Bambi Recommends: Alphonse Mucha at the Vittoriano

IMG_6066

In the days of Wacom tablets and Apple pencils, we have forgotten the beauty of creating with our hands. Since April 2016, the Vittoriano complex in Rome has hosted the Alphonse Mucha exhibit curated by Tomoko Sato. Featuring an extensive collection of the Czech artists work, it is an impressive spectacle of the artist/graphic designer’s development as a visual communicator. Sometimes referred to as the “father of Art Nouveau,” Mucha’s work has recognizable trademarks that have made him a favorite among GD students worldwide: whimsical handlettering, floral ornamentation, and an appreciation for luscious locks. By looking at his work you will understand why “Farrah, you have Mucha hair” was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.

IMG_6237

The exhibition has sketches showing Mucha’s process as well as the dissection of each communicative piece – the context of the female heroine that he depicts as a goddess with gorgeous hair and effortless attractive appeal. As most creatives would agree, the process is more interesting than the final product and the sheer size of the work is always shocking when witnessed in person. After creating a poster for Gismonda, Sarah Bernhardt signed a contract with him for 6 years – he was that good. His posters are the envy of the designers who slave away on Illustrator trying to emulate that same fervor using the pen tool and anchor points.

The exhibition will be on until September 11th, 2016 and costs 13 E (or 17 E if you go to the Barbie exhibit too) for students.

IMG_6242

 

Advertisements

Bambi Recommends: Jardins de Laribal

DSC_0571_2

Forget Park Guell and Parc de la Cuitadella. And while you’re at it, forget Fundacio Joan Miro, which is located at the tip of this green haven in Montjuic. Jardins de Laribal was designed for the 1929 World Fair and was once a part of the private estate of lawyer Josep Laribal. Barcelona’s city council bought the lands upon his death and Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier & Nicolau M. Rubió Tudurí were assigned the task of transforming the gardens into a public domain.

While Park Guell is flooded with tourists, Parc de la Cuitadella full of loud kids and fiesty parrots, and Retiro a 3-hour train ride away, Jardins de Laribal was where I could picture myself wasting a Saturday afternoon reading Cathedral of the Sea with a jamon & brie sandwich packed in my bag. Worst case, you can grab some food from La Font del Gat, a cafe named after the famous cat fountain and located in a building designed by my man, Josep Puig i Cadafalch.

DSC_0560_2

The green space spans between the Miro museum and the Jardins del Teatre Grec. Forestier linked the gardens with the Greek Theater via staircases and waterfalls, two elements that run throughout the entire area. Small fountains, sculptures, and canopies are scattered along most of the stepped paths. I personally found this to be one of my favorite spots in Barcelona because of its tranquility: you could be alone with your book under the sun while still within walking distance of the central district.

Bambi Recommends: Human+ at the CCCB

IMG_9511_2

The Contemporary Culture Center of Barcelona (CCCB) currently has an exhibition going on until April titled Human+ and, if you have even the slightest interest in humanity’s future, you should go check it out.

Human+ focuses on the technological advances of humankind and projects where we may be going as a species that manipulates our natural environment. From DNA compatibility tests to genetically modified mosquitoes made to fight malaria, the exhibition walks you through the  modern day advances as well as the upcoming conceptual inventions that are right around the corner. One part focused on the idea of the “New City” and how our current consumer culture has turned the entire globe into an enormous assembly line of production, humans being just another cog in the machine.

IMG_9506_2

In terms of exhibition design, I appreciated the ominous questions and thought-provoking quotes sprawled across the walls. They are the kinds of things you ask yourself after watching any sci-fi thriller or movie about artificial intelligence. “Would you upload your brain to the internet?” Paging Johnny Depp.

IMG_9524_2

Another shocking display was the euthanasia roller coaster. Using G force and the adrenaline rush effect of a roller coaster, this structure is engineered to humanely kill its passengers by literally giving them the thrill of their lives. The G force is so intense that they pass out due to cerebral hypoxia. Sure, some say it’s an art piece but it’s a bit disturbing that this would be in an exhibition about the advancement of the species and it makes you wonder if someone out there is willing to fund its construction…or already has. This is the video that was shown alongside the model:

I’d recommend going to Dressing the Body first and then Human+ just to continue along the same theme of how we have progressed in modifying our bodies and our surroundings. The exhibition also has a series of talks and debates going on (this one seems like a winner). Check the website for more details. Don’t forget to pick up a brochure on the way out. The back of the Spanish edition doubles as a poster of this image which is now hanging on my fridge. The English version has this creepier Matrix-esque visual because anglophones be freaks yo.

Entrance is 6 Euros or free admission on Sundays from 3-8pm!

Bambi Recommends: Flax & Kale

IMG_9121

After being in Spain for exactly a month, I’ve realized just how much jamon and chorizo I’ve been ingesting. It’s really hard to find turkey around here and with such exquisite cold cuts, why would you want to?

Well, because my stomach can’t handle all that meat all the time. It’s heavy on the digestive system and, about a week ago, I was looking for a light clean meal somewhere. I ended up at Flax & Kale. I’ll admit that I had sent a photo of the restaurant’s storefront to my vegan sister a few days before followed by “I’m not going to go to a ‘flexitarian’ restaurant while I’m in Barcelona!” after she pleaded with me to give it a try.

Pancakes!

F&K’s Healthy Pancakes: red quinoa, soy milk, free range eggs, vanilla, olive oil, blueberry soy yogurt, blueberries, maple syrup

IMG_8829_2

The food is not only delicious but it’s also satisfying without that stuffed feeling. The fruits have been more flavorful than other restaurants that I’ve been to here possibly because of their organic produce. Their “flexitarian” menu means they’ve got 80% plant-based options but they also have oily fish and eggs on there too. There’s also a juicery.

With my love for burgers, I never thought I’d endorse a vegan restaurant regardless of my being labeled as a hipster thanks to my graphic-designer-badge. Teresa Carles, the lady behind the menu, knows how to make healthy tasty food though. I’ve had Sunday brunch there twice and I know I’ll be back again. After all, I still have to try the rhubarb and strawberry tart on their outdoor terrace.

Moscow: 3 Meals in 3 Days

The Brooklyn of Moscow

The Brooklyn of Moscow

Although this was not my first business trip to Moscow, it was the first in which I got to experience a bit of the city. Did I have stroganoff? No. I did, however, get to see some of Moscow’s hotspots. If you don’t speak Russian and you need to get around, use Uber for cashless transactions or Yandex Taxi if you have rubles on you. You can plug in your destination so you *hopefully* won’t get lost and need to google-translate your way home. Free wifi is usually available at most hotels and cafes so just linger outside of one long enough till you connect.

Buro Canteen 24/7

Buro Canteen is the latest project from Buro 24/7 Russia. If you’re wondering where the Muscovite hipsters hang out, I would imagine it’s at this cafe. The Canteen is located in the middle of an industrial-turned-hip complex that could easily be mistaken for the Highline or Williamsburg. The interior decor is a Soviet Art Deco dream made for Instagram: large vibrant posters, a hand-lettered chalkboard menu, an illustrated world map, and an instant photo booth in the bathroom – need I say more?

Apparently the spot does, in fact, cater to a lot of creatives working in big fashion companies nearby which was what Mira Duma, Buro 24/7 founder, was hoping for when she decided to open the concept there. The Canteen was created in partnership with Girl Power LLC, the group behind The Slow Kitchen and B152|Tearoom (both also in Russia).

The menu is changed regularly and has a variety of options. We ordered zucchini & feta rolls, burgers, and fries. The ketchup was a winner.

White Rabbit

Located on a snazzy rooftop of a hotel/shopping center, White Rabbit has a full view of the city of Moscow through its large semicircle windows. The decor is shabby chic, with large armchairs and psychedelic Nat Geo photographs of wild mushrooms scattered among portraits of rabbits dressed in Victorian costumes. It’s as if the Mad Hatter invited you to come have drinks and ravioli.

We had great cocktails: a raspberry passionfruit cosmopolitan and a mandarine bourbon mix. Although we weren’t eating lobster or anything of the sort, they made us wear bibs before dinner. The guys’ version had bow ties and ladies had necklaces. I think we smelled like camera-happy tourists so they wanted to give us the full experience because we got smokey sorbet on the house for dessert. Waiters speak English! Yes!

Mendeleev

So this is another place that I would expect to find in NYC. It’s entrance is inside the fast-food Chinese Lucky Noodles joint. To the right of the register, there’s a bouncer blocking a staircase that leads to a speakeasy-like gastropub from the 1920s. The bar has barely any chairs and you have to pay minimum charge for a table. If you plan on eating and drinking, you might as well just get a table because your bill will come out to about the same.

It gets really crowded by midnight and you wouldn’t even guess that there’s a financial crisis going on in this city. However, I’m pretty sure those affected by it aren’t hanging out at an underground pub named after the guy who discovered the periodic table. And what an appropriate name it is: the bartenders work like chemists, mixing concoctions based on what you want because you can’t read the all-Russian cocktail menu. Drinks are excellent* and the music was just like being out in Beirut, house that got deeper as the night got later.

* meaning they don’t taste like diluted alcohol and you don’t need to wait till your third to actually enjoy not tasting what you’re ingesting

5 Handcrafted Valentine’s Day Gifts

IMG_2408

Yes, Valentine’s Day is commercial and you don’t need a day to appreciate the ones you love. But if you love someone, what’s the harm in having an excuse to celebrate it? I’m sure each couple has their own way of doing so and, perhaps, has agreed:

a) not to exchange gifts,
b) not to acknowledge this “holiday”
c) to stay in with DVDs & sushi

Nothing is wrong with opting for a sweet bouquet, a handful of Hershey’s Kisses, and an “I love you.” But for those of you who need some ideas, I put together a list of some unisex handcrafted items you could get here in Lebanon so you don’t have to resort to Amazon and fork over shipping fees, go to Pinterest and attempt a DIY project when you’re not the artsy type, or buy a generic fluffy heart-covered monstrosity from [insert gift shop chain name here].

If you want to get your special someone a present that is thoughtful and unique, go for the personalized and custom-made. And don’t forget to wrap it up nice because half the fun is the mystery and anticipation behind a wonderfully packaged surprise. Also, feel free to contact me for a Bambi’s Soapbox love card. I’m selling them at a discount: 5,000 LL each.

5. Creative Space Beirut/Second St

IMG_1693IMG_1700

Featured last month on the blog, these two brands have hand-stitched fashionable pieces done by fashion design students (Creative Space Beirut) and Sarah Hermez & Tracy Moussi (Second St). On top of getting some stylish clothing, the monies you invest in these pieces would go toward keeping a free design school running. They’re available at the Creative Space Beirut or Memory Lane, both in Mar Mikhael.

4. Crochet Friend from Rachel K

Screen shot 2015-02-01 at 7.15.19 PM

I discovered Rachel at Afkart in December. She has a collection of fashion pieces too but what really caught my eye at her stand was her geeky handmade crochet buddies. From Karl Lagerfeld to Mario, these little guys go for $60 a piece. You can also request a personalized crocheted version of you (or your beau) but I’d refrain from gifting a voodoo-like doll to someone you love. Unless you’re into that. No judgment.

3. GGRIL Glass Goods

From GGRIL's Facebook page

From GGRIL’s Facebook page

It would be wrong to have a list of handcrafted items without including the work of Ziad Abi Chaker and GGRIL. Whether it’s a vase for the bouquet you just got or a lamp to set the mood for the evening, GGRIL has beautiful blown glass items that make great presents. Plus, they’re supporting a dying artisanal craft in Lebanon AND recycling old booze bottles. Sold at various cafes and stores: Dar Bistro & Books in Hamra, Vide-Posh in Badaro, Bayrut Express in Ashrafieh.

2. Madame Cefanie Leather Goods

Screen shot 2015-02-01 at 8.00.33 PM

I saw this lady’s work at Brut l’Atelier while on the Mar Mikhael walking tour. There, you can purchase a wallet or purse of various colors OR you can contact Madame Cefanie to request a customized bag with size and color of your choice.

1. Baked Goods

Try to bake some cookies or their favorite dessert (given that it’s not soufflé or anything else that would have Gordon Ramsay yelling at you). Baking a sweet treat for your person puts all the tender, love, and care into the pan of fatty goodness you’re whipping up for them. Wrap it up with some nice wax paper and ribbon: instant personal gift! Make sure to use chocolate for the extra aphrodisiac effect. *wink wink*

And when all else fails, if none of the above works for your significant other, go for lingerie (remember what I said about a “wonderfully packaged surprise”?). Buy it for them to wear or wear some yourself: everyone wins.

The Little Winery of Bhamdoun: Chateau Belle-Vue

IMG_0131

This year, on Lebanon’s Independence Day, I (along with my dad and sisters) was dragged against my will to a “social function” organized by my mother: a Thanksgiving lunch up in Bhamdoun with her American lady friends. I have nothing against social functions, I just prefer to spend my rainy Saturday mornings tucked in bed until noon. Had she told me that we were heading to the home of Chateau Belle-Vue, a hidden gem in Bhamdoun, I wouldn’t have been so reluctant. And I wouldn’t have worn high-heeled boots and a dress either.

Naji Boutros, Bhamdoun native, and Jill, his American wife, make up the couple that started Chateau Belle-Vue back in 2000 with 3 plots of land. Now with 130 plots, new vineyards are planted every year as they try to keep the lands of Bhamdoun within the 10-12 families of the village. They lease it to fellow historic “Bhamdounians” because they want the owners to have this connection to the soil. “Part of our motivation is that people stay attached to their heritage,” says Jill. The other part, she says, is that there would be enough agricultural momentum to stop urban development. Bhamdoun is desirable real estate since it’s basically a mountain home that’s a 20-minute drive from the city. “We don’t want people to build in the valley; it was always vines and it should always be vines.” Chateau Belle-Vue gets its name from “Hotel Belle-Vue”, the first Bhamdoun hotel that was owned by Naji’s family.

Chateau Belle-Vue was bought from the French government 5 years ago through a bidding process. It used to be the summer residence of the French ambassador to Iraq and Jordan. and also doubles as a bed & breakfast with a common space and 7 rooms, each named after a kind of wine. The common space is used by the community for yoga sessions and serves as a public library. Le Telegraphe, the Chateau’s restaurant that opened 2 years ago, used to be the concierge’s quarters. It’s named “Le Telegraphe” because the location was a telegraph broadcasting “La France Libre” before World War II.  Chateau Belle-Vue aims for “organic and biodynamic agriculture.” The vine terraces of Bhamdoun have always had quite the reputation for good grapes and the village was made up of 4km of terraces back in the day.

IMG_0136

All of Chateau Belle-Vue’s wines are dry wines. It’s placed in French oak barrels for two years, allowing for a red fruit and aged oak intense taste. All grapes are hand-picked and the wine is handmade. No additional yeast is added to the fermentation process. We had a 2007 La Renaissance, which is a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was made up of 4 varieties of red grapes from 2 different parts of the valley. The winery is actually run by a team of women. It wasn’t on purpose but that’s just what ended up happening. According to Esperanza, the Spanish vineyard manager, the grapes of the Merlot that are grown in the northeast part of the valley differ from those in the southwest – that along with other factors (altitude for example) can affect the blend’s final taste. “With wine, everything is about balance,” she says.

The Chateau Belle-Vue wines are sold at the winery and at Vintage in Saifi Village, Beirut. Members of the Chateau Belle-Vue wine club (kids too) can come up during the harvest (August to October) to pick grapes and help in the wine-making process, making it a communal effort to create great wine. When a new wine is launched, members are invited to come try them and they get special delivery privileges.

P.S. Thanksgiving turkey tastes even better after fire-place-melted camembert cheese.

IMG_0150