May 4 2013

backstage requests

love this series of musicians backstage requests (or ‘riders’, ‘addendums’) for food items that the photographer, henry hargreaves,  has shot in a style of the flemish masters. Each of the requests that accompany Hargreaves’ photographs are taken directly from the contracts, and the spelling is verbatim from the riders. the artist says what attracted him to the series was “the way their requests manage to say something about the performers personality that words struggle to,” and the way they “were able identify with them through what they chose to eat and drink.”


highlights of the slideshow below include:

Frank Sinatra: “One bottle each: Absolute, Jack Daniel’s, Chivas Regal, Courvoisier, Beefeater Gin, white wine, red wine. Twenty-four chilled jumbo shrimp, Life Savers, cough drops.”
Foo Fighters: “Big-a** kielbasas that make men feel self-conscious.”
Billy Idol: “One tub ‘I can’t believe it’s not Butter!’, Pepperidge Farms Soft Baked Nantucket Chocolate Chip Cookies.”
Axl Rose: “Fresh Wonder Bread (white), Dom Perignon”
Prince: “Coffee and tea setup, including honey, lemon, sugar, cream, fresh ginger root. Physician will be used to administer a B-12 injection.”
Rihanna: “Hard-boiled eggs, turkey bacon, turkey sausage, at any time throughout the day. Please be prepared!”
Britney Spears: “Fish and chips, McDonald’s cheeseburgers without the buns, 100 prunes and figs, a framed photo of Princess Diana.”
Van Halen: “Herring in sour cream, large tube of KY jelly, M&M’s (Warning: absolutely no brown ones).”
Marilyn Manson: “Gummi bears.”
Busta Rhymes: “Twenty-four pieces of fried chicken, Rough Rider condoms, Guinness.”
Beyoncé: “Juicy baked chicken, heavily seasoned: garlic, sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Beyoncé can only have Pepsi products.”

in an interview with vice, hargreaves notes, “I initially thought I would try and shoot all of the items listed on the catering riders but quickly realized that this would become an exercise in wasting money. So I decided to focus on the quirkiest requests and shoot them in a Flemish Baroque still-life style because I felt that there was a direct connection between the themes in these types of paintings and the riders: the idea of time passing and the ultimate mortality of a musician’s career as the limelight inevitably fades—they only have a short time in which they are able to make these demands and have them fulfilled.”

This American Life had an episode about the fineprint of riders:

Ira Glass – The way I always heard the story was that Van Halen had something in the contract that they used when they toured that said that everywhere that they went, in every city, in every dressing room on their tour, there had to be a bowl of M&Ms, and that the brown M&Ms had to be removed. It’s kind of a well-known story, I think. And the way that I understood it is that it showed what divas rock stars could be, that any whim that they had would have to be met, no matter how petty. You hate brown M&Ms? Poof! They will cease to exist in your world.
And then a couple of years ago, we had this band, They Might Be Giants, on our radio show….And I remember John Flansburgh saying to me, no, no, no, no, no. I had the meaning of the story totally wrong.

John Flansburgh – The thing that the average rock fan doesn’t realize is that, in the itinerant life of somebody in a rock band, they’re relying on a promoter– probably a different promoter every day– to give them everything. And a contract rider is basically the entire show from beginning to end. I mean, you’re talking about personnel. You’re talking about the PA. So a lot of it’s very prosaic stuff. People really focus on the dressing room stuff, but actually most of it is just making sure that there’s literally enough electricity in the venue so that the show doesn’t end after 10 minutes.

Ira Glass – And this, Flansburgh says, was what was so ingenious about the brown M&Ms. Van Halen had this huge setup with lots of gear, and if the local promoter didn’t carefully read the contract rider, stuff could collapse. It could be dangerous. So the brown M&Ms were like the canary in the coal mine. The contract rider said the brown M&Ms were not supposed to be there. If they were there, look out.

Ira Glass – “We’d pull up with nine 18-wheeler trucks full of gear in places where the standard was three trucks max. And there were many, many technical errors, whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through. The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages, because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in article number 126, in the middle of nowhere was, quote, ‘There will be no brown M&Ms in the backstage area upon pain of forfeiture of the show with full compensation,’ end quote.”

So, David Lee Roth writes, “When I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl, well, line check the entire production, guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed, you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to destroy the whole show. Sometimes literally life threatening.”

listen the entire episode here




Feb 13 2013

the herbfarm

I had the great  opportunity to dine at the herb farm – just outside of seattle this past fall while I attended the Contract Design Forum. The theme of our dinner was mushrooms, ‘A Mycologist’s Dream’ – 9 courses with matched wines served in what feels like a french family’s farmhouse. Truly one of the best meals I have ever had – they also have an exceptional wine cellar and knowledge of wines. The highlight is an organic garden on site with 2 large pigs named Basil and Borage.

From their website
“…Each 9-course dinner, served with 5 or 6 matched wines, draws its inspiration from the rhythms of the season. For much of the year The Herbfarm kitchen gardens and farm supply the restaurant with an ever-changing harvest of common and unusual produce. Small growers and producers provide wild mushrooms, heritage fruits, handmade cheeses, and rare treasures such as water grown wasabi root and artisanal caviars. Each day’s menu is finalized only hours before the meal to best track the symphony of life on the land and sea. Week in and week out. The Herbfarm’s 9-course menu brings new delights.”

The Herbfarm
14590 NE 145th Street
Woodinville, WA 98072 U.S.A.

Feb 11 2013

bel air hotel – tasting menu

a sampling of our dinner at the new bel air hotel – very close to our house. We used to come here with very little money and have 2 martinis and split a burger at lunchtime. It’s one of those LA institutions that brings you to another world when you enter the grounds just over the footbridge. The hotel went through a major renovation last year and is a bit hipper and it lost a little bit of the charm – but there is enough of the original in the architecture and grounds that has remained unchanged for generations…

Hotel Bel Air
01 Stone Canyon Rd
Los Angeles, CA 90077
(310) 472-1211


Dec 5 2012

hyundai department store

On my last day in Seoul – I walked through the Hyundai Department Store food court – sort of a Harrods of Korea by the looks of the offering. Most of the photos were stealthily taken as there was a ratio of at least one staff for every guest…

Feb 7 2012

itty bitty espresso

Pietro Marmo, a goldsmith in italy created this fully functional espresso machine that actually brews a thimble full of coffee. the teeny espresso pot has five separate parts; the heater, 2 filters, a basket and the pot itself…

Dec 7 2011

hotel and restaurant rigiblick – zurich

the past few years on visits to zurich – we stayed in the city mostly experienced the streets, riverfront and lake area. on a whim – we made our way up to the top of the rigiblick funicular and found this hotel and restaurant high above the city. the hotel has a handful of simple, contemporary and affordable rooms – there is no reception area and no apparent hotel in the structure. it was a perfect stay for our family and the hotel is complemented by wooded paths up to the zoo and a small local theater. additionally, there are two restaurants under  the hotel rooms with a lighter cafe type of fare and a more formal dining menu. all the produce, meat and fish are local and subject to availability based on the season. I highly recommend a meal at their restaurant if you are in zurich anytime soon…

Sorell Hotel Rigiblick
Germaniastrasse 99
CH-8044 Zurich
+41 43 255 15 70

Restaurant Spice + Quadrino

Sep 25 2011

los angeles county fair

another fine fair in los angeles. it was perfect weather in pomona for endless rides, fried food, extra long corn dogs, beer, margaritas, fudge and caramel apples. I think we can only do this once a year but there is something truly and authentically ‘american’ about the state fair…

Mar 27 2011

the local peasant

this is a newly opened pub in our neighborhood on ventura in sherman oaks. it’s great to find a place that has a european vibe, great selection of draft beers and innovative cocktails and fantastic food. the ambience is comfortable and welcoming with a repurposed wood palette and the feeling of a tiled basement speakeasy. they have minimal signage on the exterior – so for now it’s more of a place for discovery…

the local peasant
14058 ventura boulevard
sherman oaks, california 01423
(818) 741-0234

Jan 9 2011

my stop gas station – switzerland

we stopped her to fill up the car on the way back to zurich. it was the most exceptional gas station I have ever been to. I suppose you would expect nothing less from the swiss but this place was like a museum – the graphic design, displays, and the various seating areas and restaurant were reminiscent of the new tate gallery in london.

from their website:
The Gotthard service station on the A2 is situated amid stunning alpine scenery at the foot of the Gotthard, 20 kilometres from the Gotthard tunnel. Besides its magnificent location in the Alps and its proximity to Lake Lucerne

At the my stop – shop at the Gotthard service station travellers and commuters are presented with an attractive range of my stop products, regional products, fresh produce, newspapers and magazines, CDs and DVDs, car care products and souvenirs.

The my stop – restaurant Gotthard has something for everyone. It offers seasonal, home-style cooking with appetizing dishes and delicacies from the range of my stop regional products, such as Urner Dürrs (a dried sausage specialty). Also on offer are fresh fruit juices, crisp fresh salads, home-made desserts and crispy Swiss chicken.

my stop gotthard
gotthard raststätte a2 uri ag
ch–6467 schattdorf
+41 (0) 41 875 05 05

Jan 9 2011

dalian china – strange foods

china is definitely the home to the strangest foods I have ever eaten or been asked to eat. I had a meal in beijing with this huge bowl of spicy soup full or various end cuts of shellfish sticking out of it. it was burning my mouth and when I tried to get rid of the bowl by giving it to a waiter – the client thought I ate and liked it and then ordered more. in dalian, china – close to north korea – I ate at some bbq places that had dog items on the menu that I did not eat including salads and soups with said ingredient. these shots were from a high-end fish restaurant where you are bathed in the bright blue glow of florescent tube lighting. most of these fish places have large tanks of murky green algae-infused water when you walk in with floating sea cucumbers, bloody sucker worms and other sci-fi looking sea animals…