food · international

Lunch at Absolute Noodle

As you all know, I love to get out during my lunch break and try new restaurants and international cuisine. Since I work in DC, the possibilities are endless, and I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out where to go because, hey, a girl’s gotta eat well. Last week was no different, as I ventured out on the coldest day of the week to get some nibbles (that’s what happens when you forget to pack your lunch).

I wanted to get dim sum, but the restaurant was closed. So I went to my easy standby, Absolute Noodle on 5th Street NW. This tiny restaurant is easy to miss, since it’s small and unassuming. However, the location – roughly 3 blocks from Capital One Arena (formerly the Verizon Center) – makes it a perfect spot to grab a meal before a basketball game, or to fuel up before hitting the city for a night on the town.

popville absolute noodle

(courtesy of PopVille)

The menu is small but covers some great options: it’s a fusion of Chinese, Japanese, and Thai appetizers and entrees. I ordered one of my favorite options – yaki ramen – and an appetizer I’ve never tried before, crab and cheese croquettes.

 

I’ll start with the croquettes. These were perfectly fried: crisp without having too much breading. Kudos to the restaurant for using panko breading instead of using a wonton. Overall, these tasted alright, but I wasn’t in love with the texture, nor the fact that I tasted all cheese and very little seafood essence. I’m a born-and-bred Virginian, so my standards for seafood are pretty high. After all, crabs are a regular summer indulgence. So I was disappointed to see that no only did these have no discernable crab meat in them, but it’s likely that the “crab meat” used to flavor this was imitation crab meat (I could be wrong, but I doubt it).

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Imitation seafood products are accurately described by Anne Barone (in her book, Chic and Slim Encore) as, “what [she] would imagine ocean perch would taste like if it had been poached in a marinade of children’s cough syrup”. No, my croquettes didn’t taste quite like cough-syrup-infused perch. But it also didn’t taste remotely like any crab that I’ve eaten. So while this wasn’t gross, I wouldn’t try it again. The dipping sauce was good, though.

I can recommend the spring rolls here – very tasty and always cooked perfectly. Next time, I’ll stick to what I know!

For my entree, I almost always get the yaki ramen. However, I have a little “quirk”: I only get the yaki ramen when I do a takeout order (as I did on this occasion). You see, the yaki ramen is one of the non-soup (broth-free) noodle options. And I don’t like dry ramen, so I take this dish back to my office and add boiling hot water to it, let it sit for a moment (so that the flavor infuses into the water), then eat. The resulting broth is very flavorful (this restaurant doesn’t skimp on the seasoning) and I always end up having to eat the ramen in two sittings.

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Half of my order of yaki ramen with tofu, after I added some hot water to make a broth.

The ramen was delicious, as always. I love that it’s vegetarian and customizable.

So that’s my review of Absolute Noodle. It’s worth a visit, especially if you find yourself in Northwest DC, in the Chinatown/Capital One Arena area. Let me know what you think of it!

international · culture

An Unforgettable Army

A few days ago, I got to return to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to spend some time with the exhibits. When I found out that the museum was featuring statues from the world famous terracotta army (the 8,000 Chinese sculptures created to accompany China’s first emperor in the afterlife), I knew I couldn’t miss it.  The exhibit, Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China, appealed to my love of Asian art and history. Since I didn’t see any of the terracotta soldiers during my trip to China in 2016, this exhibit was the perfect chance to glimpse into the first Chinese empire.

You all may recall a few months ago I visited VMFA to see the Yves St. Laurent exhibit. I felt awful about only going once: I wish I had visited several times before the exhibit left.

I learned my lesson well. I gave myself enough time to see this exhibit more than once.

Just as a heads up: this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit. VMFA states, “More than 40 objects in the exhibition have never before been on view in the United States.  Terracotta Army is the first exhibition the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has presented in its 80-year history that is devoted to the art and archaeology of ancient China.”

If you can’t make it to see the artifacts in person, never fear! I took LOTS of pictures. I can’t promise that you’ll feel like you were there, but at least you can imagine . . . First, the small artifacts and information posted throughout the exhibit:

And now, the soliders (I’ll share 5 of them in this post):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was awestruck by the artifacts and am so happy that I get to share them with you all. The true treasure, however, is the HISTORY behind each artifact. The Qin Dynasty was revolutionary and set all of the groundwork for Chinese unification. It’s amazing how much Qin Shihuang accomplished during his less than 50 years on earth.

Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China will be at VMFA until March 11, 2018. I implore you to go if at all possible: you won’t be disappointed!

culture

A Day of Service

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Day, and I’m feeling reflective.

MLK’s legacy is closely associated with the strides made for racial equality. MLK Day is designated as a “day of service”, where people are encouraged to volunteer with different charities and community organizations.

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Photo courtesy of Democracy Now

I’m considering how I can better serve others, because I feel that I haven’t done my utmost in this regard.

I deeply respect and value volunteering, engaging in service to others, and contributing resources to worthy charitable causes. My comfort zone has always been with contributing resources – giving money, gently used items, etc., – and I feel that my zone isn’t creating meaningful connection with others.

So today, I’m focusing on finding a few charitable organizations or foundations that I can strongly support and volunteer with during the year. My goal is to find at least one medical charity, an organization that offers resources to disadvantaged children, and an organization that supports arts education.

In the meantime, those that are interested in finding a cause to support can find check it out on the MLK Day website. Even if you can’t contribute your time today, see if you can find room in your schedule to volunteer in the future. Service is the one thing that costs you nothing but makes you richer.

art · life curation

A Love Affair with Jean-Leon Gerome, Part 1

If you’re fortunate, you’ll come across an artist whose work speaks to you on a cellular level. For me, that artist is Jean-Leon Gerome. Every Gerome painting that I’ve seen has taken my breath away and transported me to a different time and place. I can’t see a Gerome painting without stopping to stare for a while.

Many of Gerome’s paintings have an ever-present touch of exoticism. From paintings set in the deserts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, to his dignified portraits of people of color, I find myself enchanted by his interpretation of the exciting world outside of Europe.

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The painting that started it all: The Slave Market (1871) by Jean-Leon Gerome (Cincinnati Art Museum)

A short story: I saw my first Gerome painting when I was in Cincinnati several years ago. I decided to walk from my hotel to the Cincinnati Art Museum because it was less than two miles away, and I was in (relatively) good shape (side note: if you are ever in Cincinnati, you must stop by this museum. It’s a real gem!). Unfortunately, it began to rain and pour, and the next day, I had a cold so bad that I slept for half of the day and didn’t eat anything for dinner that evening (I recall making a hot toddy that helped tremendously, but I was still uncomfortable for a few days).

Back to the point: I laid eyes on The Slave Market (1871) and I stopped in my tracks. The painting was so powerful and full of raw emotion that I literally couldn’t move. The look of despair and anguish on the faces of the enslaved women stirred my soul. I knew, the moment that I saw this painting, that I’d never look at art with same eyes as I had when I first entered the museum. It’s the one work of art that I take with me, in spirit, wherever I go.

 

These photos fail to capture the emotion and realism on the subjects’ faces: this one must be experienced in person!

Thus began my love affair with Jean-Leon Gerome. Stay tuned for Part Two, where I discuss more about Gerome and why I’m discussing him on this blog (p.s. it’s relevant to some of the other things I’ve discussed here!) Talk to you all soon!

hollywood glamour · luxury · style

How to Look Like Marilyn Monroe

As part of the Hollywood Glamour series, I wanted to find clothing that channeled the old Hollywood aesthetic. There are a lot of vintage clothing stores, that specialize in authentic vintage as well as recreations. But these stores are plentiful and, honestly, you could easily locate them on your own.

I wanted to bring something a little less known and even more special that what you’d find in the average Google Search.

Enter Iconic Dresses.

This Etsy shop features replicas of some of the most stylish ensembles on the silver screen during Hollywood’s golden age. They have quite a few Marilyn Monroe outfits from various movies, but they also have recreations of outfits worn by Jayne Mansfield, Betty Grable, Jane Russell, and more. These custom-made pieces capture the authenticity of the period reflected but the designed are so timeless that they look perfect on the woman of today.

One of my favorite ensembles is the leopard muff and cape, black top and black skirt that Marilyn wore in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. Here’s a glimpse of what Marilyn looked like in the film:

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(from Pinterest)

I mean, come on: who wouldn’t want to look like that daily? This ensemble is just as stylish today as it was when Marilyn first wore it. These pieces are more expensive than most of the vintage reproduction shops’ offerings, but Iconic Dresses doesn’t mass produce the clothing, so a higher expense is expected. Also, the clothes are so striking and gorgeous: you’re getting the uniqueness that you’re paying for.

I plan to get an ensemble or two from Iconic Dresses before the end of the year (I have to downsize my wardrobe a bit more, so that I have room for new clothes!) I’ll let you all know as soon as I get it!

 

life curation · words of wisdom

Powerful Words on Motherhood

I love hearing the insights of mothers. I think of my own mother, and the words she passed on to me, and the thoughts that she continues to pass to me. I’m happy that she chose to give the best of her to me, and certain lessons she taught me have served me well up to this day. I think most of us underestimate those lessons until we are still and engaging in reflection.

I’ve found that the encouragement I received to go after the things that I desire (her famous words are, “The worst thing they can tell you is ‘No’ “) is the only reason why I’ve gotten as far as I have. I realized that the advice she gave me on interpersonal relationships (letting people “think what they want”, so long as it doesn’t hurt you) and career (get as much benefit out of a job as you can: every job offers more than a paycheck) was truly timeless. She didn’t take big risks with her own life, but she spoke words that allowed me to take bigger risks with my own life. And for that, I’m eternally thankful.

With that in mind, I’d like to share a video that was shared with me almost a year ago. Phylicia Rashad, acclaimed actress, timeless beauty, and mother extraordinaire, discusses what it’s like to have a brand new baby (she already had a 13 year old son at this time) and the lessons she learned from her experiences in motherhood. The whole clip is a treasure, but starting at 4:55, you can see that it was her mother’s words and influence that molded her into a fantastic parent.

I hope that you enjoyed this clip as much as I have! Let me know what you think about it in the comments below!

art · life curation

Free Art Education At Your Fingertips

As you all recall from my 2018 goals post, I plan to transition into an art-related career. I’m not exactly sure where I want to fall in that world (consultant, curator, collector, advisor, etc.) but I know that the art world has the excitement, beauty and adventure that I crave.

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(photo courtesy of ALISON.com)

Before I can dive into that world, however, I need to get more educated on art. I’m not a complete novice (I’ve spent lots of time in museums and I’m a voracious reader) but  I could benefit from some more targeted instruction. And, until the weather begins to warm up, I’d prefer online courses, so that I can learn without having to leave the house.

With that in mind, I’m excited to share with you all the free art course I found on ALISON. The class, Great Artists and Their Works, allows students to learn about 8 of the most famous names in art history. Learning about these artists and their seminal works has been tremendously rewarding for me. I just finished the Michaelangelo module and I will start learning about Raphael with my next module.

This course is wonderful for anyone that wants to bolster their art knowledge without a large financial investment. All that this course requires is time and a good internet connection. I fully intend to take advantage of this, and other, online learning opportunities. I have a few other courses that I plan to take this year, to help me really broaden my art knowledge base and prepare for my new career in the art world.