Monthly Archives: August 2015

Downton Abbey Revisited

What will I do when I can no longer enjoy and complain about the ludicrous plots and glaring anachronisms of Downton Abbey?  For five seasons, it’s been my unmissable hate watch, and now it’s coming to an end, although some might say that it was really all over the night Isis the Dog kicked the bucket.

In my fantasies, the final series will reveal that Mr and Mrs Bates actually did kill all those people, and many more victims as well.  The Bates will flee England under the cover of darkness to escape mass murder charges, and settle in California, where, using their experiences as Downton staff, they’ll set themselves up in the hospitality business.  They’ll open a friendly little inn, and call it “The Bates Motel.”

This final season premieres 20 September 2015 on ITV  in the UK, and 3 January 2016 on PBS in the US.

100,000 Luftballons

clouds-3

As part of the London Design Festival—and more on that in a day or so—Charles Pétillon was invited to create an art installation in the Market Building in Covent Garden.  He filled it with 100,000 inflated, illuminated white balloons, which form a cloud at the top of the market.

Does it look like 100,000 balloons to you?  I suspect that the balloons themselves are not the only thing that’s been inflated.

Baloon 4

Charles Pétillon,Heartbeat,Covent Garden

Charles Pétillon,Heartbeat,Covent Garden

clouds-1

More info, and many more images, at the Covent Garden site.

The installation opened last weekend, and will be on view through 27 September 2015, and, once again, Why Don’t I Live In Europe?

The Oval Room — Lunch on 27 August 2015

The Oval Room

The Oval Room

The Oval Room is one of my favourite upscale restaurants.  Like the 701 Restaurant and Rasika, two other favourites, it’s part of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group.  It’s near the White House, catty-corner from the Northwest edge of Lafayette Park.

Tomato and Watermelon Salad

Tomato and Watermelon Salad

I had a surprisingly good basil harvest from my windowsill herb garden this year, and I’ve been making watermelon salads with feta cheese and basil all summer.  The Oval Room does a great variation.  The tomatoes—there were four different kinds, in four different colours—were all heirloom, and the salad was dotted with cashews.  You can see the excellent feta and the crisp croutons in the picture.

Duck Leg

Duck Leg

The slice of pan-roasted Duck leg was served with black garlic, baby squash, and cranberry beans.

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake

Warm chocolate cake, caramelized peaches, and bittersweet chocolate sorbet.  Perfection.

Colour Blind People See Colour for the First Time

“Is that PURPLE?”

There’s this company in Berkeley called EnChroma.  It has developed glasses that let colour blind people see colours for the first time.  The results are…I’m trying to avoid the word “spectacular”, because that would be an awful bit of wordplay.

Here are some videos of people trying the glasses for the first time:

(Warning:  Language NSFW.  People get emotional.)


The glasses aren’t cheap.  They run from a little over $300 to about $700 a pair, and judging from the users’ reactions, they’re worth every penny.

The reactions of people trying these glasses for the first time reminded me of some of my youthful experiments with, uh, sound and colour-enhancing pharmaceuticals.   But that was in another country….

Vermilion — Lunch on 26 August 2015

Took Metro over to Old Town, Alexandria, in Virginia this afternoon, for my first visit to Vermilion.

Vermilion

Vermilion

I haven’t spent a lot of time in Old Town during the last few years, and the short walk from the King Street Metro station reminded my of what a charming place it is.  In a way, it’s similar to Georgetown, but w/o the crowds of partying undergrads and suburban teens.  The shops in Old Town tend to be local rather than parts of national chains.  I even found one of those almost extinct institutions that I loved so much:  A used book shop.

On to Vermilion.

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits

This was a great way to start the meal.  I ordered an appetizer of classic shrimp and grits, w/a tomato sauce and microgreens.  I’ll be back to try this as a main.

Salmon

Salmon

Beautiful and unexpected.  The salmon sat atop a generous portion of confit fennel—that just means the fennel was cooked slowly, at a low temperature—with bits of shaved chorizo.   The menu identified the sauce as “Sauce Nero,” which is sometimes called “Black Ink Sauce.”

Poppyseed Fritters

Poppyseed Fritters

Finally, hot poppyseed fritters, a blueberry compote, ‘Whipped Cream Ice Cream’, and vanilla mascarpone.  Great combination of tastes.

Yet another excellent meal!

Countess Rayanne Graff

The new Countess of Devon, with her husband and in-laws.

The new Countess of Devon, with her husband and in-laws.

Hugh Rupert Courtenay, the 18th Earl of Devon, died last week, making his son, Charles Peregrine Courtenay, the 19th Earl of Devon.

And that made Charles Peregrine Courtenay’s wife, Allison Joy Courtenay, the Countess of Devon.

The Countess may be better known as the former actress A. J. Langer, who played “Rayanne Graff” in the 1990s TV show, My So-Called Life.

Rayanne Graff, in her element

Rayanne Graff, in her element

My So-Called Life, which ran for a single, 19-episode series in 1994 – 95, is still my favourite pre-Golden Age TV show.   I was fanatical about it at the time.   Fortunately, in those early days of the Internet, there were these new things called “listservs,” which let you connect with other people who were as obsessed as you were.

MSCL was screened on Thursday nights.  Between episode re-caps and endless discussions of every tiny detail of what we’d seen the night before—well, let’s just say that I got v little work done on Fridays that season, even though I must have been busy, because my office door was closed most of the day.

Claire Danes, who starred in the show, has gone on to win several Emmies.  Her some-times love interest was played by Jared Leto, who won an Oscar last year, and has apparently found a way to stop aging past 22.  He also leans really well.

But I’m intrigued by two of the other key actors from the show.  The Countess of Devon’s cast-mates on MSCL included both Devon Gummersall and Devon Odessa.

Is that foreshadowing, or what?

“Today’s the Day the Teddy Bears Have Their Picnic”

I’m a little vague about the etiquette of a situation like this, because I live in a condo in the city, but isn’t there some rule about dropping in uninvited to use your neighbor’s pool?  That’s what happened in Rockaway, New Jersey, last week, when a mother bear and her five cubs decided to have a swim in the Basso family’s back yard.

The bears stayed for about an hour.

Grapeseed — Lunch on 24 August 2015

I love this casual little restaurant in Bethesda.  It’s called Grapeseed, and it’s never let me down. Grapeseed offers consistently excellent food, at consistently reasonable prices.  (There’s a $10 daily lunch special that can’t be beat!)

Grapeseed

Grapeseed

Artichoke Bruschetta

Artichoke Bruschetta

Oh, was this good!  It’s an Artichoke Bruschetta, with roasted peppers, green olives, Bermuda onions, and capers, served w/a herb vinaigrette.  I make a mean Pomodori al Forno–it was one of my first successful experiments when I started to get serious about cooking–and I’m going to add this dish to my stuff-on-toasted-baguette-slices repertoire.

Steak Frites

Steak Frites

You can rarely go wrong with Steak Frites.  Even when the steak is only fair, the fries can save the day, and vice versa.  In this case both the steak and the frites were excellent.

Chocolate Crémeux

Chocolate Crémeux

I’ve tried Grapeseed’s Chocolate Crémeux on previous visits, and I can’t get enough of it.  These days, whenever I see “salted caramel” on a dessert menu, I don’t have to read any further.

The Final Girls — First Trailer

When it’s done well, as it was in Shaun of the Dead, Cabin in the Woods, and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, horror comedy can be delightful, and from the early reviews, it seems as if The Final Girls will soon join that list.  It’s currently rated 100% “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, and got great reviews from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

The cast has a lot of familiar faces, mainly from basic cable:   Taissa Farmiga from American Horror Story, Malin Åkerman from The Comeback, Adam DeVine from Workaholics, Nina Dobrev from The Vampire Diaries, etc.

And then there’s Alexander Ludwig from The Vikings, who a) appeared in the first Hunger Games movie, and b) made another movie besides The Final Girls in 2015.  It’s called Final Girl. (That’s not a misprint.)

And best of all there’s also Alia Shawkat, best known as Maeby Fünke in the classic television series Arrested Development.  (AD was to TV comedy what Breaking Bad was to TV drama.)

The film will be released in the US on 9 October 2015, and go straight-to-DVD in the UK on 12 October 2015.