Friday, January 28, 2011

It's art that you wear!

The 25th Annual Wearable Art show is coming up next week, and we have a new book that showcases decades of textile-based art.  Artwear: fashion and anti-fashion, by Melissa Leventon, features pieces from a 2005 exhibit at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.  Leventon - who curated the exhibit - begins with an historical look at the merging of fashion and craft.  From the Arts & Crafts movement of the late 1800's to the renewed emphasis on nature during the 1970's and on into the recent experimentation with digital techniques and industrial fibers, textile artists have pushed the boundaries of fashion and perception.  Truly elegant painted silks, delicately beaded dresses, intricate smocking and elaborate construction techniques come together in amazingly creative ways.  Pages and pages of color photos will inspire budding textile artists, and get you fired up for the show next weekend.  (You might even think about getting a jump-start on Wearble XXVI)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New music

We have some wonderful new CDs if you're looking for something creative and unusual:
AfroCubism is a collaboration between musicians from Mali and Cuba.  In fact, this album was supposed to be created back in 1996, but when the musicians from Mali couldn't make it, the Cubans got together anyway and produced Buena Vista Social Club.  Expect great things from this blend of African and Cuban rhythms.
African sounds prevail on Bela Fleck's new album Throw Down Your Heart: tales from the acoustic planet.  Vol. 3, the Africa sessions.  Fleck brings his banjo back to it's homeland, jamming with musicians from Uganda, Mali, Tanzania and Gambia. 
Harlem River Blues is the latest album from Justin Townes Earle (son of musician Steve Earle).  Part country, part indie rock, part folk, this CD features some haunting songwriting by Earle.  Despite the hillbilly feel of the music, the songs themselves deal with life in New York City.  It's an interesting juxtaposition.
Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard has a sound you might associate more readily with NYC.  Anat Cohen, who has a nice light touch on the clarinet, pays tribute to the centennial of Benny Goodman's birth with a selection of his standards.  She gives them a little harder, jazzier sound, but she maintains that same swinging, lilting sound.
Buddy Guy: Living Proof is the latest from a blues legend.  At 74, Buddy Guy is still going strong.  He has a couple of tracks with guest artists B.B. King and Carlos Santana, but the rest of the album is all Buddy's gravelly voice and smoking guitar.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Go on, take a bite

If you're one of a handful of people in this country that aren't concerned about shedding a few post-holiday pounds, then we've got the cookbooks for you!
Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax is a reprint of an award-winning bible for bakers.  Two decades after it first came out, it is still a treasure trove of traditional (Raspberry Flummery), unique (Grape-Nuts Pudding) and contemporary (Cappucino Semifreddo) desserts.  Although there aren't as many photos as I would like, the recipes are simple enough for the average home cook.  My personal favorite:  Grape-nuts pudding.
Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum is full of beautiful pictures, presents measurements in volume and weight (both metric and imperial), and instructs the cook on what special equipment might be needed for each recipe and what ingredients might need to be prepared ahead.  Recipes range from the homey (English Gingerbread) to the elegant (Grand Marnier Wedding Cake).
Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy melt-in-your-mouth cookies by Alice Medrich is an amazing collection of unusual and decadent cookies.  Sorted by texture, the recipes include such interesting suggestions as Masala Macaroons, Spiced Fig Meneinas, Honey Hemp Bars and Pecan Polvorones with Muscovado Filling.  There's also Snickerdoodles, Fudgy Brownies, Meringues and Lemon Bars, if you like your sweet nibbles a bit more familiar.
Meat: a kitchen education by James Peterson is a wonderful book for anyone who is daunted by the ever-changing names in the meat display at the local grocery store.  The photographs show you what the cut actually looks like, how to prepare it for cooking (trimming, boning, butterflying, etc.) and what cooking techniques to use with that particular cut (braising, roasting, sauteing, grilling, etc.).  Peterson even includes sections on game and sausages.
Heart of the Artichoke and other kitchen journeys by David Tanis is my personal favorite of the new crop of cookbooks.  Chef at the renowned Chez Panisse restaurant, Tanis presents recipes grouped by season:  both in the weight and tenor of their flavor, and in the accessibility of the ingredients.  No strawberries in December for Tanis.  His recipes are truly global, incorporating flavors from the Mediterranean, Latin America, the Far East and Europe.  He presents 5 menus per season, with a varying degree of complexity.  The Panfried Steak with Steak Sauce is easily done, the Terrine of Pork and Duck Liver....less so.  Generally speaking, however, the recipes are simple and easy to make, with just a few ingredients and a pure flavor.