Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bakersfield OTR: West Coast Blue Collar Anglo-Hispanic Electrifies the Gateway Quarter

     Bakersfield opened a few months ago in the Gateway Quarter and it’s rocketed off.  A few weeks ago, Neil and I stopped by late on a Saturday night and there wasn’t a seat to be had and the atmosphere was raucous and fun.  Kris was in town on business earlier this week and we thought, let’s try again, especially since he needed to be at the airport early.  We arrived at 4:30 p.m. and were seated immediately, though

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How Does an Anglophile Properly Celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee?

Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation*
      What's all the hoopla and what is a Diamond Jubilee anyway?  For Queen Elizabeth II it means that for 60 of her 86 years she's been the Head of State of Great Britain and the Commonwealth nations of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and several islands around the world.  It means that from June 2-5 during The Central Weekend she'll be honored with parties,

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Kinda Weird…A Cincy Festival on the Fringe

     The Cincy Fringe Festival is in its 9th year and is pretty much run by Know Theatre's energetic staff and many volunteers.  (This would be a great time to support Know Theatre for bringing this type of experimental performance to our city, especially after the recent Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson).  The opening night party happens May 29 at the Know Underground, which is the bar area and performances

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Unsettling Charm of the French at the Taft Museum

     The Taft Museum’s latest special exhibition “Old Masters to Impressionists:  Three Centuries of French Painting from the Wadsworth Atheneum” covers an enormous amount of ground in terms of historical period, styles, and subject matter.  It’s a series of snapshots (so to speak) that look at the life of ‘The Salon’ from around 1650 when Louis XIV first demanded parameters for French painting that would be sponsored by the king, the aristocracy and, in the nineteenth century, the merchant class or bourgeoisie.  It’s an ambitious show, but one that an attentive viewer can cover in about an hour.  It’s well worth a visit because many of these artists – especially those that are more obscure or considered second stringers – are rarely seen in Cincinnati.  

     It progresses along the walls in chronological order.  The seventeenth century ones in the first gallery are pretty dreary – mainly religious subjects and a genre piece that both patronizes its parochial figures and technically isn’t well drawn.  Don’t worry – it gets a lot better as the viewer steps into the Rococo where both the subjects and the viewer seem to be one step away from the boudoir.  Some of the curator’s comments are an unintentional hoot because there is a disconnect between what is being described as important about the painting and its subject and what the viewer can pretty easily infer as actually occurring.

An Elegant Interior of a Lady,
Her Maid, and a Gentleman
by Trinquesse
Nowhere is this more evident than in Louis Rolland Trinquesse’s An Elegant Interior of a Lady, Her Maid, and a Gentleman.  It looks like a scene out of de Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses, though it pre-dates that novel.  The lady is literally holding onto her hair (a hilariously top heavy

Friday, May 25, 2012

Taste of Cincinnati: The Nation's Longest Running Culinary Arts Festival

      Summer kicks off in Cincinnati with the 34th Annual Taste of Cincinnati running May 26 – May 28.  It’s held on six blocks of Fifth Street between Race and Broadway and showcases moderate food from local restaurants with lots of beer (and other drinks too).  The entertainment is exceptional this year

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sondheim’s Two Classics That Aren’t Musicals

Stephen Sondheim*

     Stephen Sondheim is the pre-eminent living figure in American musical theatre, or the American theatre in general.  His output has been extraordinary and more of his works are in the international repertoire than probably any other composer or lyricist, even though he’s never written a smash hit.   He’s had a number of popular successes (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A Little Night Music, Into The Woods), some highly original, curious works (Anyone Can Whistle, Pacific Overtures – brilliantly revived by Chicago Shakespeare Theatre a decade ago, Merrily We Roll Along – beautifully rethought by John Doyle at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park this season, Assassins, Passion – a show I still don’t get), and the masterpieces (Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George).  He also wrote the

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Will the Buzz Vibrate Into Business for Buz?

     Mary Swortwood is a Cincinnati institution as a restaurateur, but she’s played in a quieter, minor key in comparison to Jeff Ruby, Jean-Robert de Cavel and David Falk.  With different collaborators over the past decade, she’s opened Brown Dog Café in Blue Ash (and sold it), Tinks in Clifton (late and still lamented for many of us who felt it was like a little bit of Greenwich Village or Soho in the ‘80s right here in town; it’s irreplaceable), and most recently Green Dog Café (I visited last summer for brunch and liked the Eggs Benedict, but thought they were surprisingly lukewarm and slightly overpriced) and Buz (Green Dog’s next door sister) in Columbia-Tusculum.

Dexter Checks Out What All the "Buz" is About
     Lisa, Neil, and I visited Buz on Friday evening and were able to get in right away, which was surprising because it’s new, talked about by local reviewers, and has a pedigree.  The staff was friendly, efficient, and well trained.  We were intrigued by the menu, reminiscent of other new restaurants such as Enoteca Emilia and Abigail Street, because it’s a mix

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mad Men Turns Mind-Blowing

Jon Hamm as Don in His Madison Avenue Office with Dexter

     Last year, I wondered how long Mad Men, the show about a Madison Avenue advertising agency in the ‘60s, should remain on the air.  This was in the middle of Creator Michael Weiner’s contract negotiations.  After going through budgetary and financial issues myself lately, I’m a little more sympathetic.  Mad Men is about halfway through its fifth season, which is set in 1966, and it’s WILD.  It’s been the most

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Drifting Through the Delta to Mekong Thai Cuisine

Dexter Cruising the Mekong River

     We've known about Mekong Thai for some time.  The name conjured up newscasts of the Vietnam War for me, hearing about the Mekong Delta in that area of the world frequently.  That wouldn't be the case for most people, but maybe that's why I've inadvertently avoided it.  I was curious what the connection to Thailand was and found that the Mekong River flows along its northeast border.  But enough with the geography and history lessons. 

Seating at Mekong Thai Cuisine
      The restaurant has a pleasant entry, but the seating area is long and galley-like with booths on only one side visually enlarged with mirrors along the entire wall.  It's also quite dark, but if you were to trip, you could easily grab on to one of

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dear Paul Mazursky, Thanks for the Last Great Run of Romantic Comedies

     We recently caught Harry and Tonto on TCM.  I thought it was going to be an over-rated trifle, but I was always curious about how Art Carney won the Oscar in 1975 over Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, and Albert Finney.  After watching the movie, it made total sense and then made me wonder how Lenny, the dreariest commercial/art movie of the ‘70s, and The Towering Inferno, the most unintentionally hilarious celebrity snuff disaster film ever, were nominated over it for Best Movie.  Director Paul Mazursky always made romantic comedies, not in the contemporary sense that they were about love and relationships, but rather in the traditional heroic sense that they were about a search and journey – sometimes physical, sometimes emotional – and they always ended with the protagonist(s) in a new world view.

Art Carney as Harry with Tonto the Cat
     Harry and Tonto presents Harry, a seventy something year old widower – a retired teacher – figuring out who he is at that stage in his life.  He’s disconnected from himself, but not from his surroundings or the other characters.  He’s extremely engaged and able to befriend people different from himself either by age, gender, ethnicity, religious thought, or temperament.  His closest companion is Tonto, his aging but

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Uncanny Placement of Carl's Deli

SIdewalk Dining at Carl's Deli

      Think of the perfect deli.  Not the typical New York variety with kosher delicacies and obnoxious service, but a mid-western interpretation with family recipes and smiling faces behind the counter.  That's my vision and I found it at Carl's Deli in Hyde Park.  Off the beaten path of the square, it's in a tiny building on Observatory in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  It's quaint with a big city vitality.

      Jan and I were meeting for lunch.  She had checked out the online menu making up her mind with #1 on the chalkboard—a Roast Beef & Havarti with lettuce, tomato, and mayo on a croissant.  The Pasta Salad was her side choice.  I noticed the meatloaf in the case when we entered and asked

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Golden Age of Male Post-Feminist Comedy: The Five-Year Engagement

The Bad and the Beautiful
     Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) focused its examination of the joy and madness of moviemaking on the producer played by Kirk Douglas.  Ever since a group of French writers that loved the fun and art of movies, but didn’t understand the capitalist Hollywood factory business model that made them, over-emphasized the importance of the director over the producer, writer, star, and studio in the ‘50s in Cahiers du Cinema, the Auteur Theory has been the primary method for assessing a

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Hometown Pizza to Brag About…Dewey's

Entertainment in the Open Kitchen
      Cincinnati has been a gourmet pizza town for several years now. When I first moved here, Trio and ZZ's were offering some out-of-the-box creations.  Then Dewey's opened on Oakley Square in 1998 and started a chain (no pun intended) of events that would leave a significant mark on the local pizza business. 

Dining Room at Kenwood
Candied Walnut and Grape Salad
      We've been patrons since that first restaurant opened, visiting them all around the city.  They're consistent in their offerings and service.  After seeing a movie at the Kenwood Theatre recently, we dropped into the

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Kid with a Bike: It’s My Story

     The guys went to see The Kid with a Bike and they said that about fifteen minutes into the movie, they said to each other simultaneously “this is Dexter’s story.”  It’s from Belgium and it’s in French.  I don’t speak French and I don’t read subtitles, but it sounded really good.  It’s about a little red headed boy (I guess that’s like me), who is deserted by his dad and is living in a sort of school/orphanage.  He is befriended by a hairdresser, who helps him track down his dad, but things don’t work out there.

Thomas Doret and Cécile de France
     The boy, Cyril, has to overcome a lot of ‘issues’, as the guys called them, in order to find some type of long-term stability and happiness.  I had to deal with something like that when the guys took me to the doctor and I then spent some time away before seeing them again.  That was a long time ago, though, and I’m glad I came back.  The guys said that Cyril met his challenges and returned as well.

The Uncanny Resemblance Between Dexter and Cyril
     The movie, written and directed by the Dardenne brothers, presents its simple story in a naturalistic fashion.  The Dardennes wanted it to seem like a fairy tale and it does, but with the usual gender roles reversed.  It deservedly won the Cannes Grand Prix, right behind The Tree of Life from which it differs in almost every important respect – narrative structure, style, and tone.  The Kid with a Bike is an unsentimental heart warmer.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Our Unexpected Brunch at Nectar

      An hour and 15 minute wait on a chilly spring Sunday morning wasn't what we had in mind when we met Chris and Mark at Annabel's in Mt Lookout.  There were several open tables at Nectar next door.  It was an option that most likely other diners have found themselves taking.  But let me say this. . . we've had a beef with chef Julie Francis over an unpleasant unresolved dining experience at her previous restaurant Aioli for many years now, so it was a radical move for Eric and me to finally make amends and give her another chance.

Nectar's French Façade
      There's what appears to be a host station upon entering Nectar.  Evidently that duty was left for one of the two servers.  I only mention that because it obviously was confusing for some patrons, especially when coming in at a busy