Polka Dot Mathematics: Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins

As I am writing this blog post, the Instagram hashtag Yayoi Kusama (#yayoikusama) has 850K related posts and @yayoikusama_ (which I presume is the artist’s official Instagram) has 31.3K followers. There’s plenty of unofficial accounts and a variety of Yayoi-ish hashtags. Search Yayoi Kusama news on Google and you’ll find 40,400 results. Switch to “All” and there will be more than 7 million results.

It’s infinite and that’s Yayoi Kusama.

There’s nothing that I can write that hasn’t been written before about Kusama, who has lived through a turbulent, personal history for nine decades. Today, I can only relate my personal experience and it was a magical one!

I adore polka dots and my daughter’s first Easter outfit was a navy blue dress with white polka dots. The hat had a matching fabric sash. I loved it and she hated it. I tried for all of her preschool years, to force polka dots on her, but failed.

Before even knowing anything about Yayoi (can we be on a first name basis?), I was drawn to one of her pumpkin sculptures at a gallery participating in Art Basel Miami. A man looked at it pensively while I wondered what he was thinking.

A couple of years ago a friend recommended to see a documentary about her life. I did plan to watch it, but it got bumped off the long list of things to do. Over time, I would hear other Yayoi murmurs and rather than research, I would just recall those dots.

Then, recently I received an email that I must go see All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins at the ICA Miami. Without thinking twice, I purchased two tickets for $30.00 for myself and a friend, and squeezed that one minute experience, which I might add entails a 2.5 hour round trip car drive, into my busy schedule. Yes, if you are blinking at the last sentence: it translates to $15.00/person for a 60 second, solo view of Yayoi’s Infinity Mirror Room.

In order to prepare for the visit, I finally watched Kusama: Infinity and I suggest you do the same.

Connecting the Dots

Between that first work of art that I saw to some last minute research, I gained a compassionate understanding of Yayoi Kusama’s life and career. To think that at ninety years old, she walks to her studio almost every day and meticulously and obsessively creates dots on canvas or other two or 3-D mediums, fascinates me. Her therapy became #MyArtEscape.

It was reported in January, 2018 that over 75,000 people visited With All My Love For The Tulips, I Pray Forever at David Zwirner in New York. At ICA Miami, they receive 20 people per thirty minute time slot and hundreds line up on Thursdays when entrance is free.

I imagine during Art Basel/Miami Art Week attendance will skyrocket. Multiply those figures by the amount of people who will visit any of the Infinity Rooms around the world, from today until a closing date of probably never, means that Yayoi’s artistic legacy will be limitless.

Buzz Lightyear said, “To infinity and beyond” a remark embraced by children and adults alike. How often do you see Facebook posts, “I love you to infinity and beyond?” Infinity is the fictitious place (or non-place to be exact) that we dream to reach.

For Yayoi, infinity may once have been a location to escape like fields of flowers or an infinite reflection of polka dots, but now it’s eternal hope for her and us all.

And, as we make the most out of our 60 seconds, immersed in that infinite field of spotted pumpkins, we can reach Instagram immortality by the click of our iPhone. Or, if we leave our phone behind (which I plan to do next time),  our imaginations will be forever sealed in that magical spot/polka dot.

Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are a way to infinity. ~ Yayoi Kusama

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

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Get In The Mood for Design at the Fort Lauderdale Home Show!

Featured Interior Designers Reveal Mood Boards and Room Concepts

Fort Lauderdale, Fl…November 11, 2019…It’s a great time to think about design and get the house ready for the holidays at the Fort Lauderdale Home Design and Remodeling Show! Find over 150,000 square feet of exhibition space filled with home remodeling and décor products and services, daily seminars and feature areas.

The designer rooms showcase is a long-standing Home Show tradition. This popular feature area is designed to give homeowners ideas and inspiration, so that they can transform a part or all of their home into a comfortable space that expresses their personal style. Learn how working with a professional can help put all of the ideas together in a timely and cost-efficient way.

Home Show Designer Room Vignette by Michael Zavala of Zavala Concepts for the Miami Home Show 2019.

Last week, the featured Interior Designers submitted their mood boards and room concepts and will each transform a 12×20 drywall space into a room which expresses their artistic style.

All are invited to see the final results and meet and discuss design and décor at this feature area from November 22-24, 2019 at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward County Convention Center.

The selected designers are: Viviana Galetto (Viviana Galetto Designs); Perla Lichi (Perla Lichi Design); Renan Rodriguez (RoZu Design Solutions); and Michael Zavala (Zavala Concepts):

“Designers are creative people – artists,” explains Perla Lichi (ASID.) “When given a blank canvas with no restrictions, such as the Home Show vignette, we can show off our style and actually push the edge beyond what a client might want. Most actual client work requires a more conservative approach. The Home Show booth allows me to show off my love of color and how we use different elements to know what colors will work and what colors won’t work. We hope it also shows clients who also love color, like me, not to be afraid of going bold!”

Lichi’s Retro Kalaidescope living room will have a holiday theme. Her repertoire includes projects in her home base in South Florida and throughout the USA, Canada, the Caribbean Islands, Central and South America, as well as in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia. Her firm’s motto is “We set the stage. You live the dream” and works with a client’s taste, budget and individual needs.

Renan Rodriguez will create a bachelor’s den using colors olive green, white, black and brown with wood accents and natural stone accents. Rodriguez has over 20 years of hands-on experience with furniture, fabrics, natural elements, colors and culture. He is fluent in the process of working with owners and contractors from the floor plan, creation process, management and installations to the finishing.

Viviana Galetto will reveal a sophisticated living room working with dark greens and gold accents. She has spent over twenty years transforming spaces into balanced compositions of color, light and style. She provides a wide variety of services that include interior design, color consultation, professional organization, DIY classes, event decoration, space planning, event and home staging.

Michael Zavala will create a dining room that draws from nature: dark wood, forest green, and charcoal with contemporary furniture and fixtures. Out of his desire to provide his clients with a one-on-one direct design experience, Zavala works closely with his clients to discover an individualized creative design solution that meets both their functional needs and their desire for an inspiring and comfortable atmosphere in their living-space or work-space.

Ready to Renovate, DIY or Organize?

Enjoy weekend seminars with special guests including:

  • Learn the “5 Rules of Renovation” with Carter Oosterhouse of Trading Spaces and The Great Christmas Light Fight at 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 23rd and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 24th. Oosterhouse’s expertise in green-building solutions and eco-friendly designs makes him one of the most relevant and sought after lifestyle experts today.
  • Galey Gravenstein, a DIY Designer and Instagram Influencer who has acquired a following of over 500,000 DIY fans in less than three months, will discuss how she built her design empire.
  • Beth Levin, aka Closet Queen® who has been featured on HGTV’s Mission: Organization! will present, “Closet Envy: How to Organize Like the Pros.”

For a complete schedule, visit www.homeshows.net and follow on social media for updates @FLHomeShows #FLHomeShows. Purchase tickets online by Thursday, November 21st and SAVE $3.00. Admission: $10.00 adults; $1.00 children 11 and under, available online and at the Box Office.

Fort Lauderdale Home Design and Remodeling Show

  • The Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward County Convention Center
  • 1950 Eisenhower Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
  • www.homeshows.net
  • 305.667.9299
  • @FLHomeShows Instagram & Twitter
  • FloridaHomeShow on Facebook

Nov. 22-24, 2019

  • Friday 4:00 – 9:30 p.m.
  • Saturday 12:00 – 9:30 p.m.
  • Sunday 12:00 – 7:30 p.m.
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Meet My Soul Sister

About This Town by Artez | Calle de Fuencarral 31, Madrid

Puerta del Sol, Madrid

A brief visit to Puerta del Sol in Madrid was Instagram worthy, but crowded with shoppers. The stores were mostly American and there were the familiar fast food restaurants. I was disappointed.

About This Town by Artez

However, my eye caught sight of this colorful mural. “About This Town” depicts a girl holding a pile of books with a bird and its birdhouse balanced on top. There’s a plant behind her or maybe she’s holding that too.  The eye happily travels up and away from the crowded street to appreciate the blue sky above.

Born in Serbia, Artez painted this mural in four days to be a part of the 2019 Urvanity Art Fair. On his website, he explains: “This mural tells us the story of Madrid, a place where visitors from all around the globe are welcome to come and enjoy the vivid artistic and cultural content that this city has to offer. Positioned in the very centre of the town, this mural creates a contrast with the pedestrian shopping street in which it is located. Instead of carrying shopping bags, girl depicted on the mural is holding a pile of books important for the history and culture of the city, and a plant with a small birdhouse that is inviting all the “birds” to come and feel like home!”

A closer look reveals the title of one book Miau by Benito Pérez Galdós (considered to be one of Spain’s most famous writers since Cervantes) and another references the painter Francisco Goya. Possibly this reference is a commentary about the maladies of society.

I would say that a deeper reading surfaces from Artez’ mural. Possibly, the tourist should spend more time getting to know Madrid’s history and culture.  Or, maybe it’s the Spaniards who should pay more attention to Madrid which may be selling its soul to the tourist industry. Who knows?

In any case, she’s my soul sister. I’ll give up shopping bags for a pile of books any day. And, if my nose isn’t in a book, I’ll be birdwatching with my zoom lens pointed to the sky.

El hombre de pensamiento descubre la Verdad; pero quien gozan de ella y utiliza sus celestials dones es el hombre de acción.

~ Benito Pérez Galdós

The man of reflection discovers Truth;  but the one who enjoys it and makes use of its heavenly gifts is the man of action.”

#MyArtEscape @AllegoryPR

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Maestro Italian Wine Course Offered in Miami: The First School Certified by Vinitaly International Academy

Miami, FL…October 3, 2019…The Italian Wine School based in Miami, Florida is pleased to announce that it will offer the first course certified by Vinitaly International Academy (VIA): Maestro Italian Wine Course certification study program.  Designed for wine industry professionals and aficionados, the eight session course will distinguish itself from other wine certifications in that it not only provides a comprehensive look at the major wine producing regions in Italy, but will delve into learning about indigenous grapes and wine regions not commonly discussed.

Italy has 500+ wine regions and to date, 590 officially recognized native wine grape varieties which sums up to more varieties than France, Spain and Greece combined.

The Maestro Italian Wine Course will provide groundbreaking materials which wine industry professionals can use when crafting their wine lists. That is a key tool in communicating to clients and will offer a new and different narrative.

 “The Maestro Italian Wine Course will expose a wealth of unknown information which they can in turn, present to their clients,” states Stefano Campanini, Italian Wine Ambassador and founder of the Italian Wine School. “Through the digital landscape, VIA is providing updates on industry developments by the minute. This will be key to crafting a broad wine list and communicating a new and different narrative. As a Vinitaly Italian Wine Ambassador, I must constantly be out in the field rather than just inside a textbook. It’s my objective to help people navigate through this labyrinth of Italian wine with the most current information and curated selections.”

Course Information

The Italian Wine Maestro course is the intermediate level from the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA). A number of outstanding students from the VIA Maestro course may be eligible for direct entry to the VIA Ambassador Certification Course.

The complete course consists of 24 hours of lessons and tastings and is divided in 8 sessions of 3 hours each and concludes with a written exam and tasting component.

  • Introduction: families and groups and focus on Italian sparkling
  • Piedmont’s native grapes
  • Native grapes of and Valle d’Aosta
  • Native grapes of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige
  • Native grapes of Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Umbria
  • Native grapes of Le Marche, Abruzzo and Puglia
  • Native grapes of Lazio, Campania and Calabria
  • Native grapes of Sicily and Sardegna

The sessions included guided tastings of 85 wines representing the best producers and every region, while also exploring culture, history and regional food.

The first session will take place in January, 2020 and costs $895.00. Students who successfully pass the Italian Wine Maestro level course and wish to further their study may apply to enroll in the rigorous VIA study program held annually in Verona and abroad, wherein students pursue either the Ambassador or Expert credentials.

About Vinitaly International Academy (VIA)

Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) aims to be the gold standard of Italian wine education. VIA offers a complete educational path with standardized courses that will teach professionals and educators to master the diversity of Italian wine in a rigorous, organized manner. VIA’s main objective is to foster a global network of highly qualified professionals such as Italian Wine Ambassadors and Italian Wine Experts: in turn, they will support and promote Italian wine throughout the world. VIA’s ecosystem comprising the main institutional bodies and associations in the Italian wine industry strives to be the conduit between the leading players in the Italian wine scene and international professionals.

There are currently three levels of certification available through the VIA program:

  • Italian Wine Maestro
  • Italian Wine Ambassador
  • Italian Wine Expert (VIA’S Highest Qualification Level)

About Stefano Campanini, IWA

Founder of Italian Wine School, Stefano Campanini is one of the 216 Italian Wine Ambassadors representing 33 different countries and one of only twelve people to receive the Italian Wine Ambassador pin of the thirty-nine people who wrote the exam in New York this past June.

Campanini ’s discerning palate was cultivated in his birthplace, Parma, Emilia Romagna named by Forbes: “Italy’s Greatest Gastronomic Treasure” and has travelled extensively in different wine regions.  He has a strong expertise in French and German wines. Campanini’s dream of sharing pleasure at the table began in 2011 when he opened Wine by the Bay. Since then, it has quickly become recognized as one of South Florida’s leading Champagne and boutique wine stores and was most recently awarded Wine-Searcher Gold in Overall and French lists in Miami.  “Wine is an education and not just a drink,” he’ll say while handcrafting a ‘tale of wine cities’ to both novices and aficionados alike.

Italian Wine School

6942 NE 4th Avenue, Miami, FL, 33138

305.857.8767, info@italianwineschool.org

www.italianwineschool.org @ItalianWineSchool

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Ciudades: Etra Fine Art’s Art Basel Exhibition Explores Cities as Symbols of Sacrifices and Selfishness

Miami, FL…October 7, 2019…Etra Fine Art is pleased to announce its Art Basel Miami/Miami Art Week exhibition, Ciudades. This multimedia exhibition will be made up of paintings, music, an installation, sculptures, photography, videos, poetry and essays. Etra Fine Art will hold an Opening Reception for Ciudades from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 1, 2019 and have special hours during Art Basel. Etra Fine Art, 6942 NE 4th Ave, Miami, FL 33138, www.etrafineart.com, info@etrafineart.com, 917.370.2907.

Alicia Restrepo, Curator and owner of Etra Fine Art, uses the cities as symbols, differently represented by world known artists, to stimulate a dialog over the most pressing issues of today. In fact, cities are a descriptor of today’s sacrifice of natural resources, centers of communication, synthetic containers of our history, a confluence of religions, languages and ideologies; technology and alienation coming from it; social iconography, migration, selfishness and egoism.

Different expressions about the subject will create an interesting dialog between artists from diverse representative cities of the world such as New York, Milan, Kiev, Bogota, Miami, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, among others.

Ciudades will include works by:

Paintings

  • Andriy Halashyn (Kiev)
  • Juan Raul Hoyos (Miami)
  • Ana Maria Gutierrez (Bogota)
  • 2501 (Milan)

Installation

  • Juan Raul Hoyos (Miami)

Sculptures

  • Valeria Yamamoto (Buenos Aires)
  • Juan Raul Hoyos (Miami)
  • Francis Hines (New York)

Photography

  • André Cypriano (Rio de Janeiro)

Videos

  • 2501 (Milan)
  • Juan Raul Hoyos (Miami)

Music, Poems and Essays

Ciudades, fundadas para odiar

Ciudades, tan altas, ¿para qué?

Ciudades, cada vez de pie

Ciudades, al polvo volverán

Music arrangement: Astor Piazzolla- Buenos Aires;  Lyrics: Horacio Ferrer – Buenos Aires; Vocals: Amelita Baltar – Buenos Aires

The haunting and powerful, La Ciudades by Astor Piazzolla (Argentina) (that will be played as part of Ciudades,) not only highlights the literal connection to the exhibition’s theme, but will serve as a celebration of Piazzolla’s career who faced intense criticism for breaking tradition to create a nuevo tango (new tango.)

Restrepo will also have excerpts from poetry and the essay, “Transhumance” by Elizabeth Rogers, Critic, writer, Harvard-Radcliffe, B.A. Yale University, M.A. East Asian Studies, M.F.A. Poetry Director, Tibetan Museum of Art, New York, displayed alongside some of the works.

2501, “Untitled (Triptych)”, ink on linen, 15 x 10 ft

2501 (Jacopo Ceccarelli) began his career as a street artist when only 14 years old. He would continue to develop a new style which combines wall painting, painting on canvas, sculpture, installation, photography, video, and documentary. With respect to his work in relation to Ciudades, he states: “Nature has been ingested and hidden in the cracks of the city, in the abandoned factories, in the discarded buildings, in the shantytowns, in the landfills, along railroad tracks. It survives solely in the spaces of the collapse of policies and memory.”

Juan Raul Hoyos, Compound: Installation of 513 recycled paper bags; serigraphy/silk screen painting; 500 x 500 cm; 2009-2010

Juan Raul Hoyos’ installation, Compound is currently on view at Narrativas y Procesos Del Arte Contemporáneo De Medellín/Colombia presented by Fundación Rozas-Botrán. In addressing the theme of Ciudades (cities) Oscar Roldan Alzate, Curator and Director of The Museum University of Antioquia -Colombia writes of Hoyos’ work: “To build, to install, to destruct, to dismantle, to arrange, to reassemble, to reorder, to project, to build, to reform, to modify, to deform, to form, to demolish: these are the collective actions that recall the image of ‘CITY.’ Beyond its execution we have seen the birth, the upbringing, and the disappearance of civilizations, empires and towns.”

Ana Maria Gutierrez, Carrera 11 2015 , wall fragments from Bogota, mounted on canvas, 57 x 84″, 145 x 214 cm

Ana Maria Gutierrez takes pieces of posters found on the walls of her city, Bogota, Colombia and reinterprets them to form a new narrative. She says, “Each piece is composed of fragments of our urbanity, which come together in a masterful wall. A wall that invite us to get out of the obvious and to think of the capacity that we, as human beings, have to transform our environment and leave a mark in history.”

Additional Images and Artist Information By Request.

About Etra Fine Art

Now located in Little Haiti (Little River Art District) and previously rooted in the renowned Miami Design District for nearly 10 years and Wynwood for two years, Etra Fine Art focuses on representing and promoting a wide variety of mid-career and established international artists whose work represents modern and contemporary styles. The gallery exhibits paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, photography and installations that reflect progressive concepts while incorporating traditional and non- traditional materials. Because of its location at the crossroads of the Americas and Europe, Etra Fine Art has made it a priority to connect artists and collectors from both regions.

In addition to promoting and exhibiting artists, Etra Fine Art works with private collectors, corporations and interior designers to build collections by researching, locating, acquiring and installing an array of artwork.

Alicia Restrepo graduated in Economics first and Art later, and has been in the art business since 1983. She was recognized as co-owner of one of the most important galleries in Soho in the eighties and nineties, before moving her business to Miami in the early 2000’s.

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Eating for the Gram at Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

It’s Foodie Friday and unlike last week, I’ve eased back into routine ready to tackle deadlines and a long ‘To Do’ list. Although the memory is far from my taste buds, through the joy of social media I can savor and share with you another yummy experience.

Speaking of social media, I have a love/hate relationship with it. While for years I’ve valued its marketing potential, affordability and used it long before many others did (and nah nah to all of those people who thought I had nothing else to do with my time), I feel it imposes on private me.

Our decision making in so many ways, is formed by social media, whether you’re a: ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ user like me who likes, comments, follows and unfollows every day: or those silent stalkers (what I like to call them), who claim they don’t have time or like social media, but have an active account and silently watch what everyone is doing all of the time. Which one are you?

While preparing for the trip to Spain, I turned to YouTube rather than reading travel blogs because after spending a whole day reading and writing, it was nice to just let pictures and sound fill me with information. Plus, how great is it to know that there’s so much more to watch about travel than Rick Steve’s Europe? A lot of my travel decisions were influenced by Devour Tours co-founder James Blick and wife Yoly. The two of them are so cute, so if you are not familiar with their YouTube channel, Spain Revealed, check them out!

Because of all the hype, I was debating whether or not to visit tourist infiltrated, Mercado de San Miguel. If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I greatly enjoyed visiting the humble, Mercado Anton Martin. However, since I planned to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid and Plaza Mayor anyway, I figured that a good lunch stop would be nearby, Mercado de San Miguel.

Note: For me, Google Maps did not work in Madrid. Whether, it was tech ignorant me or because everything in Madrid is an abundance of circles (or maybe squares,) using my phone for directions seemed to get me where I needed to be, four times longer than it should have. After two days of trying, I just parked the phone and relied on remembering landmarks and talking to people. Besides, the old fashioned way is so much nicer. Get your face away from the phone and enjoy getting a little lost because asking for help in Madrid, seems to always turn into a nice, five minute conversation.

Like I said in my last blog post, it’s good to enjoy getting comfortable with standing room only and that’s all you’ll get when you visit Mercado de San Miguel. However, that is a large part of the experience. Food and social gatherings are synonymous in Madrid. And while millions of us share our food experiences on social media to connect with others, here is the ultimate, in person, communal opportunity. The energy is impressive and contagious. Although they must answer the same questions every few minutes, the vendors treat each customer courteously and share their joy of food with speed and efficiency.

And when eating in Madrid, as the travel experts also claim, you can find great quality food and better prices elsewhere. Unless it’s something you really can’t do without, I suggest you avoid those 15 Euro tapas. However, to not go would be a shame.  Plus, here’s a place where it’s totally okay to pull out your camera and capture every moment — just be courteous of others who want to get up to the counter just as much as you because they’re hungry. Things move very quickly and I greatly enjoyed this rhythm and pace. Don’t miss it!

Amaiketako

Tip: You can buy a glass of wine (or another libation) and walk around with it to as many stops as you like. Just don’t linger and eat at a stand where you didn’t buy any food. The outer perimeter of the market is lined with a glass counter with enough space for your small plate and glass. Again, elbow room only makes for a great social experience and ‘yum’ is the international language!

Here’s some of the highlights:

La Hora del Vermut

La Hora del Vermút: If you know me, you know that I don’t really drink. Ha, you may exclaim after checking out my Instagram. Me and alcohol don’t really get a long, so I limit even the amount of wine I drink and it’s consumed almost always with a meal.

I must thank James Blick for having me try something new. Spanish Vermouth is a must-try when in Spain and I had a dry option with some delectable olive tapas at La Hora del Vermut. Make it your first stop.

Read more about Spanish Vermouth here.

La Casa del Bacalao

La Casa del Bacalao: Unless you hate fish, you must visit La Casa del Bacalao. Aesthetically pleasing and flavorful, try a variety and you’ll be satisfied with a nice selection of tapas for about 10 euros total.

Morris

Mariscos Morris: I know the next time that I return to Spain, I’ll be visiting Galicia. If for some reason, you can’t make it there either at least you can get a little taste of what can be expected of Green Spain’s culinary landscape at Mariscos Morris. The plates shown above (which are more like a meal portion, rather than a tapa) are 12-15 Euros each.

El 19 de San Miguel

El 19 de San Miguel: Speaking about Galicia, my glass of Vermut is long gone and it’s time for wine! Less than elbow room only, it amazed me how the nice folks at El 19 de San Miguel were able to still keep a lively conversation going on, while serving up glasses of wine and Cava. I loved the Albariño from Rias Baixas (Galicia.) It was a bit more than the other whites at 4.50 Euro, but worth the extra (and wine is still much cheaper by the glass than it is in the US.)

Tip: Buy a bottle for no more than 40 Euro (and most offered are much less) and split it with your friends or make new ones! Remember that you can carry the bottle and your glass around with you.

Amaiketako

Amaiketako: Yes, there is much more at Mercado de San Miguel than seafood, but that day I was indulging my pescatarian doppelgänger. Amaiketako began three years ago as an online store specializing in artisanal products from the Basque country. Try the Gazpacho with Ahi Tuna bits and garnished with watercress. I’ve forgotten the prices of each tapa, but I’d say about $3.50 average.

Horno de San Onofre

Horno de San Onofre: For just 2.50 Euro you can end (or begin) your San Miguel experience with a rich and creamy meringue. You’ll never go back to those crunchy and messy blobs of egg whites again. Or for 1 Euro more, find happiness on a plate with one of their Milhojas.

Café Negro: Your last stop should be a coffee to get you through the next part of your uphill and downhill day in Madrid. You’ll enjoy and value the choices at Café Negro because it’s no secret: it’s hard to find a good cup of coffee in Spain.

Tip: Save one of your receipts to get you into the restroom, otherwise you’ll have to pay.

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” ― Orson Welles

Until next time, know that it’s okay to eat ‘for the gram’ because you’re part of a worldwide community united in one of life’s greatest past times. However, find balance and opt more to enjoy the day’s unrecorded and flavorful moments with friends, family or even strangers – standing room only.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

About Mercado de San Miguel: More than 100 years have gone by since the Mercado de San Miguel opened its doors as a wholesale food market. Today, this historical building stands out as one of the world’s main gastronomic markets. It allows visitors to experience the essence and most significant flavors of every corner of Spain.

  • Monday – Thursday and Sunday
  • 10:00 am – Midnight
  • Plaza de San Miguel, Madrid 28005
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The Accidental Wine Tasting: Donde Sánchez Cosas Ricas

It’s #FoodieFriday and what better way to recover from the post-vacay blues than to indulge in a tasty flashback?

I intentionally planned a late morning arrival time in Madrid, so I could throw in a load of laundry and go out for lunch aka tapas/early happy hour. “Que viva España!” — after spending five days in Madrid, I have concluded that it may be “five o’clock somewhere,” but in Madrid it’s five o’clock, 24 hours a day! (No joke. Go experience it for yourself.)

Like many of you, a lot of planning goes into a vacation. Some people fill each minute with an itinerary so hectic that by the time the vacation is over they’re exhausted. Me? I have a few criteria: (1) try to stay somewhere where I can experience life as a local; (2) there has to be art nearby; (3) I’m near a local and authentic food market; (4) it’s totally possible to walk to just about anywhere I’d like to be; and (5) there’s a window or terrace with a view if I want to read or must do some work.

I may talk about the Airbnb apartment in Barrio de las Letras some other time, but if you need a great place and can afford a little more than what people expect to pay for a vacation home through this popular site, visit this link.  Shout-out to Teresa who had made my first Airbnb experience a perfect one.

Mercado Antón Martín

While travel sites and YouTube place much more emphasis on the popular Mercado San Miguel (I may write about it later,) Mercado Antón Martín is a great place to experience day-to-day life in the center of Madrid. Support local and avoid the convenience and grocery stores.

Note: There’s another market called Mercado de San Antón in the Chueca neighborhood. I popped in quickly, so I can’t give any first-hand information. It seems more chic and gourmet than Mercado Antón Martín, but not as Instagram moment-touristy as Mercado San Miguel.

At Mercado Antón Martín, you’ll find a traditional market and the early morning rush of Señoras planning that evening’s meal and grocery shopping European style that is – no Costco versions of stocking up here. And then when the butcher and seafood stalls are being washed up before closing, the market transforms into a lunchtime eatery and as the afternoon progresses, you guessed it…Happy Hour!

While circling around figuring out where to stop, one unassuming stall stood out to me as looking authentically Spanish, Donde Sánchez Cosas Rica. Owner Paz Sánchez is unpretentious and very passionate about wine and food. She prefers to say,“cosas ricas” rather than gourmet, just adding to the homey atmosphere. Quality though is not compromised and she did not hesitate to open a bottle, just so I could try something on my “regions to discover” note saved on my phone.

Tip: Enjoy the social scene and be like a local who doesn’t care for a seat or table. Stand and get comfortable with elbow room only.

Then she quickly pours the wine with a little introduction, darts off to attend another customer and then disappears (if it’s even possible to disappear in a small space) to her prep counter and returns with a plate of something yummy (cosas ricas.) “Try this,” she says in Spanish. “I just made it today” and she sets down a generous serving of bacalao (salt cod) pate. Paz is so cheerful and warm that you feel like you’re sitting in her kitchen at home. She explains that she used to have a career which had her traveling a lot, but wine is her passion and she is much happier with this business. In between glasses of wine and anecdotes, she disappears again and comes back with Escabeche of Iberia Secreto. When I saw Iberia Secreto on a menu in Granada, I just presumed it was just a cute name. However, Paz explained that Secreto is a special cut of pork. Read more here.

I asked her what dish would best be paired with the Mencia and she laughed teasingly as if to say, you can’t handle bold Spanish wine like a Spaniard? However, after a pause to think, she disappears again and comes out and says, “try this” while setting down a small plate and then introduces me to aged chorizo and cheese from the same area of Northwestern Spain. To me, the partnership made perfect sense and I was anxious to wash the bites down with the wine and ask for a refill.

Note: When I return to Spain, it will be to Galicia.

Here’s what I tasted:

2015 Ignacio Marin Elements Tierra Earth

  • Grapes: Garnacha and Carinena
  • Region: Carinena
  • @bodegasignaciomarin

2015 Vina Costeira Mencia

  • Grape: Mencia
  • Region: Valdeorras
  • @costeira.es

2018 Honoro Vera

  • Grape: Monastrell
  • Region: Jumilla
  • #bodegasjuangil

Four glasses of wine later and stomach full, I felt like a true Madrileña! When I left Paz said, “Come back when I’m less busy and I’ll sit down and teach you a lot more.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t return until the day before I had to leave and that day Donde Sánchez was packed. I waved, but I don’t think she saw me because she was too busy pouring wine with a smile and preparing  “muchas cosas ricas.”

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” ~ Julia Child

Until next time, let accidents happen and lick your plate clean.

@AllegoryPR #MyArt Escape

Donde Sánchez Cosas Rica is a retail store and bar specializing in wines, craft beers, sparkling wines, vermouth, cold meats, cheeses, pate, preserves, chocolates, jams.

  • Find it on the lower floor of Market Antón Martín
  • Santa Isabel, 5 28012 Madrid
  • Tue – Fri 12:00 – 9:00 p.m.
  • Sat 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Postscript: It doesn’t cost to drink or eat well in Spain. Paz’ store is not only a great experience, but great value. She’ll introduce you to wines that don’t break the bank, but are unique and from all areas of Spain. Her homemade tapas are delicious. Eat there and/or takeaway. Check her schedule for special guests and entertainment.

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Dame un Beso on #GarnachaDay!

TGIF and Happy #GarnachaDay! Following a hurricane postponement of the Miami Home Show and rushing to get all of my work done and in place before flying to Spain, I began ignoring emails and was too busy to send what looked like junk to trash.

A quick glance at one particular email made me think it was a press pitch or sales offer. I was in fact, ignoring a politely written message offering me wine from Cariñena. A few days later and on the same day that I’m flying to Madrid, a follow-up email came through. I responded with an apology and passed up on the opportunity, quickly noting that I was on my way to Spain in pursuit of interesting wine stories.

After declining an invitation to have it sent to my hotel in Spain, to my delight the sender insisted that the wine be sent to my home so that it arrived in time for Garnacha Day, September 20th.

So, here I am on September 20th writing a little tribute. Due to the time crunch, I’m not going to be very original here, so if you need to find the source of the facts below, I heartily ask you to visit my gracious host, Vinos Cariñena (DOP) here: https://wineregiontowatch.com/

You can also follow them on Instagram and Twitter @vinoscarinena

Since it will take me a while to do some further research, here are some important facts:

  • The Aragon region of Spain is the land where Garnacha cultivation began in Roman times.
Courtesy Photos Vinos Cariñena
  • The vineyards of Cariñena lie in northwest Spain, rooted in the dry rocky soils that cover a 32-square-mile plain on the south side of the Ebro River valley, halfway between coastal Barcelona and dry, inland Madrid, in the autonomous community of Aragon which was once a medieval kingdom.
  • In Aragon, there are 5 Denominación de Origens (DO) of which Cariñena is one. Can you name the other 4?
Courtesy Photo Vinos Cariñena
  • DO members had to resist the temptation to uproot their gnarled heritage vines ranging in age from 40 to over 100 years that each yielded, on average, a measly two pounds of grapes.
  • DYK? In 1932, Cariñena is the second wine region in Spain named an official “Denomination of Origin.”
  • While older vines yield less fruit, their grapes yield more complexity and more concentrated flavors than those grown on young vines.
Courtesy Photo Vinos Cariñena
  • During the ripening season, temperatures drop 30°F (15°C)  helping grapes hold their acidity levels high as they build sugars and phenolic ripeness in daytime. This results in flavor intensity and structure particularly in the appellation’s Garnacha and Cariñena/Mazuelo vines.
  • Single-varietal Garnacha wines are common throughout D.O.P. Cariñena. Old, bush-trained Garnacha vines abound here, some more than 100 years old.
  • Characteristics of Garnacha from Cariñena are: cherry, mandarin, red currant, white pepper and licorice

Need the basics? Check out this video:

The Wines

Bodegas Paniza @panizawines

Founded in 1953, Bodegas Paniza is named for the village where the winery is located, and where growers have cared for their vineyards for generations. The winery is situated in the highest elevation area of D.O.P. Cariñena to the south, at the rise of the Sistema Ibérico Mountain range, which brings cooling influences even in the peak of summer.

The flagship of the winery is almost 200 acres of old vines, ranging from 50 years in age to a vineyard first planted in 1906 with Garnacha, Cariñena, Tempranillo and Moristel varieties. These singular plots produce very low yield, highly complex fruit and are entirely hand-harvested to preserve them for future generations.

Fábula Garnacha from Bodegas Paniza | 100% Garnacha

Black cherry colour with violet bues. Intense aroma of forest fruit, especially blackberries and black cherries. On tasting it is smooth, open, fleshy and well-structured.

Grandes Vinos @grandesvinos_ca

Grandes Vinos has the distinction of working with vineyards in each of the 14 growing areas of D.O.P. Cariñena.

About one third of the company’s total production is dedicated to Garnacha, although the company is also well known for the local Cariñena variety and many others. The range of vineyard plantings allows the winemaking team to isolate a tremendous specificity of styles and to parcel-select wines for young, value seekers such as Beso de Vino, or cellar-worthy selections, including Anayón.

Beso de Vino Garnacha Viñas Viejas 2017 from Grandes Vinos | 100% Garnacha

A lively purple color with fresh and fruity aromas of blackberries, strawberries and cocoa powder. It’s easy drinking with flavors of crushed berries, cherries and a touch of toast.

Bodegas San Valero @bodegasanvalero

A leading winery since 1944, Bodegas San Valero (Grupo BSV) has the longest history in Cariñena and has benefitted from access to some of the most prominent vineyards in the region for over 70 years.

San Valero focuses on indigenous varieties which account for 70% of plantings, including 25% dedicated to Garnacha. A long history in the region brings key advantages – some 20% of their Garnacha is classified as “old vines”, ranging from 30 to 100 years of age and situated at extreme altitudes in very rocky soils. These low-yield plots are cultivated with meticulous care to produce complex wines with rich flavors and a signature minerality drawn from ancient layers of stone.

Sierra de Viento 2018 from Bodegas San Valero | 100% Garnacha

Attractive cherry red color with blue sparkles. Elegant and fine aromas with a touch of ripe red fruits over a flowery background. Fresh and tasty in the mouth with an ample and elegant finish.

I’m not sure which wine I should try first and I will also need to find a suitable pairing. To be continued…

There are some days when I think I’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction. ~ Salvador Dali

Until next time, keep your glass empty and your inbox full. You never know what tasty surprises may arise before you click delete.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

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On the Route of Sultans and Saffron: Lunch, Cava and Culture with a View

I’m back from Spain and what better way to celebrate Wine Wednesday than with an authentic Spanish food and wine pairing?

Unlike Madrid, it was a challenge to find a good selection of wine by the glass in Granada. Possibly, it’s a cost consideration or because many restaurants cater to tourists who even without knowing Spanish, were able to say, “Tinto, Ribera or Rioja.” (Note that Ribera del Duero is a mouthful, so saying Ribera is good enough.) While a glass is a bargain at about 3.50 Eu, you can get a glass of Granada wine for 2.50. Even the cheapest wine is good wine, but expect only simple and pleasant juice.

Luckily, if you want a better choice, buying a bottle of wine is very affordable and if you want good food, it’s best to stray from the tourist path. In the case of Granada, that means wandering the hilly streets, turning sharp corners and getting lost. I found the best way to find a good restaurant was not to look at the menu, but see which ones were inhabited by locals.

The lower end of El Albaicín (Albayzin in Arabic) is filled with tea houses and Moroccan restaurants. While I’m sure many are great, the streets are crowded with tourists and peddlers. Head up to Paseo de los Tristes where the street opens up to a stunning view of the Alhambra. On Saturday, there is an artisan market and whether you are sipping on Cava like me or just soaking in the views, you’ll enjoy being serenaded by gypsy musicians or even more so, gentle breezes that flow between the River Darro and Alhambra set high above on one side and the hills of El Albaicín on the other. This district is worthy of its own blog post, but if you need to know more, here’s a good start. One very important thing not mentioned in this article is that in 1994, El Albaicín was declared an UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Culinary Journey: Restaurante Ruta del Azafrán

Typically, I find the dish to match the wine, but since I’m not the one cooking, the star of this post is the food. I am reluctant to say fusion because today, that seems to denote trendy experiments. Perhaps, the synonym “blending” would be more accurate. Southern Spanish/Mediterranean cuisine with international flare, while uniquely paying homage to Azafrán/Saffron – the world’s most prized and expensive spice. DYK that saffron was once used as currency? Read more here.

In a recent interview with Ruta del Azafran’s Head Chef, Antonio Martínez, he says: “The gastronomic panorama of Granada is difficult, but full of possibilities.” Martínez elaborates that gastrotourism is minimal in Granada and the majority of tourists are seeking Tapas and drinks. Read the full interview here.

Here’s what I ate for lunch on two separate occasions. (If my stomach and time allowed, I would have tried the whole menu!)

  • Milhojas de manzana y queso de cabra con reducción de Pedro Ximénez
  • Crema del verduras
  • Cous-cous de pollo
  • Tataki de atún con pickles de piña
  • Salmón a la plancha con salsa de azafrán

The Wine: Dominio de la Vega, Idilicum Cava Brut NV

On this trip and in pursuit of wine education, I was determined to discover wine beyond Tempranillo and regions other than Rioja and Ribera del Duero, as well as focus on modern Spanish winemaking. As mentioned above, I was disappointed not to find much selection in Granada, but fortunately as time went on, variety found me and most times by accident.

While you may not pair sparkling wine with steak, it’s a suitable pairing for starters, seafood and lighter dishes and of course, enjoyed just by itself. Dominio de la Vega, Idilicum Cava Brut is made from 100% Macabeo (an indigenous Spanish grape called Viura in Rioja.) Dominio de la Vega is a family winery located in the Valencian region of Utiel-Requena, within the Denomination of Origin of the same name.

Background Info on the Winery: “A high plateau of destitute clay and limestone soil, with an altitude that varies from 600 to 900 meters. The climate is continental with a great Mediterranean influence: very cold winters and very dry and hot summers with scarce rainfall. The altitude and the sea’s influence give our cava and wine their features, like their freshness and great maturity.” Read more about the harvest here.

As you may know Cava is made in the traditional method just like Champagne (le méthode champenoise.) If not, it would be labeled as sparkling wine. If you are unfamiliar with this process, a Cava specific introduction can be found here. As noted in this article, the main types of grapes used in the production of Cava are the Macabeo, the Parellada and the Xarel·lo – all of which bring their own unique characteristics to the sparkling wine.

If you are more familiar with wine, you may find this article written by Jancis Robinson quite interesting: Macabeo/Viura – the Cinderella grape? After reading it, I realized how fortunate I was to drink a wine made from 100% Macabeo and hope that in order to inspire the demand for it, you try Idilicum too.

El poema, la canción, la imagen, son solo agua extraída del pozo de la gente, y se les debe devolver en una copa de belleza para que puedan beber, y comprendan ellos mismos. ~ Federico García Lorca

The poem, the song, the picture, is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink – and in drinking understand themselves.

Federico García Lorca was born in Granada. His works were banned during Franco’s dictatorship and he was executed by the Nationalists during the Civil War. While visiting Cuevas del Sacromonte, I was fortunate to hear an actress from Extremadura recite one of his poems .

Granada is magical. Google Maps won’t take you where you should be. The magic begins once you resign to getting lost.

Until next time, keep your glass empty and let it be filled with spontaneity. Pair it with a dish of curiosity and may it lead you to deeper understanding of both yourself and the world.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

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If You’re Looking for Me, You Can Find Me In Andalucia. Olé!

If you’ve read my last post, you’ll know that I’m still working on Chapter 11, Spain.

Studying has been quite the “journey.” Yes, I can read, but am I reading with understanding and more importantly, mastering the content? Almost every night after a long of day work, I find myself reading and then re-reading, taking notes, using the flashcard and testing applications on Quizlet, watching video tutorials and completing the workbook. It’s not easy and it has been a journey.

Studying wine also means tasting and that’s where the romantic journey begins! My finger traces over wine region maps, stopping at the places where I have yet to taste their wines. I begin by searching for indigenous grapes and try to find a single varietal and then a blend to taste and compare. I imagine what the soil feels like and the various climate conditions. It’s limitless and I’ve only just scratched the surface.

I have to admit that once I reached the Sherry section of Chapter 11, I closed the book and said to myself: let’s skip that part and just learn the facts enough to pass the test. Why? Because images of my mother and her British family popped into mind. Sherry was sipped after a Sunday dinner with family or poured into Trifle. I despised both. The drink smelled jammy and a sherry and custard soaked dessert was far from appealing!

As I tried to move on to Chapter 12, guilt set in. Why study enough to get by? This journey was to improve my knowledge and therefore I shouldn’t be taking a short cut. So I backtracked, beginning with this video which changed my outlook and commanded me to keep learning.

There’s more to Jerez (Sherry) than your grandmother’s (or in my case mother’s) drink. I’ve had a taste and now I’m on a plane looking for the perfect pairing. I’ll start with Manzanilla and Fino and move on to Oloroso, sticking to young and dry selections.

The Wine: Manzanilla (Chamomile) La Gitana – Bodegas La Gitana

Sherry (the English name for Jerez) is a fortified wine. I need to learn more before I even attempt to start writing about the aging process. However, if you’re curious I suggest you start here to learn about Fino Sherry and for more general information, here. You’ll be fascinated by Solera, Criadera and Flor.

Manzanilla La Gitana is made from Palomino Fino grapes. It has 15% alcohol and can be paired with seafood and tapas.

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana was founded in 1792.  They offer a variety of tours where you can taste five wines directly from the barrels! Find more information here.

Cada paso que damos en la tierra nos lleva a un mundo nuevo. (Every step we take on earth brings us to a new world.) ~ Federico Garcia Lorca

Until next time, go for a long walk with a glass of Sherry in hand and let it lead you to some place new.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Special thanks to @WinebytheBay for the wine and education. You can purchase Manzanilla La Gitana at this link.

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