The Met: China Through the Looking Glass

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The thing about New York City is that there are always a million art exhibitions going on at any given moment. This is a blessing, of course, because there’s always something fantastic to see, but also sort of a curse: in such a sea of art and culture, it’s tough for shows to stand out and feel special. Every now and then, however, I come across one that truly captures my attention. China: Through the Looking Glass, running now at the Met, is just one such exhibit.

China: Through the Looking Glass chronicles the influence of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion. Spanning several floors at the Met, the exhibit is jam-packed with gorgeous fashions: think dramatic ruffles, painstakingly detailed embroidery, and bold, rich colors.

I love costume design and wound up adoring everything about this exhibit. There were so many jaw-dropping designs that it was impossible to pick a favorite; I was content to wander from room to room oohing and aahing over pretty much every piece.

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(^ How’s that for an intense shoe?)

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China: Through the Looking Glass runs through September 7th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Check it out!

June and July in New York: A Few Favorites

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This summer in the city has been….crazy. Crazy hot, crazy busy, crazy fast. In June, I did ALL THE NEW YORK THINGS. In July, I got slammed at work and had time to write about none of it. And so, instead of my usual monthly recap, this month is two for the price of one (what a steal!)

I’ve rhapsodized about Central Park in the fall and Central Park in the spring, but one thing I never expected to love was Central Park in summer. I’m not a fan of heat and humidity and crowds, all of which can be major features of the park by the time the summer months roll around. Yet, somehow I found myself in Central Park all the time this month – and totally loving it.

First there was Shakespeare in the Park, which I was lucky enough to nab tickets for through work. The play was The Tempest and while I was a bit lost in parts (and wished I would have read the play first), it was awesome to see Sam Waterston and Jesse Tyler Ferguson perform live.

Shakespeare in the Park - The Tempest

Another evening, I went to Philharmonic in the Park with friends. We bought a small fortune in snack food (including pizzas from my Upper West Side favorite, Patsy’s) and settled in for a night of live music from the New York Philharmonic. It rained on and off throughout the night, which was a bit of a bummer, but it was still such a fun event – and one I’m sure I’ll repeat each year.

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And finally, I hit up SummerStage with my best friend for an Ingrid Michaelson concert. We had seen her perform at the Blind Pig way back in 2007, so we were well overdue to see her again. Ingrid is so fun live; she does all these funny, quirky little bits and, of course, sings a mean song too.

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One of the coolest things I did in June was take a rainy day wander through the Met. While I saw a ton of great albeit random stuff (Faberge eggs! Van Gogh! Sèvres porcelain! Egyptian temples!), the highlight was clear: the China Through the Looking Glass exhibit. The costumes were exquisite: intricate beading, vibrant colors, ruffles for days. I was completely enthralled.

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In other arty pursuits, New York Botanical Gardens has a Frida Kahlo exhibit running right now. A friend and I hopped on the Metro North for Frida al Fresco – live music and dancing, margaritas, and, of course, Frida’s art. Very cool.

Frida Kahlo at NYBG

And in less successful artistic endeavors, I toured the Yoko Ono exhibit at MOMA with another friend. Some of the pieces were truly intriguing, while others were bizarre and, frankly, ridiculous. It wasn’t quite my cup of tea, to say the least.

Anyone who wandered around the streets of Manhattan on certain nights in June might have noticed a strange phenomenon: hordes of people, stopping in the middle of crosswalks, attempting to snap a picture of the sun setting perfectly in line with the city grid. Yes, it was Manhattanhenge, and while it was overcast on the night I tried, I still managed to steal a few good shots throughout the month.

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On the day after the Supreme Court’s historic decision, I met up with some friends in the Village to watch the Pride Parade. The streets were crazy packed and the parade seemed to go on forever, but it was such a fun experience, and so cool to see how thrilled everyone was. #LoveWins.

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This summer, it has become clear: it’s Amy Schumer’s world, and we are all just living in it. I saw Trainwreck (of course) and loved it (of course) in July, but before that, I saw the Trainwreck Comedy Tour with my sister. Featuring Amy Schumer and friends (including Judd Apatow and Vanessa Bayer), this was a hilarious show. So fun to see her do stand-up in person!

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Faithful readers (so, my mom) (hi, mom!) will recall that I saw Les Mis on Broadway last November (and in London last February). Still, it’s a great show, and always worth a repeat viewing. And one of the only saving graces of working in Midtown is that I am insanely close to every major show – meaning that a friend and I were able to pop by for a performance on a random Wednesday after work.

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Another place I revisited in June was The Smith, my go-to restaurant on the Upper West Side. We dined al fresco and drank rosé and I had a black tagliatelle with shrimp and scallions – a lovely New York evening.

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One thing I rarely write about here are lunches I go on at work; I simply can’t bring myself to whip out a camera in front of my co-workers, which is a shame as we hit some of the best New York spots. At Le Bernardin, however, I managed to sneak a few quick shots during our prix fixe lunch, where I had the North Carolina shrimp, the salmon, and a dessert whose name eludes me.

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Likewise, while I didn’t take any pictures at a work lunch at Aureole, when our dessert came out, everyone agreed that it was photo-worthy. Is it a dessert or a woodland creature? The world may never know.

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For brunch one weekend, my sister and I met up at Estela, where we shared several items: salted cod and potato croquettes, burrata with salsa verde and charred bread, and lamb ribs with charmoula and honey. Each was great, but the burrata was the clear winner in my book.

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After brunch, we continued our culinary odyssey, walking to Davey’s for some gourmet ice cream. I opted for the strong coffee and the speculoos chocolate chip – two damn fine choices.

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In other ice cream news, after a long day at work, I decided to treat myself to the famous cereal ice cream at Milk Bar. While cereal ice cream is a good, albeit odd, flavor, the dessert is totally made by the cornflake topping, which is delicious.

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And finally, in a yes-I-am-super-basic moment, before hitting up the Met, I stopped at Laduree for some macarons. While all the pretty colors always tempt me, in the end, my favorite is always, always the salted caramel. You simply can’t beat it.

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Previous month-in-reviews for 2015: January, February, March, April, and May.

Things That Are Awesome, Vol. 152

The weekly roundup of internet awesome:

  1. Some of these are hilarious: Quiz: Is This a Real Cookbook?
  2. Good stuff: Pride and Prejudice 2005 + Onion Headlines = One Totally Endearing Meme.
  3. I bet it’s only a matter of time until someone does this with a Michigan squirrel: Student Befriends Squirrels on Campus and Dresses Them in Cute Costumes.
  4. When you wish upon a hunk…: This Is What Disney Princes Would Look Like in Real Life.
  5. Perfect: Doug the Pug Channels His Inner Taylor Swift.
  6. Lovely words: 42 of the Most Beautiful Literary Quotes About Summer.
  7. This is decidedly not awesome, but it’s a fascinating – and extremely terrifying – read: The Really Big One.
  8. I find this to be very true: It’s Too Late. Exclamation Marks Are Unstoppable Now.
  9. One, I loooooved Trainwreck (the rare movie that lives up to its hype, in my opinion), and two, I love this piece: Trainwreck, Amy Schumer, and the Promise of the Ladyjerk.
  10. I understand why people want to read Go Set a Watchman, and if that’s your cup of tea, go for it. But as for me, I feel too icky to pick it up. This is a succinct summation of why: The Harper Lee Go Set a Watchman Fraud.

(Image via A.V. Club)

Cathedral Hopping in Helsinki

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One nice thing about Helsinki was that it was essentially a blank slate for me: I traveled there because it was an easy trip from Norway, and not because I set out in search of something specific. As a result, there was plenty of room for Helsinki to surprise me, and it more than rose to the challenge; I wound up loving city. One of the things that most delighted me about Helsinki was its magnificent cathedrals, each different, but each noteworthy in its own right.

I’m quite certain I’ve written about “church fatigue” many times in this space before, and it’s something that often strikes me in Europe: the sense that I could not possibly stand to tour yet another church because they’re actually not that different. But church fatigue never struck in Helsinki, because all the cathedrals in fact were that different. First up in this church parade was Helsinki Cathedral, which was quite a sight: a gigantic, stark white building with gorgeous green domes. My exact reaction as I turned the corner and caught a glimpse of the cathedral towering above Senate Square? I laughed. Are you kidding me?!?!, I thought. This is just too good.

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Next was Uspenski Cathedral, an Eastern Orthodox church which I found memorable for its Russianness. Seeing Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral is one for my bucket list, but since that trip hasn’t happened quite yet, this was a great substitute. Perched on a hill, Uspenski is an impressive building from the outside, but even more so from the inside: blinged out, gilded, gorgeous – the works.

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Finally, I visited Temppeliaukio, or the Church in the Rock, whose name gives it away: it’s literally built into a rock, and the architecture of the place is stunning. This church was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and I was blown away by the creative, cool structure. It was awesome to see something so different for once.

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After visiting Helsinki’s three most picturesque cathedrals, I was impressed: I never found myself bored even once, and I found it difficult to play favorites and pick which one I had liked best of all. Each was well worth the visit.

Things That Are Awesome, Vol. 151

The weekly roundup of internet awesome:

  1. The Onion is painfully on point here: Harper Lee Announces Third Novel, “My Excellent Caretaker Deserves My Entire Fortune.”
  2. Sometimes I think about about going paleo but then there’s also this: I Went Paleo and Now I Hate Everything (if “pucks of suffering” doesn’t make you cry laugh, I don’t know what will).
  3. In other cry laughing news: Prayers Up for the Pirates’ Tarp Man (“He died doing what he loved: putting a tarp on a field.”)
  4. I love this: Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams Dance at the Wimbledon Champions’ Dinner.
  5. Where J Law leads we all must follow: the Joy trailer. Who knew a movie about the inventor of the Miracle Mop could look so compelling? (J Law knew, that’s who).
  6. Cheeeeeese: 13 Helpful Diagrams for People Who Only Care About Cheese.
  7. Dying: Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart Politely Request to Join Taylor Swift’s Squad.
  8. YASSSSS: Newsies & Uptown Funk.
  9. I love this piece: 15 Years of Center Stage: A Personal History.
  10. In near total agreement: The 2015 Snubs, Surprises, and WTFiest Emmy Nomination Awards.

(Image via)

Things That Are Awesome, Vol. 150

The weekly roundup of internet awesome:

  1. Well that’s cool: British Art Dealer Discovers Unknown Monet Pastel Taped to Another Work.
  2. Royal awesomeness: 100 Years of Iconic Royal Wedding Dresses and If Prince Harry Were Your Boyfriend and Pictures of Prince George Stealing the Show at His Sister’s Christening.
  3. This delights me: E.L. James Held a Twitter Q&A and It Went Horribly, Horribly Wrong.
  4. I have much love for #1, and I agree wholeheartedly with #50, so I’m on board with this list: The Definitive and Final Ranking of All 50 States.
  5. The new movie was meh (minus Chris Pratt, of course), but I do enjoy this: Someone Replaced All of the Dinosaurs in Jurassic Park with Cats.
  6. World Cup madness: Listen to All Five U.S. Goals as Called by Telemundo’s Andres Cantor and Abby Wambach, U.S. World Cup Team’s Soul, Soars Despite Lesser Role and Helen Mirren Reads “Where the Sidewalk Ends in Awesome Fox Promo.
  7. This pleases me: Stephen Colbert’s Temporary Late Show Marquee Is One Large Pizza Ad.
  8. Delightful: Channing Tatum’s Vogue Might Just Be Better Than Madonna’s.
  9. “What I find most admirable in Federer’s late career is simply the vision of freedom it implies. The idea that you can make your own way. That you don’t have to give up what you love simply because you’re told to. That what hurts you might also fulfill you, or even make you happy, because life is not simple.”: The Sun Never Sets: On Roger Federer, Endings, and Wimbledon.
  10. Badass: Patti LuPone Explains Why She Confiscated Cellphone from “Rude, Self-Absorbed” Theatergoer Last Night.

(Image via Vanity Fair)

Helsinki: Michelin Magic at Restaurant Ask

In the past year, I have visited four of the five Nordic countries (I’m coming for you soon, Iceland, I promise), and I have noticed the same phenomenon in each: they all seem to be having a moment, culinarily-speaking. In Stockholm, I met the world’s most enthusiastic and knowledgeable cheesemonger, in Copenhagen, I had the tastiest organic hotdog from a street cart you ever did find, and in Oslo, I visited a newly-opened food hall, a delicious spot that locals are increasingly beginning to embrace and enjoy. And in Helsinki? In Helsinki I discovered a robust culinary scene that was much more delicious than I ever would have imagined it to be.

In fact, I loved every single meal I had in Helsinki, which surprised me: I would not have pegged Finnish cuisine as one I would so enjoy. Yet enjoy it I did, and that all started at Restaurant Ask, where I had my first big meal. In perusing travel blogs, I had seen Restaurant Ask mentioned several times. And when I learned that the restaurant had just earned a Michelin star in 2014, that sealed the deal; I knew I needed to try the restaurant that seemed to be hitting its fine dining stride.

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I went to Ask for lunch, where each day they offer a 49 euro four course menu, a menu that changes depending on what ingredients are available that day (always a great sign). In terms of my typical travel budget, 49 euro is more than I usually spend for lunch, but I thought this meal was a fantastic value, as everything was super high quality and delicious.

To begin, I was served a few little nibbles: buckwheat and millet crackers with a yummy elderflower yogurt dipping sauce and fermented carrot with cumin mayonnaise. They also brought me sourdough bread with organic Finnish butter in the cutest butter dish one could imagine – a small touch that I adored.

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For the first course, they served a lamb tartare with wild herb salad and radish. I’m generally not a fan of tartares, but this was excellent – and I loved the dressing on the herbs, too.

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The second course was another winner: nettle pancakes (in a vibrant hue of green) topped with a brown butter sauce, yogurt, and egg. This was the second dish that contained yogurt, and I noticed that yogurt was often a component of dishes throughout my stay in Helsinki, a trend I can definitely get on board with.

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For the third course, they brought out a smoked pike-perch (caught on a nearby island) topped with butter sauce and served with leeks and ramps. The butter sauce was rich but not overwhelming, the fish was perfectly cooked, and I liked the smokiness of the dish. I also adored the veggies, and while I wouldn’t typically say something so rapturous about vegetables, I thought these were incredibly flavorful.

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Before the fourth course, my waitress brought out what she dubbed “a little pre-dessert”: a blueberry sorbet with carmelized oat muesli.

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Then, the real dessert arrived: a lingonberry parfait with deep friend buckwheat and a licorice sauce. The ingredients here – the lingonberries and licorice – were quintessentially Nordic yet unexpectedly wonderful (to my palate, at least). I am not typically a big licorice fan, but its tartness provided a great counterpart to the very sweet lingonberries. In fact, though I’m generally licorice-averse, I spooned up every last bit of the licorice sauce!

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The meal ended on another high note: a tiny piece of spruce fudge with spruce jam. This really did taste sprucey and tree-like, but not in a weird way!

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I loved my meal at Restaurant Ask from start to finish (er, Finnish?). Every course was on point, and I loved how they took Finnish staples – berries, fish, licorice – and made them creative and modern. The service was so well done, too, with perfect timing and helpful explanations for each dish. Restaurant Ask may have been a bit of a splurge meal, but it was one well worth making.