Blog Archives - AM Musings
Left Four cupcakes by Wayne Thiebaud -- Right Still Life by Giorgio Morandi
Museo Morandi in Bologna, Italy has a joint exhibit of two artistic heroes -- Northern California artist Wayne Thiebaud and Giorgio Morandi.  Both studied simple still life objects for a lifetime.  Although different at first glance, once examined you can see many similarities in their approach.

According to the SF Chronicle article by art critic Kenneth Baker, Thiebaud was a fan of Morandi and owned several of his paintings. This exhibit closes in October and is scheduled to travel and come to the Bay Area.  I will be looking for it! 

Hidden away on a side street in Bologna, the museum is located in an old apartment building and was Morandi's former home.  Other residents still live in the gated courtyard building.

Spot the  small sign and ring the doorbell to gain entrance.  Go up a narrow set of stairs and transition from the historical Bologna streets and buildings to a museum bright, modern, and a study in minimalist Italian architecture -- a wonderful transformation.  I encourage you to visit if you can. 

Kim chi in process
I go in cycles making kim chi and will go for long periods of time without making any - buying it at the Korean grocery store.  A Koren grocery store with excellent house-made kim-chi insures a steady stream of customers.  A store with mediocre kim-chi makes me want to make my own.

I made a batch of kim chi last week and here is a photo of it in progress.  The "perfect" kim chi is pleasantly salty, has a crunchy bite, a bright orange red color, and at the right moment, a slightly effervescent quality.  Timing and technique can make a big difference. 

Perhaps the most important technique is the preliminary salting of the cabbage.  My rule of thumb is to salt the cabbage until you think you have added too much -- and then add some more.  Besides napa cabage, my recipe also includes daikon, garlic chives, garlic, ginger, red pepper powder and yes - "jut".  See my recipe here for a discussion of jut and the kim-chi technique I have developed. 
Paragon Book Gallery - Chicago
Paragon Book Gallery at 1507 South Michigan Avenue just south of downtown Chicago is a paradise for Asian Art lovers.  Hidden in a non-descript building with no storefront windows, you need to be buzzed into the store.  Once inside it's like a warehouse filled with books on Asian Art and related topics. Slightly musty with the smell of old books, the ceiling is at least 14 feet high and the space is filled with rows of bookshelves filled with new and used books.  Under various owners, the original 1942 store opened in Shanghai before moving to Manhattan in 1948 and finally landing in Chicago in 1991.
Symbolism in Korean Ink Brush Painting
Hard to find books can be found here and their on-line catalog is astounding. Each book coming into the store seems to be photographed and cataloged.  You can search their catalog by country and then refine it by  category. 

I spent an entire afternoon there drooling over books of every kind.  If Asian Art interests you, then check out their web site and sign up for their email notifications of sales and new publications.  Paragon Book Gallery has the most comprehensive source of Asian Art books I have ever seen.

Hokkaido Seafood Buffet - Steam Table
Buffet we all shouted!  Gluttony and guilty pleasures can't always be avoided.  We promise ourselves, we'll just have a "little" and not overeat.  Hokkaido Seafood Buffet in San Mateo was our destination.  It's located in a suburban mall and you enter by  walking  by a skating rink to  get to the restaurant.  If you look at their website, you'll notice that the choice of languages is either English or CHINESE.  Hmm, not the best indication of a good "Japanese" restaurant.

The space is large and cavernous, but reasonably decorated as buffet restaurants go.  There are lots of choices and several items can be grilled to order at one of the counters.  This isn't gracious dining as your party is either coming or going and loading up their plate.  

I suggest sticking to the salads, hot entrees, or perhaps some of the Hokkaido dim sum.  Not a date place and I'd pass on the sushi.

Clay Theater - Fillmore Street
The Clay Theater at 2261 Fillmore Street still has its neon sign shining.  It's almost impossible for me to think of a movie theater without thinking of neon sign above a marquee and lighted sign that announces the current offerings.  Built in 1910,  it seems to threaten to close every few years.  I hope not as it certainly perks up Fillmore Street with it presence.  Walking distance from Pine Street, I hope it stays open for a long time more.
Wood Shingles and Steel Frame
This residential building around the corner on Baker Street between Pine and California was built about 25 years ago.  Garage doors usually demand a relatively wide opening that needs to be supported by an overhead beam.  Here the architect solved two problems using a steel frame.  It supports the garage door opening and also provides lateral stability to the building to resist earthquakes.

Most designers would conceal the steel frame within or behind the exterior wall to maintain the "rustic shingled" look.  Here the architect decided to show it all to good effect.  Almost decorative, It's a nice contrast to the wood shingles.
Bitter Melon with Fish at B&M Restaurant
"Oh no not fu gua (bitter melon), do I have to eat it?"  That's what I groaned as a kid.  My parents grew vegetables in the back yard and when it was bitter melon season, we saw it on the dinner table.  This gourd contains quinine which gives it the bitter taste.  Kids start eating just the meat cooked with the melon until they get used to the bitter taste.  Then at some unknown future time and place, they realize they like it.

B & M Mei Sing is a downtown restaurant on 2nd Street between Market and Mission - open only for lunch.  Originally located across the street in a small storefront, it has since moved across the street into a larger 2 story space.    They have devised a unique system of getting your food to you fast.  They take two numbered chips and give one to you to place at the table.  The other chip goes onto a countertop marked with squares.  Each square represents a dish to be prepared.  A person on the other side of the counter looks at the chip and calls out the menu item to the cooks.  

When the food is ready, there are runners taking the food and chip looking for you.  When they are on a roll, your food can be ready by the time you pick up your silverware and tea and find a seat.  B&M seems to be a favorite of office workers and postal carriers  - a really good sign.  The place is well maintained and fast.   A not to be missed experience!

VW Bug
The old VW bugs linger on and people who love them somehow manage to keep them running.  This person did more then just keep it running.  It's as the saying goes, "cherried out". 

I had been thinking about the Japanese aesthetic term , "shibui", a term that has fascinated me for over 20 years.  In the last few years, the term shibui and wabi sabi have been discussed a lot in the design community.  Hard to explain, but something shibui has a quiet reserved quality that continues to reveal itself over time.  It's something you won't tire of in a few months.  The opposite quality of shibui in Japanese is, "hade" or something bright and attention grabbing, but may not hold your interest over time.  Shibui is a quality I like to see in buildings because buildings unlike today's fashionable clothes, stay around a while.

While the old VW bug was designed to be simple lines and unassuming and might be considered shibui,  this Volkswagon  with its glowing metallic lime green paint, bright chrome trim, and fancy wheel covers has definitely moved to the hade side.

Folsom Street Padlock
 Nice colors and textures.
Handrail at the Slow Club - San Francisco
Could it be that the Slow Club has been around for 20 years?  The industrial chic look that exploded on the scene during first dot-com bonanza was spear-headed by restaurants such as the Slow Club at 2501 Mariposa.  Bare concrete, steel, and wood, seasoned the space with a studied tough no fuss attitude.

It was noisy, crowded  and the food prepared in the exposed kitchen was good.  The bar at the back of the restaurant is connected to the main dining room by a ramp with these hand rails.  Handcrafted angular steel brackets hold up the wood handrail.  Notice where the bracket attaches to the wood handrail.  If you are truly gripping the handrail, your hand will hit the handrail.  This is the same problem with the handrail at the Bakar Fitness Center in San Francisco.  Contrast this with the curved handrail brackets at the  Brera Museum and at the Tivoli Garden's villa d'Este shown in an earlier blog.  Those Italians designers were really thinking!

Slow Club
Twenty years later, the Slow Club looks the same and still contemporary -- others have caught up. Now it's less crowded, but the food is still consistently good. I'm always there for lunch, never for dinner.