Category: Food

At the Basel Frazzle: Breakfast at the Rubells.

Healthy-delicious. And all it required was the occupation of a full house. (Photo by C-M.)

This past Thursday morning I crawled through a hole in a wall, entered a condemned house and proceeded to help myself to porridge. In one room were the bowls. In another, the spoons. In yet others were bubbling pots of oatmeal and stacks of brown sugar and raisins. While the victuals were tasty, in a fiber-rich, heart-healthy kind of way, the whole thing felt seriously overwrought. Beginning with the warning sign, at the entrance, which cautioned that the installation could be “physically dangerous.” (Clearly, these art nerds have no idea what it really takes to get into a derelict building.)

All of this was part of Jennifer Rubell’s latest food piece, Just Right, at the opening of her family’s art collection space, the Rubell Family Collection, in Miami’s arts district this week. Three years ago, I partook of her hard-boiled egg extravaganza. And as much as I abhor the idea of eating hard boiled eggs with a latex glove, there was a certain freakiness to the installation that I had to respect. This piece, however, felt frivolous – a way for a very well-to-do family to occupy a crestfallen old home within range of their imposing compound. An unwitting metaphor of Miami’s complicated issues of poverty, race, class and real estate.

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Photo Diary: Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection, at SFMOMA.

‘Cuz all those Gap khakis bought a buttload of art: My very long photo essay of the Fisher Collection show at SFMOMA. Above, Spider, 1995, by Louise Bourgeois.

Untitled (Rome), 1971, by Cy Twombly.

Not part of the Fisher collection, but pretty fracking spectacular nonetheless: The Mondrian cake at the museum’s rooftop cafe. I ate the Thiebaud cake. Photos of art — and cake — after the jump.

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Visiting the Mother Ship: Whole Foods, Austin.

Alls I gotta say is: Sweet. God. Almighty. (Photos by C-M.)

I’m not ordinarily a Whole Foods shopper, but I just HAD to visit the corporate HQ of America’s most blinged out supermarket chain while in Austin — and thankfully, my efforts were amply rewarded. The Whole Foods here is truly out-sized, with colors that are hallucinogenic and a baby boomer soundtrack that keeps the senses on total overload. I realized that it made perfect sense that this is a company that would emerge from Texas, a state that revels in doing everything on a larger-than-life scale. The whole experience was like entering an Andreas Gursky photo. With smells. And insane amounts of disposable plastic. And a three-foot tall chocolate fountain.

As totally insane as the whole place is, I have to tip my hat to the folks in corporate for the presence of the Bowie BBQ stand in the middle of the store. Their brisket sandwich KICKS ASS.

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Road Trip Photo Diary: Taylor’s Cafe in Chino, Calif.

For roughly three years, on my trips to California, I’ve made regular pilgrimages to a small cafe and truck stop that sits near the border between the inland communities of Chino and Ontario. It’s a small, windowless corner spot with lots of wood paneling, divine carne asada and a zingy homemade salsa dispensed in Heinz ketchup bottles. Belly up to the counter any day of the week and you’re liable to find plenty of local color: dairy farmers, Mexican cowboys dispensing aphorisms and the occasional burnout blabbing loudly about a DUI.

I’m a fan of the place for two reasons. One: congenial co-owner Claudia Reca, who knows most of her customers by name (she’s run the joint for 25 years), and is so badass she can dish out breakfast burritos and tend to the truck scales while maintaining perfectly applied lip liner. Two: The setting. Taylor’s lies in a rural-suburban transition zone where strawberry fields, cattle farms and a handful of state correctional facilities face off against tract housing developments that seem to materialize practically overnight. In fact, it is possible to stand by the restaurant’s main door (which is stenciled with the motto Animals Taste Good) and see cows munching on hay on one side of the street and cookie-cutter condos on another. The old California abutting against the new, in the starkest visual terms.

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L.A. Trip Diary: Coroner’s Office Gift Shop + Gigantor Burrito. Hell yes.

Forget museum gift shops. The LA County Coroner’s Office can fill all your merch needs. (Photos by C-M.)

In between running errands for Road Trip 2010 (which officially starts tomorrow), I met up with my homegirl Vidalia for a quick field-trip to a couple of important L.A. sights. First stop: the L.A. County Coroner’s Office, so that we could patronize the gift shop, where we stocked up on all manner of Coroner department merch. (Because a girl’s wardrobe isn’t complete unless she has a blingy tee with a body outline on it.) The added bonus is that the shop is located inside the building that once housed the old L.A. County General Hospital. Built in 1878, it has been beautifully restored, and comes complete with graceful Beaux Arts facade, dramatic staircase, mosaic tile floors and frosted glass doors. I half expected to see Jack Nicholson running around in Chinatown garb.

Because buying T-shirts with toe tags builds up an appetite, we followed this excursion with a visit to the infamous El Tepeyac, where we dined on the infamous Manuel’s Special Burrito, a behemoth machaca monster that was bigger than an airline pillow (remember those?) and weighed more than a small dog. It’s even bigger than the infamous porno burrito from El Atacor. So big, in fact, that the restaurant staff helpfully supply you with a pie server in order to be able to eat the thing. And yes, it was damn good. Special props go to the kick-ass house hot sauce, which has just the right amount of punch and smoke.

Special thanks to my former colleague and Twitter pal @russelltrombone for the tip on the Coroner’s gift shop. It is, indeed, as spectacular as described.

BONUS C-MON GIVEAWAY EXTRAVAGANZA: Leave a comment below to be entered to win an L.A. County Coroner’s office lick-n-stick tattoo. Estimated value: 25 cents.

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Admiring museum-quality pizza at MoMA.

Extra olives with a light dusting of acetone, please: Gabriel Orozco’s pizza crust, part of Working Tables, 2000-2005. See the piece in context here. (Photo courtesy of MoMA.)

If there is something that absolutely inspires the art nerd in me, it’s the totally whacked out materials used by some artists. Blood. PeaRoeFoam. A stuffed angora goat. Which is why I was quite excited to find a pizza crust in the Gabriel Orozco retrospective when I visited MoMA last week. The above crust, part of the piece Working Tables, resides in the museum’s stately permanent collection. (It is very important crust.) Which got me wondering: what exactly does a museum do with crust? Is it Orozco’s original crust? Or is it replaced regularly with fresh crust? And what about crust munchers like roaches and mice?

For answers to these burning questions, we turned to MoMA’s associate sculpture conservator Roger Griffith, who has worked in the museum’s conservation lab for more than a decade. Griffith, it turns out, has some experience dealing with art objects made of food. Among them, Janine Antoni’s Gnaw , an installation that consists of 600 lbs. each of chocolate and lard that has been gnawed by the artist. (No doubt a joy to maintain). He was also the man in charge of caring for a small block of artist-made cheese fabricated from human breast milk at a temporary MoMA exhibit several years ago. (“My job was to make sure it didn’t mold,” says Griffith. “I would just take it out of the fridge, pat it down, salt it and put it back.”) He was kind enough to give us the lowdown on pizza à la Orozco:

  • The Crust is O.G.: This is Orozco’s original crust which has been with the museum since MoMA acquired it in 2005 from the Marian Goodman Gallery.
  • It’s Part Plastic: Part of the reason this crust (which is at least five years old) still looks good — and hasn’t been attacked by critters — is because it was treated by the museum’s staff upon  arrival. When MoMA acquired Working Tables, the crust was a normal, everyday crust. But once it entered the museum’s conservation lab, it was bathed in acetone (“to remove the fatty acids, the parts that cause degradation,” explains Griffith) and then soaked in a solution of acrylic known as B-72. The acetone dissolves the fat; the acrylic replaces it. To keep it looking natural (acrylic has a tendency to shine), the conservation department spritzed it with an acetone mist to eliminate unnatural sheen. Voilà! Plasticized pizza dough that looks totally real, yet barely ages. (Like some Upper East Side ladies I know…)
  • It’s Stored in Highly Secure Packaging: When the crust isn’t on display, it’s put away in marva-seal, which according to this website, is the same packaging that the U.S. military uses to wrap its MREs (or Meals Ready to Eat). Which strikes me as incredibly handy, because if all hells break loose, we can always drop Orozco’s crust somewhere over Afghanistan — solving all manner of foreign policy woes.

What I’m Reading. Plus: Cheese Giveaway Extravaganza!

Nubian goat Lizzie (or Nisa or Penny…). After you finish Goat Song you’ll feel like you have a whole herd of goat pals. (Photo by Dona Ann McAdams.)

I just finished devouring Brad Kessler‘s Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A short history of herding, and the Art of Making Cheese. No pun intended, folks. Reading Kessler’s memoir of what it’s like to leave the New York art and literary world to make goat cheese in Vermont — with his photographer wife Dona Ann McAdams — is about as mouth-watering a reading experience as I can remember. Written in lush but straightforward prose, with beautiful photos by McAdams (the one-time chronicler of the downtown performance art scene), Goat Song made me want to run out and buy a little Nubian doe and start milking. The book is a surprising mother lode of information about art and culture. (Did you know that both the devil’s horns and cloven hooves and the shape of letters in the alphabet all owe their origins to herding?) It’s also a page turner, with hair-raising chapters about staving off coyote attacks and hilarious passages about goat sex. (“It’s like a frat house,” writes Kessler, of a male goat’s post-coital preening around his fellow bucks.)

And because when you finish reading Goat Song, the first question is, naturally, “Where’s the cheese?”  — as in where can I taste Kessler’s home-aged tomme? — is proudly offering a cheese giveaway courtesy of  New York City’s Les Enfants Terribles, the only restaurant in the city that serves it. Tell us why you “cut the cheese” in the comments below and the Canal Street bar-restaurant will send you a coupon for a free fromage sample.

In the meantime, be sure to pick up a copy of Kessler’s book. You can find it right here.

The Digest. 08.12.09.

Cotton Candy Ice Creams. (Photo by the always amazing Agent Lover.)