Summer spirits in victuals & art
by Roberto Friedman
A warm summer night earlier this month in San Francisco. Out There and our personal-size pizza Pepi found our way down to the Embarcadero, invited to a dinner at the Americano restaurant in the Hotel Vitale. Executive Chef Josua Perez 's menu concentrates on small plates and seasonal Italian cuisine. We started with bruschetta with grilled Pacific prawns and romesco, a Catalan sauce; and Monterey calamari and butter beans in a spiced tomato sauce with grilled bread. Our waiter brought us sampler plates of the house spaghetti with wild gulf shrimp and English peas, in tarragon and creme fraiche. All was a definite yum.
Pepi had hanger steak with roasted mushrooms in bearnaise, with onion rings, while OT downed fried game hen with housemade kim chee in yogurt. All of this washed down with a Sonoma Cutter Chardonnay, a Brancott Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, and one from Provenance in Napa Valley. Dessert was rhubarb upside-down cake with orange blossom strawberries for Pepi, and a scoop of vanilla gelato for OT.
Americano has been one of our favorite go-to spots ever since the Hotel Vitale opened. Sometimes the outdoor patio overlooking the waterfront can be packed with partying groups, but the restaurant's interior is always a model of calm. The fare, intriguing but unpretentious, suits our adventurous but unfussy palate. We'll be back.
Then we were off to Night Light: Multimedia Garden Party 2015 at SOMArts Cultural Center, a night full of stimulating art installations, performances by 27 artists, and digital and cinematic projections by 30 artists. It was a celebration of light in art set all around the center's indoor space and grounds, including the garden path, streetside loading bay, theater, Bay Gallery and Main Gallery. This year, Night Light doubled as "homage to the Bay Area's rabble-rousers, trouble-makers, independents and outliers," in conjunction with Making a Scene: 50 Years of Alternative Bay Area Spaces, an exhibition on view in SOMArts' Main Gallery through Aug. 20.
The gallery says it best: "Making a Scene spotlights a rich history of Bay Area artist-run, independent and alternative spaces, as well as the pioneers and contemporary trailblazers of social justice." An Urban Masquerade Parade invoked the spirits of late gay art-makers Sylvester, Ed Mock , Marlon Riggs and other trailblazing artists. Self-described "ecoSexuals" Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens were there in the loading dock with their seven-monitor Pollination Pod, a mobile museum of alternative sexual identity that looked to us like a party van.
Among the attractions on view inside was Media Burn by Ant Farm (Chip Lord , Doug Michels, Curtis Schrier, Uncle Buddie), classic video art satirizing the media through spectacle. The piece includes footage of their legendary 1975 Independence Day performance at the Cow Palace in SF in which a pyramid of television sets was stacked, doused with kerosene, and set ablaze. Then a modified 1959 Cadillac El Dorado Biarritz, piloted by two drivers, smashed through the pyramid, destroying the TV sets.
A real-time installation of a work by American experimental filmmaker Craig Baldwin, who uses found film footage to create one-of-a-kind environments, filled a side-room. Another stalwart of the Bay Area art scene, Rene Yanez , founder and former Artistic Director of Galeria de la Raza in the Mission District, exhibited archival material as well as an altar installation. Yanez was one of the first curators to introduce the concept of Mexico's Day of the Dead to the US with a 1972 exhibition at the Galeria; it continues to this day. Also exhibiting and of specifically LGBTQ interest were Pomo Afro Homos, the Queer Cultural Center, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. All good stuff. More info: somarts.org.
Our favorite New York Times correction of the summer: "Because of an editing error, an article on July 5 about the return of fur to fashion runways rendered incorrectly the name of a coat with a coyote-trimmed hood. It is made by the company Canada Goose; it is not a Canada goose coat." Honking right.