For years, Barcelona Tapas has been a creatively successful culinary and social scene on a quiet cobblestone backstreet in the tropical, seaside, destination of Puerto Vallarta. The vertical profile of the sun-bleached white building is distinctive with its open spaces – dining rooms on each ascending level.

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It is a extremely popular, hip and happening, dining venue which has recently had a spectacular face-lift that brings the structure and open-aired/interior environment up to par with the culinary delights.

Upon arrival, the familiar, welcoming doorway opens to softly lit aggregate stairs that sweep up each tier of the towering edifice.

A massive Cantera stone fountain babbles gently amidst tropical plantings and an iron grill-work is indirectly illuminated for a dramatic effect. An expansive patio all with honed stone tile floors begins the layers of available spaces.

Next an intimate open-aired dining area with an adjacent chef’s table and luminous, full-wall wine cooler beckons with an inviting aura. The intense red drama of a bullfight is rendered in a large painting on the rear wall – a suiting backdrop to the Spanish theme.

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Continuing the ascension, the delightful glossy black ironwork railing follows along and up the open-to-the-sky aggregate staircase turning past the last landing.  Ahead, the beautiful,  warm glow of the new dimensional ceiling treatment accented with wood and indirect lighting draws the eye upward.

Upon arrival on this rooftop dining platform, what was always an exciting view of the city lights, both in the foreground and circling the bay miles around to the north,  now expresses the new architectural features and finishes dazzling the eye.

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Effective lighting, recessed ceiling details, a new clear glass railing, and modern ceiling fans dangling like detached white nosecone propellers present a whole new, fresh, modern look. The drama and effectiveness of the lighting paired with the wonderful surround sound, coming from eight Bose wall-mounted speakers and 2 sub-woofers recessed into the ceiling, result in an atmosphere and music that are seductive and sensational.

But wait – there’s more!!! Yes, an additional rooftop dining patio is revealed upon discovering the hidden staircase at the far end of the bar. New furniture and a billowing fabric-draped portico are soon to arrive!

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This new space not only increases the seating capacity, but offers yet another  panoramic view and trendy design-themed open venue – expanding the options even more!

The project is Chef/Owner Bill Carballo’s passion.

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He has been at it for years creating deliciously original and traditional Spanish tapas (here his exquisie presentations have been half eaten in the rush to enjoy)

from the immaculate exhibition kitchen at the start of the long bar, with a fine-tuned staff eager to assist and cater to your every need.

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This enchanting transformation has attracted new discriminating, trend-setting clients and welcomed the return of  loyal fans to experience this exciting new and stylish interpretation of Barcelona Tapas.

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The doormen Luis and his affable sidekick are there to greet and assist!

Thank you gentlemen and Buenos Noches until next time!!!!

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How can I say that I am too busy to write this week? As Saturday approaches,  I realize that I have not stopped long enough to focus on any one thing, of the many that are bombarding me from all angles, about which I might formulate a theme for my story. I have to apologize, for once again, missing my Saturday deadline and hope that this was worth the wait!

Oh, to be so entertained by an onslaught of inspirational design elements as I have seen in the past few days only. And yet not only design – there was more. So I would like to start with an insert about Saturday as I (instead of writing my blog) took one last kayak cruise of the year.

A few people had gathered at the edge of the sand, pointing and remarking that they thought they had seen a whale. I looked in that direction and noticed that a few boats had gathered – often a sign that whales are spotted. I quickly pushed off in my single kayak through the gentle surf out onto the beautiful Banderas Bay and experienced for the first time whales from that most intimate vantage point. Up close and personal, it was thrilling to say the least. The beach was crowded with onlookers oohing and ahhing as they blew mists of water into the air and rose up from and back down, under the bay’s glistening surface. I paddled out and maintained a safe distance, but close enough to hear and feel the graceful power. Hump-backed and for which they are aptly named, the dark, sleek black bodies of the mother and calf were magnificent as they broke the surface and greeted the encircling boats full of eager spectators wanting to catch the show. And a show it was as the mama rolled onto her side and raised her unbelievably long, towering fin to slap the water sending spray high into the air. She slapped again and everyone thought that once was a rush and two was a treat and three and then four and I lost count at 30 times she slapped the water as though to say – “You want a show? I’ll give you a show!” She must have known that it was too dangerous to breach at that point, for a grand finale, as the close proximity of boats could have had deadly results. And I was right on the water with them. Unforgettable. The pity is that I was without camera and have only the memory of this life affirming event . An event that was awesome and outrageous and yet brought a surreal, serene sense of calm, peace and palpable, tingling joy. Friends on the beach greeted me upon my return in awe of what they had witnessed and welcoming me warmly, with enthusiasm, over my good fortune to have been out there for such an amazing display.

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This photo taken a week earlier – a bit choppier seas, with Tricia in the single and I with Victoria in the double, sets the scene of the Bay surrounded by the Sierra Madre range.

Now, having shared that incredible experience, I have decided to focus on one of the many design inspirations that I have encountered this week, but I hope you will visit our PATRICIAN DESIGN facebook page to see the collage of colorful art and texture that I have compiled to represent the many images that I have seen and offer to further stimulate your imagination.

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My focus at this seaside gallery of  delights today, as we  bring to a close a magical month,  is a collection of precious little figures made from synthetic foam, wood and steel. These humble little animations represent three shared events, a group hug, the “wave” at a stadium event and a gathering for solemn prayer lead by a figure of distinction – the one in the red scarf.

 

The spirit of collective participation is conveyed. The spirit of humble expression is conveyed. They present a sense of simplicity of some of life’s joyful moments. These simple figures are happy and content. They are intriguing and relaxing to study from many angles.

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Form and movement, color and  texture the Spirits of Joy by Federico Leon de la Vega are a wonderful representation of life’s simplest and most basic moments of sharing joy. To see art in such a distillation, such a unpretentious media, execution of mechanics and form is true pleasure. It is not overwhelming or startling, it is not outrageous or provoking – it is moving and modest.

I hope that they bring a sense of joy to the start of your week and create an indelible memory to which you can return in your quiet thoughts to bring you peace and joy.

 

To experience this glorious morning, on the open patio of a tiny commercial kitchen, in an otherwise residential neighborhood paralleling the river Cuale, in the very foodie coastal city of  Puerto Vallarta, is a treat beyond measure—but I will try to share. I will attempt to take you to this special place full of unselfconscious art and function.

The cobblestone streets are dusty and send fine particulates of powder into the atmosphere causing a fairy-dust-like twinkle in the bright morning light. We bump along in a taxi turning and curving along the circuitous route that surely would lead most to believe what they say—that “this place is so hard to find, it has to be good!!!”

The front is shut and  obviously closed for  business. The taxi driver brings this to our attention, “is closed” he says simply— assuming that he will be continuing along the bumpy calle along the rio back to the bustling scene of the awakening city and return us to our point of earlier departure. PA15821103517

“No,” we tell him “we’re taking a cooking class” “leciones en la cocina” we attempt to convey and with that he beams a broad smile and says “really?” and stops the cab along the wrong side against the opposing traffic on the little street in front of the café.

We notice Lola peeking through the door at us as she unlatches the locks motioning us through and welcoming us as we enter the quiet little checkerboard floored dining room. 20140125_204143At night this place buzzes with animated conversations and is alive with color and funky memorabilia, art and posters, collages of collectibles all on brilliantly painted walls creating an eclectic artistic interior of fun and festivity. But on this morning, the room is dormant save the three other guests waiting to participate in the morning’s class.

After brief introductions we are escorted through a doorway to a narrow concrete staircase. PVR 2011 after girls 1 050 Red Cabbage stairsDaylight streams from above and we ascend past more brilliantly painted walls to a second floor open to the sky onto a patio rimmed with potted herbs and flowering plants. P1120475 To the right we realize that the rest of the space is undercover, yet always exposed to the elements from that one open east-facing orientation.

Inasmuch as I love cooking and eating and all things related to culinary pleasures, this is not the focus of this story, but rather, it is to describe this artfully inspired space and all the raw style and primitive grace we encounter in this wonderfully entertaining class of good and indigenous fresh foods and their fabulous flavors.

The space is charming and intimate and spotless. The colors are screaming from every direction including  a whimsical pink door surround seen over the wall of the patio. P1120522 The surrounding area is quite run-down and depressed, yet this jewel of a creative kitchen space shines boldly amidst the  impoverished surrounds. P1120524

The sky is perfect blue and sharply contrasts against the wavy pink paints dividing between pale and happy bubble gum of the stucco wall. A functioning drain-pipe of clean white PVC bisects the wall beneath which is a profusely blooming rose-colored azalea in a clay pot. P1120523

Panning into the covered portion of the space, the radiant coral color wall wraps to the back and transitions with gracefully wavy detail to a paint remarkably resembling the sky blue—of the actual sky—that we encountered out front which slams into a dazzling yellow-gold wall half painted and half tiled with the same luminous yellow color. And I have only described the backdrop!

 

Against these boldly painted and tiled walls are layers of other things that add even more dimension and interest to the kitchen. Blue and white tableware, glazed clay vessels, and a mysteriously faded poster of Frida Kahlo. More of the sky-like blue is hanging in the form of various sized and shaped enamel cooking pots on the coral wall.

 

The crisp white aprons of the two chefs pop against the background of multi-colors branded with the embroidered red and black logo of Frida with a red cabbage balanced atop her head. P1120487

It seems from the murmurs coming from the eager students that this enchanting environment represents the promise of a flavorful feast of color and texture. The food matches the interior. The stuffing for the dark rich green roasted poblano peppers is a colorful collection of shredded carrots, red cabbage, zucchini, tomatoes, raisins and pine nuts creating a seemingly woven fabric of colors and texture. P1120491

 

The finished product, Chiles en Nogada, represents the Mexican flag of red green and white. Plated here on red glass for an artful presentation. P1120518

Myriad handmade condiment dishes and traditional serving pieces contribute to the collection of color we are experiencing in this spectacular sensory bombardment. And I mean that in a really good way. The intensity of the colors and layering, the structure and accessories right down to the food and its presentation results in an artistic expression that goes way beyond the sterile experience often connected with the laboratory of a commercial cooking experience.

 

So we say—why be status quo when you can be individually fabulous, cooking and creating in an unconventional environment that reflects the animation and joy of the flavors that comprise the artful meals?! Thank you Lola for imagining and realizing the Red Cabbage and bringing so many artful, entertaining years and delicious meals to the community of fortunate residents and happy visitors—happy that they were able to find the place!P1120530

 

 

January 16, 2016

 

It could have been a sculptural piece of drift wood or a gnarly tree branch from the woods or a twisted piece of metal from a salvage yard…but the idea is to see things in a different way and once again—as I have done this before— to make something from nothing. And in this case, with no effort or manipulation—just the natural beauty of the found object.

The tide was out making the beach so wide it was like a great runway of wet sand. Scattered on the surface were the leavings of the waves – pieces of shell and polished stones. There amidst the beautiful debris was what looked like the suggestion of an abandoned boat hull—a dried, darkened palm sheath. I instantly knew, this would be another beginning of the tropical table-scape that I am so fond of creating when we are at the beach. P1110860

“Creating something from nothing,” my father would often say. He was a great believer in that idea that one man’s trash was another man’s treasure. We loved to beach comb together whenever we found ourselves at the tide’s edge. Sometimes it was tropical and the coral was bleached white and pocked with texture. Fine mesh pieces of purple sea fan and perfect little green “hat” shells would be nestled among the dense collections of heavier piles of white coral.

Then other scenes would find us on northern beaches of the Maryland coast where there was no coral but the ocean would wash multi-colored surf-polished stones onto the shore blanketing the sand particularly at the very edge where the water would curl between the beach and the ocean’s depths. Tiny purple and pink clam shells would peek, being abruptly exposed and quickly bury themselves back into the wet sand moistened with  each incoming wave.

On this day, the warm breeze is tropical and the beach is expansive offering rare treasures scattered broadly but sparingly on the pristine surface of sand. It is here that I encountered my centerpiece.

Don of course is saying—”what are you going to do with that? It’s too big. Leave it here.” And I assure him that it is in fact a treasure and that it will be magnificent in the center of our dinner table where we are entertaining 11 for festivities this coming weekend. He, as always, acquiesces knowing that it is futile to stand in the way of my wildly enthusiastic creativity. P1110861 P1110871

Over the next couple of days, he and I both collect white stones and shells on our daily beach walks. At my instruction, we only collect white unless it is a particularly interesting shell. The idea is to have the stark contrast with the dark hull of the palm sheath.P1120142

Our dining table is a handsome slab of travertine marble. Laminated to a double thickness and finely finished with a smooth full bull-nose edge, it is the perfect organic surface to build this also very organic centerpiece.

It needs something…the neutral tones are lovely. Yet, the dark espresso brown of the palm sheath with the white of the stones, against the creamy surface of the travertine invites something more. I realize that it can only be enhanced with another layer of organic material – here in the form of the fresh verdant green palm fronds – the perfect punctuation! P1120102

Oh would that I had collected more flat oyster shell halves…they work so well for votive candle bases…but alas, parrot green cocktail napkins will have to do for this last minute detail.

Our woven palm place mats, in their natural dried flaxen color, compliment the rest of the organics on our table. And as night falls, the sun drops beneath the sea’s horizon and twinkle of scattered candles finish our scene. Salud!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Joel Roberts Poinsett for bringing this brilliant red and green explosion of color and such a perfect plant to represent the colors of the Christmas season to our northern climes! Upon learning that today was National Poinsettia Day, I set forth to learn a bit about why…P1110598

You too can Google it, but in a nutshell, back in the early 1800s, this observant amateur botanist was our first Ambassador to the new Republic of Mexico! Not to mention, his day job was that of a doctor and a soldier! Busy well-rounded guy it seems!

Poinsett sent cuttings of this spectacular and exotic flowering plant from where he was visiting in the Taxco region of Mexico, to his home in Charleston, South Carolina. Once he returned to Charleston, he spread the joy and sent other clippings of his magnificent discovery to friends including a Mr. Buist in Philadelphia who gave a piece to Mr. James McNab who took it to the Botanical Garden of Edinburgh, Scotland founded in 1670. (From “Paxton’s Magazine of Botany” 1837)

The initial botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima was actually assigned by a German botanist, Wilenow, in 1833, but within 4 years it was renamed Poinsettia Pucherrima by William Hickling Prescott a historian and gardener who had been asked, by someone in authority, to rename it. He did so by selecting to honor Joel Poinsett for his numerous achievements in both government and horticulture.

This dramatic flowering plant comes in many colors – the familiar and original red to creamy off-whites, chartreuse, pinks and various variegated versions such as this fabulous marbled specimen called strawberries and cream.strawberries n cream poinsettia

Poinsett retired from his career in public service as Secretary of War in 1841. He became one of the founders of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful – which later became the Smithsonian Institute. I was born in D.C. and raised inside the Beltway and never knew that the Smithsonian which was a memorably mandatory field trip nearly every year of my childhood, was originally named the wordy National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful – but it certainly describes it all in one fell swoop!!

There are many legends and folk stories centering around this “flor de Nochebuena” in Mexico but the thread of this story that has personal interest to me is that the same poinsettia cutting taken to Edinburgh by James McNab is still producing and flowering annually in the Royal Botanical Garden in Scotland to this day.

As I read this history, I was excited about this remarkable tracing of the original cuttings.  In our family we have what my grandmother , Dee Dee, always referred to as “the family cactus.” This rounded, smooth leafed variation (some have pointy, spiked leaves)with its hot pink blooms is our cactus.P1110601

Dee Dee, Anna Ives Wagner, was born in 1892 in Youngstown, New York.  She arrived at our house to live with us in the late 1950s. She brought with her a very special plant. It was a cutting off of the original plant that was in her ancestral home – the Root Home, Twin Pines – 830 River Road – then Main Street, Youngstown.

Dee Dee remembered that plant from her childhood and had heard from her mother and aunts that it was there in theirs as well – which without complicated math puts it in the house since the mid 1800s. Unfortunately we don’t know when it started…but the house dates back to our great, great, great grandfather, Dr. Benjamin Root c.1840. The house stayed in our family, passing finally to my  grandmother’s aunt Helen Root who lived there with an original cutting of the plant until the 1950s when she moved to Elmira with her niece and her husband, Edith and Ray Hulbert.

We grew-up with the family cactus bursting forth with wild fuscia blooms every fall into winter. It was always an exciting and exotic flowering extravaganza in the colder dark months of the season. It brought a sense of life, growth, and color that was a spectacular contrast to the otherwise drab, dull, dormancy of winter.P1110609

I guard my plants, given to me as a cutting by Dee Dee when I first moved to New Mexico, with great responsibility and appreciation.

Last year my Mother’s large family cactus withered before our very eyes…she was so protective of it that she perhaps neglected to give it new soil and nutrients instead favoring watering a bit too much which  resulted in its demise. As she witnessed and worried about the failing plant, we carefully cultivated clippings and as weak and depleted as they were – nurtured them in water losing a couple but saving a few so that they now are flourishing in a clay pot in a window with the soft daylight of  northern exposure displaying a resiliency, hope, and celebration of life that continues to greet each day. Perhaps  metaphors for procreation, family traditions, aging in place…

My mother is 93 and her mother, Dee Dee, lived to be three weeks shy of her 101st birthday.

Joel Poinsett died on December 12, 1851 at the age of 72 – one hundred and sixty four years ago today! Happy Poinsettia Day!! Merry Christmas Joel Poinsett!

 

 

A True Beach House…

January 13, 2014

The soft diaphanous salt air wafts through the open concept of this simple yet effective architectural design – would that it had gauze draping the sides to illustrate the motion of the ever so soft breeze. Thatch top still green from the recent construction, sturdy crooked legs like that of the broken men who braved the seas and might have found themselves beached here to build this primitive, yet artistic structure. It was picture perfectly inspired dwelling on this glorious tropical day.

Here we are lolly-gagging along…shelling, exercising, making our way across this pristine stretch of fine sand exaggerated in girth by the low tide that allows the seemingly unrestrained beach to read with expanded proportions when we come upon this precious little structure.

What a find! When you least expect it, you often encounter the best opportunities – like this one – strolling down the beach and encountering this creative little casita – beachfront for sure – organic, open and airy!!! Surfers? Nomads? The possible stories of our imagination are limitless within the physical parameters of this delightful discovery.

The roof allows filtered light in and open sides allow the sea breeze to flow through…organic material used to create these authentic and so very contextual furnishings speak volumes about the focus of the fabricators. Nestled against the out-cropping of jungle trees and wild flowers spilling onto the sand, the scene is more magical than Gilligan’s – maybe even more so that Robinson Crusoe!!  Tom Hanks would have thought he had stumbled into the Ritz! Yet, the simplicity of it all was the emphasis of less is more – spare and understated – it pared down the essential elements to create this special little one room accommodation.

The furnishings are minimalist – yet so very functional. The sofa is crafted from a log supported, and suspended above the beach sand – quite comfortable and ergonomic as a seat structure. A triad coffee table is comprised from three logs topped with three handsome flat stones. Perfect!  And a sculptural,  beautiful branch of driftwood sits off to the side reminding us that beauty without function is essential.

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Take a walk in the woods…of into the fields…onto a wild untamed beach and discover the natural elements that were the primitive beginnings of our interior design – the modified native habitats that we reside in today. And see that stretch!!!!! Evolution can reverse its course as we investigate and appreciate the value and beauty in simple things…

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