bags certainly have a different pattern to them.  I have so many of them.  I buy them to use as gift bags; a lot more interesting than an ordinary paper bag.  I just bought 30 of them for a friend to use as gift bags for her guests that are coming in from out of town for her daughter's wedding.
I have assortment of them to use as my shopping  bags when I go to the grocery store in Denver and the market in San Miguel de Allende.  Of course, I coordinate them to go with my outfit.  Why wouldn't you?
Talk about colorful and sturdy!  These are the bags to purchase when you have bought to many heavy items.  I have a huge one of these woven hemp bags that I have had for over 25 years.
I held off getting the "Tinkerbell" bag but what little girl could not resist one.  Reminds me of my old patten leather lunch box that had as a little girl that had Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop on the front.
Talk about an assortment of bags: Pancho Villa, Loteria cards, Frida Kahlo, Virgin de Guadalupe, movie stars, singers... I could have a closet full of different bags.  No wonder... I love purses and my closet is proof of that.  Next time in the market or walking by a little tienda, treat yourself to a new bag.  Believe me, you will not break the bank.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende

The Parroquia, San Miguel de Allende's parish church, towers over the jardin (the town's main plaza) and dominates the San Miguel skyline.  I shot this at sunset from the La Luna Bar at the Rosewood Hotel.  What a spectacular view of the backside of the Parroquia.
This view is from the mirador (rooftop patio) of a home at Calle de Cuadrante and Calle Cuna de Allende, just a block from the jardin.
I was up visiting my friends at their new gallery space that is on the second floor of the original Sanchez home overlooking the jardin with it mesmerizing view of the Parroquia: the Sanchez family is one of the oldest families in town, dating back to the late 1500's.  Tom & Donna Dickson are some of San Miguel's best artist in town.  If they are not out painting around town they can be found at their new gallery at Calle San Francisco 1.
I was up on the rooftop (third floor) of a building on the west side of the jardin.  Another great view of the Parroquia and the San Rafael church on the left.
Sitting in the jardin has the best view of the Parroquia and the best people watching.  Actually, there is not a bad view of the Parroquia in town and one that I never tire of.  My next tour to San Miguel is scheduled for March 27 - April 2, 2012.  See the Parroquia in person and join me for a week of exploration, shopping, gourmet dining and a real historic adventure. 
You may reach me at

Friday, June 17, 2011

Skinny Houses in San Miguel de Allende

I am always amazed when I am walking around San Miguel de Allende, especially when I spot a "skinny" house.
I think this is the skinniest house in town.  I would guess the interior width of the house to be about seven feet.  This is when bunk beds come in handy and flat screen TV's.
It is not uncommon to see a good size front door that has little or no exterior wall space surrounding it.  Once you enter the home, an interior hallway will lead you back into a larger courtyard and the home's interior.
The same goes for this home.  I just love those blue doors!
And talking about doors.  I had my sister-in-law, Susan, stand next to this door for scale.  You won't be bringing home big furniture to this house.
Keep your eyes peeled when walking around San Miguel.  You never know what you will discover!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The BEST Cappuccino in San Miguel de Allende

In the last year or so, Carlos and Elicia opened Cafe Buenas Dias in San Miguel de Allende. It is on Calle Reloj, number 64, just north of the Library. They serve breakfast and lunch daily except on Tuesdays. It is is a charming, newly renovated small home with a open patio at its entrance and a tiny little patio with a pretty fountain on the wall towards the back.
One item on the menu worth mentioning is the banana bread. It is a healthy serving and oh so moist and delicious. Unfortunately, it is only offered on the weekends.  I have not tried the chocolate chip cookies, but they look pretty good too.  The scrambled eggs are perfectly cooked, not overcooked which ruins the taste of a good egg.  The potatoes with a hint of rosemary are a nice touch.
The cappuccino has to be the best in town.   The coffee is strong with the creamiest steamed milk ever.  The coffee is their own special mix of beans.  From Mexico City's Cafe "Punta del Cielo."  It is a blend of coffees from Veracruz, Chiapas and Oaxaca.  There is an industrial coffee grinder in the front room which gets your attention when grinding. Even if you live on the other side of the jardin (the main square), it is definitely worth the walk.  But doesn't that longer walk give you a pass to have that piece of banana bread?  Or that creamy latte? 
And for lunch (comida), you can not beat the chicken fajitas.  Check it out and tell Elicia that Robin sent you in.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Peonies are at their peak!

I was born in Minneapolis and Peonies were a hugely popular flower as a child. I remember our home in Long Lake,  one side of the long driveway that led to the garage was lined with  peonies.
Fortunately, my home in Denver has four beautiful peony bushes.  This particular variety, a full double-pink bloom, has a delicate yellow center to it.
Peonies have been called the "Queen of the Garden Flowers."  I certainly can see why.  The bush with the white peonies have a gorgeous deep pink center.
I just picked a huge bouquet for the house.  Once the temperatures start to soar, the blooms start to fade.  Boy, they make the house smell great.  Happy gardening!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tamarind, an interesting ingredient

Tamarind is an interesting ingredient that has more depth than you know.  Also known as Indian Date, it is a fruit that comes from a tall shade tree indigenous to Asia and northern Africa.   In Mexico, you will find tamarind used in Aguas Frescas (I wrote about Aguas Fescas on May 27 , 2011) and recently it has popped up on some menus around San Miguel de Allende as a special drink, the Tamarind Margarita.  I was down at the casa with my brother, Carter, and a good friend of his, Jim.  After walking around town, Jim and I thought a stop at La Posadita for a cold margarita was just the ticket.  I did not have to do too much convincing for Jim to order a Tamarind margarita.  It was refreshing and had an interesting taste.  One is good but for a second one, a good old fashion margarita is what I want.
When making a Tamarind Margarita, use your basic margarita recipe but add a tablespoon of tamarind paste:  simmer 1 tablespoon of tamarind pulp in 3 tablespoons of water over low heat, stirring until the pulp has dissolved.  Press through a fine-mesh sieve and add to your margarita.
Tamarind paste can be found in Asian and Middle Eastern markets.  It is sold in a dense block that can be stored in the refrigerator up to one year.  I do not recommend the tamarind concentrate sold in a jar, it is not as fresh tasting.
These brown pods, called tamrindo in Mexico, can be found in the market in San Miguel de Allende.  About 5" in length with  seeds and a sour-tasting pulp in the center.  When dried, it becomes extremely sour.  
In the 16th century, it was heavily introduced to Mexico by the Spanish colonist.  It became a common ingredient in Mexico's everyday cooking.   It is a favorite traditional sweet when mixed with sugar. 
Commonly used in sauces and chutney, it is a flavor more acidic than lime juice and vinegar.  Today you can find it in many other dishes such as a marinade or sauce for seafood, syrups, braises and even ice cream.  I am going to have to do some experimenting this summer.  I'll let you know if I come up with some good recipes.  Bon Appetit!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Peregrine Falcons

This last February I opened one of the blinds in my family room and there was a beautiful Peregrine Falcon with a fresh kill in his claw sitting on the ground.  He seemed not to mind that I was taking his photo through the window.  They are a medium size falcon with a height of 15 to 23 inches and a wingspan up to 30 t0 40 inches.   Peregrine in Latin for "traveler."  If they survive the first year of their life, they usually live up to ten years.

Just recently a pair of Peregrine Falcons have claimed my Catalpa tree as their perch.  An arborist told me this Catalpa is one of the largest in town.  I would say the pair chose well.  Peregrines are the fastest animals on earth and have can fly at 120 mile per hour at level flight and in their diving speed, they can reach up to 300 mile per hour at a 45 degree angle!
 He is in his hunting mode!  They eat mostly birds and they attack their prey by flying high and diving at their victims.  The call is a repeated "cack."  Around 6:00 in the evening, I like to go out and see them soaring through the air and perching in the tree, looking for their dinner.  Like an owl, they mate for life.  Another interesting fact about them, is that the female in 30% larger than the male.
Once on the endangered species, a commentator stamp was created by the US post office.  They are a beautiful bird and not skittish of my presence.  I am sure this will be a great source of entertainment through out the summer. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Flower show at the Denver Botanic Gardens

This last weekend, the Denver Botanic Garden along with the Garden Club of Denver were hosts to a large floral show along with various lectures.  One on the guest speakers was Nancy Clarke, floral designer for the White House for 30 years.
Four Denver professional floral designers were asked to create a sizable floral design.  I particularly like the one above.
I like how the Gerber Daises were strung through the wire mesh screen.
The arrangement with the Gerber Daises reminded me of the centerpieces I did for an ARC (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists) fundraiser and dinner in 2007.  ARC's honoree of year was Ralph Peterson, CEO of CH2M Hill, a large engineering firm with projects all over the world.   I created a structural design with a metal grid that I had made into a cylinder with orchids, bear grass and white tulips intertwined in the mesh in a fashion that created visually movement.
This category was "Solor Power."   Protea, roses and boxwood were arranged in a pavee design.  I really like the colors and the textures.
Of all the arrangements that were created that day, by amateurs and professionals, this arrangement in the "wind power" category really was a home run for me.  Patricia Tenney, from the Santa Barbara Garden Club, created such movement with her arrangement perched up on this stone column with dried grapevine, magnolia leaves and sheet moss.
It was obvious to my why she was awarded first prize in this category.  The judges wrote, "Interpretation of the power of wind is exceptional."  I certainly agree.