Postcard from Los Angeles: All the Street Art

You don’t need to head to the Getty or the Broad to see some fabulous art in Los Angeles. Just looking around you, you can’t help but notice a ton of great murals adorning the urban landscape throughout the city. Here are a few cool pieces that I stumbled upon during my recent stay in Los Angeles. 

Spotted: Space Invader in Los Angeles

I grew up in the Marais, so I have razor sharp eyes when it comes to spotting a Space invader piece. This particular one can be seen near the Black Cat in Silver Lake. Also in Silverlake, these colourful staircases. 52 staircases lace the hillsides of Silver Lake, dating back to a time when most residents didn’t have cars. Two of them, #StairTempo and the Micheltorena Stairs, received a boost of bright colours by local artist Corrine Carrey.  

Piano Keyboard staircase in Silverlake

Colorful staircase in Silver Lake

Elliott Smith Mural in Silver Lake

This image appeared on the cover of his Elliott Smith’s 2000 album, “Figure 8,” the last album he would release before his apparent suicide in his Echo Park home. Since then, the “Elliott Smith” wall outside of Solutions electronics on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake . 

It’s hard to miss the Guelaguetza restaurante in K-Town. I mean, check out these bright orange walls and the awesome murals that also adorn it.

Mural on the facade of facade of La Guelaguetza restaurant in KTown

Lapiztola mural on the facade of facade of La Guelaguetza in KtownLa Guelaguetza restaurant in KTown

orange 3

orange 5

The restaurant itself has been around for over 20 years and in March 2013, its owners invited Colectivo LaPiztola, a pair of Oaxacan artists, to paint a mural, which features a young girl and boy in traditional Oaxacan clothes, and depicts a guelaguetza – the girl is offering corn to the boy, who is holding a chicken. Colette Miller later added some of her famous Global Wings Project wings, and I was very sad that I didn’t have anyone to take my picture with them when I was there 😦

There’s quite a few Shepard Fairey murals in Los Angeles, but one of the most striking is Peace Tree, this 10-story mural gracing the facade of the Line Hotel, also in Los Angeles’s Koreatown.

Peace Tree mural at the Line Hotel by Shepard Fairey

The Line Hotel is a vibrant new(ish) hotel on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Normandie Avenue, in the heart of Koreatown. In addition to the Shepard Fairey mural, it has some pretty cool art inside as well as a hidden D*Face mural called “Look Into My Eyes” on the exterior.  I *loved* spotting that one! 

D*Face Mural at the Line Hotel in Los Angeles

Sticking with pretty famous street artist, I had read about an Einstein mural by Kobra, on the wall outside Mr. Brainwash’s studio. When I got there, I found a Muhammad Ali tribute mural by Mr. Brainwash there instead, which was cool too… 

Mohamed Ali Mural outside of Mr Brainwash's studio

For a sight of a Kobra mural, I headed to 1220 N. Highland Avenue instead, where the Brazilian artist covered an entire side of the LGBT Youth Center and Annex with a 4,300 square-foot mural featuring the eyes of different Nobel Laureates and champions of peace.

Eduardo Kobramural on the Los Angeles LGBT Center

And for the last two pieces of Los Angeles street art that caught my eyes: the Love L.A. Skyline mural, located right across from the entrance of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Loca L.A. Wall

And the largest stretch of the original Berlin Wall in the world outside of Berlin.
Wende’s Wall Project which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall Ten segments from the Berlin Wall are currently displayed at 5900 Wilshire Boulevard as part of the Wende’s Wall Project which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 2009. As part of the project, the Wende Museum commissioned four artists to paint on five of these wall segments, including French-born, Berlin-based artist Thierry Noir (I mentioned him already in my post on the 25th anniversary of the reunification party at the German Embassy), L.A.-based muralist and street artists Kent Twitchell,  Farrah Karapetian and Marie Astrid González. 

There you have it! Please note that this is in no way an exclusive list. I was only in Los Angeles for 4 quick days and there’s a LOT of street art pieces I didn’t even get to. I’m also in no way suggesting that you skip the Getty or the Broad. As a matter of fact, I even have some tips for you if you want to visit The Broad, which you totally should! 

So You Wanna Visit the Broad Museum?

Today, I dedicated 3 hours of my life to visiting Los Angeles’ latest contemporary art space, The Broad (note: it’s pronounced brode not brawd… ) Opened in September 2015, the brand new museum has already become one of the city’s most instagrammed venue, thanks to some amazing (and very photogenic) art from the private collection of philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, as well as a stunning building designed by world-renowned architectural firm Diller Scofido + Renfro. When I said I dedicated 3 hours to the museum, I should specify that only one of those was spent inside. The other two I spent lining up outside in the standby line. I learned a few things visiting The Broad, so here are a few tips for you:

BOOK ADVANCE TICKETS IF YOU CAN

Entry into The Broad is free BUT you need advance tickets. The website doesn’t really tell you when those will be available, so your best bet if you’re looking to go on a specific date is to sign up for their newsletter to be notified when spots will be released. Right now, you can also purchase tickets to the special exhibit Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life. They’ll set you back $12 but also include general admission to the museum.  

Cindy Sherman exhibit at The Broad in Los Angeles

If that’s not an option, you can do as I did and wait in the standby line. The museum opens at 11AM on weekdays, and 10AM on weekends. You can follow The Broad Standby Line on twitter to get updates on what the wait time will be like. On a weekday in June, I got in line 2 hours ahead of opening time and was the third person there. Within 20 minutes, the line wrapped around the building, so get there early, especially on Saturdays and Sundays when it’s more crowded. By 11:15AM, just 15 minutes after the museum opened I got to go in. Woohoo! Here’s my tip if you’re going to go the early morning route like I did: grab coffee and food before you get in the line. G & B Coffee at Grand Central Market is just a few steps away (153 steps along the Angel Flights tracks to be exact) and their delightful almond-macadamia milk latte is bound to make waiting a little less painful. 

 

BOOK THE INFINITY MIRROR ROOM IMMEDIATELY UPON GETTING IN

One of the highlights of The Broad, and one of its most instagrammed spot, is Yayoi Kusama‘s “Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away.” The small, shimmering, mirror-lined, experimental space will dazzle you with its seemingly infinite number of LED lights. It’s quite trippy, so it’s probably a good thing you’re only allowed 45 seconds in there – just the right amount of time to snap that perfect #infinityroom selfie!

Infinity Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama at the Broad in Los Angeles

To book your spot for this experience, rush to the left of the escalator in the lobby as soon as you get into the museum and enter your name and cell phone number into an iPad that’s provided for that purpose.

How to get into the Infinity Mirrored Room at The Broad

Once that’s done, get back to the lobby, soak up its cavernous look and head up the escalator to the third floor gallery, which houses most of the museum’s collections. You’ll receive a text message in approximately 45 minutes to an hour letting you know when your time in the room is up. Head back downstairs (don’t miss taking a glimpse at the museum’s central vault on the way!) and wait in line (again) until it’s your turn to spend 45 seconds in the infinity mirrored room.

How to get into The Broad's Infinity Mirrored RoomHow to get into The Broad's Infinity Mirrored Room

You can go in on your own, or with a friend/significant other if you prefer but they won’t let more than 2 or 3 people in at the time.

BRING A GOOD CAMERA

Photography is allowed and encouraged at The Broad so bring your good camera and go all out. While not as striking as its Frank Gehry designed neighbour, the museum is still a work of art in its own right. Diller Scofidio + Renfro, best known for the High Line in Manhattan, designed the 120,000-square-foot museum with the Walt Disney Concert Hall in mind and contrasted its smooth silver curves with a solid white block. Its honeycomb facade, known as the veil, softens the structure and makes for stunning pictures if you’re lucky enough to be there on a sunny day (I wasn’t… darn California June fog!)

The Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles

Inside, there are numerous fun photo opps, like the previously mentioned Infinity Mirrored Room but also a couple of pieces by Jeff Koons (always picture-worthy!), El Anatsui’s 2010 Red Block which makes for a cool backdrop to any selfie or Robert Therrien’s “Under the Table.” Here’s a couple of shots I took in the gallery. 

Keith Haring's Red Room at The BroadTulips by Jeff Koons at The BroadDouble America 2 by Glenn Ligon

One last tip about the art: the museum staff, known as visitor services associates, is numerous (seriously, there’s a small army of them here to help you) and SUPER knowledgeable.  WhileThe Broad has a pretty neat app that you can download ahead of your visit, I found chatting with the VSAs a lot more interesting!

 

SPEND AN HOUR IN THE MUSEUM THEN EXPLORE DOWNTOWN

The Broad is a perfect starting point to visiting downtown Los Angeles, especially if you’ve paid good money to park in a garage. It’s right next to Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall (tip: check out the peekaboo view from the Lichtenstein room on the third floor) and a quick walk to Grand Park (I love that park and its pink chairs!) or Grand Central Market. If you do The Broad in the morning, that’s the perfect spot to grab lunch afterwards!

Peekaboo windows into the Walt Disney Concert Hall from The Broad

Lichtenstein Room at The Broad

Have you visited The Broad yet? If yes, do you have any additional tips you’d like to share? 

Weekend Highlights: Work, Work, Work (and a Little Disney Fun!)

Greetings from California! I’m actually here for a work conference and working pretty much non-stop throughout the weekend. Since the conference is at the Disneyland Hotel, I did manage to squeeze in a little bit of fun (and Disney magic) though. Like during our staff work dinner Friday… 

After a long day of stuffing conference bags and making sure everything was set up, we all had dinner together at Wine Country Trattoria. The food itself was not highly memorable… I love Disney but fine cuisine isn’t their forte. What was great about the dinner was that the restaurant is located inside California Adventure Park, one of the two themed parks at the Disneyland Resort complex, and we had an opportunity to spend one quick hour inside the park between the end of dinner and closing time. I took full advantage of it, riding California Screaming and the Tower of Terror with some colleagues and reconnecting with an old friend.  

IMG_1990Mickey's Fun Wheel in Disney California Adventure Park at the Disneyland Resort

Otherwise, it’s pretty much just work, work, work. When I do manage to get out of conference rooms, I can soak up the California sun for a few minutes.

California dreaming

I really wish we had palm trees in DC! 

Outside of the conference, I’ve been spending the bulk of my (free) time at Downtown Disney, an outdoor dining and shopping center similar to Disney Village at Disneyland Paris. It’s open pretty late, so it’s been my go-to spot to escape work for a few minutes and immerse myself in Disney vibes, even for just a few minutes. Best way to do that? Eat all the things Mickey shaped, like this cute chocolate dipped rice krispy treat! 

Mickey Rice Krispy Treats at Downtown Disney

My conference ends on Wednesday and I’m staying in California through next Sunday, so I’ll definitely have more fun things to report in my next weekend update! Until then, have a great week!

Postcard from NYC: “Bird Watching” in West Harlem

Audubon Mural Project: Roseatte Spoonbill by Danielle Mastrion

Let’s be honest, I’m a city baby and any flying animal that’s not a pigeon is a pretty exotic bird for me! Bird-watching is not an activity I typically engage in… unless the birds in question happen to be drawn on urban walls that is 😉 Thanks to the Audubon Society and the Gilter & ____ Gallery, the Washington Heights/West Harlem neighbourhoods is just the perfect spot to catch a flock of colourful birds! All in graffiti of course… 

Right now there are a few dozens murals of varying scale scattered around uptown Manhattan, and eventually the goal is to have street artists and muralists paint over 314 different species of North American birds that a sobering 2014 Audubon Society report on “Birds and Climate Change” identified as being at risk because of global warming.

Here are some of the birds I spotted during a recent street art “birding” excursion:

Audubon Mural Project: Swallow-tailed Kite by Lunar New Year

The Swallow-tailed Kite, located at 575 West 155th Street, was painted by artist Lunar New Year and depicts 12 different climate-threatened species

Audubon Mural Project: Tricolored Heron by Iena Cruz,

Tricolored Heron, by Iena Cruz, appropriately located next to Audubon Hall at 432 West 163rd St.

Audubon Mural Project: Endangered Harlem, by Gaia

Endangered Harlem, by Gaia, located at 1883-7 Amsterdam, between W. 153rd and W. 154th streets

Audubon Mural Project: Fish Crow, by Hitnes

Fish Crow, by Hitnes, can be seen at 3750 Broadway between 155th and 156th streets

Audubon Mural Project: Bald Eagle by Peter Daverington

I love how colourful this one is! The Bald Eagle by Peter Daverington brightens up 3623 Broadway

Audubon Mural Project: Allen’s Hummingbird by Socky Chop

Allen’s Hummingbird, painted by Socky Chop, is at 101 Edgecombe Avenue, between 139 & 140 St

Audubon Mural Project: American Redstart, by James Alicea

American Redstart, by James Alicea, at 3612 Broadwaybetween 148 & 149th streets

Audubon Mural Proejct: Black-throated Blue Warbler, by minusbaby

Black-throated Blue Warbler, by minusbaby, at 3637 Broadway between 149 & 150 streets

If you’re not familiar with Jean-Jacques Audubon, you should know that he was a Franco-American ornithologist and naturalist who painted, cataloged, and described the birds of North America in his famous book Birds of America.  Most of the murals are concentrated in the upper East Side neighbourhood where he once resided and is buried (in the Trinity Church Cemetery, on the south side of 155th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway.) If you feel like going on a little bird watching excursion of your own, check out the Audubon Society’s website to map out your route. And if you want to spot some actual real non-graffiti birds, check out the New York City Audubon’s quick guide  to birding in the city! I think I’m good with the mural versions for now 😉

Weekend Highlights: Road Tripping in Pennsylvania and a Brewery Wedding

It’s wedding season! How many do you have lined up for the summer? Over the weekend, we headed to Berwick, Pennsylvania, to see our good friend David tie the knot at a local brewery. This being me and Berwick being in the middle of nowhere, I broke the trip up and squeezed in a little (rainy) keystone state sightseeing… 

Pennsylvania State Sign

We left the day before the wedding and spent a night at the Candlelight Inn in Ronks, in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. It rained the entire ride up but cleared up just enough by the time we got to Lancaster Central Market for a late lunch. Lancaster Central Market is the oldest continuously operated farmers’ market in the country. It’s smaller than Reading Central Market in Philadelphia but it’s in the heart of Amish country and offers a mix of produce stalls, bakeries and other more recent addition like Saife’s Middle Eastern Food and Narai Exotic Thai Cuisine. Lancaster’s German roots have made it a center for pretzel bakeries (the country’s first commercial bakery was established in Lititz in 1861) so I opted for a traditional, salted hand rolled soft pretzel. Best pretzel I ever had!

Soft hand rolled pretzel in Lancaster, PA

There’s a number of coffee shops inside the market, including Lancaster County Coffee Rosters, but we headed next door for an elf-sized latte at Rabbit and Dragonfly, a cute bookstore and cafe inspired by the works of Lewis and Tolkien

Tolkiens Themed Coffee Shop in Lancaster PA

If it had kept raining, we could have staying for a game or chess or something, but the rain miraculously cleared away so we took advantage of that instead. Since it was a Friday, we stopped by the Green Dragon Farmers Market & Auction in Ephrata. Otherwise, we just drove around on smaller roads, passing through miles of rolling farmland, covered bridges and the occasional Amish horse-drawn buggy. 

Horse drawn buggy in Amish Country

Our last stop before hitting the road to Harrisburg was Dutch Haven. It’s impossible to miss on Route 30 and I had to try a little shoo-fly pie 😉

Dutch Haven on Route 30

In Pennsylvania’s capital, we caught the 11AM guided tour of the state capitol, which is absolutely stunning. Theodore Roosevelt called it the “most handsome building I ever saw” and I can totally see why. Its grand staircase was modeled after that of the Palais Garnier, the Paris opera house, and its dome ceiling was inspired by paintings at the Vatican, so it’s all pretty ornate! We didn’t have much time to linger and explore the rest of the city. The area around the capitol seemed pretty dead on a Saturday anyway and we had a wedding a two hour drive away to get to!

Pennsylvania State Capitol

Pennsylvania State Capitol

Pennsylvania State CapitolThe ceremony and reception were lovely, if casual, at Berwick Brewing Company. I’d been to a winery wedding before but never a brewery one. Have you? It was super fun meeting the bride and groom’s families, reconnecting with old colleagues and making new friends. One of my favourite element of the wedding: the couple eschewed the traditional wedding cake (and many other typical wedding elements you come to expect at an American wedding) for a bunch of pies. I like pies (and also didn’t have a wedding cake at my wedding… ) And I loved trying the different brews too! Check out the groom’s beer-themed wedding details! I loved that too!

Berwick Brewery Wedding Details

On our way back, to break up the return drive a bit, we stopped at Gettysburg National Military Park. It’s actually only a two hours away from Washington, DC via Frederick so I don’t know why we’d never been. We did the self guided auto tour, which took us about an hour and a half. If we had a packed a little differently, I would have loved to hike one of the trails near the battlefields. I guess that gives us a reason to come back right?

Gettysburg National Military Park

Sachs Covered Bridge Near Gettysburg

How was your weekend? Did you have to deal with as much rain as we did? 

Postcard from the District: Mr Brainwash Mural at Union Market

You know the first lady is pretty cool when you find out about new murals from her instagram feed 😉

Michelle Obama and Mr Brainwash at Union Market

 

Michelle Obama marked International Women’s Day and the first anniversary of Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government initiative aimed at educating girls around the world, at Union Market. She was joined by famed Los Angeles-based French street artist Mr. Brainwash, who had been commissioned by The Girls Lounge to do a mural on the theme of women education.  The murals are full of colorful hearts, similar to the bleeding hearts/love wall graffiti by James Goldcrown, portraits (including renderings of Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein) and inspiring slogans like “Life Is Beautiful,” “Follow Your Heart” and “Love Is The Answer.” 

Mr Brainwash Mural at Union Market

Laetitia Brock at the Union Market Mr Brainwash mural

Mr Brainwash Mural at Union Market

 

 

 

 

 

Union Market Celebrates International Women's Day with Michelle Obama and Street Artist Mr. Brainwash; Photo Credit: Gary Williams

Union Market Celebrates International Women’s Day with Michelle Obama and Street Artist Mr. Brainwash; Photo Credit: Gary Williams

Unfortunately, some of the art is already gone, like Einstein’s legs or the bottom half of the Life is Beautiful pink heart above.

Thierry Guetta, aka MBW, was quoted saying that he’ll be back in the District because he feels that “Washington, D.C. needs it.” I agree! Apparently, we have many “blank walls that could have messages for people to see life more beautifully.” Again, I agree and I can’t wait to see more of his murals pop up all over town!! 

Postcard from Chicago: Treats in the Streets

Soft Serve Ice Cream Cone by Jim Bachor in Chicago

During my latest trip to Chicago, I stumbled upon this really awesome piece of street art. And by stumbled, I mean I had researched the artist in advance, figured out it was the most accessible piece I could get to given where I was staying and my tight work schedule and ubered there 😉 Artist Jim Bachor has been filling the city’s many potholes with whimsical mosaics since 2013. In a nod to Belgian surrealist painter Magritte, one of his pieces states “this is not a pothole” in black and white tiles. I loved his most recent series, “Treats in the Streets,” because it combined two things I love: street art and food! The treats in this instance are classic frozen treats mosaic, like the soft serve ice cream cone I spotted, that fill potholes in Chicago and Jyväskylä, Finland. One of his previous series focused on flowers and he also has one that features classic fashion prints like Burberry and Louis Vuitton. How fun! 

Jim Bachor fils Chicago potholes with cool mosaics

Soft Serve Ice Cream Cone by Jim Bachor at 1451-1453 West Grand Avenue in Chicago

It was a lot smaller than I thought it would be, and the colours were quite faded so I almost missed it when I walked by. I also almost got run over while trying to photograph it, so my tips if you’re going to try and spot some of Jim’s art is a) check out his website for a handy map of where each of the pieces are located b) look carefully as the pieces are smaller than you might think they would be and most importantly c) be safe… you don’t want to get caught ‘gramming by a car 😉 

ps: wondering how to say pothole in French? I mean, you never know when you might need that word right? Anyhoo, don’t believe google translate that would have you think it’s trou de pot. Technically, that’s a correct (and very literal) translation. Yes pot is a pot (though that’s more something you’d plant flowers in) and yes hole is trou… but the correct word is nid-de-poule or hen’s nest. Because hens love to nest in holes… of course! It’s cute right? 

So You Wanna Visit the White House…?

I’ll always remember the first time I toured the East Wing… it was the morning after I met my now husband. I told him I had to make it an early night because I was supposed to be at the White House at 8AM. You know, a typical D.C. excuse 😉 I’d only been in the U.S. and in Washington for 6 months and it was all very exciting for me.

I’ve been fortunate to go inside the White House a few more times since then. And while bowling at the Harry S. Truman Bowling Alley at 1600 Penn* is still on my DC-to-list with slim to no chance ever getting crossed off, I did get to go to the West Wing once and tour the building once during the holiday season. Here what you need to know if you want to visit the White House too. 

THE WEST WING & BOWLING ALLEY

Unless you’re invited by the White House or know someone who works there (and has West Wing access, which isn’t everyone), the personal residence and the West Wing are pretty much off limit. Because they are led by staff, West Wing tours visits typically happen in the evening or on weekends, outside of office hours. If you’re lucky enough (like I was) to visit when the president is out of town, you’ll get to peak into the Oval Office. Not go into it, but peak into it. Photographs, of course, are strictly off limits except in the press room, which is why SO many people have pictures of themselves at the press secretary’s podium. Well, at least so many people in DC… If you do have the opportunity to tour the West Wing, clear your schedule and go! Ahead of time, you’ll be asked to provide your full name, birth date, social security number, and possibly other personal data so that the secret service can run a quick background check on you. Obviously, I passed the test and I wasn’t even a permanent resident back then so being foreign won’t prevent you from being able to do a West Wing tour. Bowling at the White House requires the same kind of “friends with benefits” which I clearly do not have anymore 😉 They only get to book the lanes once a quarter so again if you’re ever invited to the most exclusive bowling alley in the country, clear your schedule and make it happen! Also, don’t forget to bring your own snacks and booze… I already have my sparkly all picked out… I just need an invite now. 

THE EAST WING

white house tours are self guided

So I toured the East Wing the first time right when I met my husband, on a traditional tour that had been arranged by my graduate program at the George Washington University. I toured it a second time during the holiday season in 2011 when the White House hosted one of its first tweet up ever. Most of our time at the tweet up was spent in the basement of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building where, interestingly enough for a tweet up, we couldn’t get a signal and where there was no wifi. The White House has learned a lot since then and frequently hosts tweet ups like the one recently for the arrival ceremony for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The highlight of that tweet-free tweet up for me was meeting with and getting to ask questions of White House pastry chef Bill Yosses and White House florist Laura Dowling about what it’s like to plan and prepare for Christmas at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (planning typically starts in March.) Getting to see the end result from all of their hard work during a tour of the building afterwards was really amazing. SO many Christmas trees and gingerbread houses!

Gingerbread White House

white house 4 white house 5

Christmas season at the White House White house 6white house 1

There currently are no tweet up or instameet planned but you should check the White House Social website periodically and follow them on twitter and instagram to get alerts for the next one. Here as well, you also have to go through a quick background check, which non-Americans like myself can pass. The other way to get to tour the East Wing is, of course, through your congressional representatives, though that process is currently being revamped.  I will update this post as soon as the new information is official on April 18. 

THE WHITE HOUSE GARDENS

The easiest way to get inside those gates is the bi-annual White House Garden tour. No, you don’t get to go inside the residence, but you get to see Michelle Obama’s kitchen garden and take a really cool picture like this from the South Lawn: 

Laetitia Brock at the White House

White House Garden Tours happen in the fall and in the spring, and mark you calendars right now because the next ones are next week, on Saturday April 16 and Sunday April 17 2016. On either of those days, show up at the Ellipse Visitor Center (kitty corner from Pinea at the W at 15th and E NW) to get a free, timed ticket. Those are distributed on a first come first serve basis and the visit is obviously really popular so I recommend getting there at 8:30AM since tours begin at 9AM.
White house 10

The grounds will be less crowded earlier in the day. Bring as little with you as you can and selfie sticks are strictly prohibited, as are bags (small purses might be fine but play it safe. Diaper bags are not allowed), food, weapons (duh!) and animals other than service dogs. You’ll go through metal detectors but no background check or advance planning is required for those… White House Fall Garden Tour

You can read a little all about my 2010 White House Garden Tour right here and if it doesn’t make you want to get up early on Saturday or Sunday, remember that it’s one of your best shot at getting in before Obama’s term end. Another alternative for the gardens, if you have kids, is to enter the lottery for tickets to the White House Easter Eggs Roll. 

* Wondering what is it like to bowl at the White House? Check out this lucky Deutsch Art Director’s account on the agency’s blog! Wondering what it’s like to visit the White House for a special event hosted by the First Lady? My friend Olga did just that a few weeks ago.

Helping Raise/Raze Come to Life at Dupont Underground

Volunteering to build Raise/Raze at Dupont Underground

 

I had a ball – lame pun intended – volunteering at the Dupont Underground with some of my friends this morning. This was actually my first time in the abandoned trolley station which plans to open its doors to the public on April 30 with its first art exhibit, “Raise/Raze.” 

“Raise/Raze” was the winning  project of Re-Ball!, an open design competition for a site-specific installation in the underground space using the more than 650,000 translucent plastic balls from the National Building Museum‘s “Beach” installation. So today we helped built the installation by glue-ing a bunch of these balls together. 

Dupont Undergound

Volunteering at the dupont undergroundDupont Undergound

 

 

The making of Raise/Raze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We basically spent three hours in a small portion of the tunnel (it’s over a mile long in total) hot-glueing the balls in sets of three. Another station then turned these into bigger squares while a final station added velcro to it. Eventually, groups of up to 50 people will travel through different spaces within the tunnel and interact with the exhibit by moving the velcro-affixed 3x3x3 cubes around to create various shapes. And while I had a ton of fun with the hot glue gun there’s still a ton of work to be done… so if you have three hours to spare between now and April 24 you can help out too (sign up to volunteer here!)

Hot glue-ing the balls at Raise/Raze

Raise/Raze

Eventually the space is supposed to look like this:

Rendering courtesy of Dupont Underground and Hou de Sousa

Rendering courtesy of Dupont Underground and Hou de Sousa

Right now, that seems pretty abstract and kinda hard to visualize…. but I’m sure it’ll get there eventually and I can’t wait to see the final result! I really do hope that Raise/Raze will get the ball rolling on turning Dupont Underground into a hot cultural destination in Washington, DC. Just had to close on a lame ball pun too 😉 

For more background on the Dupont Underground revitalization project, check out this USA Today article. 

5 Things I Ate While I Was in Chicago

Another week, another express work-cation, this time to Chicago in the mid-west. I’d been to Chicago a few times before, including for a hot 16 hours last July 4 and back in 1994 during one of my very first trip to the United States. Despite having a lot of meetings, I tried to squeeze in as much sight-seeing as I could in 36 hours, including catching the Van Gogh’s Bedrooms exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. And eating of course… Here are some of my favourites from my express “work-cation” in Chicago: 

LIQUID ENERGY AT INTELLIGENTSIA COFFEE

First things first after a 6AM flight from Reagan to O’Hare, I needed caffeine! But not just any coffee would do. I wanted some Intelligentsia Coffee since the roasting company started and is still based in Chicago. Bonus, their location at 53 East Randolph Street is around the corner from Millennial Park so I got the chance to squeeze in a little sight-seeing too! 

Intelligentsia Coffee at the Bean

Intelligentsia Coffee has many locations across town, including 53 E Randolph Street, 1609 W Division Street, 3123 North Broadway and 2642 N Milwaukee Avenue.

 

POTATO DUMPLINGS AT PIEROGI HEAVEN

As many as 1.5 million Chicagoan claim Polish ancestry and Chicago bills itself as the largest Polish city outside of Poland. Pierogis, delightfully doughy Eastern European dumplings, are pretty easy to find around town. For a quick lunch, I headed to Pierogi Heaven in the loop, a hole in the wall kinda spot that’s popular with nearby office workers. You can choose from 11 different pierogi fillings, all of which come with fried onions, bacon and sour cream. I polished off a plate of potato cheddar dumplings, with extra sour cream and a cup of hot red borsch. 

Potato and cheddar dumplings at Pierogi Heaven

Pierogi Heaven is located at 169 North Wells Street

GARRETT MIX AT GARRETT POPCORN

On paper, cheddar cheese and caramel popcorn don’t sound like they’d mix well together. But in a bucket of Garrett Popcorn, the salty-sweet combo known as Garrett Mix® is one of the most addictive thing you’ll ever eat. This staple Chicago food counts a lot of fan… Oprah listed it as one of her “favourite things” on a couple of occasions, President Obama gave a tin to Vice President Biden for his birthday and Beyonce herself declared it Deeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrricious” on instagram. I never leave Chicago without a bag 😉 

Garrett Mix at Garrett Popcorn Garrett PopcornThere are many locations of Garrett Popcorn, including one at151 North Michigan Avenue by Millennium Park, 625 North Michigan Avenue and 2 at O’Hare airport (there’s one at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City too…)

CONFIT GOAT BELLY AT GIRL AND THE GOAT

Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat inevitably comes up every time I ask anyone for restaurant recommendations in Chicago. So this trip, I actually made my way there! Forty five minutes and one “my little kumquat” cocktail later, I finally snagged a seat at one corner of the bar. I definitely blew my per-diem on that meal, but it was SO worth it. Everything I had from the kohlrabi salad with fennel, evalon, toasted almonds, autumn crisp apple and shiitake mushrooms to the goat carpaccio and the goat cheesecake with pretzel cream and beer caramel was amazing. But the real standout of the evening can be summarized in 4 words: Bourbon. Butter. Poached. Lobster. As if that didn’t sound amazing enough, that was just the side for a confit goat belly, which also came with a fennel puree and fennel salad (I’ve been really into fennel lately.) No wonder everyone and their mothers has been raving about Girl and the Goat 😉 

Bourbon butter poached lobster and goat belly confit at Girl and the Goat

Girl and the Goat is located at 809 W Randolph street. There’s now a Little Goat Diner right across the street too that offers more casual food, as well as breakfast all day.

ROASTED BONE MARROW AT THE PURPLE PIG

I talked my colleagues into squeezing in a late lunch/early happy hour at the Magnificent Mile gastropub The Purple Pig, I couldn’t convince them to try the roasted bone marrow with sicilian sea salt and herb salad (with Italian parsley, thin-sliced white onions and capers) smear. More for me right? Right!! It was a beautiful, warm day in Chicago so we ate outside, sorta overlooking the river. And of course, warm sunny days call for rosé, and the bone marrow paired perfectly with a glass of Scea Andre Roux Clos Cibonne côtes de provence. Sadly, my colleagues are not as adventurous eaters as I am and I really couldn’t justify ordering the pig’s ears on top of the bone marrow… I guess I’ll have to go back and eat my way through more of the decadent meat-centered menu at The Purple Pig

Roasted Bone Marrow Smear at The Purple Goat

The Purple Pig is located at 500 N. Michigan Avenue.

I also found a little time to swing by the stunning Palmer House. Now owned by Hilton, it’s the oldest hotel in the city and claims to be where brownies were invented. The Palmer House Brownie with walnuts and an apricot glaze (check out the recipe in Epicurious) is still served at the hotel’s restaurant and bar. 

Palmer House ceciling

Since I can’t eat chocolate, I settled for another local favourite, a quick Goose Island Honkers Ale, which I enjoyed under the magnificent ceiling fresco by French muralist Louis Pierre Rigal. Not a bad spot to wrap up the trip!

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I think I did pretty good in less than 36 hours Where would be your five foodie stops or top foodie bites if you were to spend a few days in Chicago?