Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Madame Cézanne and Consistently Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some things seem to always be just the way you want and expect them to be; stable yet perfect, no matter what: the fit of your favorite pair of jeans (perhaps prior to baking a batch of these!), a visit to see one of your favorite classic paintings, Meryl Streep’s performance in just about anything, and these chocolate chip cookies.

We can also add Paul Cézanne’s series of portraits of his wife to the list—together for 37 years, Hortense Fiquet was the subject of approximately 29 portraits done by her husband, over a span of about 20 years. The Met’s fabulous show Madame Cézanne (which closes on March 15, so go if you can!) showcases Hortense, who was her husband’s most painted subject, and brings together an impressive gathering of 24 of the known works from all over the world.

Paul Cezanne, Madame Cezanne, oil on canvas, 1886

Not only did Cézanne paint his wife over and over again, but he also depicted her in the same way in every portrait—alone, plainly dressed (sometimes in the same blue or red dress), usually showing her straight on, with a somber, reserved expression. These portraits are a rare look into their long but somewhat unusual relationship. The couple originally got together in 1869, and had a child together before getting married in 1886. By that time they had been living apart for most of their relationship, and Cézanne suggested that he had fallen out of love with Hortense, but wanted his son to be able to eventually legally inherit his estate.

Paul Cezanne, Madame Cezanne (Hortense Fiquet) in a Red Dress, oil on canvas, 1888-90
Despite a somewhat rocky relationship at times, Cézanne always depicted his wife in the same way. Though his style matured over the years, Hortense was always shown as a mysterious and ageless woman; plain, yet not unattractive.

Paul Cezanne, Madame Cezanne in the Conservatory, oil on canvas, 1891
These cookies are kind of the same way. If you take the time to let the dough chill overnight, they won’t disappoint. They always turn out as delicious, heavy, generous disks with the perfect ratio of buttery goodness and chocolate pieces. After growing up on the famous Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie, making these for the first time felt like I was cheating on a loved one. But they are too perfect to deny any longer—there is certainly a reason that Jacques Torres is called Mr. Chocolate! Don’t believe me? I dare you to prove me wrong.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe adapted from the New York Times, adapted from Jacques Torres

·      2 c. minus 2 T. cake flour
·      1 2/3 c. bread flour
·      1 ¼ t. baking soda
·      1 ½ t. baking powder
·      pinch of salt
·      1 ½ c. unsalted butter, room temperature
·      1 ¼ c. brown sugar
·      1 c. sugar
·      2 eggs, room temperature
·      2 t. vanilla extract
·      1 ¼ lbs. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
·      flaky sea salt (optional)

Sift the dry ingredients together (flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt) and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together for about 5, until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Reduce the speed and slowly add in the dry mixture until only just combined. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and chill overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 350°F and scoop the dough into cookie portions about 2 rounded tablespoons in size. Bake on a cookie sheet lined in parchment paper or a silicone mat for about 15 minutes—rotate halfway through and watch carefully for the second half. They are done when they are golden brown in color and look like they are cooked through.

Let cool completely and enjoy!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sweet Treats #5

Remember this awful restoration job from a couple of years ago? Sadly, some 14th century frescos of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi have been over-restored as well, compromising original works by Giotto, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti, among others

Love washing your hands, brushing your teeth and maintaining a clean appearance? (I hope the answer is yes…) Want to see a whole exhibition dedicated to cleanliness? If so, you’re in luck—this museum’s show on the subject just opened, and will run until this summer

See? Coffee’s not so bad for you!

More sad, damaged art news: ISIS stormed the Nineveh Museum in Iraq a few weeks ago, and destroyed 3,000 year-old Assyrian sculptures—and as if that wasn’t bad enough, they videotaped the entire thing

Opening this week:
·      MoMA’s retrospective on Bjork opens next Sunday, March 8th, and yes, it will feature this dress (Museum of Modern Art)
·      ADAA Art Show (Art Dealers Association of America), Pulse Contemporary Art Fair and The Armory Show all open in NYC this week

Closing this week:
·      Vera Lutter (Gagosian Gallery)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Travel Fried Rice

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, c. 1503-06, oil on panel

Hello from freezing and snowy New York! Tonight I leave for 10 days in Paris (hopefully, unless said snow gets in the way!), and I’m totally psyched! For most of it I will be working, but I hope to have plenty of time to explore, check out museums and eat! Speaking of food, I am not a huge fan of airport/airplane cuisine (is anyone?), and since I will be flying during my normal dinnertime, I have put quite a bit of thought into what will keep me satiated until I arrive in beautiful Paris in time for a pain au chocolat and a coffee.

Everyone seems to approach travel food in different ways—some value convenience most and others want an elaborate feast, using the mentality that if it is their last meal (God forbid!) it better be delicious. Taking advice from this book, I settled for something thoughtful, delicious and easy—a dish of fried rice that uses up your fresh produce and/or any leftovers you have, while still tasting new and interesting. This also packs well, and doesn't involve lots of mixing or assembling once you get to the airport.

“Loaning” myself to my company’s Paris office next week falls a week or so short of the 52nd anniversary of the Mona Lisa loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy persuaded the French Minister of Cultural Affairs to loan the work to the US for three weeks in 1962. This was a rare trip for the work, which is displayed under bulletproof glass at the Louvre, its usual home. After New York, the painting traveled to Washington, DC, where it was shown at the National Gallery before heading back to Paris.

The painting was insured for $100 million, and carefully shipped across the world. As someone with a small amount of experience shipping old master pictures of high value, I can only imagine what a crazy shipment this was to orchestrate—pre-shipment, the painting was packed in a temperature controlled, fireproof, airtight crate, and it flew with a 24-hour security detail. 

The Mona Lisa at the National Gallery, Washington in 1962

My trip should be a lot easier and far less expensive, and I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and start a day of sightseeing. This fried rice is key—it’s a healthy home-cooked meal before I start 10 all-restaurant-days. In addition to using up the veggies in my fridge, I also picked up a grilled salmon fillet to add in as my main protein. I plan to eat this bowl of goodness while I am still waiting for my flight at the airport—just because I love salmon doesn’t mean everyone on my plane wants to smell it.  :)  

Once prepared, this meal can be packed up in a plastic to-go container, and thrown in your carry-on.

Fried Rice
Adapted by the “Expat Fried Rice” in Keepers
Serves 2

·      2 T. olive oil
·      ¼ c. diced onion
·      2 c. cooked brown rice, preferably a day old
·      2 eggs
·      1 c. protein of your choice
·      1 c. kale, sautéed for a couple of minutes in olive oil
·      1 red pepper, sliced
·      1 T. oyster sauce

Sauté the onions in the oil over high heat for about a minute.  Add the rice and cook, stirring every once in a while for a couple minutes. Crack the eggs over the mixture, and cook, scrambling everything until the egg is cooked through. Add in the protein and veggies, and heat through, then stir in the oyster sauce. Cook an additional moment or so longer—until you are happy with it, and remove from the heat.
You can season with salt and pepper if you want, but I usually let the oyster sauce flavor it, and let it be! Let cool completely before packing up, and don’t forget to consider silver wear—plastic is easiest.

See you in Paris! xx

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sweet Treats #4

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Love Gustav Klimt as much as I do? I can’t wait for the new Helen Mirren / Ryan Reynolds movie, Womanin Gold, about the restitution of Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I.

Will Jeff Koons and Angelina Jolie soon share a Hollywood agent? It’s possible, now that Angelina’s agency, United Talent Agency has just announced their plans for a Fine Arts division.

Something I won’t be seeing on my upcoming trip to Paris: Jeff Koons’s show at the Louvre, which was just cancelled…bummer…

Artist Shepherd Fairey recently made a cameo appearance in the new season of “Portlandia”

Closing this week:
·      Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection closes on February 16th (MetropolitanMuseum of Art)
·      Wang Jianwei: Time Temple closes on February 16th (Guggenheim)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Elgin Marbles Cake

200 years ago, the British Museum purchased the Elgin Marbles, a group of classical Greek sculptures from the Parthenon, from Thomas Bruce, aka the 7th Earl of Elgin. While serving as Ambassador to Constantinople, Lord Elgin sent a crew to Athens to check out the art of the Acropolis ruins. Like most of his contemporaries, Lord Elgin was in awe of the incredible decorative program throughout the Acropolis, and felt that his interest in collecting antiquities was beneficial to the understanding and appreciation of classical Greek art. 

Two Horsemen from the Parthenon, now on view at the British Museum

Over the next few years he sent dozens of marble fragments back to a storage unit in England, which caused everyone in England to freak out. Lord Elgin devoted all of his time and resources into his collection, which makes it even more depressing that he quickly ran out of money and was forced to sell. The British Museum purchased them in 1816, and currently has them displayed in a special wing—making them accessible to millions a year. 

Amal Clooney adding her legal and star power to Greece's case

The Greek government started making formal requests to have the marbles returned in 1984, and questions of legality, ethics and accessibility are matters of heated debate. The dispute recently got a bit of celebrity attention, when Mrs. George Clooney, aka human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin publicly voiced her support of Greece asking for their return. 

Selene Horse from the Parthenon, now on view at the British Museum

These beautiful marbles are just like this decadent cake: rich, amazing and pilfered. You see, the magnificent Dorie Greenspan’s recipe in Baking Chez Moi is so perfect, that I could barely bring myself to alter it. But I let my love of dark chocolate beat out my dislike of white chocolate (and left out the white chocolate from the recipe), and added a bit of hearty denseness with the addition of whole-wheat flour. This all brings me back to Lord Elgin’s marbles, since he refused to restore them when he first brought them to England. By keeping them as close to their current state as possible, Elgin solidified their status as cultural artifacts, timeless just like this cake (albeit not as controversial).
Marble Cake
Slightly adapted from BakingChez Moi by Dorie Greenspan

·      1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
·      ½ c. whole wheat flour
·      1 ¼ t. baking powder
·      pinch of salt
·      1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
·      1 c. sugar
·      4 eggs, room temperature
·      2 t. vanilla extract
·      ½ c. milk
·      4 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Preheat your oven to325°F. Line a heavy baking sheet in parchment paper or a silicone mat. Butter a loaf pan, and dust with flour. Set inside the baking sheet and then set both aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and keep beating for a couple minutes longer. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for about 30 seconds between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts, followed by half of the milk, alternating with the flour mixture until everything is combined. Divide the batter evenly in two, and mix the melted chocolate into one of them.

With a large spoon or cookie scoop, randomly drop large scoops of each of the cookie doughs into the prepared pan. Using a long knife or offset spatula, carefully swirl a zigzag pattern through the dough—about 6 times through, nothing crazy. Bake for about 80-85 minutes, rotating after about 40, until the loaf is starting to turn golden brown and a toothpick inserted into one of the humps comes out clean. Let cool completely, about 15-20 minutes, and slice.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sweet Treats #3

SkyMall has gone bankrupt! Get these before its too late!

Valentine’s Day is coming up, check out this slideshow of romantic art picks

Carol Vogel retires as writer of New York Times’ Inside Art column

Busted! (these Picasso, Matisse and Miró forgers were)

Author Daniel Silva reveals the source behind his extensive art-related knowledge: well-known restorer David Bull

Opening this week:
·      Outsider Art Fair in New York, on January 29th

site design by designer blogs