58. The Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis in Forest Park. This theater company customarily stages free outdoor productions by the Bard to great acclaim, so pack a blanket or lawn chair now. This year, near nightly for the better part of a month starting May 21, plumb the darkest depths of villainy in Richard III.
How cool is St. Louis that they have a free Shakespeare Festival every year in Forest Park? I say, very cool. This year we finally attended because I was actually willing to see a comedy and not some tragedy or historical play. The evening was beautiful, we had an awesome spread of food in front of us and it was Friday, a great start to the weekend. We even had a prime spot, where we could see the stage until this happened:
I would like to introduce you to Dumbass Couple #1 and Dumbass Couple #2. They actually looked back at us, saw that we were sitting on blankets and proceeded to put their chairs up right there. Yep, that was the view that I had of the stage after they sat down. So, I ended up listening to most of the play, with a few peeks in between the chairs. If it wasn’t such fabulous weather and my belly wasn’t full of yummy cheese, I would have been in a much grumpier mood. I just laid back and enjoyed the stars.
I must say, it was a fun experience but I don’t think I will do it again unless the Festival bans the use of lawn chairs or has a designated area for them because they really can ruin someone’s evening.
Friday night, Jen, Kim, Kate and I went down to the St. Louis Art Museum to take in the Ming Dynasty Exhibit. The exhibition had been running for a while and was nearing its end, and with Fridays bringing free admittance, we figured it was perfect timing. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures, so allow me to describe the evening the old fashioned way. We got up there around 5:45 or so and were able to walk right in. Crowds came out later in the evening, so this is a great time to visit. Strangely, there weren’t many Asians visiting the Asian art exhibit. Either they aren’t that interested, or they didn’t procrastinate until the very end like SOME people.
The exhibition was huge and diverse: scrolls, paintings, sculpture, textiles, tools, ceramics, and even architectural ornaments were all included. When you take into account the idea that these things are all al least 400 years old, just the fact that they were preserved in such exquisite condition is amazing enough. The colors of many of the scrolls are just as vivid as they must have been on day one. My favorite piece was a 30-foot scroll that depicted the emperor playing sports on the fields of the castle. Turns out, the Chinese played golf back in the day… who knew? Jen was a big fan of the jewelry. The amazing craftsmanship and intricacy of the pieces was breathtaking and the purity of the gold made for blinding bling. The porcelain pieces were really nice as well.
After the exhibit, we went to Llywellyn’s in the Central West End for dinner because it was a beautiful night and we wanted to sit outside. We scored a nice table on the sidewalk, and with the exception of a karaoke DJ thinking it’s OK to get the party started with “Tears In Heaven”, the night was perfect. The food there was good and a couple beers went a long way towards putting my mind at ease. Afterwards, we went to Left Bank Books to support local booksellers and visit Spike the Cat. Then, while I was dropping our purchases off at the car, Jen and the girls enjoyed the various street performers. The best was the fire twirling girls:
With it still being a beautiful evening, we strolled down Euclid to the gelato joint next to Culpepper’s. I had half chocolate, half coconut. It tasted like a Mounds bar. I could have added Almond, but I wasn’t feeling like a nut. All in all, a good time and a great night to be outside.
Now, can you really call it brunch when you eat at 9AM and they are only serving breakfast foods? Because the title sounds so much better that way instead of “Bike-n-Breakfast.” See? Okay, so that’s not the point. The point is that a couple of weeks ago, Katie, Bob and I got our bikes our for the first time in 2009 and attended an organized ride at Creve Coeur Park which took us all the way to the Little Hills Winery in Old Town St. Charles. The day was perfect for a spring bike ride, it was a bit on the chilly side at 7:30AM Saturday morning but we made it through. When we got to the Lake House, we did notice that the group skewed toward the older crowd but there were a smattering of families with children.
Once everyone was gathered, we were off…very slowly. I know that it’s been a while since I’ve ridden a bike but come on! I guess I now understood why the group was older. Of course I wasn’t looking for a road race but really, I could have walked faster than that. At that pace, though, I was able to enjoy the scenery around me, I looked left and I looked right and only a couple of times did I almost veer off into a ditch.
Once we got to the Little Hills Winery, they had a buffet set up with fruit, waffles, biscuits and gravy, an omelet bar, etc. We got our food and sat outside, enjoying the patio overlooking the streets of Old Town St. Charles. It was really a peaceful setting and we figured out that we can totally do this on our own because they offer this buffet every Saturday and Sunday. Nice!
Afterward, the ranger said that we could split up and so we did because I needed to explore Tartan Day! I mean, men in kilts throwing stones, period costumes, border collies herding sheep, wooden swords, what more of an excuse do you need to attend this spectacle? Oh, it was also free.
I see London, I see France, I can see your underpants!
Click here for all the photos.
63. Watch a big show at the Fox. The Rockettes started on Grand, not in Gotham. Learn that and more when you tour the over-the-top Fox Theatre—from the old projection booth to the stars’ dressing rooms. Plan your tour on one of the days that Stan Kann comes to tickle the organ ivories. To finish it Fox-style, return later for a show straight off Broadway after a buffet dinner in the Griffin Room.
Saturday night, we headed down to the Fabulous Fox with some of our friends to check out Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy.
We decided to make an evening out of it and had dinner first at Vito’s, an Italian restaurant right around the corner from the theatre. Katie had been there once before and recommended it (it serves gelato, her weakness). The food was delicious. I ordered a pizza, since pizza is what it’s known for, and Bob ordered the seafood ravioli. His ravioli was wonderful and I would recommend the pizza to anyone. The only problem I had with the restaurant was the lack of service. The server came by with our drinks then disappeared for a long while. Once he took our orders and served them to us, he disappeared another long period of time. Not an attentive server. Good thing I made the reservations for 5:45pm and the show started at 8:00pm. We were definitely there until about 7:30pm.
I can describe the show in one word: fantastic! I loved it. Now, Cirque Dreams IS NOT Cirque du Soleil. They are two different companies but really, they do similar things. I’ve never had the opportunity to see a Cirque du Soleil show but that’s okay. Cirque Dreams was funny, beautiful, artistic and acrobatic. The costumes and set design had such vivid colors, the acrobatics were incredible and the artistry was breathtaking. You should see this show, the most expensive tickets were $68, so much cheaper than Cirque du Soleil. One question though: what the hell are unicorns doing in the jungle?
And of course, we had to end the evening with dessert back at Vito’s. I think that may be my new ritual after an evening at the Fox, some gelato.
We’ve been doing a lot of cooking this past year and I’ve noticed that my cheap knives needed quite a bit of sharpening since they really can’t slice through a tomato anymore without squishing it. Katie had recommended Bertarelli Cutlery on the Hill, it’s apparently THE place that restaurants get their knives sharpened at and it’s only $3/knife. Well, heck, we might as well make it a morning adventure and hit the sights while we were there.
39. Hang out on the Hill: Drink the two-shot Italian-roast latte at Shaw’s Coffee, Ltd., watch old-timers play bocce ball at Milo’s Bocce Garden, buy the salame that made John Volpi famous at old-world Italian market J. Viviano & Sons, stop for chocolate drops at Missouri Baking Company, dine fancy at Dominic’s or, if it’s nice, on the patio at Charlie Gitto’s. Stop by Zia’s for at least one plate of toasted ravioli with marinara (their secret: more meat, less pasta). Genuflect at St. Ambrose to gain the patience to wait for a table at Cunetto’s House of Pasta. Or fall back on a gorgonzola bacon pizza and an icy fishbowl of beer at Rigazzi’s. You’d need reservations for the real pièce de résistance: the lobster risotto at Trattoria Marcella (southwest of the Hill proper, but no matter). Remember Hill baby Yogi Berra’s warning, “It’s so crowded nobody goes there anymore”? Everybody does go to Trattoria Marcella.
Well, we took their advice and off we went. After dropping off the knives, Katie, Bob and I stopped in Shaw’s Coffee for a little something to warm us up before walking the streets of the Hill.
We then headed up to Guido’s for lunch. I know that it wasn’t one of the restaurants mentioned, but I really enjoy Guido’s and they are Italian AND Spanish! I mean, come on, you have to eat there, it’s a great place. After gorging ourselves on pizza, we walked over to J. Viviano & Sons, an Italian market, just to check things out. I didn’t buy anything because I was full, but I will remember them if I ever need fancy Italian cheeses and salami. From there we went to the Missouri Baking Company.
Oh. My. Goodness. Everything in there looked AMAZING! I wanted to try every single pastry that was there but I limited myself to an Italian Boot (tee-hee) and a custard-filled puff. Delicious.
This was the first time that I had ever been down on the Hill in the daylight, usually we are there for dinner only. It was a lot of fun just seeing what is down there, I will make sure to make a trip down there again once the weather warms up. Thumbs up for the Hill!