Ganna Walska Lotusland, MOCA and The Bazaar Saam

Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
Trip End Oct 14, 2011

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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, June 2, 2011

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I made a mistake when I planned my trip. I thought that Ganna Walska Lotusland was closer to Los Angeles than it is. It's in Santa Barbara close to where I stayed when I went to Channel Islands National Park. I should have gone there last week. Anyway, I had to get up early and make the two-hour drive in order to get there in time for my tour.

Ganna Walska Lotusland is a garden that was created by a Polish opera singer and socialite names Ganna Walska. She bought the property in 1941 and spent the next 43 years planting the gardens. She died in 1984. The gardens opened to the public in 1993. You must make a reservation for one of their twice-daily tours in order to visit.

Santa Barbara has a Mediterranean climate, making it possible to grow a wide variety of plants. Most, or at least many, of the plants are exotic species from around the world. The gardens have some of the world's best collections of cycads, cacti, palms and euphorbias. They also have nine bronze sculptures of giant ants done by Susan P. Cochran, which looked nice in the flower beds around the parking lot but I was told they'd be leaving soon. The tour lasted about two hours.

I then drove to the Museum of Contemporary Art aka MOCA. The museum has two locations that are within walking distance of each other. I parked in the garage in the Walt Disney Concert Hall. I got to see some of the interior of the building as I exited on my way to the MOCA Grand Avenue, which is on the next block.

Most of the museum is taken up by pieces from their permanent collection. The museum is fairly large but so are many of the works on display so the total number of works shown is probably only about 200 with about a third of that being a series of photographs. There were a few works I liked, such as a large Jackson Pollack painting and a Pae White piece called Der Werks, which is a bunch of strings above a hallway that give an interesting optical effect as you walk under them.

I then walked over to the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA where they have a temporary exhibition called Art In the Streets, which is a show about graffiti art. I didn't care for much of it but they had a section on Banksy that I liked a lot and a section on Keith Haring that I also enjoyed. There were also a couple cars with fabulous paint jobs. At least one of the cars was done by someone who goes by the name Mister Cartoon. If the other one was done by someone else, I've forgotten who it was.  The section on hobo art and some of the videos were also interesting.

I walked back to my car to get my camera. I found out I had to get out of the garage immediately or I'd have to pay a lot more, so I left. I tried to find street parking, with no success. It got late enough that I decided I had better skip the pictures and head for my dinner reservation.

I was back at the Bazaar for dinner, again. There are several restaurants within The Bazaar. This time I went to Saam. The Bazaar is one of Jose Andres' restaurants. When I planned my trip was not on Restaurant Magazine's World's Best Restaurants list for 2010 but it was added in 2011 at number 85. Jose Andres trained with Ferran Adria at El Bulli, for many years considered the best restaurant in the world, and the two are currently teaching a course at Harvard in modernist cuisine.

Minibar in Washington, DC is the first of Jose Andres' restaurants to serve a meal in a similar style to El Bulli. Saam is the second. At Minibar the six customers are all seated together at the bar. The chefs make the food behind the bar and everyone is served at the same time. The menu changes but is around 30 to 35 small courses. At Saam you are seated at your own table and different tables arrive at different times. The food is made out of sight in the kitchen. To be able to seat and serve people in this more traditional way the number of courses has been reduced to 22.

I had previously requested a couple vegetarian substitutions but, otherwise, ate the standard menu. There were a couple courses that were just good. The rest were excellent. While I think Minibar was better ,I liked Saam a lot. Of the restaurants I've been to on this trip, I'd say Minibar was the best and Saam second best.

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