Recent Adventures, of the Auditory & Gastronomical Kind

The last a capella concert I attended was Ladysmith Black Mombazo in 2006.  They gave a performance at Carnegie Hall; I managed to get some cheap seats way up in the concert hall.  The bench was uncomfortable but seeing those gentlemen in person was priceless.  I first heard Ladysmith when Mommy & Grandma settled me in with them (read: no you cannot switch the TV station or go to bed) on a Sunday evening to watch a recorded Paul Simon concert that featured Ladysmith and many other South African artists (including the absolutely fabulous Miriam Makeba). For some reason it was deemed important for me to watch this concert with these people. Later I learned and understood about apartheid and how important groups like Ladysmith were and are, and how the collaboration with Paul Simon was a protest of sorts.  I fell in love with the the album Graceland, which was recorded by Simon and Ladysmith; to this day it’s one of my favourite albums ever…I vividly recall visiting a family friend’s home and listening to her vinyl record over and over again.  Eventually I got the album on cassette and then, CD.  If you don’t know it, then get it…it’s fabulous.

Above is my favourite song from Graceland – “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes”and the clip is from the cocnert from that Sunday night (which was ironically hosted in Zimbabwe since South Africa was off limits to this kind of racial mixing, musical or otherwise).  The precision of LBM’s movements is awe-some!

One of the reasons I love a capella so much is because it features the best musical instrument ever: one’s voice.  I sang in the church junior choir and then in the school choir once I moved to the U.S. for boarding school.  I’m no great vocalist but I love to sing or hum a tune, and I think that those who can sing a capella are especially gifted.  In my opinion, if you ever want to test an artist’s musical mettle go see them live and if possible listen to them sing with no instruments.  Only the truly gifted and precise can do that and still move you.  I love it.

With that spirit in mind + a wish to hear some live Christmas music went to see Anonymous 4 tonight.  Anonymous 4 is a group of women who perform mostly medieval music.  Yeah, not my usual cup of tea but I figured why not…and the Kennedy Center, to which I had never been before, had a special sale of front row tickets.  So 3rd row I sat to listen to Christmas music in Middle English, Latin, (and I think) Hungarian.  It was fun.  I’m not rushing out to buy a CD of theirs but I cannot deny that these women’s voices are beautiful.  They used no microphones but the sound was pure, clear, and lovely.  Here’s a sample (not from tonight’s concert but the quality of their voices is undeniable):


The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Plus it was great to be in the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which is a magnificent building (I only wish they’d done something magnificent with the ceiling).  I’m pretty sure I’ll be visiting again soon. The concert was held in the Terrace Theater, which was a gift from the Japanese government.  Unfortunately no photographs at all are allowed in the theater – I asked an usher 3 times…but I got pictures of the building, including the Jamaican flag in the Hall of Nations!

Well now that I’ve paid attention to my ears and soul, I fondly recall the expert attention that was paid to my belly a few weekends ago when I accompanied @andreabautista, her sister, and her sister’s boyfriend to Volt, a restaurant in Frederick, MD.  Volt is owned by Bryan Voltaggio (one half of the brothers from Top Chef; the other brother won and I am still a little bummed).  Volt is an eco-friendly restaurant; it practices sustainable cooking by using fresh and local ingredients.  So eco-friendly is Chef Voltaggio that he actually drives a

yellow fin tuna tartare with jasmine rice, avocado, yuzu vinaigrette, chili oil, red shiso

hybrid car – ironically named the Volt!  My mother even commented to me recently that I’m always eating something strange…well there’s little in the food department that I won’t try.  Volt is an excellent restaurant that allowed me to stretch my gastronomical vocabulary.  The food is…fantastic!  Even what I didn’t like – the goatcheesecake – was still fan-tas-tic!  Volt uses a prix fixe menu system (a set price for your choice of a combination of set number of offerings – appetizer, entrée, dessert) We went to Sunday brunch and opted for the 3 course menu.  And since this was a gastronomical adventure I began with something

bacon lardon omelet with gruyere, pommery mustard, summer creek farm yukon gold potato hash

I’d only ever seen on TV: tartare *sigh of pleasure at the memory*…I could have easily had another plate of that tartare.  The tartare was light, not fishy and very flavourful.  Excellent. My entrée was also quite good – a bacon lardon omelet with an accompaniment of stone ground yellow corn polenta; these eggs tasted like they came from the hen that morning, a definite difference in taste from what Ipurchase in the supermarket, and the bacon was p-e-r-f-e-ct-l-y cooked. As for the polenta: maan that corn must have been ground in the kitchen! Its flavour was a good balance to the richness and saltiness (not overly salty, just properly salty) of the omelet and bacon.  Dessert was goatcheesecake, which,  I didn’t like the because goat cheese has a funny – tangy? – aftertaste and, for me, that made the dessert too stuck on the savory side and I like my desserts sweet or plain ol’ decadent & rich.   BUT, it was still a well-prepared and beautifully presented dish.  The entire meal was WELL worth the train ride and drive!

anson mills stone ground yellow corn polenta

goat cheesecake d’ anjou pear, spiced vanilla ice cream, marcona almond

And now it’s time for adventures in my dreams!


p.s.  Sorry about the position of the last 2 pictures…I’ve been fiddling for a while now and I’m tired and longing for my bed. Forgive me, especially all you web designers and developers!

15 Responses to “Recent Adventures, of the Auditory & Gastronomical Kind”
  1. Carole-Anne says:

    Lovely Ren!! I’m very happy that you got to do these things and enjoy them. *grin* Lovely post as usual.

  2. owen says:

    I bet that food cost 2000 dollars i.e. if you can call it food, must be a appetiser

  3. sebrezzy says:

    Shar and I need to plan a DC trip to take part in the gastronomical adventure 🙂 oh if you love acapella music you will love this show on NBC called The Sing off it’s really good. They can’t use any instruments during the performance. There is a group from my college. I attached the clip of them singing

    • *screams* THE SING OFF IS BACK AND I’VE MISSED IT! drat, drat, drat! I watched it last season and really enjoyed myself…I’ll search for it and set it to record so that I can watch during my TV down time. Thanks for reminding me Sebreezy. Committed sounds wonderful, and are o so handsome; I wish them well!

  4. mamachel says:

    In traffic and read this. Graceland is a wonderful album and Diamonds on the soles of her feet is also a fave of mine. Lovely post! Fellow foodie

  5. Shumpynella says:

    This blog was lovely. Sounds grand! I loved Brian too!! The mean brother won lol. Though I have to admit Michael’s cooking was on point. I wanna go on an adventure w Cucumber Juice!!

    Oh, the Sing Off is great & so is Committed.

  6. Sandy says:

    Diamonds on her shoes. Love it. The way you described the Volt! I definitely will put it on my list for my next trip north.

    • I encourage you to do so, Sandy! It’s a lovely restaurant. I’m trying to visit as many restaurants of the chefs that appear on Top Chef as possible…ya know, especially since there’s no smell-o- or taste-o-vision 😉

  7. CJ says:

    Stepping out of the box … good for you. Btw, polenta is our good ole turn cornmeal!

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