What is he thinking about? This is the question to be forever pondered by art lovers as they stand and contemplate Auguste Rodin’s monumental tribute to the contemplative act, “The Thinker.”
Originally designed to depict Dante in a small-scale sculptural display about “The Divine Comedy,” “The Thinker” under the artist’s touch evolved into a kind of Everyman, albeit a very tall one—six foot six inches tall.
Cast in bronze, he is naked and seated on a pedestal. He leans forward, elbow on knee, his chin resting on his hand in a position mimicked by Dobie Gillis and countless others over the years in TV, the arts, and life.
The first large format version of “The Thinker” debuted in Paris in 1904, when its creator was an old man. His genius work of art will never grow old.
Now there are multiple casts of “The Thinker” in museums around the world including this one at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, which visitors see in the courtyard as they approach the front entrance. There are dozens of other gorgeous Rodins in the museum’s collection as well. Plus, the hilltop setting offers spectacular views of another San Francisco landmark: the Golden Gate Bridge.—Kevin Nelson
An American in Paris, a woman succeeding in a man’s world, author of a paradigm-shifting cookbook, the ebullient and eccentric star of a hit television cooking program that also shifted paradigms, and a woman in love—in so many ways Julia Child embodied the food and cooking branch of the Great American Dream.
Julia, in a photo from “The French Chef,” her 1960s-era cooking show
But how well do you know her and her legacy? Take this quiz and find out. Answers are at bottom. Continue reading
Sonoma County is a land of sprawling beauty. Vineyards and wineries abound, as do secret, forested hideaways with pot farms. It is a place of rivers and redwoods, mountains and warm inland valleys, and a rocky, rugged coastline where cool fog and winds blow in from the Pacific.
The view from Viansa Sonoma, at the gateway to the Sonoma Valley.
Less than an hour from San Francisco, it boasts a number of charming small towns of rural flavor—Sonoma itself, Glen Ellen, Petaluma, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Bodega Bay—each with its own unique history and virtues. There are Michelin-starred restaurants, sidewalk cafés, hipster bistros, tasting rooms, brewpubs, organic fruit and flower marts, gardens galore, oak-laden parks, and lots of cute shopping streets filled with boutiques of every kind.
It’s an awesome place to spend a day, or a week, or however long you have. Here is a quick peek at a few of Sonoma’s many pleasures: Continue reading
When Keith Richards was in his hard-partying prime in the 1970s, he and his fellow band mates on the Rolling Stones showed up one night at the Trident, a watering hole in Sausalito on the edge of San Francisco Bay, looking for some alcoholic refreshments. Richards ordered a margarita and the bartender, a creative mixmaster named Bobby Lozoff, served him something different instead: a then mostly unknown drink of tequila, orange juice and grenadine.
Richards loved the Tequila Sunrise, as it was called, and it rapidly became his go-to party drink. His fame, and the fame of the Stones, helped spread the fame of their favorite cocktail, and the Tequila Sunrise became not just a mere drink but a cultural touchstone for that era of rock ‘n roll. The Eagles’ hit song “Just Another Tequila Sunrise” added to the popularity of Lozoff’s invention.
This story—and the accompanying recipe—is only one of the many nice treats in Beach Cocktails: Favorite Surfside Sips and Bar Snacks (Oxmoor House, $25), a new book by the editors of Coastal Living Magazine that contains the recipes for 125 cocktails. Generously illustrated with photographs of tropical sand and surf scenes, the theme here is that of the beach—light, refreshing cocktails that you might enjoy in your leisure on the beach, or on your backyard patio, in those lazy hazy days of summer.
The cocktail that Lozoff did not serve Richards that day, the margarita, is of course here. As are The Drunken Sailor, Caribbean Rum Swizzle, Sex on the Beach, Key Lime Gimlet, the Bahama Hurricane, Missionary’s Downfall, Singapore Sling, and other delightfully named and often quite delicious concoctions that Richards in his prime probably also imbibed.
A good cocktail, like a good book or movie, has a good story attached to it. Beach Cocktails has many such stories, such as: Continue reading
Facing Darkness, a new, feature-length documentary film, tells a story that is, as they say, ripped from the headlines: how two Americans, Dr. Kent Brantly, a Texas physician, and Nancy Writebol, a Christian missionary, contracted the deadly Ebola virus during the 2014 Ebola epidemic that killed thousands across Liberia and west Africa.
Dr. Kent Brantly, before he was taken ill.
Brantly and Writebol were members of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization led by Franklin Graham, its president and CEO who acted as executive producer of Facing Darkness and also appears prominently in the film. Brantly and Writebol were working together at a small Liberian hospital when the first cases of Ebola, a stone-cold killer of a disease in which, at the time, there were no known cures, started showing up among the people there.
There were only two organizations in all the world, Samaritan’s Purse and Doctors Without Borders, that were in Liberia at the time and willing to treat those infected with the disease. The rest of the world turned a blind’s eye to it.
By Kevin Nelson
Some time ago I was having a glass of pinot and a pizza at the bar of Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, and I asked the bartender what Coppola himself liked to drink. Coppola, the well-known filmmaker, owns the place.
The great man himself.
The bartender grabbed a menu and pointed to the top where a box with a picture answered my question. His “favorite tropical drink,” it said, is “Navy Grog” and its ingredients are “fresh lime juice, grapefruit, soda, honey, Puerto Rican rum, dark Jamaican rum, Demerara rum, Angostura bitters, crushed ice cone.” No details on the proportions.
BY KEVIN NELSON
Here we are, in a darkened dungeon deep underground, watching as our tour guide shines a flashlight on various torture devices and explains how they were used to spike, stretch, suffocate and inflict pain on sufferers in the Middle Ages. Not your typical Napa Valley winery tour, I’ll say.
Then again there is nothing typical or ho-hum about Castello di Amorosa, a spectacular $40 million Calistoga winery built in the style of a medieval Tuscan castle. Besides the dungeon it has 106 other rooms, a chapel, church, farmhouse, dry moat, drawbridge, hidden passageways, courtyards, massive stone walls and towers that rise in the center of picturesque hills and acres of grapevines.
It is not mandatory to take a tour of the castle when you go, if you go, although there are so many wonders and curiosities about the place you really don’t want to miss any of them. We are there as part of the Napa Valley Wine Train’s “Castle Winery Tour,” and our guide greets us in the chapel with an introduction you don’t hear every day.
“Hi,” he says. “I’m Mark. I’ll be your tour guide and bartender.” Continue reading
One of the unexpected pleasures of a visit to wine country is how much art there is to see, and these pleasures include the Grape Crusher Statue, a landmark monument at Vista Point in Napa Valley.
Since its erection in the 1980s millions of cars have driven by it and hundreds of thousands of people have stopped to see it. In this sense it is like the “Welcome to Napa Valley” signs on Highway 29—a place to meet up and shoot selfies and have pictures to show the folks back home that you were there, you really were in the land of wine.
At least one couple has gotten married at the Grape Crusher. And its creator, sculptor Gino Miles, jokes that one or two babies may have been made up there too. There is a small parking lot there, a perfect spot for having lunch, enjoying the views, and apparently doing other things as well.
“I’m not from around here,” a woman visitor told this writer as she was trying to find the right angle to take a picture of the Grape Crusher. “But I saw it driving by the other night when I was going to a concert, and I had to come back and see it.”
Those who do what she did—stop and get a closer look at the Grape Crusher—are rewarded by picturesque views of the surrounding hills, Napa River and the wetlands of San Francisco Bay. It is not called Vista Point for nothing. Continue reading
BY KEVIN NELSON
Many Napa Valley travelers begin their day with a stop at Domaine Carneros winery in Napa. Many travelers also end their day there. One reason for this is the winery’s strategic location almost equidistant between the twin capitals of northern California wine country—four miles from Napa and five miles from Sonoma.
There are, of course, many other reasons to stop at this lovely hillside winery built in the style of an ancient French chateau. Only the state’s second-smallest volume producer of champagne, Domaine Carneros nonetheless has a giant reputation in the world of quality sparkling wines, winning many awards for its products. For those who love Marilyn Monroe’s favorite drink, here are five things you must do when you visit Domaine Carneros:
The hilltop chateau of Domaine Carneros.
Vertical, by Rex Pickett, is a funny, sad, sexy, depressing, curious and at times bravely comic novel tailored especially for men and women who like to drink wine. The novel, published originally some years ago but updated and released in a new edition in 2016 by Loose Gravel Press, is the sequel to Sideways, Pickett’s first novel upon which the 2004 hit movie was based.
Sideways, both the novel and film, followed the comic misadventures of Miles and Jack, who drank and screwed their way around the Santa Ynez Valley in California’s Central Coast wine region. Fans of Sideways will be pleased to learn that Miles and Jack are back at it in Vertical, drinking and screwing aplenty. Although the novel’s subtitle suggests that the twosome do all their carousing on “the Oregon Wine Trail,” this is somewhat deceiving. While they do tarry, a bit, at a pinot festival in the Willamette Valley, they also pass through such places as (naturally) Santa Ynez Valley, Fresno, Clear Lake, and on the road to Wisconsin, a state better known for its cheese than its wine. Continue reading
Robert and Margrit Mondavi.
They held the annual blessing of the grapes at Robert Mondavi Winery Wednesday, and it turned into a tribute in words and song to Margrit Mondavi, who died in early September at age 91.
Margrit was the wife of Robert Mondavi, the late founder of the landmark Napa Valley winery, an artist, and a cultural and artistic ambassador for Mondavi wines and Napa Valley for decades. Her passing added a special poignancy to the formal ceremony that marks the beginning of harvest.
Employees at the Oakville winery, the media and others gathered in the To Kalon Cellar as Mondavi’s General Manager Glenn Workman began the ceremony with a toast to her, noting how this was the first harvest in nearly a half-century in which Margrit did not participate.
“While it does bring sadness that she’s not here, we know how she loved to celebrate,” he said as he and the 75 other people who were there raised glasses in her memory. Small tastes of Fumé Blanc, Mondavi’s trademark version of Sauvignon Blanc, were handed out to celebrants as they arrived for the ceremony. Continue reading