Bon anniversaire, René Lalique!

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Rene Lalique

René Jules Lalique was born in the village of Ay in France on April 6, 1860; his family moved to Paris when he was two years old. He attended art schools in Paris and London, and began work as a freelancer designing jewelry for Cartier and Boucheron. He became one of the Art Nouveau movement’s most famous designers.

I love the details on his jewelry including small insects and flowers, and his sinuous metal work. His attention to detail is amazing. Below are a few of his stunning pieces.

Comb.

Comb. Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Necklace of gold, enamel, opals, amethysts. 1897-99. Gift of Lillian Nassua. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Lorgnette of

Lorgnette of gold, enamel, diamonds, jade and glass, ca. 1900. Gift of Mrs. J.G. Phelps Stokes. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Winged Sylph

Winged Sylph, 1889. National Museum of Art of Japan

Pendant with Depiction of a Winter Scene, ca. 1900. State Hermitage Museum

Pendant with Winter Scene.

The museum pieces above are wonderful to look at but if you’d like your very own piece of Lalique jewelry, 1stdibs has this beauty for sale.

Very rare Les Danseuses necklace at 1stdibs

Very rare Les Danseuses necklace at 1stdibs

Sources
Lalique website
Biographical sketch of Lalique
Wikipedia Entry (has some nice photos of his glass work)

Easter Candy!

bunny basket eggs
Ever year it gets harder to find my favorite Easter candy, the hard shelled, pastel colored marshmallow eggs that are pure sugary bliss. Fred’s and Safeway have failed me so far this year.

coco
Some years we had coconut nests in our Easter baskets. The jelly beans in the middle were the best part.

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Speaking of jelly beans, the purple ones are my favorite flavor, followed by the pink ones. White and orange jelly beans are pretty good, and the yellow ones are tolerable. I don’t really like the black licorice ones and I can’t stand the green ones.

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I remember getting pretty sugar eggs in my basket once or twice. Sadly, I just wanted to eat the colored decoration on them rather than enjoy their delicate beauty.

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I’ve always been fond of chocolate anything, so a chocolate bunny was a treat. The proper method was to start by biting the ears. These days I prefer dark chocolate but I didn’t as a child.

What was favorite Easter candy as a kid? Have your tastes changed? And what’s your favorite jelly bean flavor?

Dining Adventure – Levant

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My delightful dining companion, Ms. A, was in town recently for a visit so we had a chance to try out another Portland restaurant. Our first choice was booked solid until 9:30 but Levant looked intriguing and had an earlier reservation, so we decided to check it out. What fortuitous luck – we had a wonderful adventure!

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I perused the menu online when I was investigating dinner options and was intrigued by the Middle Eastern slant with with wonderful sounding ingredients. Butternut squash soup with pomegranate relish? Yes, please! The restaurant has a number of small plates, cold and hot, as well as more substantive main dishes.

We arrived at the restaurant and were seated promptly by the window near the front. We started with sublime cocktails- I had one with violet liqueur and Ms. A had the Bacall; both were pretty to look out, refreshing, and not too sweet. I can’t remember the exact ingredients, alas…

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Not wanting to get too tipsy too quickly, we ordered the Fied garbanzo beans Za’art, which is an addictive little appetizer I could have just kept eating and eating. And eating. Our other starter was lamb cigars with Harissa yogurt. The Harissa sauce was thick, with a nice kick and the fried dough encrusted lamb cigars were quite good.

celery

We had a really hard time deciding whether to go with lots of small plates or the lamb cooked 4 ways or other entree but realized we could taste more things if we had smaller plates. We ordered the fried cauliflower with tahini, brussel sprouts with lamb bacon and preserved lime, and celeriac salad with hazelnuts and parmesan. The roasted flavor of the brussel sprouts with the lamb and date infusion was really interesting, the cauliflower was good, and the celeriac salad was beautifully presented and wonderfully tasty. Somewhere along the way we ordered wine – I had the Côtes de Gascogne, Domaine Chiroulet Gros Manseng/Sauvignon Blanc and Ms. A had the Touraine, Armance B ‘Ampelidae’. We were both pleased with our choices.

At this point our server asked us very nicely if we’d mind moving to a different table so folks with a reservation of four could use our table and the two-top next to us. It was a busy Friday night so I cut them some slack on this but I was surprised.

Once we finished our savory vegetables, we rested a bit before deciding on dessert. We were both curious about the lemon curd doughnuts with rose jam but the server’s description of the chocolate torte was too tempting to pass up. It was a flourless chocolate base with cardamon, caramel, and a pistachio crunch. It was sublime, truly sublime. We had a glass of old-style madeira with it, and enjoyed our dessert and each other’s company. What a great dinner!

This was one of my favorite meals since Ms. A and I started our dining adventures a few years ago. The flavors and tastes were fresh and interesting, and I’ll definitely go back. I found out later that our next door neighbors were celebrating a birthday there the same night but we didn’t see each other. They also enjoyed their meal very much.

I’ll definitely go back to Levant- I’m craving those garbanzo beans and want to try the lamb. In the meantime, I tried roasting some garbanzo beans with some spices and they were good but not addictively good like Levant’s.

Levant
2448 East Burnside
Portland, Oregon
503.954.2322

Fun with Photos – Getty Images


I really like using interesting photographs on my blog but it’s frustrating to find the perfect image only to see it’s strictly copyrighted. (As a librarian, just nabbing images from anywhere on the internet seems like a bad idea.) I saw an article today announcing Getty Images is allowing millions of their photographs to be embedded in blogs and used in other editorial ways. The “catch” is that advertisements will (might be?) embedded along with the images. This page explains the details and has a link to where to search.

I thought I’d test it out – it isn’t clear from the website what the adverts look like. I can’t see them, either, while editing the blog. I’ve posted some interesting photos below – would you let me know what kinds of adverts you see, if any? Are they acceptable or annoying?

C.M.S. Red by Hedges

Young women in a bar. Paris, 1937-1938. © Gaston Paris / Roger-Viollet. Photo ParisEnImages

Young women in a bar. Paris, 1937-1938.
© Gaston Paris / Roger-Viollet. Photo ParisEnImages

I really enjoy drinking wines from the Pacific Northwest but many of them are above my budget except for very special occasions. I was pleased that CMS Red from the Hedges Family Estate is an exception – it’s very good and I found it for less than $15.

Winw

Color: Deep inky purple
Aroma: cinnamon, spice, plum
Grapes: CMS stands for cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah
Taste: Fairly robust taste with some tannins. It has a medium finish and is what I consider “balanced” between acidic and tannic. I would drink this with a hamburger, macaroni and cheese, or a hearty pork dish. I ate it with a sharp Vermont cheddar, which was great. I’ll definitely buy this again, particularly when I have out of town guests.

The Green Fairy

Absinthe Bourgeois advertisement

Absinthe Bourgeois advertisement

Absinthe drinking has an interesting history, both romantic and disturbing. Artemisia absinthium L, or wormwood, has been used medicinally since Greek times but its popularity really started when the Pernod family distilleries opened in the early 1800s. Its use by French soldiers in Africa further popularized the drink when they brought it back to France. The spirit contains botanicals including herbs, wormwood and anise. The drink is usually a beautiful green though it can be clear. It came to be known as la fée verte in French, or the green fairy. And the usual hours of drinking it from 5 to 7 was called l’heure verte, or the green hour. (Happy hour, anyone?)

Absinthe Blanqui

Absinthe Blanqui

It became a fashionable drink in 19th and early 20th century cafés of Paris, imbibed by bohemians, artists, and poets and was considered acceptable for women to drink. Degas, Manet, and Picasso painted absinthe drinkers, and Oscar Wilde was said to have drunk it. Vincent Van Gogh may have cut off his ear in an absinthe haze.

Still Life with Absinthe, Vincent Van Gogh, Paris, 1887. Image from NLM/NIH.

Still Life with Absinthe, Vincent Van Gogh, Paris, 1887. Image from NLM/NIH.

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Absinthe Drinker, by Jacques Boyer, Paris, 1911. Photo from ParisEnImages

Absinthe man

Un buveur d’absinthe sur la terrasse d’un café.Anonymous, 1895. Musée historique de Lausanne

According to AbsintheOnline, “production grew so much that it became cheaper than wine. Between 1876 and 1900 the annual consumption in France had rocketed from 1,000,000 litres to a staggering 21,000,000 litres.” The wine blight, grape phylloxera, destroyed vineyards, making wine very expensive, so everyday people turned to absinthe.

Absinthe poster

Absinthe Berthelot, Henri Thiriet, 1895 ©Photo Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris

The dark side of absinthe drinking was the alleged terrible side effects, including hallucinations and seizures. A chemical element of wormwood, thujone, was blamed for the nasty side effects but present day research has shown that it would take a huge quantity of absinthe to cause side effects from the small amounts of thujone in it. Current thought is that because absinthe’s deleterious effects were plain old alcoholism. Absinthe has a high alcohol content from 45 – 75% and is supposed to be diluted with water but I can imagine some people just decide(d) to drink it straight.
An evil man, representing medicine and religion (?), gloats over the death of the freedom of the individual in Switzerland to consume absinthe, represented as the corpse of a green woman. Colour lithograph after A.-H. Gantner, 1910. Wellcome Images.

Part of the fun of drinking absinthe is the ritual. The process is to put absinthe in a glass, then put a sugar cube on top of a special slotted spoon, and slowly pour cold water over the sugar cube. The drink turns from green to opaque white, quite fun to watch. I tried absinthe in Prague a number of years ago – it was missing the whole ritual and I wasn’t very impresssed. Sugar packets? Not very romantic. But I recently tried it again with some dear friends at the Picnic House. A pretty glass, an absinthe spoon, and good company made the experience much better than the first time. I felt very tipsy – was it the absinthe, or the suggestiveness of a magic elixiir? I actually don’t think it matters; I really enjoyed it. No green fairies visited me but maybe next time…

Absinthe spoons

Absinthe glasses and spoons, Gérard Roucaute © Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – Inventaire général

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Absinthe at the Picnic House, Portland

Uninspired absinthe ritual in Prague

Uninspired absinthe ritual in Prague

References:

Absinthism: a fictitious 19th century syndrome with present impact. Padosch SA, Lachenmeier DW, Kröner LU – Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy (2006)
Absinthe: The Revival of The “Green Fairy”
History of Absinth, DistillNation