101 in 1001

101 in 1001 #86: See a ballet.

One of the aspects of my Minneapolis life that I have missed the most since moving Bay-side is total immersion in the arts world. I've saved a lot of money by NOT going to an opera, symphony, or play on a legit weekly basis (well, actually, I've spent soooome of those savings on wine, but I digress)...but I so miss the feeling of watching the lights go down and the curtain rise. 

Minneapolis doesn't have a robust ballet scene, and as such I never really got into the medium, choosing instead to focus on the Guthrie and Minnesota Orchestra/Opera. San Francisco, on the other hand, has an absolutely outstanding ballet that is breaking boundaries and innovating on a grand scale. The latest example? Their spring "Unbound" series, which was inspired by a question posed by their director: "What is the future of ballet?"

Head_2_1600x350_1.jpg

Choreographers responded with their interpretations - half-hour mini-ballets, that were later grouped by broad theme and performed in sets of three as part of the Unbound Festival over the last month. Dave's cousin Francesca invited me to join her for one, and as it was really my first non-Nutcracker ballet experience, I jumped to say yes. 

After fighting brutal traffic, I was rewarded with Karl the Fog-free skies over the Civic Center, and the most amazing arancini and sangiovese at Dobb's Ferry pre-show. 

This was also my first experience with the War Memorial Opera House, where Michael and I will take in the entire Ring Cycle in just under a month! The building was jaw-droppingly stunning - exactly the kind of old-world opulence that makes me happy. 

As for the ballets? I was incredibly grateful to have Francesca with me to decode some of the more subtle nuances, but honestly, the entire evening was a viscerally intense joyride. The San Francisco Ballet is known for having ridiculously athletic dancers, much moreso than other ballets in the US; as such, their choreography and style truly pushes the limits of what ballet has traditionally been considered to represent or encompass. The three pieces we saw seemed disparate at first glance, but came together in the end to support a theme of contrast/duality/opposition and harmony.

The first piece was much more abstract - almost a Jets-and-Sharks style antipathy, stylistically very sparse and driven by the use of different-colored costumes that almost completely obscured the gender of each dancer. The second, a riff on Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome," was easily my favorite - lyrical and emotive, with a lush score and stunning choreography. As the piece required only three principal dancers, the ensemble danced as both falling snow and "the emotions of the leads;" in reading the program I scoffed a bit but it was incredibly effective in person. 

The third, which I wasn't really sure about initially, used really interesting black-and-white costumes to separate males and females. The choreography of the third piece emphasized synchronous movements rather than the more pas-de-deux focused style of "Ethan Frome," and ended with the entire ensemble moving together downstage, finishing on one perfectly-timed group leap airborne as the curtain dropped. I was genuinely on the edge of my seat watching, and left the theater on a total high. 

Needless to say, I'll definitely be revisiting the SF Ballet in the future - because of COURSE I need another expensive and time-consuming new arts passion, ha! 

Check out more 101 in 1001 here...lots coming down the docket soon!

101 in 1001 #78: Send a care package.

One of my favorite things to do in the whole world is to send cards/give gifts, especially presented prettily. Wrapping paper is my kryptonite. I regularly black out in Papersource (it's not my fault, everything they have is JUST SO GOOD). I have a minor addiction to good stationery (gotta love thank-you notes, monograms, and heavy, fancy envelopes!), and have had fun practicing calligraphy on and off for almost a year now. 

So when this item caught my eye on my 101 in 1001, I noodled it around a bit. Who to send a care package to? Kelsie, doing battle daily with 26 kindergarteners? Kaitlin, suffering through  a winter storm-heavy Boston winter? Hannah, maybe in time for the "Bachelor" finale? And then, while in Sonoma with my parents for my birthday, I saw the absolute perfect gift for my little brother in a boutique in St. Helena. That settled it - a care package for Jonathan. 

My sweet yiddle brudder has been having kind of a dickens of a time of it lately - a job he's not in love with, living in Detroit, adjusting to the whole "post college, make friends, starter career" thing. He's been an absolute champ through it all, and kept a great attitude despite some setbacks and less-than-awesome aspects of the whole thing. And I give him a TON of credit for that - I was definitely nowhere near as positive and optimistic at his age as Ernst & Young took continual hot, steamy dumps on my life. 

Jonathan likes to fancy himself a gourmand - his affinity for all things fine-wine-and-dining cracks me up on the regular. What better gifts, then, than "The Hungoevr Cookbook," which cracked me up on initial leaf-through, and a bar of the richest dark chocolate by Chef Thomas Keller, one of his idols, of The French Laundry fame? (It cracks me up because I know that he won't actually eat the chocolate - it'll end up on display on his bar cart or something equally ridiculous and totally Jonathan, and I love that.) The fun cocktail napkins were part of one of the aforementioned Papersource blackouts, and the card seemed like a great, well-timed little word of encouragement. 

And I thought I was done...until I started texting with Emily on seeing the preview for STARZ's new adaptation of "Sweetbitter," by Stephanie Danler. Em and I have very similar taste in TV and, for the most part, books, and I was surprised she hadn't already honed in on "Sweetbitter." Knowing she would love it as much as I did, I couldn't not pick up a copy for her, along with a ridiculously cute "Binge-Watching Kit" for when the show premieres (May 6! Mark your calendars!). The champagne bears were a last-minute addition to tie the card in - both also spoils of the Papersource blackout that produced Jonathan's napkins. 

And there you have it - all that remained was to package it all up in pretty tissue, (spend way too much to) ship it, and call this one a day! I think it's so fun to get mail that isn't just credit card offers, bills, and grocery store circulars...hopefully the sibbies agree. 

I was so thrilled that they both really loved the surprise...Jonathan actually sent a nice text instead of a meme for once: 

And Em shared hers on her Instastory (Follow her @emmykatie702 for amazing hand lettering that will make you so awed at her creativity!): 

IMG_4896.PNG

Gratifying, and always fun to do something unexpected and nice. Isn't getting actual mail so much more exciting than just bills and circulars?! 

For more 101 in 1001, head here...and if I have your address, keep an eye on the mail - apparently Papersource's power over me is greater and more terrible than I ever realized! 

101 in 1001 #7: Go to New York to see an opera at the Met!

I have wanted to see an opera at New York's Metropolitan Opera pretty much since I got into opera (my freshman year of college), and Michael and I finally made it happen for our birthdays a couple of weeks ago! 

I hadn't seen Michael since shortly before I moved, at, of course, an opera...he's my go-to classical music/opera friend, and I had missed him (and the opera world!) terribly since heading west. We planned the trip way back in October when we found out the Met was staging Wagner's "Parsifal." Wagner is Michael's favorite composer, and I've rapidly been seduced by his lush orchestration and larger-than-life operas. "Parsifal," a 6-hour telling of a Holy Grail legend sung in German, is definitely not for the faint of heart, but I couldn't have been more excited to go balls-to-the-wall on my first Met experience. 

IMG_4546.JPG

A rookie mistake on our parts: after staying up way too late on Friday drinking champagne and eating doner kebab post-"Hamilton," we were moving a bit slow on Saturday morning. Add to that a snafu with the subway ("you have to go downtown to get uptown today!") and you have the two of us arriving with only twenty minutes to curtain and no breakfast in us. YIKES. 

Nothing could dull my joy at finally being at Lincoln Center, however - especially with bright sunshine and beautiful views! (Please also note that I am incredibly on-trend and wore a jumpsuit to the Met - dressing for a daytime opera is no mean feat!)

Of course, a selfie with the famed Met chandeliers was necessary. 

The moment that the chandeliers in the theater rose as the overture began was, to me, the perfect culmination of months (years) of looking forward to this experience. The atmosphere at the Met is one of indescribable luxury and opulence - velvet walls, the sparkling crystal, the gilded boxes. I could not wipe the grin off my face!

As for "Parsifal:" the production we saw was DARK. The sparse staging, elaborate background projections, and monochromatic color scheme kept my focus on the stunning vocals and orchestra (we were incredibly lucky to be the first audience to see Yannick Nézet-Séguin conduct after his appointment to serve as the Met's music director next year!). Seeing famed bass (and Michael fave) René Pape sing Gurnemanz was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and demon-woman Kundry and Parsifal were also masterfully sung. 

The second act took place on a stage flooded with "blood" as Parsifal wrestles with temptation surrounded by a horde of demonic women, splashing eerily through the river and thoroughly saturating themselves in the process. It is DARK, and evocative, and incredibly riveting. The entire production held me spellbound, but the second act seemed to fly by just because I was so gripped by the visual spectacle coalescing with the opera itself. 

After all that blood, the second intermission called for a little bubbly...

As the opera ended, leaving me thoroughly euphoric, we exited the theater to see a picture-perfect snowfall framed by the Met's dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows. I just about up and died - this was the first snowfall I had seen all year, and it just seemed too fairy-tale serendipitous to be real, on top of the whole day of dreams coming true. 

Naturally, we importuned a fellow opera-goer to snap a photo for us, and I think it speaks for itself - it's kind of hard to miss the utter delight in my squinted-up-with-laughter eyes. 

Thoroughly ravenous, we hopped across the street to Epicerie Boulud, where we killed time with a bottle of champagne before getting seats at the Bar Boulud "family table." An utter delight of a meal followed: chatting en Francais with the couple on one side of us, discussing opera with the couple on the other side and their grandkids, and exchanging information for this summer's San Francisco Ring Cycle, which they are also attending! Not to mention Michael enjoying "the best duck a l'orange he's ever had" while I died over the perfect orecchiette. 

After dinner (and another bottle of wine, oops) we had the bright and brilliant idea to enjoy the snow and walk from the Upper West Side to the Upper East Side through Central Park for a post-dinner cocktail at Bemelman's Bar (thanks for the tip, Shannon!). Only issue? Yours truly, who is already known for her grace and poise, was wearing heels - three-inch suede stilettos with no platform, to be specific. Needless to say, we had an adventure slipping and sliding and taking our sweet time on the walk. By the time we reached Bemelman's, we were soaked through and I couldn't stop laughing at how utterly ridiculous the situation was. Those (brand-new) shoes? Pretty much ruined, and they dyed my feet a shocking shade of hot pink in the bargain...it may not have been "Parsifal" blood, but it looked ridiculous for the next four days before I finally got the stains out with nail polish remover. SO WORTH IT, THOUGH. 

IMG_2951.JPG

At Bemelman's, we enjoyed a little live jazz before heading downtown to catch one of my faves, the Gerald Clayton Quintet, at the Jazz Standard! Once they wound down, we traded champagne cocktails for tequila at a little cocktail bar around the corner, and headed home, still in the snow, around 2am. All in all, an absolutely ridiculous, amazing, fairy-tale first Met experience...thinking it may need to be an annual thing going forward! 

See more 101 in 1001 here...and for more opera love, check back in June as we attend my first Ring Cycle with the San Francisco Opera!! 

101 in 1001 #4: Take a ski trip (sort of!)

This is sort of a misnomer of a post, and I kind of feel like it's a cheater way to check this item off my list - my family went to Tahoe after Christmas, with every intention of taking a ski trip. It's been a long time since I've done true mountain skiing - after spending every spring break as a child in Colorado and practically growing up on skis, I had to table the hobby in favor of busy seasons and year-ends at work, and hadn't skied out west since Vail in 2012. I purchased all new gear, talked extensively to Dave about his favorite ski areas and trails, and spent weeks fantasizing about hitting the slopes - and aprés - for a few days with my family. We had planned to fly out the 26th, ski the 27th-29th, and for Dave, Jonathan and me to stay an extra day and ski the 30th as well. I was, in a word, PUMPED. 

My parents had booked a gorgeous slopeside condo at Heavenly's Summit Village, which was purportedly near ski-in, ski-out. With Tahoe's general lack of snow, however, we weren't going to be able to leverage that - Heavenly was only a little over half open when we went up, though, per Dave, other areas had much more terrain coverage. Even despite the lack of ideal conditions, we were stunned by the beauty of the drive up from Sacramento, and looking forward to making the best of average conditions all trip. The view alone was worth the hike up to our hilltop condo: 

So, all said, I was raring and ready for Schwegfam Tahoe 2017. Imagine my dismay, therefore, when the minute our plane touched down in Sacramento, I started to feel the scratchy throat and sniffly nose that had characterized my dad and brother's Christmas colds. Determined to power through, I thought little more of it until we were renting my gear and heading up Heavenly's Stagecoach lift on the morning of the 27th. I was SICK. Bad sick. Like, "can't breathe through my nose, coughing so hard I puke, running a fever and super out of it" sick. 

Determined to power through, we still skied a respectable 13 runs on the 27th, sticking mainly to one side of Heavenly and taking plenty of breaks to suck as much air in my battered, altitude-hating lungs as possible.

My mom pretty much saved my life on a mid-morning break when she and the bartender hooked me up with a concoction of coffee, vodka, and Tuaca - a hazelnut liqueur - that perked me up through lunch. Meanwhile, Jonathan was drinking vodka tonics and my dad was accessorizing with the best of them...what a baller. 

As for the skiing? It was a blast - I demo'ed Volkl skis and high-end Nordica boots, and the weather was warm enough to need only a thin base layer under my new North Face jacket and Spyder pants. While the snow was mostly man-made and was pretty skied off by the end of the day, and the trails were crowded solely due to the time of year and limited terrain, it was SO freaking fun to be back on the hill. Despite how long it had been (and feeling like I'd been hit by a truck), after a run or two I was right back in the swing of things. 

Half the fun for me, too, is watching Jonny ski - as a former racer, he's frighteningly fearless and has a ridiculous combination of grace and power on the slopes. He's a riot to see in action - even if I'm eating his dust (powder?) from hundreds of yards behind...I am a far more conservative skier than he is! 

IMG_3999.PNG

At the end of day 1, we schlepped our gear up the 150 steps to our condo, took a breather and got cleaned up, and headed into Heavenly Village for a fantastic dinner at California Burger Company. We sat outside around a firepit, I slammed two whiskey toddies, and fell asleep in the car on the way back up the mountain to our place.

After a fitful night of sleep, the next morning it was clear that I was in no condition to ski...my cough had settled in my chest and I was hacking up black shit, puking up everything I ate, and running a whopper of a fever. My parents and Jonny headed out for the day on their own, and I went immediately back to bed legit until they came off the slopes. 

I was determined to rally and ski the next day, and to make it to Dave's arrival and ski the 30th too - so with that in mind, I put on actual pants and joined my family for aprés at Fox and Hound, a fantastic dive bar halfway up to Summit Village.

Shoutout to the "Chata Express" - a lethal concoction of hot chocolate, Fireball, and Rum Chata - that got me through the next hour. Soon it was apparent to all parties involved that I was NOT going to be skiing the 29th, or likely the 30th, or realistically at all the rest of the trip. My parents, being saints, headed down to Tahoe Village for soup, Nyquil and Mucinex while I slept and burned up in the car, then set the wheels in motion to cut our trip short and get Jonathan home early so he could spend NYE in Detroit instead of with my sick ass. I called Dave, told him the change in plans, and promptly passed out at about 7pm. 

The next day, Dick and Jodes drove four unplanned hours to San Francisco to take me home, where they GRILLED EFFING STEAKS for us and for Dave before heading to their hotel. They ate the cost of our condo, paid for accommodations in SF, and covered the upcharge to change Jonathan's flight. They are, needless to say, the most selfless and caring people I know, and took such great care of me/were so forbearing and patient with my Tahoe Plague. I am SO THANKFUL for them. 

After our abortive attempt at a ski trip, I rallied pretty much for the four hour window I left our apartment on New Year's Eve, and spent most of the next week sleeping (slash reading, slash coughing, slash marathoning "The Crown"). Thank goodness Stanford shuts down for the duration of their academic winter break - having the extra week to recuperate was critical. And there you have it - a ski trip that sort of wasn't, a family that was and is the best, and me once again getting sick before/during a major life event! 

Looking forward to trying it again soon, Tahoe...stay tuned campers! 

101 in 1001 #57: Make homemade pasta!

Shortly after I moved out here, Dave and I binge-watched "Master of None," which I had never seen and which he proclaimed one of the best modern shows he'd seen. I adored it unequivocally - not in the least for the second season's first few episodes, set in stunning Italy as lead character Dev (a lovably hapless-in-love Aziz Ansari) learns to make homemade pasta. 

The show, coupled with the fact that Dave is the child of an Italian family and had made pasta from practically infancy, made me urgently want to check this item off my list. When I came back from Thanksgiving to find a superabundance of potatoes in our kitchen, Dave's suggestion that they become gnocchi couldn't have seemed more timely. 

We had noble goals of spending Dave's Friday night on call cooking, which went rapidly off the rails when he had to go in to the hospital. I prepared to press pause on the whole enterprise, and cozied up with a glass of champagne and some sportsball on television to wait him out. Around 9:30, however, he texted me that he was unlikely to make it home at a decent hour...and that I was on my own to make gnocchi. 

I panicked, a little bit, as one does when confronted with the news that she has to tackle pasta solo for the first time ever. And then I went to town. 

I had a blast churning the potatoes through my new food mill, purchased at Williams-Sonoma based on Dave's instructions. Aside: I'm dangerously obsessed with Williams-Sonoma lately, especially as I've been cooking so much more (and enjoying it so much more). Every time I go in there I want to spend obscene gobs of money on all the gorgeous cookware and gadgety things. GROWN-UP PROBLEMS. 

The situation went downhill with alarming speed when, having followed Dave's instructions to a T, I was left with excessively sticky dough. In hindsight, the common-sense thing to do would have been to add flour...but I was convinced that Dave knew what he was doing and that I was being an idiot by thinking this was wrong. So I blithely continued to "make gnocchi..."

And you would think that I would have at some point realized how awful things were going to turn out when the dough was near-impossible to manipulate. The key is to roll it out into long snakes and cut the dough into little tiny pillows...Dave's words, not mine. My snakes wouldn't roll, they just kind of gummed up our counter, and when I cut them they sort of...puddled. I don't have a better verb for what they did, but trust me - it wasn't pretty. 

I tried to cook them anyway - following Dave's instructions to wait until they floated and then pull them out - and this was the end result: 

I don't even know what you would call these. Sad mashed-potato nuggets? I was simultaneously so frustrated and amused that I couldn't stop laughing - I don't think I've ever been so appalled by something I "created" in the kitchen before, and that's really saying something. 

I scrapped the dough/mush/goo, set our (amazing) homemade vodka sauce aside, cleaned up the war zone that was the kitchen, and boiled Dave some fettuccine noodles for dinner when he finally made it home around 11pm. Though he was on call again the following night, we tried again...this time, SO much more successfully! 

Largely because Dave took charge of the dough and taught me what it's actually supposed to look and feel like: 

How much better do those look? The recipe is legit just a whole bag of potatoes, put through a ricer or food mill...plus three egg yolks, a pinch of salt and pepper, and flour to the point where it forms ^that^ kind of dough. It couldn't be easier - but so much of it is dependent on texture and feel that I was just screwed from the start. 

Dave also appreciated the importance of letting me taste-test all the way along the way - and had made another giant double batch of vodka sauce while I rolled and cut fifty million gnocchi. He cooked a few of them up for me and threw them in sauce/topped them with basil while I cut...and I almost immediately started dreaming of moving to Italy and just making/eating pasta full-time, "Master of None" style. 

UM HI. How delicious do those look?! 

So there you have it - homemade gnocchi by Chef Dave with yours truly alongside for sous chef comic relief. We have an overabundance of them hanging out in our freezer now - can't wait to spend the next couple months experimenting with sauces, or to keep learning the homemade pasta world! 

For more 101 in 1001, head here...it's probably about time to start thinking about tackling macarons, hmm?!