Saturday, November 28, 2015

A NEW Nutcracker - Reimagined, Reinvented and Incredibly Special

George Balanchine's
Artistic Director: Peter Boal
Design: Ian Falconer
November 27 - December 28th


noun 1.the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice: a story that has come down to us by popular tradition.

When Artistic Director Peter Boal announced last year that the ballet would be retiring the Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker that had run 31 years and had become a Christmas tradition in many northwest households, it was met with mixed reaction. Some excited for change, some sad to see the special production go, and some angry to a level that was surprisingly emotional.  Either way it caused a ruckus and starting much speculation as to what was to come.  The critics: How can it be NEW if other ballets use this version? We will no longer have something special to PNB. Why are we trying to COPY the NYC Ballet? This version is BORING. 

As last night's premier approached, the marketing began. Photos, commercials, news articles. The naysayers still snarky but with that inquisitive look, like someone that wants details but doesn't want to admit they want details.  Director Peter Boal doing an interview jokingly saying if the audiences didn't love it he had a one way ticket to Kansas. I cannot imagine how stressful the weeks leading up to the premier were for him. The risk that he took was ENORMOUS. T.S. Eliot said: "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." If we don't take risks we don't create opportunities to grow. As a born and raised Seattle native, I have seen this city grow and evolve over the last 40+ years. Seattle has a handful of tourist and artistic destinations and as the city progresses, so must these attractions. This was what Pacific Northwest Ballet needed to be part of Seattle's unique and eclectic artistic skyline.

The week before I found myself nervous and restless in regards to the premier. I have zero to do with the production but was still apprehensively anticipating the big reveal like I was someone that was deeply involved emotionally. I see why there were so many visceral reactions. The Nutcracker connects with so many of us. All I could think about while preparing and serving Thanksgiving dinner for my daughter and several other of the Professional Division dancers is, I must pass them my motherly sustenance and energy to make the next night, opening night, perfect.

The lobby was bustling with wonder and excitement. I strolled through the length of the 1st and 2nd floors with my ears open to what the patrons were discussing - these were my favorite quotes of the evening:
"So IS there a Peacock?" 
"I love that this ballet is about sweets and there is less racial undertones" (I laughed and gave her a high five as I walked past)
"Mom is there still a princess?" 
"Does the tree still grow?"
"I wonder if Olivia the Pig will make an appearance?"
"Wait is that Drum from Steel Magnolias!?" (Tom Skerritt)
I had picked the perfect seat. Butterflies in my stomach and I wasn't even dancing or part of the crew. Everyone in that audience was witnessing what people 31 years before witnessed. The start of a tradition. History and the beginning of a magical production.
The prologue began and as the gorgeous PNB Orchestra played the familiar Tchaikovsky intro - we were introduced to an opening film, that took us from the snowflakes, down traveling through the snow capped trees and hillside, through the quiet neighborhood of homes, and to the doorway of the Stahlbaum family. It was done as if we were all flying through and traveling in an open aired bi plane. Reminiscent of something you would see at IMAX but with the animation of Polar Express.
It ends with the children, Clara and Fritz - sleeping at the doorway of the great hall, and then becomes the exact picture on stage live.  The walls lined with photos and decor fit for an animated Vogue shot, and transparently showing us what awaited them on the other side.  It was a new and exciting way to prepare you for what was to come.
The party scene was stunning. The set of the Stahlbaum home was epic. SO many details. A true visual journey. I found myself trying to absorb everything. The glowing realistic fire in the fireplace. 

The architecture of the room from the windows to the floors. The careful placement of the red and white stripes - from the stockings, to the chair covers, of course small repetitious reminders of the MAIN stripes which were Clara's whimsically sweet striped dress and her Uncle Drosselmeier's cloak lining. Was a wonderful ribbon of playful consistency.
ALL of the costumes in this scene were lush and exquisite, with patterns and fabrics that seemed to jump off the stage. The costume department and designer Ian Falconer, should be given a standing ovation of their own. It was awe inspiring.  The growing tree, the HUGE adorable mice and the cute but stoic soldiers, all made for an entertaining portion with lots of audience giggles.  The most notably being the Mouse King who had MULTIPLE heads and crowns. It was unexpectedly awesome and I found myself amazed at the wondrous creation of it.

The most visually magnificent scene of the entire ballet was the Snow scene. Ushered in by Princess Clara on her gliding bed, and her little prince (who was disguised as the Nutcracker and had an EPIC costume change! Hint: Its JUST like the movie and the audience erupted with cheers) the scene change became the most breathtaking and impressive forest I had ever seen. 

The incredible depth of the trees and the snow. THE SNOW. Balanchine's choreography for the impressive Snowflake dancers is elaborate, arduous and electric. I only know this as a ballet-familiar person because the company dancers that performed looked light as air and effortless as they danced in a moderate blizzard of snow. Adorning the entire scene was a spectacular glass Winter Star created by Dale Chihuly, adding an extravagant level of beauty to an already dazzling Snow Scene.
Act 2 was the Land of the Sweets. The Angels were perfect. Gliding over the stage as if on wheels, they heralded in the newly-promoted Sugar Plum Fairy, danced by the beautiful Liz Murphy (shown in the top photo). The entire Land of the Sweets was overwhelmingly fun, with gigantic tall tables of cakes and confections, lace and candy canes framing the entire thing into a perfect picture of edible beauty. 
Hot Chocolate dancers were spicy and quick and their costumes were intricate and flashy, with gorgeous head pieces that looked like pieces of actual chocolate. The controversial Coffee. Many people sad with the departure of their beloved Peacock, so I heard whispers and wonders when this music began. Corps member Elle Macy stunned with the flexibility and allure to make this slinky and contortion-like choreography come to life. Boal and Falconer gave their nod to the Peacock with a respectful and beautiful costume that donned long ornate peacock feathers. Tea was fun and enticed laughter from the crowd. Matt Renko as the man in the box - seemed to fly as he jumped with an agility I hadn't seen from him before. The three dancers together produced smiles across every seat that I could see.
Soloist Ben Griffiths was flawless as lead Candy Cane. Lots of WOWs and hollers from the audience, as its arguably the most iconic of all of the Nutcracker music.  Marzipan was lead splendidly by Soloist Leta Biasucci. The tutus were like beautiful paper cut lace snowflakes, intricate and delicate. 
They say big hair, a big dress and flawless lashes will steal the show, and well they were right. Soloist Josh Grant had the audience in tears with his grandiose and comical portrayal of the infamous Mother Ginger, the woman with all of her kids in her skirt. Her personality was bigger than her skirt as she delighted in her dancing children and her own reflection. Closing out the sweets was the enchanting Dew Drop fairy danced by Principal Laura Tisserand, and supported by her garden of Dancing Flowers. The costumes were verdant and flower-like with beautiful petals that seemed to move perfectly as they danced. 

The finale came to a close with the Sugar Plum and her Cavalier - danced by the naturally born Prince, Jerome Tisserand, and then concluded with the entire Land of Sweets gathering to bid a farewell to Clara and her Prince, and as they walked off the stage, many of us thought that was it. UNTIL. There was a surprise. Wait for it. A Sleigh. With reindeer. That FLEW. You could not see any wires or tracks from the audience. Visually, they were flying home on a reindeer guided sleigh. No big deal, only it was a big deal. It was an EPIC ending to a gorgeous feast of splendor that exceeded my already high expectations. The audience roared, standing ovation for the first night of a brilliant new tradition. 

For those that said this version was not going to be "special" or "unique" or said it would be a "copy" or "boring", I assure you it is truly nowhere near boring or a copy.  I am pleased to inform you that Pacific Northwest Ballets new Nutcracker is both Special in Unique, beyond what you imagined it would be.  
Tickets are going quickly. Get them while you can and go experience the magic and be part of this extraordinary new tradition. Congrats to everyone involved in making a new piece of history.  

*All Photos copyright of Angela Sterling Photography*

Wanted: The perfect Pub burger

Recently I made a made a Facebook post wanting the perfect "pub" burger. A pub burger is somewhere  between a fast food burger and a fancy burger. No bells and whistles of a fancy burger, but a hand made patty, toasted bun and fresh grease that fast food doesnt have.  My FB friends did not disappoint.  Within an hour I had a list of place to try.  We opted to go to Stars Brass Lounge in Georgetown. It was PERFECT. There obviously needs to be a Yelp page with the cities best pub burgers listed.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

You MUST Emerge with PNB


Pacific Northwest Ballet

November 6-15 

Artistic Director: Peter Boal

Sum Stravinsky

The Calling



Last night was the opening night of Pacific Northwest Ballet's mixed rep and my mind is still swimming in the magnificence of it all. Artistic Director Peter Boal has put together a FEAST for patrons with this rep. Each piece fantastic in its own way and building to the end with Emergence, the show will leave you in absolute awe and amazement.  But I will get to that, lets start at the beginning...

SUM STRAVINSKY choreographed by the newly retired PNB Soloist Kiyon Gaines. First off let me just say that there is SUCH an advantage to having a piece choreographed by a former member of the company he is working with. He knew who to put in what place perfectly. The music of Stravinsky, that as a band nerd always made me emotional, perfectly seasoned the dancers' quick movements. The piece was fast paced, precise and exciting.  A lot of new faces in the corps so it was nice seeing a few of them really shine, most notably Miles Pertl.  The 3 duets were the shining moments of this piece.

Angelica Generosa was perky, quick and gorgeous and her partner Ben Griffiths balanced her nicely, being technically perfect and strong, a joy to watch.  Then Maria Chapman - who it is SO nice to see back on that stage after having a baby - is clearly back with a vengeance. Her movements were gorgeous and fluid and her physical ability, paired with the always amazing and perfect partner Karel Cruz, they are one of my favorite duos.  Finally my favorite pair of the evening was Lesley Rausch and her real life partner Batkhurel Bold. Lesley was FIERCE. The two of them, were sassy and the offstage chemistry shined through as authentic on the stage, which adds so much to the performance. Kiyon truly created a work of art that celebrated his peers' abilities and strengths.

THE CALLING choreographed by Jessica Lang. This was a premier for PNB and I had seen clips so I knew it would be emotional. It also made the cover of the rep program (above) so I knew it would be good.

New corps member Dylan Wald had the honor of performing opening night and it was magnificent. Every movement was tangible and intentional. Every muscle was clear and strong like a marble statue come to life on stage. The costume created such an amazing visual that coupled with the dancers level of amazing movement, was almost too much beauty to handle.  Such an emotional piece and such a treat to have it at PNB and in the rep.

Dylan Wald is truly a rising star and that was definitely his moment.

SIGNATURE choreographed by corps dancer Price Suddarth. World Premiere. I didn't know what to expect. I had only seen a solo done by Price, which was amazing but its hard to tell the capacity of a choreographer from a solo.  I was intrigued to say the least.  If I had to come up with a phrase that described this piece it would be:  "HOLY AMAZING PORT DE BRAS".  

The french literal definition of port de bras: "bearing of the arms" If you can appreciate and love a good fierce port de bra like I do, this piece will complete you. So satisfying watching such big beautiful movements. The opening group section was so intense and overwhelming! I truly think lighting is so important and the LIGHTING for this piece truly set the mood.

Suddarth put together a gorgeous collection of movements that truly celebrated the body of each dancer. I do have to say my favorite moment - was fittingly called the "men's dance" I was told.  Principle men; Jerome Tisserand, Karel Cruz and Batkhurel Bold - and corps men Dylan Wald, Kyle Davis and Ezra Thompson all in one place. So stunning. The visual it gave me will make you laugh. You know that movie, Heat with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Val Kilmer? How everyone was in awe that they were all in a movie together? That's how I felt watching Tisserand, Cruz and Bold on stage at the same time. 3 of the company's strongest dancers together in one place! It was truly a moment that was such a bonus for everyone! Price surprised me with this intense and gorgeous piece and I thought it was the perfect prelude for Emergence.

EMERGENCE. Let me reiterate: EMERGENCE.

"Force, trajectory, inertia, and recovery: dancing is a ride, a duet
between your instinct and imagination. To dance is to heighten your
experience of the present moment."

 ~ Crystal Pite, choreographer of Emergence.

Crystal Pite GIFTED her brilliance to the PNB dancers for this mind blowing piece. Actually its NOT a piece...Emergence is an EXPERIENCE. It's a journey.  I heard so many people asking questions after to their friends and family, about the subjects, about the process and journey, trying to figure it all out. It left people talking and wondering.  It even sparked questions in my circle trying to determine who was what.  Until finally our daughter, (who is a Professional Division student that was an understudy and got the amazing opportunity to dance in this last night) said something to us when we met her at the stage door. We fired a barrage of questions at her because she danced it, she would know right!?
"It is all up to interpretation. It can be whatever you see, whatever you imagine it to be. Its not at literal as you need it to be". Note taken and absorbed, thanks Ms. Bee.

The opening. Soloist Margaret Mullin was absolutely riveting and scary good as the EMERGING bee. I kept cursing under my breath in awe. Just shockingly insane.  The music, subtle rhythmic and insect-like, made each bug like twitching and twisting movement that much more accurate and intriguing.

The female bees come out in what looked like a cross between a fencing
and a bee keeper mask. The corps women did an amazing FLUID job of
embodying the queen bee spirit. Their unison bourres' sounding like the
low hum of bees and moving them across the stage like they were

Truly every woman had to be strong and exactly together to make the visual a reality and they delivered x10.  

To be VERY honest the treat of this piece is the men. Adorned with amazing back
artwork and swarming together like you have never seen them before in
one place, it was truly a sight to see. You will never see all of the PNB men in one place like this. They showed so much strength but also versatility to give us such
bug-like movements. Crystal has an uncanny ability to manipulate the
dancer to take her visions and learn to move in ways I think most of
them had not done before.

The solo bee women, served FIERCE bee moments especially Leah Merchants
solo with the men.  It was almost like she was having a Mulan moment and
trying to be part of their group. Explored Gender and the struggle, all in that moment. Gorgeous performance.

The other powerful duet, Laura Tisserand, coupled with the powerful Bold, owned every inch of space around her. She embodied
the queen of the hive and had me speechless with how much intensity she gave. 

Standing ovation to Crystal for such an intense journey that I am
still reeling from today. A huge thank you to Artistic Director Peter
Boal for taking a risk, one of many risks he is taking this season that I
know will prove to not only benefit the Ballet as a whole but will
benefit the dancers and the experience we have as the audience.  Go to
this rep and get ready to take a journey from start to finish.

Go EMERGE, you will not regret it.

All photos courtesy of the amazing Angela Sterling who's work can be found at

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fat's Chicken and Waffles - BEST I have had EVER

Fat's Chicken and Waffles
2726 E Cherry St
Seattle, WA 98122                                     
27th Ave & Temple Pl -Central District            
(206) 602-6863  

From the owners of Lil' Woody's in Ballard - this is a welcome addition to the Central District. Locally owned and locally managed - this spot has only been open a month and there was a line out the door when we got there this past Friday night.

Greeted by every waiter and the manager, which to me is so important and a huge part of the restaurant experience.  The staff was happy to be there, the customers were happily eating and the place was bustling.  Thankfully we had friends get there ahead of us, and had saved a table.  They were already munching on appetizers and had ordered the mac and cheese and drum sticks - and I would take a photo but they had already licked the bowls clean!

While waiting for our main dishes we ordered drinks as well as friend green tomatoes, which were tart and yummy and paired with a creamy pimento cheese which made my southern husband happier than a preacher on Sunday! "You people in the Northwest don't appreciate the importance of a good pimento sandwich!" Nope, I sure don't lol.  The atmosphere was bright and comfortable but not too comfortable. They want you to enjoy yourself but don't sleep - because someone is always waiting for your seat!

Now to the food. I have had chicken and waffles served lots of ways. Bone in or boneless, dark meat or light meat, spicy or bland - and the waffles have ranged from thick and dry to crunchy and overdone.  These were PERFECT on both fronts.  

So because its the name of the spot and my dish - I will review my plate first. Let it be known: I COULD EAT THIS MEAL ONCE A WEEK AND I JUST MIGHT.  
Chicken was fried perfectly with just a little spice. BONELESS breast that wasn't too greasy.  TWO, yes let me say it again TWO thin waffles that were the size of a small hubcap.  I was in heaven. You will use ALL of your butter and ALL of your syrup and a little hot sauce if you know how to do it.  It was perfect. I had to resist the urge to eat with my fingers and swoon to a nearby table. 

If I had to add anything I would say MORE syrup or even dispensers on the tables so you don't have to ask for more.

Every single person in our group tried a bite and had the same reaction. A photo doesn't do it justice.

The other three people had sandwiches.  Your choice of fries (which were a think shoe string done just perfectly and seasoned lightly) or beans and rice.  Here are the three sandwiches - which I was told were ALL amazing, done perfectly, dressed generously and HUGE.

The Fried Chicken Sandwich with Pimento Cheese and Pickles (My husbands choice of course) He said "It was perfect. Very few people understand the importance of pickles and pimento paired with fried chicken"
The Fried Shrimp Sandwich with a side of Rice and Beans was ordered by our friend Justin who barely spoke and when we looked over the rice and beans were GONE and the sandwich close to gone. That was testimony enough.
The Fried Catfish Sandwich was ordered by my friend Marika and she said it was awesome - "It was an awesome balance of all the flavors you want on a catfish sandwich, including texture." 
Go to Fats, and if there is a line, WAIT, its WORTH IT. Support local businesses in the CD and support the owners and the neighborhood. Erika the Manager did a great job of making sure we were always happy, while balancing her staff and the to-go orders.  She was laid back and calm during the rush and made everyone feel welcome and like family.  That and those damn chicken and waffles, is why we will be back...maybe even this week lol...

Best Foodie movie since Big Night and Like Water for Chocolate...

The Hundred-Foot Journey
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Staring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal
Rated: PG

Not since "Like Water for Chocolate" or "Big Night", has a foodie cooking movie moved me in this way.  Food movies, in my opinion, are so hard to pull off - because food is subjective and really talented cooking and the finess that goes into it - is hard to make realistic and real on the big screen. Much like art, what is amazing to one person isnt amazing to another. What is talent to one, isnt talent to another in regards to cooking as well.  This move shows both sides of the cooking world so brilliantly, and then brings you to a glorious happy medium in the end, literally leaving you weeping in your food.

 The Kadam family travels from India to France - after the loss of the Matriarch of the family - who was the parent that laid the foundation for her children to cook with their hearts. She taught them to cherish and celebrate ingredients for what they are and to dig deep into your roots to give food a peice of yourself.  The father (played by Om Puri who tugs at your heart strings the entire movie) and his children leave their home in search of a place to carry on her memory through food, and a place to share their love of food with others.  They find a location that is literally 100 feet from one of the towns classiest French restaurants, that has a Michelin star to back it up - owned by the stern and recently widowed Madam Mallory (played by the amazing Helen Mirren).

Hasan Kadam (Brilliantly played by Manish Dayal) is the middle son who has been blessed with the cooking talents and pallet of his mother.  He mets one of the sous chef's from Madam Mallory's restaurant at the local market, and though there is obvious attraction it is clear, they are from two diffferent sides of a turf war.

The restaurants begin battling over food, music, taste, customers and even decorations.  The movie is fairly predictable at this point, until it takes a dramatic turn and exposes emotions and heart on both sides.

I watched this movie on a plane, not knowing it was a Speilberg/Oprah film and adored it. Cried like a baby. Being a home cook and someone who loves cooking for people as a way to show them how much I care about them, this movie touched my heart.
The ending had me reeling - I wont ruin it - but I can tell you that it takes a turn I didnt see coming. I found it an interesting turn none the less, as it visited the topic of school trained chefs vs self taught. 

Does your culture and family taught cooking ability give you an edge in the foodie world? Or is Culinary School the only way to propel your career and mold you into a true chef? I like to think its a bit of both.

The movie is wrapped up with a big emotional comfort food bow at the end, which can be cheesy but then I realized, thats what food does. It makes you feel silly, happy and cheesy - and this is what that movie did.  A great movie about culture, family, determination and how the food effects the human spirit.