30 March, 2010

La grêle, les fleurs.

So this is short and sweet, unlike the storm that blew through today in the less than balmy south of France. Can you say "la grêle"? Because that is what we were saying, along with some other choice words. It hailed. It's April, or very, very nearly so. I didn't take photos during the hailstorm, it was just too grim; besides, I was busy consoling my appalled Weimaraner. Who knew the sky could crack open quite so loudly, over and over again? No golfball-sized hail, but large enough for my dog to decide he was going to hold it for a looong time.

I went to check for damage afterward, camera in hand, but even though it had sounded fairly apocalyptic, most blossoms were still whole (the ones that haven't been already ruined by the last Norwegian-style snowfall, that is). Perhaps it helps that we've gotten a slow start to spring.
My camera and I were followed by a capering crew of animals and children. (Can you see one of them above?) My daughter started picking violets. Lots of them. To make a secret potion for spring (obviously!), which she proudly shared with me after working at the petals with my mortar and pestle and a bit of sugar. It was a minute amount of "eau de violette". You could indeed just smell the flowers...There are actually French sirops de violette, or violet syrups, available on the market. They aren't particularly easy to find, but you can get them, and I imagine a judicious touch might liven berry desserts, jams, even ice creams. And just think, crystallized violets to top it all off. This got me thinking, which then had me dusting off a bottle given to me of--bingo, violet liqueur. The most famous violet liqueur comes from Toulouse, where at peak production in the early 1900s, there were some 600 producers formally organized in a cooperative, cultivating some 150 acres. Violets are also sold fresh, go into perfume, those syrups. The liqueur is used to make a number of classic cocktails (like the 1930s Aviation cocktail), which Jonathan Gold recently wrote about at Gourmet Magazine. It is also used to make kirs, using white wine or Champagne. Doesn't violet liqueur seem right up the alley of, say, Martha Stewart? Will this concoction lose its Grandma's cupboard connotations? I, for one, would like to cook with it. I did do a quick search, and found a recipe for homemade liqueur, for in case you're intrigued. 180 grams of violets for a bottle of liqueur. That is a pile of violets. We have a lot out in the meadow, but I think I'd rather candy them.

Any ideas for how to use that liqueur in the kitchen?

After the storm.

27 March, 2010

French cowboys.

My days usually open and close with the smell of baking. The variation lies more in the in between. Today I was off to the Camargue, for canals and cowboys. I lunched in Aigues-Mortes, a fortress town (population some 7,000) on the coast, whose 1 1/2 kilometers of well-preserved rampart walls date from the 13th century. Aigues-Mortes is tucked just into the western edge of the Camargue, which is the largest river delta in Europe, with nearly 1000 square kilometers. The town's name means dead waters, and is derived from the Occitan: Aigas Mòrtas.When Aigues-Mortes was built, it was the only mediterranean port France had. The Crusaders left from here, using maritime channels to make their way out to sea.To imagine where I was this bright afternoon, picture big sky, man-made canals cutting through the marshland, lakes, vineyards, rice fields and sea salt harvesting, as the water here is briny. Add wind. A lot of it.In the vast natural refuge of Camargue, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, wetlands are home to flocks of flamingo (and some 400 other bird species).
All across the rest of Camargue you find the intrepid, all-weather white Camargue horses (who aren't born white!), and the dark bulls, smaller than their Spanish cousins, with distinctively vertical horns. The corrida culture is alive and well in the south of France, having begun in the late 1600s, but there are significant variations. As I understand it, perhaps the biggest difference: the bulls aren't killed, and lead "careers" that can go on a decade before being put out to pasture. In order not to exhaust the animal, the fights are bound by time limits and strict rules, but remain garlanded with arcane tradition and terminology that is as ornate as the brocade worn by the matador. My caveat: I have yet to attend a French corrida. Against my better judgment, I went to a corrida in Madrid years ago. I was pretty dismayed by the experience. For the record, I neither see nor feel what Hemingway experienced; closer to home, my father ran with the bulls in Pamplona, at the festival of San Fermín, long before there were organized tours. It all leaves me cold: I always end up siding with the bulls, even if the men do cut a fine figure.
But today's manade (ranch) visit was simply about the periodic minuets that occur between the visibly eager, surefooted white horses and fleet black bulls. The work is fast, exciting and dangerous. Even more risky are the organized local bull games, such as the course libre (free race), also known as the course Camarguaise. (Photo below taken from the Arles & Camargue Guide). On the posters, it is the name of the bulls that are listed, mind you, rather than the raseteurs (those foolhardy few, who, dressed in pure white, try to "graze" the bull's head and remove an attached ribbon...). Today, at any rate, I came away with more respect for the French cowboy. Home before dusk, I just had time to cobble together dinner and dessert, a buttery matter of apple, candied ginger and clove on a base of pate feuilletée (puff pastry). This requires somewhat less courage to attack.

23 March, 2010


Being a creature of the night is to be off, by a slim matter of hours, a drop in the grand-scheme bucket, but forever off. I am (at the least) never quite fully in gear when the functioning world is engaged, and remain espresso-fueled to keep up. My switch to on-ness is incremental, predictable. As evening deepens into something that seems a bit more permanent, there is always this: the smooth pressing down of the foot on the accelerator of my being. If you know what I am getting at, perhaps now is a time to stand, take one step forward and carefully enunciate who you are. My name is...and I am a night-owl.

The house exhales at night, and so do I.

- Billy Collins

Now it is time to say what you have to say.
The room is quiet.
The whirring fan has been unplugged,
and the girl who was tapping
a pencil on her desktop has been removed.

So tell us what is on your mind.
We want to hear the sound of your foliage,
the unraveling of your tool kit,
your songs of loneliness,
songs of hurt.

The trains are motionless on the tracks,
the ships at rest in the harbor.
The dogs are cocking their heads
and the gods are peering down from their balloons.
The town is hushed,

and everyone here has a copy.
So tell us about your parents--
your father behind the steering wheel,
your cruel mother at the sink.
Let's hear about all the clouds you saw, all the trees.

Read the poem you brought with you tonight.
The ocean has stopped sloshing around,
and even Beethoven
is sitting up in his deathbed,
his cold hearing-horn inserted in one ear.

Goldfrapp, performing "A&E" live in 2008.

22 March, 2010

Polyphony, or the devil's music.

I attended a concert in a modest little stone church down the road. The night was devoted to Corsican polyphonic music, including traditional, Franciscan and contemporary pieces. The air rang with soaring and dipping human voices--and applause.

The bare voices were a silk scarf pulled through the air, a mighty flock of birds surging and abating in the darkening sky, the ineradicable, rapid turns of Japanese calligraphy. The audience and I were transported. If you have never had a chance to hear live polyphonic music, or chant, try to ferret out an opportunity to do so. Think of polyphony as textural sound. In the history of European music, it was a critical development, which led to the integration of secular, even pagan elements in what was formerly exclusively the domain of the church.

Appropriately enough, given the performance date, the tremendously talented choir Le Remède de Fortune also sang an "Ode to St. Joseph," and it is their finely crafted and magisterial version that I feature in this video, my own little crazy quilt of captured memory. Unfortunately on You Tube the quality of the photos is deplorable (but I couldn't get it to upload on Vimeo, she says in a quasi-whine)...

While the song may linger in your mind, St. Joseph's Day has come and gone. If you're anything like me (and not, say, Italian-American), your response may be a rather tepid "oh?..." Until the 19th, I didn't know anything about Saint Joseph--beyond the wine--either. According to Wikipedia:

In Sicily, where St. Joseph is regarded by many as their Patron Saint, and many Italian-American communities, thanks are given to St. Joseph ("San Giuseppe" in Italian) for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages.

According to legend, there was a severe drought at the time, and the people prayed for their patron saint to bring them rain. They promised that if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast to honor him. The rain did come, and the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for their patron saint. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation and is a traditional part of St. Joseph's Day altars and traditions. Giving food to the needy is a St. Joseph's Day custom. In some communities it is traditional to wear red clothing and eat a Sicilian pastry known as a zeppola on St. Joseph's Day. Sweets are popular because St. Joseph is the patron saint of pastry chefs.

Upon a typical St. Joseph's Day altar, people place flowers, limes,candles, wine, fava beans, specially prepared cakes, breads, and cookies (as well as other meatless dishes), and zeppole. Foods are traditionally served containing bread crumbs to represent saw dust since St. Joseph was a carpenter. Because the feast occurs during Lent, traditionally no meat was allowed on the celebration table. The altar usually has three tiers, to represent the trinity.

The vernal equinox has also come and gone. It was at 5:32 pm the 20th, this year. Wiccans celebrated Ostara, and I celebrated too: no more excuses or starting then stopping, Mother Nature. Here's a cuppa to keep you going.

17 March, 2010

The spice of life.

I feel I should warn you, I'm not writing from the same place. A week ago, I was writing while wrapped in a handknit, to-the-floor scarf and wearing scratchy but warm socks to bed. Pretty titillating, yes?

Today, I'm outside, on the stairs, in a short-sleeved T-shirt. With a small rip on the left side. The birds are gossiping like mad, and even a lone cigale, the insect troubadour of southern French summer, picked up her instrument. I know, she's as confused as the rest of us. But the air is ever so sweet and easy to breathe, there are endless distractions in the quality of the light and the disorienting heat upon bare skin. I've shed clothes as the unwanted burdens they've become, and am taking on the neglected garden. You can see how all this might make a winter-white girl a touch giddy. At kid level--and sometimes mine--this weather goodness translates to a resumption of tree-climbing and romping treks with the Weimaraner in the lead. Chickens are stalked (not by the Weimaraner), caught and cuddled. Grass stains have been reinstated. My mat migrated to the terrace, and I've been feeling very yogic. This too shall pass.

But in the meantime, there is the now, and the primal need for a snack. For a ginger lover verging on addict, the answer is fairly obvious. The no-frills, darkly spiced ginger snap. By the way, I like making this kind of cookie small because that way I have to reach for the stash more often, which then elevates snacking to a physical activity, kind of. Feel free to adopt this innovation.

In my snacking quest, I was inspired by Mary the Food Librarian, who seems to like ginger as much as I do: I found 26 posted recipes with ginger and an additional 11 for gingerbread at her blog. And she loves this recipe, so I tried it too. Available online but new to me, it is from Ina Garten, also known as the Barefoot Contessa, former White House nuclear policy analyst under Carter and Ford turned cooking guru...And I've got to agree with Mary. The recipe is pretty darn good, even though I didn't have nearly enough crystallized ginger at hand. It's also a snap to make (he, he).

Anyway, with these, milk and rosy-cheeked kids. Or a cup of tea, if you insist upon playing at being grown-up.
Les Biscuits au Gingembre d'Ina Garten (Ina Garten's Ultimate Ginger Cookies)

Note: this makes so many cookies (if you make them smaller) I recommend making as much as you want now and placing the remaining dough in the fridge to be used later.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups chopped crystallized ginger
sugar, for rolling cookies
Preheat oven to 180°C.

Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt and then combine the mixture with your hands. Beat the brown sugar, oil, and molasses on medium speed for 5 minutes. Turn the speed to low speed, add the egg, and beat for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat for 1 more minute. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients, then mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add crystallized ginger and mix until combined.

Scoop the dough with 2 spoons or a small ice cream scoop. With your hands, roll each cookie into a 1-inch ball and then flatten them lightly with your fingers. Press both sides of each cookie in granulated sugar and place on sheet pans. Bake for exactly 10 minutes. The cookies will be cracked on the top and soft inside. Allow the cookies cool for a minute or two and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

14 March, 2010

The blood rushed to my head.

I think this may be the last time I rhapsodize about citrus...this season. I went a bit mad at the organic co-op when I saw all the blood oranges: I greedily palmed all the carmine citrus I could. The languidly sweet Taroccos and the full-blooded Sanguinellos tumbled willy-nilly into my basket. Then at the farmer's market I went and did it again. Because here's the thing: this means we're that much closer...to patio season, here on the bright blue cusp of the Mediterannean.

Bring on the asparagus.

In the meantime, I made my butcher tut-tut over my exotic tastes when I described a blood orange marinade (with rum! and garlic! and rosemary!) I planned to use on pork loin. But my, oh, my. It resulted in a beautifully succulent, aromatic dish that provoked spontaneous sighs of delight, mon cher Jean-Louis. The ruby fruit also made a scintillating appearance in a Sicilian salad, paired with fennel, which, while highly refreshing, seemed a smidgen premature given the lingering snow outside. Kind of like that halter-top red sun-dress that can still only be worn indoors. With a woolen scarf.

Then it was on to blood orange curd. Yes, I did go there. So decadent and rich in just the pucker-worthy, complex dessert-y place your mouth needs to be every so often. I put the curd in a pie. Which I then covered with a heap of glowing sections of fruit. This was a resounding success, and I'm not too shy to cop to it. Took time to pull together (with a necessary addition of cornstarch). I'm not complaining, mind you: sometimes really good things take time.And sometimes they don't. Case in point, the recipe below, shown above. A ravishing way to be an adult and have your Jell-o too. A turn of the wrist, a few hours' wait, and you're there. (Original recipe courtesy Deborah Madison, via Gourmet magazine).

Gelée d'Orange Sanguine (Blood Orange Jelly with Whipped Cream au Grand Marnier)

Serves 4-6.

1 (1/4 ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup water
2 cups strained fresh blood orange juice (from perhaps 10-12 oranges)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon orange flower water, optional

1 cup cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons Grand Marnier orange liqueur (taste to decide)

Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the water in a mixing bowl. Allow to time for water to be absorbed and gelatin to soften. Meanwhile, bring a half-cup cup of juice to a bubbly simmer, add sugar and a pinch of salt, then add to gelatin mixture. Stir until all sugar and gelatin are completely dissolved, then add remaining juice and orange flower water if desired. Pour into small custard cups and refrigerate for at least five hours.

Just before starting the meal, whip the cream in a cold bowl, adding sugar and Grand Marnier. Serve a generous spoonful alongside the unmolded jelly.

10 March, 2010

Goes well with a cup of hot chocolate.

If you decided to give the white chocolate "Hot Snow" of the previous post a go, then these images, a sumptuous elegy to life in a colder place, are just the kind of visuals that go well with winter dreaming.

ICELAND from Gunnar Konradsson on Vimeo. Music by Steindor Andersen. If you'd like to see more of Gunnar's spectacular photo work, visit his site.

Going forward, looking back.

This being the south of France, after our local version of "Snowmageddon 2010," the next day unfolded clear as crystal. I ventured out to take stock.
The snow threw sunstar-like sparkles, the extraordinary beauty of which my little point and shoot camera cannot duplicate. Please trust me, it was/is the stuff of fairy tales and warm-fisted childhood dreams.Nature is of two minds around here, torn between the pulling of the sun and the withdrawal of cold. Lately, often simultaneously.This is fine, we need the precipitation to make it through the parched months to come, but we mere mortals need...sustenance. We feed on our memories, literally and figuratively. I've come to the end of my supply of heavenly fine rooibos tea sourced during my trip to the desert, but just now I am remembering that Wyoming cup of "hot snow."

Easier than pie, actually. A moment's activity for a deep and sustaining pleasure. If you are feeling chilled, try this on for size, and don't be shy about adding a measure of rum if your moment calls for it.
Neige au Chaud (White Hot Chocolate)

Serves 2.

2 cups whole milk
80 g good white chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
generous pinch of cinammon
optional: 1/4 teaspoon sweet almond extract

Heat milk without boiling. Add chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon and optional almond extract, stir until well-combined. Serve, settle down and relax.

08 March, 2010

Hitting the spot.

Outside of Laramie, I had a late lunch at a near-empty diner. It wasn't a great diner--it was the only option. But it was clean--and it wasn't only a diner, either, being a (busier) tavern (with a separate entrance), gas station, and mini-market, all in one. There were the swivel chairs at the counter and the fry cook with a beer. And there was me, hungry.The obvious choice, among the burgers & company crowding the menu, was the classic BLT. This stands for Bacon Lettuce Tomato, if you are one of the uninitiated. The BLT is as basic as it gets: between two slices of dead-plain toasted square sandwich bread, throw a lick of mayonnaise, a few rashers of bacon (no matter the sort, as long as it's crispy), thin slices of tomato, and some crunchy Iceberg lettuce. That's the lettuce with virtually no nutritional content. If you're nouveau, you use Romaine or Bibb lettuce. But don't even suggest arugula.

You may not know it, but human beings are genetically programmed to respond very positively to this dish. Lick-their-fingers positively. (Those who eat pig, anyway). It's a noisy, down-home party in your mouth, just try it and see. Some'll try to gussy it up, turning it into the multi-layer club sandwich, with its addition of chicken breast. Over the top. On the other extreme, you have the English, who apparently sorely lack imagination if their minimalist bacon sandwich is anything to go by. This is inexplicably popular despite being only bacon...crammed in bread. With brown sauce. (Hangover food?) Sometimes life brings you a question mark. But what do you do if you live other places, say France, where sliced bacon/rashers aren't easy to find? You could ask your butcher for a custom cut, but you can also satisfy this deep-seated craving you never knew you had by making a BLT salad.

This salad finds its perfectly bacon-y equilibrium in the yummy somewhere between crisp-sauteed lardons (small cubes of bacon, sold everywhere and all but ubiquitous in French cooking), home-toasted croutons and some mouth-filling toms and lettuce. This salad isn't what you proudly describe to your doctor as she's checking your blood pressure, nor might you advertise it to either your vegan friend or the one who (masochistically?) pinches calories. All the same, this BLT salad will earn you friends, recipe requests--and an aura of respectability that the lowly (if spectacularly satisfying) BLT sandwich simply cannot.

This salad, this bowlful of backyard USA, is what's for lunch tomorrow; this may be because life threw us another question mark(/exclamation point), here in the sunny south of France.
Yes, folks, that is my backyard Français today, March 9 (and that is the elevated hen house pictured below). Making this salad might just be my calorific form of denial: spring and its salad fixin's are too on the way!
A shoutout to the recently dearly departed Gourmet Magazine, whose 20th century recipe was my starting point, with input from many along the way, including an old friend in Chicago, Sheila Lukins and Martha Stewart. (Oh dear, I think that sound liked a draft Oscar acceptance speech. Not as good as Sandra Bullock's, but hey, when it's this good...) Salade a l'Americaine (BLT Salad)

Serves 4.

200-250 g lardons
4 cups cubed, stale but not hard baguette
4-5 ripe tomatoes, cubed
7 cups lettuce, preferably Romaine or Bibb-style

3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/3 cup buttermilk (in France, get the Arabic fermented milk, available in most markets)
1 teaspoon pesto
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh garlic chives or green onions, minced
optional: one or two handfuls crumbled blue cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.

Clean and air-dry lettuce. You don't want wet lettuce diluting the luscious kick of this salad. Tear into manageably bite-sized pieces. Especially if this is for a date.

Saute the lardons in a pan over medium heat golden and crispy. Drain them on a paper towel, setting aside 3 tablespoons bacon drippings and discarding the rest.

Toss bread cubes with bacon fat. Season with salt and pepper, spread in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake until golden, 12-15 minutes, shaking the pan once. Remove and set aside.

In a separate bowl, emulsify the dressing ingredients with a fork. Drizzle over salad, toss well, add tomatoes and croutons. Sprinkle with chives and optional finely crumbled blue cheese.

04 March, 2010

Highways and byways: to Laramie via Laguna.

Old signs have intrinsic appeal for me. They suggest that a particular life has happened in a given place. They remind you of graphic and font styles that came and went, or that were never really here to begin with. I like the idea of one-of's, the no-franchising-likely-with-that-kind of-signage, but if you stop on by, we'll provide you with a service of one sort or another kind of places. Heck, I like that you can still get gas at Sinclair gas pumps, and that sometimes there's an actual model of a rather beaten-up green dinosaur. I know it's a corporation, but those gas stations are still old school.

Perhaps I like old signs most of all because they remind me of the kinds of road trips that involve more time on the secondary roads than the numbing major highways. If that sounds like it's your way to travel, here's where I strongly recommend William Least Heat-Moon's transcendent Blue Highways, for serious dreaming and escaping in the comfort of your shabbiest armchair. His book may even occasion a shift in how you view the United States.

This latest trip was limited in scope, though I did have time to recharge my vitamin D levels on the coastline (for a emptier beach, like the one above, try Crystal Cove State Park, just to the north of Laguna Beach), and to people- and seagull-watch on various boardwalks and piers.

How I'd love to take you up the coastline north of LA; that'll have to wait for another trip. Can you see how much affection I have for all the microclimates--coastline, desert, deep forest, mountain range--that make up the state of California? Too soon, it was time to head north (by plane, darn the pesky constraints of real life). Upon my arrival in the snow-stung state of Wyoming, the hotel clerk asked "business or pleasure" and looked at me in mild disbelief when I declared the latter.

The winter months aren't exactly high season in Wyoming (population 550,000, give or take) where until recently the pronghorn antelope outnumbered the people. It's the emptiest state in the nation (which is perhaps why it teems with wildlife); in the winter, you basically only go to Wyoming if you dig snowmobiles. That, or if your sister has just had her first baby. (Wyoming summers, on the other hand, while brief, are incredible).

Laramie is home for my sister--and the University of Wyoming. The presence of students may help explain why it is a liberal oasis in an immense, solidly conservative state (aka Dick Cheney Territory). At 29,000, the town isn't that small. Just up the way, Centennial proudly stands at 110 residents. Down the highway, the metropolis of Buford wins. Its population? One. I kid you not.I strolled through the well-stocked organic co-op (you can grind your own flours on the spot!), browsed for books in the independently owned, immensely welcoming Second Story. Perhaps its past as a thriving brothel and dance hall (located strategically next to the train tracks) explains its openness. I was pointed to the "best coffee in town"--Coal Creek Coffee Co.--just past the "massage therapy & oxygen bar". From their extensive (for a coffeshop) menu you can order a "Hot Snow", which is a hot chocolate made with almond extract and--you guessed it--white chocolate.

The people are friendly in Laramie. Very friendly. They make the French locals where I live seem nearly surly in comparison, which they actually (almost) never are. There were chats left and right and unsolicited offers of help for the duration of my Wyoming visit.

6-foot high snowbreak, to limit the drift of snow.

Maybe you get friendlier when you live where it's winter more than half the year--and a stranger rolls into town.

Rooms with a view and a bit more.

A table for two, with a view of the San Gabriel mountains.

The J. Paul Getty Trust, with its $4.2 billion endowment (from oil--what else?), is the world's richest art institution and the one the other museums love to hate due to its ability to outbid anyone, inflating art world prices along the way. The Getty Center is its $1 billion+ Richard Meier-designed showpiece, which serenely watches over Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean from its 110-acre hillside perch. How does one go about spending that kind of money? For starters, while there is a charge for parking, there's no entrance fee (in 2008 they welcomed 1.8 million visitors) in this museum that houses a large collection of Western art and decorative arts (like the amazing French clock below--see that clambering monkey?). The pieces date from the Middle Ages to the present. There are the Caravaggios, the Rembrandts, the Renoirs, the Picassos, just to name-drop a bit. Then there are the series of pavilions themselves, built using more than 16,00 tons of Italian Travertine marble and the white metal panel cladding favored by Meier. This is the antithesis of Frank Gehry's effervescent Bilbao Guggenheim. While grand by virtue of sheer scale, long sightlines and the measured balance of its curves and straight lines, the Getty Center is above all serene. You slow down, your eyes have room to travel.
Paul Gauguin also sculpted.

The art has room to breathe--and plenty of gorgeous natural light. Photos are allowed (!), without flash--except of photos on exhibit (?). The architect used a lot of white, somewhat broken up by pools of water and when you move from one building to another, the brightness really startles. It must be simply blinding in summer. If it rains, there are umbrellas at the ready door-side. If you become hungry (this easily becomes a day-long visit), the food options are good, but bringing a picnic seems only natural given the space and seating options.
Detail of a painting by Franz Winterhalter.

I didn't have the kind of time I would have liked to explore the gardens, but as you can see in the well-illustrated and described post by the Intercontinental Gardener, they are sumptuous and original.

If old paintings leave you cold, there are the buildings. If architecture isn't your deal, there are the gardens. If gardens don't rock your world, there is the view, from innumerable vantage points, indoors and out. If I had to do it over, I would have stayed for the sunset; on Saturdays after 5 pm there is no fee for parking. How the sprawling LA nightscape must glitter.

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