Making Waves: Japanese Fashion’s Petite Retrospective at the Denver Art Museum

In Shock Wave, the Denver Art Museum carefully curates Japanese fashion design from the 1980’s-90’s in a magnificent yet humble display.  This was a pivotal time for Japanese fashion designer that features the likes of Issey Miyake, Kenzo Takada, Kansai Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, and Junya Watanabe. The designers reinvented classics from European designers such as Coco Chanel and Christian Dior whilst also inspiring contemporary fashion designers including Martin Margiela, Helmut Lang, John Galliano, and Dries Van Noten. The exhibit did a fantastic job displaying the Japanese designers next to their counterparts–intermixing in a sensible way by style and form rather than randomly throwing in European designers against the Japanese greats or trying to press a forced chronology.

Shock Wave is also a mixed media exhibition that smartly adds video to fill the small, almost awkward museum. space it absorbs.  The four video installations highlighted different runway shows, bringing the clothes on display to life with simplicity and displaying the theatrical quality and movement of the clothes as was intended be the designers. The most captivating is Miyake’s show that featured models walking a square “runway” reminiscent of a sumo wrestling ring. Another video shows the backstage dressing of models so the viewer can examine the subtle complexities of the flowy, boxy Japanese garments and you would probably want to purchase a copy of the informational video with your couture.

The final highlight of the exhibit are the “invisible” dress forms created by Allison McCloskey, associate textile conservator, especially for Shock Wave. Almost every garment is hung on a hand-shaped dress form that is made from soft materials (either foam core or a  soft polyester felt that is molded than hardened with heat). These completely customized mannequins serve many purposes, including, providing the actual softness of a live model. In many fashion exhibits, clothes are stretched over mannequins and appear lifeless but with this new technique it actually looks like someone is wearing the clothes because the pleats, boning, and other structural elements can fall in the correct place. It was critical that these dress forms were created because there is an entire section of the exhibit devoted to oversized garments that are near impossible to display on a standard mannequin. The museum created a fascinating behind-the-scenes video where you can watch the shaping and dressing of the forms. It is always true that small shifts, have an incredible impact.

Shock Wave is Florence Muller’s first exhibition at the Denver Art Museum after she curated the traveling Yves Saing Laurent Retrospective with mediocre success. Shock Waves closes May 28th so if you are in Denver in the upcoming months and have a passion for fashion and an appreciation for its history make sure to visit this exhibition.

Don’t you want to dine with me? Don’t you want to Donburi?

Donburi squeezed into Adams Morgan a little over a year ago and has been serving up mean Japanese street food ever since. This has created some competition with Sakuramen, my other favorite asian joint in the area but the menus are composed of different dishes.

Donburi, literally means “bowl” and all the ingredients are simmered together and served over rice. Donburi is different from ramen because it is not broth based. The braising liquid from the meat and vegetables creates more of a sticky, sweet sauce.

Donburi’s donburi sauce is made with soy sauce, dashi, caramelized onions and a half cooked egg. This gives it the sweet, salty, gooey consistency I mentioned earlier. This sauce is amazing and and packed with flavor. I have sampled several dishes including: Katsudon- pork loin and tenderloin, Unagidon- barbecued eel, Shitakedon-mushrooms, and Gyodon-beef brisket. The protein differs for each dish but they are generally served with scallions, sprouts. It’s had to pick a favorite but a good intro bowl is the shitakedon or Katsudon. The Unagidon is very unique and the protein adds a fishy and smoky flavor to the classic sauce.

There also one appetizer that is actually a refreshing end to a Donburi meal. The salmon sashimi is thick, fatty and delicious. It is reminiscent of more lively sushi without the sticky rice and the addition of fresh cucumbers and ginger.

Donburi offers take out and all counter seating that lets you see the live cooking action. The pans used to simmer the vegetables are particularly intriguing. Another awesome part about the tiny restaurant is the tremendously upbeat vibe and literal great beats that they play. Hip hop ranging from contemporary to the 90’s is almost playing with all the line cooks singing and rapping along.

Flavorful Farragut Friday Food Trucks, say that ten times fast.

Last Friday on a beautiful, warm Fall day Abby and I finally ventured to Farragut Park for the famed Food Truck Fridays. Farragut was buzzing with activity and a mix of workers, students, and families were swarming the park. There were at least 15 food trucks to choose from so it was time to strategize. We came up with a couple rules to try to maximize food truck efficiency. 1) We had to tour all the trucks in order to make an informed decision. 2) We both couldn’t order from the same truck no matter how tempting it was.  So we went on our around the world food truck journey featuring cuisine from Argentina, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, and many other nations. The park was lively and exciting. Business men and women were basking in the sun, loosening their ties, and kicking off their heels, creating an air of ease and relaxation. Farragut Park blossomed into a little oasis away from work catered by all of your favorite foods, it was a very blissful setting. Now, on to the food.

Abby decided on the truck Basil Thyme, which hosted lasagna and pasta. The gluten-free Giuseppe (Black Truffle lasagna with portobellos and gorgonzola) was unexpectedly delicious. I was certainly weary of the gluten free lasagna noodles but the thinly sliced eggplant captured the exact texture of traditional lasagna sheets. I feel mushrooms tend to either get rubbery or mushy when cooked and portobellos are not my favorite but again, I was happy to find that this was not the case. Basil Thyme has been rated #1 Food Truck on Yelp and listed in the Top 50 Food Trucks in the US so it is definitely a truck to check out, especially if you have dietary restrictions.

I was craving some more bold, ethnic flavors so was attracted to the Far East Taco Grille Food Truck. The line streaming from the truck made it even more appealing to my sensationalist side. The truck offered three tacos for $8 which is not bad at all for a “gourmet” taco stand. The top three recommended tacos were too hard to pass up so I got one of each. My tacos included: Steak with #15 Sauce+Kimchi-Lime+Onion-Lime Relish, Chicken+Spicy Pineapple+Zesty Chipotle+Cheesy Creme, and finally Pork+Spicy Mayo+Peppers+Onion-Lime Relish. As you can see the flavors were bold and inventive, providing a twist on your favorite Mexican eats. Al three of the tacos were delicious and the complexity of each taco really enhanced the overall taste. The Steak with Kimchi was really a stand out, the tangy Kimchi paired beautifully with the sweet barbacoa-style steak. Far East chose to do out-of-the-box odd combinations and was very successful. I will be extremely tempted to go back to this truck, but according to rule 3) you can’t go back to the same truck until you have eaten your way through them all!