Traveling for Art and Eating Well

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It's official. Summer is upon us, and — judging by the sheer number of "out-of-office" replies I receive in response to the newsletter I send to many thousands of followers of Art Talk on KCRW — many of you are probably traveling. Like everyone else, planning a trip, I ask my smart, artsy friends for advice: what to see and what to eat. And let me tell you, I'm rarely disappointed following in their steps.

Would you agree that there is some charming and, more to the point, yummy connection between good art and good food? These days, many world-class museums are not only trying to impress visitors with great art but also eager to impress their taste buds. While in New York, one simply must treat oneself to a delicious lunch at the Museum of Modern Art's restaurant or stop in at the nearby Neue Gallery for an aromatic coffee and incomparable Viennese pastry.

It's been exactly one month since I returned from Europe and fell under the spell of a new restaurant recently opened on the plaza of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Last night, Monday, I went to Ray's and Stark Bar for the fourth time and, once again, I spent there almost three hours, not only enjoying the food and atmosphere but having a great time chatting with my art-savvy friends and waving to the other art aficionados who already have discovered this new hot spot. If you go there, you want first to put yourself in the mood by spending at least twenty or thirty minutes at a nearby museum gallery watching Christian Marclay's marvelously inventive and totally fascinating video, The Clock.

at110621c.jpgMy friends always ask me about the art and food adventures I've had while traveling, so I thought, why not share with all of you, listeners of Art Talk, my latest mouth-watering adventures? Let's start with Belgium, where in each and every one of the five cities I visited this year, I ate extremely well. However, the show-stopping moment came in the city of Bruges at a restaurant called Den Dyver, which was highly recommended to me by my Belgian hosts. Each course was accompanied by a variety of effervescent Belgian beer, poured by the friendly proprietor, eager to tell the story behind every bottle of delicious brew.

at110621d.jpgI spent in Amsterdam only two days, but nevertheless managed to have three dinners there. Don't ask me how — it's too complicated to explain… Once again, I followed the recommendations of my hosts, and found myself at an Asian fusion restaurant, MOMO, savoring every bit of the mostly raw seafood served sushi-style. I invited two Dutch friends to meet me there, hoping they would approve of my choice. I am happy to report that they were simply blown away. Let me also add that MOMO is conveniently located within walking distance of all Amsterdam's major museums.

at110621e.jpgAnd speaking of Barcelona… Let me tell you, if Picasso lived in this city today, he would never leave it for Paris. And the reason would be not only great art and architecture, but amazing food earning Barcelona, in the past decade, a well-deserved reputation as the city with the most refined and adventurous cuisine in all of Europe. My American friend, who knows the city inside out, managed the impossible task of getting us a table at the restaurant Alkimia, which means in Arabic — what else? — "the art." And art it was. People who know me would testify that it's rather rare to find me speechless, and, here, in this restaurant, that was precisely the case. I couldn't believe what was happening in my mouth; every bite was like opening a door into another dimension.

at110621a.jpgSo, my artsy friends, let me end by sharing with those of you who are headed for England or France these two morsels of advice. At the top floor of the National Portrait Gallery in London, there is a charming restaurant with a view of Trafalgar Square so stunning, so romantic you start to fantasize about relocating to London.

at110621b.jpgAnd when you come to the Pompidou Centre and its escalator slowly brings you to the top floor, to the very smart, elegant Restaurant Georges, with its breathtaking view of Paris, you will find yourself happily drunk, not only literally but figuratively as well.

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Banner image: Ray's & Stark, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Courtesy LACMA