Monday, January 31, 2011

Zoe from Tampa

This is Zoe.  This painting was a commissioned piece.  I had to work from photographs as she lives in the warm Florida sun.  I can't speak to Zoe's character as we are not acquainted, but if I were judging on her eyes, I would guess she's rather sweet.
I enjoy painting pet portraits and I'm always struck by the frequency with which dogs have made their way into art through many years.  A basic query for "dog" in the Art Institute of Chicago collection data base results in 128 pieces.  This prevalence seems to speak to the long time curiosity and affection of people have with these animals.  

Why do you think people are so drawn to canines?

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Other Projects

Preparing for Bicycle Season
During the spring, summer, and fall months, virtually all of my transportation in Chicago is done via bicycle.  This past summer, in particular, I rode on the lakefront trail from my northside home to Grand Avenue dozens of times and made longer trips to Hyde Park, Oak Park, and the Chicago Botanic Garden.  There is so much to love about city cycling--it's great exercise, really fun, and, particularly at night, comes with a sense of exhilerating freedom.  Chicago's flat terrain coupled with a fair number of bike lanes make it relatively bike friendly.     

That said, it can be rather treacherous, at must be constantly looking out for drivers opening car doors into bike lanes, cars merging unexpectedly in front of cyclists, and a myriad of other hazards.  

These last several weeks my bicycling has been curtailed by low temperatures, as well as lots of snow and ice.  So, I've been engaging in a popular Chicago winter past-time: daydreaming about summer.  I was delighted to come accross this "Magnetic Yellow Card, cyclist-intervention."  It was designed in 2004 by Peter Hopkins Miller, an artist and filmmaker, living and making work in Vienna/Chicago.

Peter has generously provide this pdf of the Magnetic Yellow Card and made the project open source, meaning that anyone can make own magnets. So, you can self-produce as many magnets as you would like (though you must attribute any authorship of the work to Peter and you may not reproduce the work for commercial purposes).  Vistaprint will print these magnets very affordably, so why not pass those cold winter days by preparing for the upcoming cycling season.  While your at it, check out the safety is sexy campaign which my friend Lauren started, perhaps you've seen the "You'd be hotter in a helmet" stickers associated with her campaign. 

What's your favorite bicycle campaign?
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Featured Artist

Butcherooney  is a newly retired union carpenter, living in the Pacific Northwest.  He discovered junk!  Garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores, auctions, junk stores, and junk yards are some of his favorite places.  He says that his worst day of creating things have been better than his best working days.
Beesley, found object sculpture, Butcherooney
What inspired you to make your first found object creation? 
I was surfing on the internet one day and came across a site that displayed "yard art". There are always lots of links to click on and one thing lead to another. Pretty soon I honed in on something that interested me and realized, "Hey! I could do that!" Within a short time I had a few of these things in my own yard and I began to get some good feedback from friends and family (I emailed them the pictures) and that encouraged me to keep creating.  Not only is it fun it has a certain therapeutic quality associated with it.
Coalman, found object sculpture, Butcherooney
What have you found to be the best sources of “junk” for your creations?
The best sources are mentioned below in my bio, but to really get to the actual "source" I would say the junk itself. Let me explain. For instance I bought an old Bell and Howell movie projector at a humane society thrift store. It had a treasure trove of "parts" for creating robots, etc. So that is the absolute best- the junk itself, ie; sewing machines, typewriters, mechanical devices, just whatever. 
Queenie, found object sculpture, Butcherooney
Do you typically have the idea for a character in mind and search for the pieces to make it or do the objects you find inspire the characters?
Actually, the objects I find inspire the characters. In my shop I have a wall that has several hundreds of pieces of "junk". I call it the "creation wall" because I am always scanning that wall for "body parts". Every once in a while though I do get to a point where I wish I had something else to complete my creation and will go hunting for just the right piece. Truthfully, going shopping is just as fun as creating.
Slick- The Banker, found object sculpture, Butcherooney
Are any of your characters inspired by real-life people or animals?
No. While they may be in the likeness of a human or animal they were not inspired in that way. 

Many thanks to Butch for sharing his wonderful work!  Be sure to check out more of his creations.

What do you think these found object creations?
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Custom Wedding Maps

I recently completed this custom wedding map for a couple who will marry this fall.  They purchased my Birds on a Wire wedding invitations in "creamsicle" orange and I designed this map which was printed on the back of their invitation.  
I really enjoy designing maps or even just sketching a quick map on a napkin.  As a visually- oriented person I am drawn to create graphic depictions of my city and the places I visit.  As an architect, I'm interested in the spacial relationships created in urban and rural environments.   Also, maps often just look really great!  There was a tremendous exhibit of maps at the Field Museum several years ago that featured some amazing maps, check out some of the beautiful maps!
What are some of your favorite maps?
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Detail: El Capitan Theater

With love, to mauve? Gallery
This small painting features Mexcian Baroque architectural details of the El Capitan Theater in San Francisco.  It will be donated to the fundraising efforts of mauve? Gallery, located in Berkeley, California.  mauve? is run by Tarak Shah and featured artist, Sabina Nieto.   
mauve? is an small art gallery located in an empty cubicle in a typical office building--brilliant idea right!  Wouldn't it be wonderful if micro-galleries dotted the empty cubicles which are ever present in offices across our country.  Shah and Nieto report that the people working in the office in which mauve? is housed are researchers, data analysts and IT workers.  Though, at first blush, this environment might seem inhospitable to art, the reception has been quite warm, with the occupants of the office appreciative of art and even reporting their own forays into art production.  I was extraordinarily pleased to exhibit work at mauve? in 2009.   

mauve? is currently endeavoring to print a commemorative publication, "mauve? Journal," which will feature essays and images from their first two years.  They are aiming to print 1,000 copies which will be distributed at mauve? and other storefronts.  In the spirit of public radio stations across the country, your donation comes with a "thank you gift."  These gifts range from a copy of the publication, "a scheduled reading of your scars, via our practiced art of ouleimancy," a Yi-Jing tattoo, a love letter, and a piece of art work from a past exhibited mauve? artist. So, why not visit their kickstarter page to make a donation.  

Can you imagine a micro-gallery in your workplace?  
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Other Projects

Listening to This American Life
I don't really watch a whole lot of TV, but I am rather fond of a few radio programs.  This American Life is among my favorites.  I love that the This American Life website has an archive of every episode, so I thought I would a few of my favorites with you.
Going Big
Paul Tough reports on the Harlem Children's Zone, and its CEO and president, Geoffrey Canada. Among the project's many facets is Baby College, an 8-week program where young parents and parents-to-be learn how to help their children get the education they need to be successful. Tough';s just-published book about Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem's Children Zone is called Whatever It Takes. You can see a slideshow of more photographs from the project here.

The Harlem Children Zone's Jeffrey Canada was also prominately featured in a recent education documentary: Waiting for Superman, which was rather interesting as well.

My Pen Pal
The story of a ten-year-old girl from small town Michigan named Sarah York, and how she became pen pals with a man who was considered an enemy of the United States, a dictator, a drug trafficker, and a murderer: Manuel Noriega.

Break Up
In the wake of a break-up, writer Starlee Kine finds so much comfort in break-up songs that she decides to try and write one herself—even though she has no musical ability whatsoever. For some help, she goes to a rather surprising expert on the subject: Phil Collins.

Stories pitched by our parents
After listening to this episode, I was endlessly amused by saying, "She was a good lay........dy."

Fear of Sleep
Mike Birbiglia is a really entertaining story teller and the science is rather interesting.  I was fascinated by the fact that normal bodies produce a chemical which paralyzes us during sleep, preventing us from acting out our dreams.

What are your favorite radio programs?
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Featured Artist

Anna See
After often being admonished for “being all over the place,” Anna See finally realized that it’s okay to challenge yourself and explore, and that versatility can be a strength.  Her many interests and love of all kinds of art is evident and she hopes to continue to explore the different avenues the art field has to offer. Anna currently resides in Pasadena, CA, where she graduated from Art Center College of Design with Honors, works at UCLA Center X as a graphic designer, and is currently open to freelance opportunities. Most recently, her work will soon be carried by Urban Outfitters.
The Raccoons,  5" x 7",  Cut Tissue Paper,  Ink,  Linocut,  Hand-pulled print,  Anna See,  2010
Given your varied artistic interests, have you found yourself particularly inspired by a particular medium recently?
I've become obsessed with tissue paper and just handmade papers in general. I'm fascinated by non-traditional mediums, and have been using tissue paper (the kind you wrap gifts/clothes with) in my shoe block prints for some time now. More recently, I've transitioned to scanning it and using it in my digital work.
Great Horned Owl, 5" x 7", Oil Paint, Linocut, Hand-pulled print, Anna See, 2009
A large number of your illustrations feature birds, including their silly antics and those you see in Southern California.  Is there something in particular that draws your to illustrate birds?
Living in the urban sprawl that is LA, I find that it's often hard to witness wildlife/nature firsthand, unless I make an effort to. Birds are something I encounter on a day-to-day basis -- viewed from my car while stuck in traffic, walking to the store, at the park, etc. No matter where you are, you will always find some kind of bird and I find that comforting. In general, I'm drawn to all kinds of "wild" creatures that come in to regular contact with human beings (squirrels, insects, possums, etc.) as this often urban human-to-animal relationship really interests me.
Christian Louboutin Anemone Pumps, 5" x 7", Cut Tissue Paper, Ink, Linocut, Hand-pulled print, Anna See, 2010
Do you have any goals or resolutions related your art for 2011?
I'd love to explore how my art can translate to different applications -- clothing, home goods, etc and would like to somehow get my art out there to a wider audience. First, I need to get better at actually finishing my many projects! I'd also like to chance pursuing my work full-time (God-willing)!!
Siamese Twins, 8.5" x 11", Scanned Papers, Ink, Digital, Anna See, 2010
Many thanks to Anna for sharing her fantastic work.  Be sure to check out more of her work.

What do you think of Anna's prints?
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Save the Date Cards

Meridian House
I had the recent delight of designing a custom save the date card for a couple who will wed at the Meridian House in Washington, D.C.  The beautiful building was designed by John Russell Pope and  includes a formal garden area.
This design features the Linden Grove, which is canopied by 80-year Linden trees.  The trees were a gift from the French ambassador to Meridian's builder.  The marble fountain brought from Italy when the house was constructed is also included in this image.  The Meridian House and its gardens strike me as a quick a charming setting for a wedding celebration.  

What have been the most charming settings of weddings you've attended?
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Ireland Postcard Paintings

These two paintings are postcard paintings, literally.  Winsor & Newton and other watercolor paper manufacturers sell pads of postcard size watercolor paper, with one side pre-printed with spaces for the recipient address and a message.  These postcard pads are great for making quick sketch paintings while traveling.  
These two paintings are quick sketches I made while traveling in Ireland this fall.  The Catholic Church in Adare was once the Trinitarian Abbey, which was founded in 1230. It was restored in the 19th century.  My friends Jaime and Tom were married there an it was an absolutely beautiful place for a small wedding.  It felt intimate and steeped in history!  
 With a history spanning back to the 1840s, the Limerick Milk Market (formerly the Corn Market) continues to thrive today.  Since June of last year, the market was redeveloped as an all-weather, all year round market space, accommodating major markets on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  I was highly impressed with the variety and quality of stalls at the market, including produce, bakeries, cheese/meat, and prepared food vendors.  I stumbled into the market, while I waited for my rented bike and found it a delightful place to meander and nibble the afternoon away.

What are you favorite farmer's markets?  
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Other Projects

Watching TED Talks
Do you know TED?  The TED website describes itself as follows, "TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences -- the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK each summer -- TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and Open TV Project, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize."

There are 100s of TED Talks available on their website.  I've watched dozens of them and am almost always inspired by the innovative ideas shared through these videos.      

This video about Natalie Jeremijenko's unusual lab was especially fascinating.  I found her efforts to put art to work, and addresses environmental woes by combining engineering know-how with public art and a team of volunteers really exciting. These real-life experiments include: Walking tadpoles, texting "fish," planting fire-hydrant gardens and more!
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Friday, January 14, 2011

Featured Artist

Mark Mardirosian
Mark Mardirosian recently retired from a career as an Architect and has enjoyed having time to devote to his passion for the creation of art from everyday objects. He defines his work as Bricolage, a term used in several disciplines, among them the visual arts and literature, to refer to the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process.
Where does the term bricolage come from?
The term is borrowed from the French word bricolage, from the verb bricoler, the core meaning in French being, "fiddle, tinker" and, by extension, "to make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose)". 
Rose Birdhouse, bricolage, Mark Mardirosian, 2010
Where do you find the objects used in your work and what influences the form of your pieces?
My art takes the form of usable objects that I reinvigorate and redefine using discarded everyday familiar objects, ephemera and castoffs of the past as a palette for my work. I think of myself as an urban hunter-gatherer and assemble materials from a variety of sources. I am constantly on the lookout for the unusual as well as the mundane and my family and friends share the search. My architectural background has a strong influence on the direction and complexity of my work which has taken the form of bird houses, boxes and furniture
Tampon Dispenser, bricolage, Mark Mardirosian, 2009
How do you you describe your work?
My work can be nostalgic, historical, or just plain whimsical, juxtaposing memories and knickknacks that are castoffs of everyday activities. I am a lifelong Detroiter, although currently living in Grosse Pointe Park, consequently much of my work will contain objects and memories of forgotten Detroit. I aspire to make people smile as they catch something familiar from their own personal history
Bottle Cap Men, bricolage, Mark Mardirosian, 2008
Many thanks to Mark for sharing his wonderful work!  You can see more of Mark's work at the City Bird and at Paint Creek Center for the Arts.  Also, be sure to visit his blog.
Decorated Cigar Boxes, bricolage, Mark Mardirosian, 2009 
What do you think of Mark's creations?
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wedding Invitation

Olive Branch
When I think of some of the most beautiful places I've visited: the Peloponnese Peninsula in Greece, the rolling countryside around Pocuro, Chile, the Tuscan hills, there are a few things that bind these environments together.  They are mild climates ideal for growing grapes for wine, as well as olives for eating and for olive oil.
In designing invitations I'm often seeking imagery associated with beautiful places.  Not only that, the leaves on olive branches are a wonderful shade of cool green and olives a warm green and shiny black jewels!  Paired with the symbolism of the olive branch as a sign of peace, the olive branch seems quite a delightful image to accompany a ceremony to celebrate nuptials. 
And, as if all of that was not enough, they are delicious.  I often buy olives in bulk from Harvestime in Chicago and make this Tapenade recipe (delicious on foccacia). 
Tapenade (Caper Olive Paste) 
Recipe from Joy of Cooking: All About Vegetarian
Combine in food processor:
2 cups black olives, preferably oil cured, pitted
3 tablespoons drained capers
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons brandy or fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, coursely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Pulse until the mixture is still course but of a uniform consistency.

What's your favorite olive recipe?
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Meet Oscar!

Meet Oscar!  Oscar is an eleven-year-old Jack Russell Terrier.  He has a few design flaws, like an unfortunate tendency toward excessive barking at strangers.  
He has some rather endearing qualities, however.  Particularly, he is extraordinarily affectionate, rather intelligent, and quite gentle.  I must say on the whole, he is rather an agreeable fellow.
Who is your favorite pet?
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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Other Projects

Documenting an Artist's Family Tree
While visiting my parents recently, I was thinking a good bit about our familial history as artists.  I delight in the knowledge that my one of Great-Grandmothers, Emma, was an accomplished painter.  It is somehow thrilling to feel connected by interest and accomplishment to a family member that I never had the opportunity to know.  Emma seems to have been rather a prolific painter, as there are many dozens of painted ceramic pieces that ended up in my Grandparent's home, as well as stories of the reproductions she created of Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough and Pinkie by Thomas Lawrence (the originals are a part of the permanent collection at the Huntington Art Gallery in Pasadena).
In considering, the connection to artists with whom I am related, I concluded that the members of my immediate family, who had a more direct influence on my development, are extraordinarily creative in their own right.  My parents between the two of them have studied or practiced at graphic design, architecture, pottery, painting, woodworking, quilting, knitting and figure drawing (and probably other artistic subjects of which I am unaware).  Though my father's professional path was in manufacturing management, they are both accomplished as designers and artists.  Growing up, this had a profound effect on the quality of my school projects.  My mother provided tutelage in layout, lettering, and shading, which resulted in science fair boards and graphics for book reports, which likely far exceeded the level of work expected of an elementary school student.  After I expressed an interested in architecture, my father educated me in making pencil sketches of buildings using perspective.  
Particularly in my young life, they both quietly undertook a variety of creative endeavors, many of which resulted in usable objects.  My dad designed and built the crib that my sister and I used, in addition to a changing table, coffee table, display shelves, toy storage shelves, bird house, and serving trays.  My mom embroidered clothes for us, designed and executed a quilted playhouse (4 beautiful panels held together by a dowel rod frame, which my Dad constructed), and designed beautiful birth announcements and birthday invitations.  In addition, she volunteered many hundreds of hours at our schools: advising students in the design of yearbooks, designing beautiful signs for our pre-school, undertaking a project which involved painting billboard sized letters that spelled out "thank you," and many other assorted projects.  
Given these ongoing creative endeavors, it's no wonder that my sister and I took on some tendency toward creativity.  My sister, who is extraordinarily attentive to detail has created beautiful ceramics and sews and knits beautiful bags, scarfs, and blankets.  I really enjoyed taking these snapshots and pondering my family tree from an different perspective.    
What have you "inherited" from your family?
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Friday, January 7, 2011

Featured Artist

Annette Haines
Annette Haines is an artist living in Plymouth, Michigan. She holds an Associates Degree in Commercial Illustration from the Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan. She also holds a Masters degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University. Annette recently exhibited work in a group show entitled “From There to Here: the A&D International Exhibit” at the Slusser Gallery in Ann Arbor, MI.
Lake Michigan Sky, watercolor, Annette Haines, 2009
About Annette, in her own words...
I am a librarian and an artist. These two aspects of my life are intricately connected and feed one another.
Night Sky, Canada Lakes, woodblock print, 8"x9 1/2," Annette Haines, 2010
As an artist, I enjoy working with transparent watercolor pigments, which allow the whiteness and texture of the cotton rag paper to show through. I am fascinated with the connection paper has to nature, history, and books. I also like the dichotomy of paper as a material that will last for centuries and stretch as tight as a drum, yet also a one that can be torn to shreds or burned in an instant. Watercolor paint is the perfect complement to paper. I am mesmerized by it’s transparency, brilliance, and flow. Its unpredictable nature forces me to let go of control and work with the medium rather than force it.
A Walk With Henry, woodblock print, 7 3/8"x 14 1/4," Annette Haines, 2010
I am also experimenting with other media such as Japanese woodblock printing and bookmaking. I am attracted to the Japanese style of woodblock printing in part because it uses watercolors instead of oil-based inks. The style also meshes nicely with bookmaking. As a librarian I have a natural affinity for the book – its beauty, functionality and power. I am also learning to stretch the definition of a book and how it can be translated into alternative media such as video or sculpture. For example, I have begun work on a series of shrines. Making shrines is my way of creating visual poetry – something in between bookmaking and sculpture. My shrines are hopeful prayers offered up to those who are close to me as well as those whom I can only hold in my heart.
Bittersweet, woodblock print, 4"x6," Annette Haines, 2009 
Many thanks to Annette for sharing her work and bit about her inspiration.

What do you think of Annette's nature inspired paintings and prints?
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wedding Invitation

I have always been rather taken with the delicate, graceful shape and composition of orchids. The petals appear to be arranged with great intention and with subtle bursts of color.  Not surprisingly, they are often used as wedding flowers and seemed an ideal image for this new invitation.
During the winter in Chicago, it is a delight to escape into one of the city's conservatories to enjoy the orchid collections, tropical plants and warmth.  The Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Garfield Park Conservatory, in Chicago, both offer extraordinary collections.  In addition to a beautiful collection of plants, the Garfield Park Conservatory held a beautiful exhibit of Dale Chihuly glass in 2001 and 2002 called A Garden of Glass.  A group of Chicago businessmen were so enthralled with A Garden of Glass that they raised several hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire the Persian Lilies for permanent installation in the Aroid House.

What are your favorite conservatories and gardens?
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Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

While making this painting of a frozen lake I was thinking of what Andrew's Wyeth has written about fall and winter, "I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show."  

I have a similar feeling about the winter months.  Our emotions and our perceptions of the world around us seem just a bit clearer, a bit crisper, and perhaps a bit closer to surface, without the lushness of the summer foliage.  In creating this image, I enjoyed the beauty of the dawn light bathing the frozen lake as it cracks dramatically.   

Wishing you the freshness of a new year and delight in feeling "the bone structure of the landscape!"
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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Other Projects

Exploring Kansas City Restaurants
First, I recommend that before reading this post, that you start "Kansas City" by Fats Domino playing.  It's a really fun song that rattles around in my head every time I make my way to Kansas City. 

I had never been to Kansas City until my parents moved to the area about five years ago.  Since then, I've been making visits to Kansas City, Missouri and have found it be quite a lovely little city.  I find myself quite charmed by the city's fountains (it's nicknamed City of Fountains because there are over 200 fountains in the city), the Christmas Lights in the Plaza District, some beautiful architecture, and great neighborhoods like the Crossroads Arts DistrictOf course, I consider food to be one of the great pleasures in life, so when exploring a new city, I am eager to explore the restaurants.  I thought I would share a couple of my favorites for your next visit to Kansas City.
Restaurants that appeal to me, when exploring a new city, tend to be a combination of good food, interesting neighborhoods, and charming ambiance. Blue Bird Bistro in the Westside neighborhood (1700 Summit Street) fits that bill. It is a small restaurant in a quaint old building on the corner of Summit Street and 17th Street. Blue Bird uses local, seasonal food in their dishes. The green curry is among my favorites, which is a house prepared curry with local potatoes,onions, organic carrots and mushrooms simmered in organic coconut milk, served over organic seasoned rice. I'm also rather fond of the roasted salmon benedict, which is roasted salmon on an organic english muffin and organic spinach topped with hollandaise with Menno Brennerman butter and Campo lindo Farm poached eggs - delicious.
The other restaurant that I really enjoy is the Blue Koi in the Westport neighborhood (1803 W. 39th Street). If you sit at the bar, you can watch chefs at work, which is great fun. I find the delicate flavor of the vegetarian noodle soup really enticing. The quality ingredients and the fresh, homemade preparation make the noodle soups quite a delight.
Bon Appetit!  Do you have a favorite dining establishment in Kansas City?
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