A Book Signing: James Mauro's Twilight at the World of Tomorrow

Last night at Tulsa's iconic Philbrook Museum of Art, Book Smart Tulsa held yet another fascinating and successful event. The star of the evening was James Mauro, author of Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder and the 1939 World's Fair on the Brink of War.
Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World's Fair on the Brink of War
In typical Book Smart Tulsa fashion, this was not just a book signing- this was an experience. Entering the museum, you were greeted by the sounds of a local musician echoing off the walls of the rotunda and offered sticker replicas of buttons worn at the 1939 World's Fair. Before grabbing a seat, many made their way to the bar where you could grab a zombie- the unofficial official cocktail of the fair. A mix of apricot brandy and various rums and fruit juices, there is a reason why it's called a zombie- you may feel a little dazed after indulging in this potent, yet delicious beverage!

Before the author began his presentation, you were invited to make your way through the American Streamlined Design exhibit that features streamlined objects from the 1920s to 1950s- the same design used throughout the 1939 World's Fair, making Philbrook the perfect place to host this author.

Arriving to the event, I was unfamiliar with the book and the author himself but I knew that this would not stop me from enjoying the evening and I was right. Mauro gave a great presentation complete with plenty of fascinating photographs and interesting anecdotes about the 1939 World's Fair in New York. From the designs featured at the fair grounds to the little known 4th of July bombing, Mauro was able to take dates, names and facts and present them like he was giving a first-hand account. 
The 1939 World's Fair marked the debut of the television, nylons, the fax machine and the first public use of fluorescent lighting (for better or for worse, as Mauro put it). Also making a presence at the fair was none other than Albert Einstein, whom the fair gave a mere five minutes to explain to the public cosmic rays. The most fascinating part about this World's Fair is its location in history. Situated between the Great Depression and World War II, the irony of peace being the World's Fair theme while the world was on the brink of war is astounding. Having recently visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, it was a shocking contrast to what was really happening in Europe. 
After Mauro finished his presentation, he took poignant questions from the audience. Amongst those in attendance were visitors to the 1939 World's Fair itself! Seated at my table was a woman who was named after a lady her parents met while attending the fair, inspiring her to come to the event. Good-spirited competition finished out the evening with a game of trivia focusing on 1939-1940s facts- needless to say I did not have much to contribute!

Next time an interesting Book Smart Tulsa event comes up but you're worried that you haven't read the book or are unfamiliar with the author, fear not! You will come away entertained and enlightened with another book for your reading list.

Haven't caught the American Streamlined Design exhibit yet? It runs until May 15th- and guess what! The first two weeks in May are free! Don't miss it!

Travel Lust: Kent, England

It's the day of the royal wedding so, of course, I am thinking about princesses, castles, and tiaras. Enjoy these photographs of the picturesque county of Kent.
Scotney Castle

 Leeds Castle

 The White Cliffs of Dover

Rochester Cathedral, England's second oldest cathedral

Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn

Groombridge Place, recognize it from Pride and Prejudice?

Ingtham Mote

Hope everyone enjoyed watching the fairytale wedding this morning. I know I did!

Images from: citypictures.org, home2.btconnect.com, farminguk.org


Cherry Street Farmers' Market

What do you do with your Saturday mornings? If you haven't been to the Cherry Street Farmers' Market- set your alarm next weekend! This is well worth the early rise!
This was my first time to visit the farmers' market- I know, I know. But before entering the working world, I'm not sure I saw Saturdays before noon. Now, I am sure to make it a weekly habit! I recall the market in years past being located in a parking lot but now it has taken over Cherry Street itself. Blocking of through traffic every Saturday from 7-11am, the market now stretches multiple blocks. Way to go, Tulsa!

My expectations were far exceeded when I realized you could purchase almost all of your groceries from fresh, local sources right there on Cherry Street! I expected to see a lot of produce, but I was impressed by the vendors selling meats, eggs, cheeses and breads. Not to mention all of the herbs and plants! While you're doing your weekly shopping, don't forget to grab some breakfast- I saw plenty of people munching on breakfast burritos and other tasty treats.

The thing I loved most about the farmers' market is that there is no guessing what produce is in season- you're looking at it! This weekend it was mainly greens- arugula, fresh lettuce, cilantro, bok choy, mustard greens and Swiss chard. Radishes were also in abundance. Except for a small offering of strawberries, fruit did not make an appearance but I am looking forward to it!

I decided to pick up some items that I haven't tried in my kitchen along with some other tasty treats:
I finally was able to locate some tarragon plants! At $2.50 each, they were a great deal and I'm going to enjoy it in my chicken salad all season long.
Though many stalls had fresh radishes, only one offered French breakfast radishes. I'm quite unfamiliar with this root so I am looking forward to trying out some new dishes with these pretty things!
Oh creme fraiche... I have heard about it for so long yet have never tasted it or been able to track it down in Tulsa. But the folks at Wagon Creek Creamery  have changed that!
They may be a franchise, but Great Harvest Bread Co. makes a great loaf of bread! This High 5 Fiber was soft and tender and packed with nuts and seeds.
Last but not least, I could not resist the meat. Perfect for grilling are Cattle Tracks Beef onion garlic bratwurst- can't wait to fire up the grill. And the chorizo I got from Pork and Greens will make a tasty dish! Any suggestions on how I should use it?

Next weekend, do yourself a favor. Wake up early, grab your dogs and head down to Cherry Street to stroll the market. Beginning May 4th, the Brookside Farmers' Market will be open every Wednesday as well! I cannot wait to see what the season has in store!


Travel Lust: Las Vegas, Nevada

This week's travel lust is neither picturesque nor exotic. The Disney World for grown-ups- this is every adult's playground: Las Vegas.
I can't help but long for the neon lights and cheesy, themed hotels.
I don't know what's come over me- maybe I just need to let my hair down...
...or spend some time relaxing.
Regardless, I am hell bent on going to Vegas this summer. And I have my eyes set on The Palazzo...
The Palazzo has everything I'm looking for in Vegas accommodations: Strip location, beautiful bedrooms, luxurious bathrooms, and multiple pools with a casino and shopping under one roof.
And of course I'll have to catch a show- whether it's Cirque du Soleil or a Madonna look alike my little heart will be satisfied.
I plan on having a nice meal out but, of course, I will be hitting up a buffet!
I cannot wait to visit Sin City... she's calling my name!

Pictures from: Lasvegas.rpc1.org, my-photo-blog.com, vipnite.com, oyster.com, lastheplace.com, lasvegashotel.com, vegas4visitors.com, bestofvegas.com


Foreign Food: Cardamom Simple Syrup

Last month while I was visiting Colorado, I had the privilege of dining at restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail. Focusing on seasonal American cuisine, this Top Chef season 7 contender wowed our taste buds with a delicious palate of flavors from tender roasted vegetables and sweetbreads to rabbit and potato-crusted trout. The table was constantly passing around its plates so that everyone could try each dish.

Everything at Kelly Liken was spectacular, but there was one course that blew my mind- and it was the palate cleanser! One bite of the juicy grapefruit granita topped with cardamom foam and my taste buds erupted into a standing ovation. So simple yet bursting at the seams with bright, awakening flavors.

Since this dinner, I have been dreaming about this flavor combination and curious about cardamom. Where can you get it? What can you use it in? Then my cousin called wanting to make Italian sodas- cardamom-grapefruit Italian sodas it was! I headed to Spiceology to see if they carried it and easily found a bottle (click here to read about it!).
Cardamom, known as "queen of the spices", is native to India although Guatemala is now the largest producer. You may recognize its flavor from chai tea- these pods, smelling of eucalyptus and lemon, must be picked by hand making it second in price to saffron (1).  The scent is invigorating- I admit to giving the bottle a good sniff every once and a while!

Making simple syrup is, well, simple. Boil some water, dissolve in the sugar...
 ...and add your flavoring ingredient of choice!
After the mixture cools, the pods are removed and you are left with a tasty syrup suitable for flavoring beverages or brushing on to freshly baked cake to keep it moist and add flavor.
For my Italian soda, I mixed some of the cardamom syrup with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and a splash of club soda for a refreshing spritzer.
For an adult version- throw in some grapefruit flavored vodka! This cardamom syrup would also go well with blood orange juice- the possibilities are endless!
Check back later for some other simple syrup recipes including raspberry and blackberry. No artificial flavorings here!

Want to know what else to do with cardamom? Check out these links:

Cardamom Simple Syrup
1 c sugar
1 c water
5-7 whole cardamom pods

1. Bring water to a boil.
2. Stir in sugar until it dissolves.
3. Remove from the heat and add cardamom pods. Let sit 30 minutes.
4. Remove pods and let syrup completely cool before using. Refrigerate for up to 3-6 months.

Cardamom-Grapefruit Italian Soda
1.5 oz cardamom syrup
1/2 c grapefruit juice
Club soda

1. Combine syrup and juice over ice.
2. Top with splash of club soda.

1- Green, Aliza Starting with Ingredient


Travel Lust: Washington, D.C.

I no longer have to lust after visiting this local- I was there at the beginning of the month just in time for the cherry blossoms to be out! Check out some of the photos from my trip!

The first stop on my trip was to the National Museum of American History- I had to see Julia Child's kitchen as soon as possible! Click here to check it out!
I also stopped by to see Dorothy's ruby slippers and a great exhibit of beautiful gowns worn by the First Lady throughout history. Here is Martha Washington's gown in the forefront:
Another must see was the Star-Spangled Banner, now in a large, protective case away from harmful light with the lyrics to out national anthem projected above. It's amazing that it is still so well preserved!

Next, we made our way to the National Museum of Natural History to see great displays of creatures from around the world and a great orchid exhibit:
I gotta say, the dinosaurs were my favorite- they bring out the kid in you!

A must see museum when visiting Washington, D.C. is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. To get tickets to the permanent exhibit, you have to arrive around the opening hours. It is a quick line a more than worth the effort to get there early.

We spent over six hours in that museum pouring over all of the displays and videos- it was such a well done and tasteful exhibit. I went in expecting it to be almost graphic, however, the exhibit did not focus on the shock and awe of the horrible physical condition in which prisoners were found, but instead emphasized all of the gradual changes that happened within the society and how the Nazis achieved their terrible goal. It shook you straight to your core in a deep and profound way. I will be returning to this museum the next time I visit- it is eye opening.

Did I mention that all of these museums were free?! D.C. is awesome!

On a lighter note the cherry blossoms were out which made it a great time to visit all of the monuments.
The Jefferson Memorial was picturesque, surrounded by blooming trees all around the Tidal Basin.
Standing on the other side of the Tidal Basin affords you a breathtaking view of the Washington Monument. If you look closely to the left of its base, you can see the back of the White House!
We made our way to the National World War II Memorial:
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall:
And the Korean War Veterans Memorial:
We went up to see ol' Abe Lincoln:
And of course, we saw the White House complete with an interesting bunch of protesters.
Of course, we had some great food. Without even realized it I made it all weekend only eating seafood! So easy (and delicious) to do on the coast! Check out my post here to see where to get a great lobster roll. We also tried out some great places on U Street. Amongst them was Marvin, a dark and cozy bistro inspired by Marvin Gaye himself. The roasted halibut was to die for. Another great eat place was Eatonville- who knew Southern cooking could be so good so far north! Catfish and grits and fried chicken were our choices- we couldn't get enough of it!

I've only hit the tip of the iceberg with what Washington, D.C. has to offer. I can't wait to go back and see even more!


Bon Appétit: Inside Julia Child's Kitchen

Before my recent trip to Washington, D.C., I began planning what sights I wanted to see. Besides the obvious landmarks and cherry blossoms, I wasn't sure what museums the city had to offer. And then it hit me- Julia Child's kitchen is in D.C.! I immediately started jumping up and down and telling anyone who would listen. I would be seeing my gastronomic idol's workspace- the place where Julie Powell made her pilgrimage after working her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking in Julie and Julia and left her offering of butter.
Julia's kitchen from her Cambridge, Massachusetts home- along with plenty of pots, pans and kitchen gadgets- were donated by Mrs. Child herself upon her move to California in 2001. The exhibit also features footage from her cooking show The French Chef, and other great memorabilia.
It is pretty amazing to think that this is where that firecracker of a woman once stood. On her butcher block counter tops, built to her height, you can even see rings in the wood where maybe she set down a cup of tea.
Looking through the exhibit, you couldn't help but notice that Julia was a cat person! Throughout her kitchen, cats showed up in paintings, cartoons and magnets. 
I was amazed by how utilitarian her kitchen was. There is no doubt that at this point in her life she could have had whatever fancy finishings she wanted but instead she has very simple blinds on her windows, practical kitchen counters, and pegboard walls to organize all of her goodies.
Here is a drawing of the layout of her kitchen. It included a food pantry, a butler's pantry and even a pantry dedicated to pastry. I can just imagine what great ingredients she kept there.
Julie Child loved her kitchen gadgets! Thankfully the exhibit labeled each one- many I did not recognize and would not know what to do with. Have you ever needed a bone holder? Julie obviously did, she had several!
Here is her enormous mortar and pestle. I wonder what great things she has pulverized inside of it!
Anyone who has read Julia Child's My Life in France or has seen Julie and Julia will recognize some of the great memorabilia in the exhibit. Displayed was her patch from L'Ecole des Trois Gourmondes (The School of the Three Happy Eaters) that she started in Paris with her Mastering the Art cowriters and her diploma from Le Cordon Bleu.
I learned some interesting tidbits about Julia through the exhibit. Having lived in France, Julia and her husband Paul enjoyed having a glass of wine to complement their meal as was typical in the country. At the time she went on TV with The French Chef, American society was unaccustomed to seeing public figures drinking. By enjoying a glass of wine during her cooking lessons, Julia helped make Americans comfortable with drinking with their dinner (1) .  I think she deserves a round of applause!
Here is the Child's listing of the contents of their wine cellar:
If you ever have an opportunity to visit her kitchen- do it! You will be inspired! If you can't get there soon enough, you can visit the online exhibit: Julia Child's Kitchen at the Smithsonian

1- http://www.americanhistory.si.edu/juliachild/flash_home.asp