As I contemplated the heading for this post I started to wonder what readers would imagine it contained: a household cleaning task? a recall of some sort of bizarre punishment? an attempt at a horror story? a retreat gone wrong? All interesting guesses, but the fact is that I spent most of the last three days in the basement at Reno City Hall, working wardrobe duties for Bandaloop: a vertical dance company out of Oakland, CA, that was in town to kickoff Artown celebrations.
It was great fun even though the green room and sewing space presented a challenge. I set up my work space using a 1960’s vintage couch (looked very similar to the one in my Moorhead State University dorm lounge circa 1969) and a coffee table. My sewing machine was pretty low to the ground and that meant that getting to the foot pedal required me to sit in a modified easy seated yoga pose. (Maybe that’s more plus than minus…) The overhead lights were low-level florescent tubes and I found myself using the flashlight app on my phone for detailed work. But the company – literally, the dance company – was a delight; easy to work with, appreciative, funny, inclusive.
The original wardrobe call indicated that I would be needed for light sewing repairs and then ironing and steaming of costumes to be worn for the main shows. That role expanded significantly, and I ended up doing some major construction: working on 6 out of 7 of the group’s costumes. One costume was entirely redone; 2 needed major overhauls and repairs; 2 needed new pieces made; 1 was just fitting and adjustments.
Fortunately, there were opportunities to go above ground and appreciate the amazing talents of this fabulous troupe.
Gives new meaning to the phrase, “All in a day’s work.”
Since we first came to Reno we had been hearing about this amazing opportunity – a culinary class taught by chefs flown over from Italy. But the catch – the venue only seats 40 people and attendance is determined by a random drawing. Well, you know the old saying, “You can’t win if you don’t try.” So try I did. And we were chosen!
Part of the fascination with the class is it’s location. The kitchen/dining facilities are in a historical mansion which was designed by Fredrick deLongchamps, Reno’s premier architect. It is currently home to Arte Italia, a foundation whose goal is to commemorate and perpetuate Italian culture through the exploration and conservation of culinary and visual arts.
Without knowing who would be teaching the class or what the menu would be we immediately sent in our reservation request. As we walked into the kitchen we saw that our teacher for the evening was already at work.
While waiting for the other participants to arrive we enjoyed small bites and wine. We also looked over the menu and the accompanying information pages that listed the various ingredients that would be used throughout the evening, many familiar but others not (eggplant powder?).
The appetizer, Eggplant Parmesan – Revisited, turned out to feature one of my favorite ways to serve dishes – deconstructed. Always a fan of eggplant, I was eager to see how this would play out. In Chef Spando’s restaurant this dish is served in a hand-blown sugar “bowl” that looks like a baby eggplant. When the ingredients are layered inside the “eggplant” falls open and reveals the luscious interior elements; grilled eggplant cubes, buratta cheese, Parmesan chips, oven dried tomatoes, fresh basil and oregano.
Because it would be impossible to make 40 candy shells and be able to serve in a timely manner, we got our eggplant parmesan in glass globes. We were able to admire the lovely layers and we also got the addition of a light foam on top. (Foam – a topic for a complete blog post! Don’t get me started…)
On to the first course: Duck a’la Orange Tortelli with BlackTruffle.
On to course number two: Chicken and his Grain. The chef created this dish as a whimsical tribute to chicken as a food source. The grains on the plate represent all of the things chickens would eat as they are raised. (Of course we are talking locally-raised chickens as used in Chef’s restaurant, not those from poultry facilities. If the latter we would have had some sort of manufactured kibble strewn about.)
And on to dessert: Ginsing Creme Brule with Almond Sorbet and Dill Broth.
So – what will I take away from this class? Appetizer round: I learned a new method for oven roasting eggplant and I am still not a fan of foam. First course: I will definitely make the simple pasta sauce but it will be quite a while before I make my own pasta. Second course: Our Thanksgiving plates may have a new look this year. Bring on the popcorn! Dessert course: Old bread, crumbled and combined with a bit of brown sugar and butter, makes a scrumptious topping using things I typically have on hand. I also want a browning torch.
So – with apologies to those who are tired of seeing food photos, this ends the tale our adventure. Except to say that, as a dietary correction, it’s green salad for dinner tonight!
It was on our bucket list. We entered the lottery for tickets three years running. We bought and totally refurbished a motor home just for the event – and finally…finally… we were on our way!
Glad we did it? Absolutely! Do it again? Maybe. As in most things in life, it’s relative…doing Burning Man in our 60s has to be different than doing it in earlier decades of life. We also know we have been blessed with an wealth of experiences – coming of age in the 60s/70s, protests, rock’n’roll, SF with Bill Graham and Grateful Dead crowd, MN wilderness camping, overseas travel, diverse and talented friends.
For those of you who are intrigued – hop on the Burning Man train at least once. I believe there is always something to be learned through novelty. But be warned: they are looking to raise the population of BRC to 100,000. (Nerd that I am, I went to the Earth Guardians Camp for a lecture by a National Park Ranger. The topic was the ecology of the playa and the impacts of Burning Man. I learned that Desert Research Institute is doing an impact study to figure out how to increase numbers.)
Stay hydrated. Keep an open mind. Reserve judgement.
Don’t you love it when things you enjoy doing cycle back unexpectedly into your life? That is what happened to me yesterday. I was asked to work the wardrobe call for Che Malambo, an all-male Argentinian dance company which was performing during Artown. (Check out their video: Che Malambo)
Background: My first wardrobe duty came in 1974 with Disney on Parade, originally when they were touring in the states and had a week-long stop in Ames, Iowa where I was finishing undergrad work and working at the arena they appeared in, and then later in Mexico. Such fun times! It was during the Mexico leg of the tour that my Bob (who had also worked with the company in Iowa and subsequently taken a job as the unit’s Technical Director) and I become friends and, in a parking lot in Mexico City, decided we would marry. (There is still some discussion about who proposed to whom.) We have a special place in our hearts for all things Disney and can still sing parts of “It’s A Small World After all” in Spanish.
Second wardrobe stint was in 1982 (married, two children; back in Iowa) and a Broadway touring company of “Annie” was playing in Des Moines. It was as much fun being backstage as I had remembered. In an interesting twist, they had just had one of their wardrobe crew leave and they asked if I would like to join them for the rest of the run. (Who knew those Home Economics classes would pay off in such an interesting way???) Flattered as I was, it was a offer I could easily refuse and happily head home to my guys.
So yesterday brought back sweet memories. The steaming and ironing and mending and button sewing amidst the activity of rehearsal, stage set-up, and sound check was still as much fun. In the evening I sat in the audience and watched Che Malambo perform their amazing dances and routines. It was a fabulous show that included effects from Mother Nature as storms rolled through behind our venue. With all of that going on I still could not resist thinking to myself, “And I pressed Pancho’s pants.”
It was a fun weekend at our house. In between Artown activities we got serious about our lists for Burning Man: food, clothing, shelter, transportation, what to bring to share, etc. The food list was not too perplexing as we have done quite a bit of wilderness camping, spending anywhere from a week to 10 days in the Boundary Waters Area in Minnesota. Shelter was straightforward as we will be lodging in Homer, our Odyssey motorhome. (Though we did put exterior painters tape on our purchase list because there will be spaces to seal up against the inevitable playa dust.) Additionally, I ordered a new sleeping bag as our last ones were donated when we moved from Virginia. And Bob did his Amazon thing and ordered firefly lights for the canopy.
Transportation was next, and we both agreed that taking our around town bikes out into the desert was not a good idea so Bob jumped on Craig’s list and found us some wheels. Ironically, these bikes have already been to Burning Man (contrary to us newbies) and even came with lights.
One of them is Gifting: “Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.” I am collecting a satchel of goodies to bring along. I also have an art project (of sorts) planned and there may be some gifting related to this as well. More on all of that later in another post.
July means Reno is celebrating Artown, and of all the amazing cultural offerings (500+!), the Midtown Art Walk is one of the best. Last night the streets were crowded with people out to enjoy the music, food, beverages (adult and otherwise), and exhibits. This year more than 90 merchants and close to 100 artists contributed to the event. One of the best features on the walk this year was the People Project. Over 50 life-size statures were placed throughout Midtown. Local artists “dressed” them to reflect the various businesses that they adorned.
Museum: Shrine of the Muses; a place for inspiration and education; holds and preserves items of value; encourages the study of objects of scientific, artistic or historical interest.
Saturday started off in a spectacular fashion. As a volunteer for Historical Reno Preservation Society (HRPS) I was invited to join a small group of fellow history lovers for a private tour of University of Nevada Reno’s Mackay School of Mines, and more especially the Keck Museum. By the end of the morning my head was bursting with new information and admiration. Our guide, Garrett Barmor; museum administrator, started us off outdoors at the foot of the statue of John Mackay, one of the big four magnates of the Comstock Lode.
A few photos of the beautiful lines and shadows within the building:
One of the most voluptuous displays is in the lower level of the museum: the Mackay silver. John Mackay had this made as a gift for his wife. The work was done by Tiffany’s, and they also designed a custom monogram. Interestingly enough, the monogram is the same font Tiffany’s used for the New York Yankees logo.
On the the lowest level, which is actually housed within the foundation, we were fortunate to get to tour an area that is closed to the general public. There we got to see the seismic isolators that were installed to insure the preservation of the original building in the event of an earthquake. At one time the building was shut down because it did not pass earthquake standards. It was slated to be razed, but locals (largely HRPS) rallied to encourage the Nevada Board of Regents to find a way to retrofit the structure and make it usable once again. They did!
For those of you in Reno, UNR is holding “Day at the Museums” on May 2, 2015. All eleven of the school’s museums will be open. Most are free admission and there will be hands on activities, scavenger hunts, food trucks, and special offerings for kids. For those of you outside of the area here is a link with more information: http://www.unr.edu/keck. Enjoy!
This morning I happily participated in Historic Reno Preservation Society’s walking tour, Literary Reno. We spent a delightful 2 hours learning about authors and their portrayal of life in The Biggest Little City. Many of the stories focus on the darker side, which makes sense because good stories need that sort of compelling drama. In many of the stories the setting is such a big part of the narrative that it becomes almost a character unto itself. Our tour guides handed out a reading list at the end of the walk. I am looking forward to reading some of the titles I have not delved into yet as I always enjoy recognizing familiar territory. I have scanned the bibliography and would be happy to send it along to anyone who is interested.
My Bob and I are big fans of Tournant Pop-Up Restaurant opportunities. We have been on board with this adventure since it’s inaugural offering on New Year’s Eve 2013. Some of the best food I have ever eaten has come from them. Each dinner has its own theme and highlights: 1920’s speakeasy with craft cocktails to match each course, Quentin Tarentino movies in a seafood warehouse, Wizard of Oz and a spring menu at an environmental school site; but one of the very best had to be the “blind tasting” (yes, we wore blindfolds as we ate) that offered three courses for each of six flavor sensations. For those of you who don’t want to do the math, that was 18 small plates in all. And don’t get me started on the best course of that evening – Smoke in the Hole. I tease the chef, Ben Deinken, that he raised the bar really high on that one, and that I now measure everything else I taste on the yardstick of that amazing dish. Which is not to say that pretty much everything we eat at one of the pop-ups isn’t really, really good. So while it is all uniquely delicious, sometimes there is a standout. (BTW: Smoke in the Hole rivals my all time fav – mussels and frites at a pub in Maastricht, Netherlands. And I have to admit, the mussels had the locale going for them, so maybe it’s not even a fair ranking.)
So, I am looking forward with great excitement to the upcoming dinner: Science of Beer; a Tournant dinner paired with Sons of Fermentation, a homebrewer’s group http://drinkablereno.com Check out their Facebook page for more info.