Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tyringham Cobble

Tyringham's cobble has old rock on top of newer rock. I thought perhaps this might have been caused by a receding glacier. After all, Long Island and Cape Cod are massive moraines so the ice sheet had once covered this area too.

Not so, the old rock at the peak is pre Cambrian while the sandstone outcrop at a lower was formed somewhat more recently.

This morning's jaunt on the Tyringham Cobble was an interseasonal joy. Winter has passed but spring has not yet arrived.

The air was still and crisp, the ground was frozen, most of the snow was gone but the buds were still hibernating. Once the rain arrives and the frost is out, the fields and trails will be soup for several weeks.

Quite a few parties agreed today would be a good time to walk the two mile circuit: when I arrived at the Trustees of Reservations parking lot there was one car; by the time I returned an hour or so later it had been replaced by seven others. Most seemed to walking up the gentle slope or perhaps over from the Appalachian Trail. They may have found the path down challenging.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Branzino in Boulder

Branzino resonates strongly. Several years ago in Venice, a waiter at Da Raffaele recommended branzino carpaccio. It was served in paper thin slices with olive oil, lemon and garnished with minced tomatoes and capers. I can still taste it. With that memory lingering, I have paused when ordering suzuki sashimi at Fin in Lenox, Massachusetts but Nick Macioge has never disappointed me. Apparently the Adriatic and Sea of Japan are far enough apart for both to fit comfortably on my palate.

As a first time visitor to Radda Trattoria, a hip restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, I asked our waitress what would be the best item on the menu. Without hesitation she offered branzino. A Mediterranean fish in the Rocky Mountains? Before arriving at Radda, my companions had mentioned how good the wild boar was. I thought she might retreat but the lass stood her ground. I accepted her recommendation. It was excellent. The skin was crispy, the bones had been removed and replaced with fresh rosemary, thyme and lemon. Cippolini onions on the side made Chef Matthew Jansen's creation a memorable meal.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter View on South Mountain

Easter Sunday seemed like a good day for a hike. Early morning light suggested it would be fine; temperatures in the teens suggested otherwise. I had planned on an outing at the Tyringham Cobble. An ascent of South Mountain in Pittsfield proved to be more inviting. The view was inspired.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Watts Towers

Los Angeles is spread out across a desert between the ocean and mountains. Perhaps because of the light rain overnight, the air this past Sunday was clear, the sky was deep blue and the snow capped mountains looked close enough to touch. I approached the city from the southeast on the Santa Ana freeway and one overpass along the way afforded enough elevation to see the cluster of skyscrapers way off to the north. I was far from the city center.

I imagine the sounds of Watts on Sunday were similar to those Sabato "Simon" Rodia heard when he moved to the neighborhood eighty some years ago. Trains jangled and whistled, people talked, the wind rustled, roosters crowed. But mostly it was quiet. LA's cars and highways seemed a long way off. In Rodia's day, they had not yet become the defining characteristics of the landscape. They still aren't in Watts.

For most in my generation, if Watts is known at all, it is for the riots which took place there in 1965. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Watts was a farming community well removed from Los Angeles proper; it was populated by immigrants from all over, especially Latin America and Japan.

In 1923, Rodia bought a wedge shaped lot along a trolley line and spent the next three decades creating the most interesting back yard in America. Using only hand tools, scrap metal, concrete, and his imagination, he built walls, fountains, and towers nearly 100 feet tall and created what our guide described as an open air cathedral. And he did it without written plans or drawings, scaffolding or any help. His creation is thought to be the largest sculpture in the world made entirely by one person.

In 1954, Rodia's gave the property to a neighbor and left for good. Five years later the city of Los Angeles Building and Safety Department declared the towers were unsafe. A stress test conceived by an aeronautical engineer proved otherwise. The Watts Towers site is now a California state park and is one of nine works of folk art listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Simon Rodia continues to inspire. The visitor's center adjacent to the lot where he built is towers hosts art classes for the community. When I bought Bud and Arloa Goldstone's book about the towers, it was handed to me in a shopping bag. Without seeing the front, I offered to return it. I was gently advised to reconsider. I am glad I did. It was painted by the art director at the center.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bruschetta and Beer

Carolina’s has been at the intersection of Chapman and West In Garden Grove, California for thirty years. For the past several, Tim Ibrahim has been proprietor. He does nothing in half measures. He grew up in the neighborhood and worked in F&B at Disneyland, so he knows his clientele. They expect large portions and big variety. Tim has built the largest assortment of beer in Orange County (about 200 beers). He has dozens of North American craft brews and good assortments of German, Belgian and British beers, as well as novelty beers from around the world.

Be forewarned: the well drink pours are generous and the pasta portions are enormous. You may want to steer toward pizza and beer. Bruschetta is best on freshly baked pizza bread. It is great with a bottle of Orval.