Thursday, December 27, 2012

still-sound 135. Alexandria

I know two excellent men from Long Beach.  Adam and Matt travel the world eating, taking pictures of food, and styling it for photoshoots.  This would make them experts in all things edible and drinkable.  Shortly before Christmas they very graciously presented me with a tea called Alexandria.  The purveyor is called TWG and is based in Singapore.

The tea is a blend of green leaves and mint.  There are tiny blue wildflowers in the mix.  It tastes as beautiful and delicate as it looks.  I steeped some in a little celadon teapot I bought in Seoul.  I am drinking it now while listening to a Pointer Sisters album I found yesterday at Amoeba. 

No way to control it, it's totally automatic...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

still-sound 134. Bar Marmont

Rob asked me to house-sit for him while he spent the weekend in San Francisco.  He feared that his apartment would be burgled, making it the Christmas without gifts.  I didn't think he had much reason to worry but I took on the task nonetheless.  Rob's place is around the corner from Chateau Marmont - a legendary Los Angeles hot spot I've never visited.

I wondered if my friends and I would be admitted to Bar Marmont - as we arrived, two guys were standing around the door having been denied entry.  We were greeted warmly and made our way in.  I found that my friends had shared the same anxiety as me a minute ago.  I was relieved we made the grade, though I later wondered what the grade was exactly.  A man next to us wearing very low hanging white jeans spoke loudly in French on his phone.  I didn't understand what made him more Bar Marmonty than the guys who had been rejected at the door. 

The lighting was dark.  There was an oil painting of a Chinese girl above the bar.  Think 1950s Hong Kong.  The waitresses were blond and wore red silk Chinese dresses.  The ceiling was high and was papered in a style that made me think of an attic.  I didn't expect any of this.  I thought there would be large plate glass windows overlooking palm trees, a pool and bungalows.  I thought Helmut Newtony men would be quietly chatting in a corner.

We all drank Penicillin cocktails except Laura.  She had something else with a nice name, although I've regrettably forgotten it.  Evan and I had one more round of Penicillins before we left Marmont and walked through the West Hollywood nighttime air.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

still-sound 133. Resins

James came by the other night, like a wise man from the East, bearing aromatic resins.  I lit a charcoal and we burnt each incense separately.  The baltic amber came from Denmark.  It's tens of millions of years old.  It doesn't smell like amber in a perfume sense.  I think what we know as the amber smell is usually cistus labdanum or benzoin.  Smoldering baltic amber smells like locomotive fuel.  It reminded me of the Reading Terminal station in Philadelphia in the early 1980s. 

I chewed a drop of mastic gum and it tasted like pine.  Its lit smell reminded me of frankincense.  Piney and lemony.

This is a proper boswellia tear from Yemen.  I shaved off a slice and placed it on the charcoal.  Smoking frankincense is one of my favorite smells.

The most unexpected scent of the night came from the Indian guggulu resin.  It smells like burning leaves coated in caramel.  The gum itself was slightly sticky when I cut off a sliver with my pocket knife, like a dessert from a sweets shop on Brick Lane.

After a touch of sal tree resin and myrrh we ended the smoky progression with the glorious smell of Los Tres Reyes, a cathedral incense blend James had picked up in Spain.  Its smoke was symphonic.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

still-sound 132. Bay

I found a small bay tree at Hashimoto Nursery in Sawtelle last week.  I brought it home and planted it in a big terra cotta pot on the balcony.  I snipped off a branch near the bottom to allow the tree to direct its energy on vertical growth.  I strung the laurel in the kitchen.  I plan to use the leaves when cooking.

That night I watched an old episode of At Home With Venetia in Kyoto in which (coincidentally) Venetia dedicates her herb essay to bay.  She calls it the "herb of strength" and sips a mug of warm milk flavored with a bay leaf and honey before going to bed.

I asked my friend Ryota to watch Venetia's show with me several nights later.  I wanted to know if he thought her Japanese sounded native.  He thought she sounded fluent but not entirely flawless.  He found her minor mistakes charming.  Ryota also explained to me that the title of the show in Japanese is Cat Tail and Frog Hand.  I was shocked by this information. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

still-sound 131. Berries & lights

I decorated the perfume store where I work with berried branches in a black vase.  I decorated my home by stringing lights next to the big window.  One red and one white.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

still-sound 130. Coffee

How do you like my coffee set-up?  I was inspired by the cafes in Silverlake and Echo Park that charge $6 for a cup.  I watched mesmerized as a barista clad in an apron performed an intricate ritual no less mannered than a Japanese tea ceremony.  Hot water poured from a kettle with a long thin spout, resembling a watering can, moistening the paper filter, allowing it to submit to the porcelain cone.  The barista scooped a precisely measured dose of freshly ground beans to the filter and proceeded to water the grinds with the watering can.  A glass jug collected the drips of steaming, black liquid. 

The barista filled the jug to a quarter inch, let it settle motionless then poured the offensive starter coffee out.  The newly emptied jug received the optimal brew which I enjoyed moments later after its transference to a mug.

I have professed my love for ritual in this blog.  I crave and invent new ones all the time.  As such I have been wanting to make a porcelain coffee cone to replicate this ceremony at home.  My first attempt bore an overly small vessel that did not properly hold the paper filter.  I often forget the extent to which porcelain shrinks during its two firings. 

Yesterday I took home my second ceramic coffee strainer and its matching cup.  I used them this morning to brew organic, fairtrade coffee from Trader Joe's.  The cookie is also from Trader Joe's.  It's only sold around Christmastime and is called peppermint joe joe.