another era

Queen of Prussia
He was known as “The Waltz King,” and was largely responsible for the then popularity of the waltz in Vienna during the 19th century. To this day I can’t listen to the Blue Danube without conjuring images of waltzing in a full length organza gown, in the style of Josephine Bonaparte, with an empire silhouette that flows with my movements and has appliquéd pearls on the border of the décolletage. My gown is highlighted by a pearl choker, my hair worn in a chignon and my shoes are made of satin.

As I’ve mentioned before Vienna was where I saw my first opera, it was standing room only for students in 1980 along with the entrance fee of the equivalent of one US dollar that got you in.

Among composer Johann Strauss’ operettas, Die Fledermaus gets the most recognition but I share with you my personal favorite, Der Zigeuerbaron or The Gypsy Baron.

Music then as now transports me to another time and dimension. Only now I consciously listen more to the instruments. What does music do for you?

Passion for Eating


The new memoir is out, “32 Yolks” by Eric Ripert. I heard his interview on NPR and tonight got to see him in person.

He was interviewed by Los Angeles Times food critic and Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Gold at the South Pasadena Library.

Ripert, born and raised in France is a handsome man of elegance and ease, reflected on his arduous climb to the pinnacle of the culinary world. Being a top chef was a dream he’d had since he was a boy hanging out after school in a local chef’s kitchen, polishing off bowls of chocolate mousse. As an attendee to the paid event, we were treated to a small cup of chocolate mousse, not made by him but from one of his recipes.

I always had a passion for eating — and for good ingredients, he said.

He shared that his first task of the day is to sample the sauces, in his bustling kitchen, staffed by more than 50 cooks. It’s hardly a simple task. The sauce station is the toughest in the kitchen.

It’s not just about capturing flavors, but by keeping them calibrated all night long.

32 Yolks” refers to his disastrous first day at La Tour d’Argent, his first job out of culinary school. He was asked to mince some shallots. He sliced his finger open on the first one. Then, he was asked to take 32 yolks and make a hollandaise sauce. He bombed.

And worse was to come. Ripert’s next boss, culinary wizard Joel Robuchon, was obsessed with earning a third Michelin star, and worked his staff to unbearable extremes. He added that Robuchon in his mania for perfection insisted that his chefs peel hot potatoes with their bare hands as quickly as possible and place them through a sieve with equal parts of butter. Ironically, eating the mashed potatoes at L’Atelier in Las Vegas is the one thing I most distinctly remember from my birthday meal experience ….now I know why- gobs of butter.

Ripert, a Buddhist spoke about the cruelty and abuse that takes place in a kitchen. A sensitive soul with finesse and frankness, he reminsced about his childhood, the happy times in his mother’s kitchen and and the unhappy times after his parents divorced, with his stepfather, who verbally abused him, and made his home life hell. Throughout, the tough times, food saved him and eventually landed him in culinary school and helped launch his career.

Envision this

blktieWhat’s a life without art? In my opinion, a meager existence. This month being my month I have begun a celebration, my celebration of life. It began on the first when I was invited to the American Cinematheque where I got to see eight shorts from the EU. Although the films weren’t to my liking, I loved the schmoozing at the Egyptian theater courtyard and meeting a vast array of Europeans from the countrys’ of the films that were represented.

A few days later was the re-opening of Clifton’s Cafeteria. It wasn’t for the food mind you but for the ambiance and to be a part of it’s coming back to life at long last. It’s historic character includes a second floor consisting of theme bars designed in an art deco, streamline style. The third floor has a sit down restaurant and a museum called A House Of Treasures, while the fourth floor pays homage to the Clifton’s that was once located on Olive Ave. with a retro Polynesian theme and a bar called The Seven Seas.cliftons

Then there was the Goethe Institute where I saw Deutschland 83, the first part of a television series recently made. Taking place in 1983, not only does the story line follow my time period, so I identified with the music and fashion, but the theme was intriguing. It follows a 24-year-old native of East Germany who in 1983 is sent to the West as an undercover spy for the Stasi. It had me on the edge of my seat. Afterwards I got a chance to chat with actor Mark Valley

Most will remember him from Boston Legal. Turns out we both lived in Berlin at the same time. We both studied acting during those years and both had small parts in the film, The Innocent. And the synchronicity doesn’t end there, we both went onto New York, in the same year. He pursued acting and I pursued writing. Old souls meet again.

Last Friday was ArtNight, an evening of art, music and entertainment as Pasadena’s most prominent arts and cultural institutions open their doors for guests to view, admire and partake. My first museum stop was the Pacific Asian Museum. Every time I’m in the courtyard, I am in awe over the beauty and simplicity where the architecture is in harmony with nature. I saw folkloric dancers from Sri Lanka. My last stop was the Norton Simon Museum where I saw this piece of sculpture and could take pencil and paper in hand to offer my rendition.fr_185_size880

fr_198_size880fr_197_size880The following night was Emerson College Film Festival. It was my first visit to the highly imaginative futuristic complex where I met Kevin Bright, its founding director and one of the producers of the television series, Friends.

This week end it’s films from Spain with a big treat on Monday. I will keep you posted. Until then, maybe I’ll see you at a historical site, museum or even at the (foreign) movies.