An Inspirational Evening in an Unexpected Setting

St-Patricks-CathedralSince I hadn’t posted since my trip out west to Bend Oregon I thought I would regale you, my readers, with recent experience of mine.  On a recent trip to New York City I had the pleasure of taking a trip to one of the city’s landmark churches for a choral performance.  St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built between 1859 and 1871.  It is currently the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York.  It is the largest Neo-Gothic style Catholic church in the U.S.

I had been a couple times before to view the church strictly from an architectural perspective.  And of course it has some amazing artwork there that always lures me into staying longer than I intended.  But on this particular instance we were to see a local Catholic choir perform.  One of the performers is the daughter of a dear friend of mine.  We hadn’t seen each other in well over a year.  But out of the blue I got an email from him requesting my presence at this particular event.  I gladly accepted.

The church itself is absolutely stunning.  It faces Rockefeller center so it is essentially in the heart of the city.  Since it has served as the seat of the Archdiocese for years it has been a popular destination and is well known, by Neo-Gothic lovers throughout the States.

A Glorious Performance

When I accepted the invitation I had no idea what an honor this performance was going to be.  The choir is nationally known and has performed all over the world.  I had never really attended church much as a child.  And for that reason I’m not terribly familiar with the customs.  To be honest they have always made me somewhat uncomfortable when they’re full of worshipers.

But when they’re empty I can see them strictly from a historical and architectural perspective and this gives me a great deal of enjoyment.

From an acoustical perspective the church is actually quite magnificent.  While it is made up of cavernous rooms and all sorts of soaring ceilings, the company that installed the church sound systems did a fantastic job taming all of these difficulties.  There was literally no reverb during the entire performance.  This contrasted dramatically with the way noises would flutter about the structure sounding as if they were coming from 5 places at the same time.

Once the concert started I was truly in awe.  While I must say I’ve never been comfortable with religion, this was truly a spiritual experience.  The soaring voices and the magical harmony absolutely affected me.  At several points throughout the performance I was brought to tears.

If you ever get the opportunity to go to a professional choir performance I would highly recommend it.  It is on par with witnessing a great classical performance in one Europe’s great castles.  It is truly moving.


An Art Event in an Alternative Setting

the workhouseOne of the more interesting events I’ve been to in recent months was staged in a most unusual location.  I had traveled to Portland, Oregon to visit a couple of galleries.  While there it was brought to my attention that there was a very unique showroom in a small town called Bend.  Since it was only a few hours away and the drive was supposed to be beautiful, I decided to make the trek.

Bend is located in the central part of the state of Oregon.  It is nestled against the cascade mountains and has become known throughout the country as a haven for beer lovers.  With over 12 breweries in a relatively small geographic area it truly does seem like the beer capitol of the west coast.

But it is also known for it’s highly diverse art community.  Considering the population of this area is only about 80,000 there are a remarkable number of artists.  And on top of that, the town itself is highly supportive of these artists.

One location in particular that is very interesting is the Workhouse.  The building in which it is located is an old iron works.  Back in the days of Bend being a lumber industry town the iron works provided all the necessary hardware for the workers in this trade.  The building has since been put to an entirely different use.

The outside of the building remains little changed.  But on the inside what used to be a factory floor has been converted into a space for local artists to work and showcase their pieces.  The floor is divided up amongst 10 spaces, each the area of an individual artists.  And the common spaces showcase their work in a retail type setting.

The art ranges from clothing and fabric, leather, jewelry, and even metal work.  The metal artist in particular had some amazing pieces.  One piece that really caught my attention was a custom iPhone case that he had created from salvaged metal.  He uses a wide range of machinist tools more commonly found in an auto body shop than an artists studio.

This little gem of a studio was quite a pleasant surprise on this trip.  There is even a local bakery located in what used to be the accounting office of the ironworks.  The had some amazing looking pastries and treats.  Although I was good and able to stick to my Paleo diet even with all of these delicious looking temptations.


A New Discovery – Paleo Cookies

So I mentioned in my previous post I was starting on the Paleo diet.  I can honestly say that after hearing this diet described to me I though it sounded worse than starting medications for diabetes.  I must now somewhat reluctantly admit that I was completely wrong.

While my diet for the last 45 years has been a matter of eating anything and everything that I wanted, I’m now paying the price.  There were days when I would have croissants and coffee for breakfast, along with delicious muffins or cupcakes.  Then I would eat a huge sandwich for lunch.   And top it all off with bread for dinner and some other sort of dessert.

As you might imagine I was never in particularly good shape.  The life of an artist can be invigorating, but at least in my case, it didn’t involve a great deal of physical activity.  And so I had become very, very soft.  In fact slovenly might even be a better word.  Yes slovenly.  Anyway…

The idea of cutting out all of my favorite foods and ingredients was to say the least intimidating.  But now that I’ve actually been on the diet for a couple of weeks, I’ve noticed some very interesting changes.

First and foremost, I’ve lost about 10 lbs.  But that’s not even the best part.  Because I’ve increased the amount of fats that I eat and reduced the amount of carbohydrates that I take in each day, I’m full practically all the time.  How has science been so completely wrong about this for the past 30 years?!?!?

I typically start my day with some eggs fried in butter.  Doesn’t that just sound like the typical restrictive breakfast.  I’ll usually have a couple pieces of bacon or sausage links as well.  That plus a cup of coffee.  Instead of non-dairy creamer, which evidently is just vegetable fats turned to powder, I use heavy cream.  Can you imagine?  I’d forgotten how good the flavor of real cream in coffee could be.

This breakfast is high in protein and fat, and it keeps me full for hours.  There are days when I’m still full well past lunch time.  This never happened when I was eating lots of bready foods for breakfast.

Lunch typically consists of some greens in a salad, maybe some chicken, turkey or other dark meat.  Again, dark meat is the key as it contains more fats and helps keep me feeling full longer.  Since I’m not consuming any bread or carbohydrates at lunch, my afternoon crash has completely disappeared.  I used to walk down to the neighborhood Starbucks religiously at 3:30 every single day.  I don’t even notice feeling tired in the afternoon any more.

Occasionally I will need a little snack in the afternoon.  One of my friends turned me on to a special little Paleo treat that she’s found.  Basically they’re cookies made without any of the usual high carb ingredients.  The company is called Gourmet Paleo, and they do amazing work with their paleo cookies.  They are the perfect treat when my sweet tooth is acting up.  They freeze really well so you can keep them around for a while.  And at $4 per cookie, you want to make them last.  Check them out at Gourmet-Paleo.com.  They even a have cranberry coconut recipe.

Dinner is typically pretty small for me now days.  I’ll generally have a couple types of vegetables along with some sort of fish.  Fish is something I’ve always enjoyed and may be the one part of my diet that I was actually doing right.

Finally, one of the biggest benefits I’ve noticed from the Paleo diet is how much better I sleep.  The difference is enormous.  I’m out like a light.  And in the morning I feel absolutely refreshed.  It’s truly been remarkable.  To check out the cookies, just go to the Gourmet Paleo cookies.


How To Get Your Knives Razor Sharp Every Time

As I mentioned in my first post, one of my passions in life is cooking. I have been blessed to be able to travel the world looking for inspiration for my work. As a result, I have been exposed to culinary delights from around the world. From street food in Shanghai to three star Michelin restaurants in Paris, there is very little that I don’t enjoy.

On a recent trip to Atlanta I got to visit a Vietnamese restaurant on the northeast side of town. Some friends of mine had told me about it while at a party on Thursday evening.

I’ve eaten at several extremely Vietnamese restaurants in the past, but this particular spot had a French-Vietnamese fusion menu that was absolutely amazing. The entree that I enjoyed most was a sweet and sour duck confit. It was both rich in flavor and lightly sweet. Truly amazing.

Of course I decided immediately that I could improve upon this dish in my own kitchen. I’ve always loved duck confit, but have never particularly enjoyed the bone in variety.

I was able to pick up a succulent duck at my local Whole Foods. And once I had it home began the preparation of the dish.

I had decided that I would carve the bird after cooking it, and roast it again in it’s own fat. At this point I ran into a bit of a problem.

Thanksgiving this year had been held at my house. I don’t typically do holiday dinner parties at my home, but this year I felt compelled to invite my closest friends and family to the house for an elaborate feast. As time was running low, I allowed my nephew to carve the bird with my detailed instructions. He did a wonderful job, but in the process made a mess of my prized carving knife.

As I went to use it on the duck, it felt as though it was as dull as a butter knife. No problem, I’ll simply whip out my handy electric knife sharpener. No sooner had I plugged it in than I heard a pop, and goodbye sharpener.

Finding a New Knife Sharpener

Duck forgotten, I immediately hopped online to look for a replacement. I was pleasantly surprised by how much sharpeners had changed since I last invested in one. I quickly found a site, Make it Sharp, that guided me to the perfect sharpener for my very extensive collection of kitchen knives.  They have everything from sharpening stones to full blown professional knife sharpening system.

Within a few minutes it was ordered and I pounced back on the duck. I was able to use a paring knife to remove all of the meat. I placed it in a large ramekin with the skin and fat, covered it with foil, and cooked it low and slow. The addition of the fish sauce (the secret to the Vietnamese duck confit), was perfect.

I served it with roasted asparagus with a poached egg yolk and a bit of sea salt and truffles. Tres Magnifique!