Saturday, July 30, 2011

Musical in the City - BILLY ELLIOT

Billy Elliot musical
On Thursday, Mijo and I saw Billy Elliot at the Orpheum Theatre and it instantly became one of my favorites. Could it be because I could somewhat relate to the musical? Could it also be that sitting in the mid-orchestra section might have contributed to the overall experience? We're fortunate to have gotten orchestra tickets for the price we would have paid for balcony seats. (Thanks!) It was a very entertaining show.

Here are three things I loved about this musical:

First, I love the musical's sense of humor. I don't remember laughing this hard when I saw the movie not too long ago. Mrs. Wilkinson, played by Tony-awarded Faith Prince, has sarcasm flowing out of her mouth but deep inside she's truly selfless, giving and comes out funny funny funny! She reminds me of  Ms. Dizon, a teacher I had in highschool.  The same with Billy's friend Michael, played by Jacob Zelonky. He's like this funny childhood friend you'd love to have and keep.

Billy ElliotSecond, I appreciate The Asian Billy Elliot. Lex Ishimoto, one of the five kids cast as Billy, performed that evening. At first, it was weird to see an Asian kid play Billy especially during scenes when he's with the rest of his Irish family. Then I realized that it is actually a good twist because it gives the musical another layer.  It is absolutely an only-in San Francisco twist. This actor danced marvelously particularly during the 'angry dance' and the Swan Lake scene in 'Electricity' when he was dancing with the older version of himself which is probably the highlight of the show.  Flawless is probably the appropriate word. I hope to see more good things from this young man in the future. I wonder if the other Billy's are as good as the Asian Billy?

Billy Elliot Third, the music and choreography were fantastic. The orchestra incorporated the sounds of an English brass band. There were scenes where the full company including the all-girls ballet class, the picketting union workers and the Irish police were performing as a group. They sang and danced so beautifully especially in Solidarity! These scenes are each in separate segments in the movie so I really enjoyed how the musical wove them together and the result was amazing. So much imagination was put into the group scenes especially in the beginning of the second act and 'once we were kings'.

The 'Letter' is very touching. If you have lost a loved one, you'd know what I am talking about.

I made a deep sigh on the last scene when Billy was leaving his hometown, a mining town in Northern England, to go to the ballet school. Remember the first time you left home and felt like your life will never be the same again? If you do, you'd feel for Billy.

The musical runs for a little less than 3 hours with one 15-minute intermission. It is playing at the Orpheum Theatre through the end of August.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Everyday Wines in the City - California Gewürztraminer by Fetzer Vineyards and Syrah by Bonny Doon Vineyards

2009 California Gewürztraminer by Fetzer Vineyards

Fetzer 2009 Gewürztraminer For Sunday lunch, my friend Caloy and my artist friend Bren Bataclan came by the house to hangout. Bren and his partner Bob are here in San Francisco for their annual summer vacation so Caloy and I scheduled a lunch date with Bren while Bob is busy hosting family and relatives from Boston.

For lunch, Bren brought a 2009 California Gewurztraminer from Fetzer Vineyards and we paired it with a dimsum set that I got from Delicious Dimsum on Jackson St. The sweet notes of this refreshing white wine went very well with the tasty siomai, taro root cake, pot stickers and dumplings.

Here are my notes.
Tasting Date: July 17, 2011
Tasting Partner: Caloy and Bren
Wine Name: California Gewürztraminer
Producer: Fetzer Vineyards
Region/Appelation: California
Grape Varieties: Gewürztraminer
Vintage: 2009
Alcohol: not indicated
Color Hue: light yellow
Aroma Intensity: fruity
Developments: medium body
Aromas: rose, almond, honey, mango
Dry/Sweet: sweet
Body: Medium
Acidity: low acid
Tannins: low level
Flavors: mango, honey, peach

2008 Central Coast Syrah by Bonny Doon Vineyards

Bonny Doon 2008 Syrah Le Pousseur
I first opened this bottle to try it with a Pupusas that Mijo brought for snack. Mijo was surprised to see me pair this Salvadoran favorite with the Syrah we got from Bonny Doon. I said why not? I am glad I did because the saltiness of the burnt cheese and the chicharones balanced the high tannin taste of this wine. Though I thought the wine need to breathe some more.

After two days, the wine tasted even better when we paired it with seared organic salmon mijo bought from Canyon Market.

Bonny Doon 2008 Syrah Le Pousseur
Here are my notes.
Tasting Date: July 8 / July 10 2011
Tasting Partner: Mijo
Wine Name: Syrah Le Pousseur
Producer: Bonny Doon
Region/Appelation: Central Coast
Grape Varieties: Syrah
Vintage: 2008
Alcohol: 13.5%
Color Hue: purple red
Aroma Intensity: less fruit
Developments: full body
Aromas: coffee, walnuts, soysauce, raisins, cloves
Dry/Sweet: dry
Body: full
Acidity: medium acid
Tannins: high level
Flavors: cloves, coffee, soysauce


Saturday, July 09, 2011

Staycation in the city

We decided not to go on a trip for the 4th of July weekend and just stayed in town. We got lucky because the fog-free summer weather stuck around the entire weekend. The sky was clear that we even saw bits of the fireworks display on Monday. If you have heard of the notorious summer fog in the city, you'd understand why I was jumping for joy. Mijo and I took Friday off too, so we had a four day weekend instead of just three.

For our staycation, this is my top 3.

4th of July 2011 in SF4th of July fireworks. I've been to Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia to witness America's independence day celebration and I can tell you that they go all out in those cities. The way they celebrate makes me feel like we are separatists here in Northern California. That is another story in itself. In fairness to San Francisco, it still hasn't cancelled the fireworks display despite of the city's budget crisis. If it is any consolation, the weather was clear and we saw the 20-minute fireworks display from Dolores Park. We got to the park around 6pm with our picnic mat, a bottle of wine and sandwiches. The sunbathers, who looked like they spent the entire afternoon at the park judging by their tan, were just leaving and the next batch of people, the fireworks watchers, were arriving in groups. The park was packed and lively that evening. Some even brought their own firecrackers and glow sticks for everyones' delight.

Fillmore Jazz Festival
Fillmore street fair. Or more popularly known as the Fillmore Jazz Festival. Can you believe that I haven't been to this street fair? It was also another good reason to stay in town. This way, I finally got to go see this street fair. It is probably the largest summer fair in the city, the North Beach street fair second. They closed Fillmore street between Eddy and Jackson. That is around 12 city blocks. The jazz entertainment was fantastic!
Fillmore Jazz FestivalWhen we got there, a group was performing a Latin Jazz number on the north side of Geary Blvd. On the south side, a soul-funk jazz group was playing. There were several smaller groups of musicians jamming along the fair route. It was a very lively site! The food was good too but the same vendors that go to the other city summer street fairs go to this one too so they are pretty much the same. We shared a glass of watered down beer and garlic crab french fries. A good tip I can give you is to work your way from Eddy St. and stop and listen to jazz music and eat as you work your way up to Jackson St.

Bonny Doon Vineyard tasting roomDay trip to Santa Cruz. We took Friday off and drove south to Santa Cruz to enjoy a good beach scene. We love Sta. Cruz and we go there whenever we get a chance. The Boardwalk was packed with families since the schools are out on summer vacation. There was a free concert in the afternoon by the beach. We also had time to drop by to one of the boutique wineries dotting Ingalls Street. We went to Bonny Doon to try their delicious red and white selections. We ended up getting bottles of their Syrah, Albariño and Cigare Volant for our everyday wine. Since we decided to stay overnight, we had time to walk around downtown Santa Cruz and checkout the cafe scene at the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company and picked up a couple of bags of Salvadoran coffee called Bourbon (pronounced as bo-oor-bon).

So all in all, our staycation was well spent.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Musical in the City - Tales of the City

Tales of the City
When the disco ball lit up seconds before the musical started, I knew the entire evening was going to be fabulous. I thought to myself, finally, my wait is over and the Tales of the City is here. This new production is produced by the American Conservatory Theatre and mijo and I were fortunate not only to get tickets but to get them discounted (thank you Goldstar!). Even on a Tuesday evening, the show was sold out.

This is probably one of my favorite musicals not only because the music is catchy and fresh but also it was fun and I can totally relate to it as a transplant and as someone who romanticizes life in the city. I know this would be a stretch but I even imagined my story in the musical... as colorful as the characters' stories because of my equally humble beginnings in my little hometown of Novaliches.  Anyway, the timing of the jokes was perfect and spot on. I do wonder if a non-local would get the jokes about local stuff, about Marin county, about looking like a newbie in the city or maybe get offended because the show is pepperred with pot jokes?

A.C.T. cocktail time The cast was wonderful. They seem to have this great connection the way long time friends do making the play seems so familiar and so real. I agree with my friend Dinah, who saw the show when it first opened, that the show was heartfelt and they captured the spirit of San Francisco. My favorites were  Mary Birdsong as Mona Ramsey, Judy Kaye as Anna Madrigal, Manoel Feliciano as Norman Williams, Betsy Wolfe as Maryanne Singleton and Wesley Taylor as Mouse.

The play is around 3 hours long with two acts. It contains brief nudity, mild drug use, and disco ball lights. The musical runs through July 31.

p.s. These are the only photos I was able to take. It was hard to steal a shot because the 'guardia civil' were busy walking around during the play, even seconds before the curtain closed!