Posts Tagged ‘LA’

The Getty Museum in L.A.

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

Zigzag Path between Buildings

Zigzag Path between Buildings

The Getty Museum in L.A. is an extraordinary place to visit. Although the art collection amassed by the oil baron J. Paul Getty is fabulous, it may be surpassed by the magnificent setting, which encompasses brilliant architecture and superb landscaping design. Richard Meier designed the Getty Center and wedded his signature modern style to more classic materials to express Getty’s roots in the past and belief in the future. To contribute counterpoint of color and texture to the complex of buildings, artist Robert Irwin designed the beautiful Central Garden. The Getty Center is a 750 acre site perched atop the Santa Monica Hills with breathtaking views of the city – what a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Visitors reach the museum complex by boarding a tram, which ascends the hill in a leisurely five minutes. Upon exiting the tram, you see a series of buildings made up predominately of travertine marble. One hundred ocean freighter voyages from Italy were needed to transport all the marble. Smooth travertine was used for all the flooring inside and out, while a special splitting process was used to produce a rough marble surface for most of the building walls. Meier uses a mixture of right angles and curves to produce subtle, playful, and dramatic complements. His use of glass is equally dramatic; the light and shadows produce an ever changing art form.

Central Garden

Central Garden

Another part of the complex that is alive is the Central Garden. A zigzag path heads down a hill towards the main section of the garden, and it includes several small bridges that cross a man-made stream. It is interesting that not only does your visual perception of the complex change as you descend the path, but the sounds are uniquely different as you cross each bridge. As you reach the main garden you are greeted with a maze of 400 bright red azaleas, forming bold circles in a quiet reflecting pond. On the south side of the reflecting pond is a a panoramic view of Los Angeles, while looking north over the azaleas, the serene reflecting pond is being filled with water from a waterfall with the towering Getty buildings forming a majestic backdrop. This tranquil oasis certainly captures every one of your senses, and is certainly a dramatic contrast to the distant Los Angeles.

Although you could easily spend the afternoon outdoors, the Getty Center has an art collection worth visiting. The art is exhibited in four separate buildings, each dedicated to separate art periods. In each building, sculpture, manuscripts,

Azaleas and the Waterfall

Azaleas and the Waterfall

decorative arts such as furniture, and photography are located on the first floor, while the second floors are dedicated to paintings. It is interesting that the painting galleries are illuminated by skylights with computer-controlled louvers. This allows the visitors to view the paintings in natural light as the artists did. The painting exhibits are predominately from the years 1400 to 1850, and include such masters as Correggio, Rubens, Rembrandt, van Dyck, Gainsborough, and Cezanne. My favorite paintings were Wheatstacks and Rouen Cathedral, both by Claude Monet. Although both paintings were very different subjects, they were the same style. Each was painted with a dot technique, so as you viewed the painting from five feet away the painting appeared cloudy, lacking definition and focus. What is spectacular is that as you view these same paintings from fifteen feet away, the subject of the painting becomes well defined, and the areas of the painting that appeared cloudy now become a beautiful array of light and shadows…brilliant.

I loved the Getty Center; the architecture, gardens, art, and view all moved me. The next time you are in L.A., make sure to allocate a few hours to visit this complex, I’m sure you will find it very rewarding.

Santa Monica – a fun slice of L.A.

Friday, May 21st, 2004

Santa Monica beach in the haze

Santa Monica beach in the haze

As a New Yorker, I can’t help but admire LA for its climate and outdoors-oriented lifestyle. That’s why I always make sure any trip to California includes a day at the beach… Santa Monica to be exact. It’s an eclectic, vibrant section of LA, with miles of gorgeous beach, great restaurants, and so much more.

The expanse of beach is incredible, several hundred yards of white sand stretch from the streets to the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. In the morning, you can smell the salt air as the dew forms a blanket of hazy fog. Palm trees line the beach as far as the eye can see, and lifeguard chairs are dotted along the coastline. There is a path for bikers, runners and rollerbladers that bisects the beach – it runs all the way from Venice in the south to Pacific Palisades up north. This path is alive with sun worshipers. Along the path there are rental stands for bikes and rollerblades so that you too can join in the fun.

Southern California is a mecca for beach volleyball, and this strip of beach is no different; nets are set up everywhere. Teams battle it out in the sand, smashing that white ball as fast as a rocket. Volleyball players represent a good cross section of the community, representing all ages, sexes and nationalities – the commonality amongst them is that fit physique and golden tan. But the fitness fanatics are not just playing volleyball, it is fascinating to see all the exercise areas set up along the beach – a jungle gym for adults. One gymnastic area was particularly unique – picture a high bar as used in gymnastics, but 30 feet off the ground. Every few feet is a rope that dangles to the ground, and people are climbing these ropes like chimpanzees. But don’t feel intimidated, the ocean beckons, grab your towel and enjoy the waves.

The Santa Monica Pier provides a stark contrast to the tranquility of the ocean and the beach. It is a carnival that stretches way out over the water. With a carousel, roller coaster, and many arcade games, it provides hours of entertainment for the kids, or those adults that feel like kids. The Pier also holds free concerts every Thursday night during the summer.

Although the beach is the primary source of entertainment, the town is quaint and has a lot to offer. The 3rd Street Promenade is a shopping section that is closed off from traffic. It is a regular spot for musicians and other street performers. Although there is a proliferation of chain stores, there are also some uniquely creative stores thrown in. Montana Avenue is, however, the place for serious shopping with high-end boutiques and antique stores. But if you are not in a spending mood, sit at one of the many coffee houses and enjoy the people watching. Santa Monica is not just a maze of fancy stores, it’s quite a cultural center with a strong emphasis on art. The largest concentration of galleries in Santa Monica is at Bergamot Station, a complex of rehabilitated warehouses located on the site of the historic trolley depot. There are 40 art galleries including the Santa Monica Museum of Art. My favorite being the Peter Fetterman Gallery, which focuses on B&W photos.

Artichokes

Artichokes

When I think of LA, I think of healthy organic foods. Organic farming has been very popular in California for many years, and one of the best outdoor markets to buy from these farmers is in Santa Monica. It’s held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings on Arizona & 2nd. The organic produce is spectacular. Where else can you see five types of avocados? Carrots and asparagus are stacked two feet high, and the artichokes are the size of soccer balls. This is a must adventure for any food lover.
Carrots

Carrots

If you are looking for a unique diversion, take a walk south from Santa Monica to Venice Beach. Although best known for muscle beach, its real claim to fame are the street artists and the tattoo parlors. Some may find the area too seedy, but all will find it fascinating. Picture the burnt out hippies of the 60’s that did not want to lead the stereotypical corporate life. Musicians with tie-dyed shirts are strumming their guitars and singing. Religious fanatics are passing out leaflets. Every third store is a tattoo parlor, and the rock music is blaring. Artists are painting, while others are selling jewelry or trinkets. What a trip!

Artist in Venice Beach

Artist in Venice Beach

Staying in Santa Monica is quite luxurious, and yes quite expensive. The Inn at Shutters and Casa del Mar are two superb hotels that combine a small hotel feeling with five star service. For those with a family seeking a larger hotel, the Loews would be an excellent choice.

Santa Monica is not just a great self contained section of LA, it is also very convenient. It is 30 minutes from the Getty Museum, perhaps the best museum in town. Beverly Hills, and its famed Rodeo Drive is also a 30 minute drive. Downtown LA is far, over an hour drive, but unless you are going to the Laker’s game, don’t bother. And lastly, it is only 8 miles to LAX, making for an easy escape.

So if you have the opportunity to spend a few days in LA, have some fun in the sun…… and do it in Santa Monica.

AOC – Suzanne Goin does it again

Thursday, May 20th, 2004

Suzanne Goin was named the best new chef of the year by Food & Wine in 1999. After honing her craft at Campanille, she opened her first restaurant Lucques (pronounced Luke) on Melrose in West Hollywood. The food is French/Mediterranean, and is exceptional. Their braised Short Ribs were the best I ever tasted. But she did not rest on her laurels, and in December of 2002 she opened AOC with Caroline Styne, her wine savvy partner from Lucques. AOC also serves French/Mediterranean cuisine, but it is much more casual. It is a cross between a wine bar and a tapas bar…and it is fun.

The dishes are all “tastes”, smaller plates that are meant to be shared, like you were in a Chinese restaurant. This concept of offering smaller dishes is unique to LA, and it’s a great way to really experience the chef’s creations. Isn’t it more interesting to sample six dishes than to eat just an appetizer and an entrée? To pair with this exquisite food is an outstanding wine list, and 5o wines are offered by the glass.

AOC is a casual, but very hip scene. The first room has a long bar with a cruvinet, which is used to help preserve the wine after being opened. The room is abuzz, as all the tables are filled, and customers are passing plates. The back room is reasonable small, with tables of 4 or 6, and has the same high energy. To help guide everyone through this unique menu is a very well trained wait staff. They explain this concept of smaller tasting dishes, and highlight the chef’s signature dishes.

The dishes were all extraordinary, but a few that were strongly suggested by our waitress were right on target. A perfect starter was the roasted dates stuffed with parmesan and wrapped in bacon, unique and they melted in your mouth. Next we had a plate of speck (similar to prosciutto) with apples and arugula – a healthy, refreshing combination from the charcuterie section of the menu. The fish and meat dishes were all excellent, most were simply prepared, but were served with interesting, bold sauces. The sea bass was seasoned with lemon and bay, and was roasted to perfection in a wood-burning oven. Another great dish from the oven was arroz negro (black rice) with squid and saffron aioli. The perfect ending to a magnificent meal was a tray with an unbelievable assortment of cheeses, paired with a great dessert wine.

The food was great, but more importantly, AOC is a fun dining experience. AOC is located 8022West 3rd Street, Los Angeles (323)653-6359