An exuberant spring festival at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts offers guided tours, workshops, and high tea. A little stodgy, a little corny, and very Boston, Art in Bloom inhabits a deeply old fashioned groove with garden clubs and floral designers from across New England creating arrangements inspired by MFA collections and exhibitions.
An arrangement of yellow sunflowers sits beside Dos Mujeres by Frida Kahlo. Salvadora and Herminia, two maids in her mother’s home, are portrayed without aprons or brooms. The dignified portrait gently reveals the artist’s commitment to the Mexican Communist party, which she joined in 1928.
Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris features posters, prints and paintings by the towering 4’11” talent. Lautrec’s Café La Mie references “un miché à la mie,” slang for a customer who neglects to pay a prostitute. “Great stuff!” says my museum companion.
With brazen color, gritty subjects and brave brushstrokes, Lautrec introduces us to the habitués of Parisian cafés, cabarets and theaters. Inclusion of works by contemporaries Bonnard, Cassatt and Degas place him in the wildly creative context of his generation.
Museum companion and I enjoy lunch in the New American Café, re-named Art in Bloom Café for the weekend. Lines are long. We share a few hard-won glasses of sturdy Chardonnay and a signature grilled smoked turkey-provolone. Arugula pesto lends just the perfect, bright hit of spring — smashing!
MFA’s delectable garden tarts are fragrant with artichokes and goat cheese, a favorite springtime combination. Topped with frisée salad and wild sorrel, these vegetable tarts are a spring garden on a plate. Lautrec-inspired desserts include a sexy peach melba with raspberry sauce, sweet and vivid, with the promise of summer to come.
Blooms & Blossoms
As always, we visit the daughters of Edward Darley Boit — four sisters as fresh as spring. I’m not sure whether the grand floral tribute enhances or detracts from the magnificent John Singer Sargent painting, but the both are definitely in bloom!
More Than Baked Beans
After our inspiring day of art and flowers, it is finally cocktail hour. We head for Brookline and Barcelona Wine Bar to reflect on the wonders we have seen and enjoyed.Barcelona’s rambling wine list has tastes from Spain, France and beyond. I savor a crisp Viognier in honor of my afternoon with Lautrec. Museum companion sips Nucerro temperanillo, a yummy Gran Reserva. Theater Boy, as always, enjoys a very dry martini.
The gang’s all here once legendary Menu Whisperer joins us. She suggests olives and crusty bread with deep green olive oil. The Whisperer slowly adds tapas — seared sea scallops, Brussels sprouts, and a bowl of lovely blistered shishito peppers. Fragrant briny mussels. Grilled vegetables. Charcuterie and cheeses on rustic boards — beautiful!
It’s grilled octopus for Theater Boy, and haddock a la plancha for our dear museum companion. Our final shared dish, jamón & manchego croquettes, are an unctuous knockout — we could have stayed all night. But an 8:00 curtain beckons…
We head to Huntington Theater for Paula Vogel’s Indecent, inspired by Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance. The 1907 drama caused a scandal when staged in 1923, and the entire company was charged with indecency. The modern interpretation is timely and magical, both a powerful indictment of censorship and a celebration of love. Catch it if you can.
We stay at the venerable Revere Hotel, an urban sanctuary with balcony views of the Boston Common, Boston Harbor and State House. The bar is comfy and intimate, with six hockey fans in business suits lined up, yelling and fist pumping — it’s bro’ city. True to Boston’s independent spirit, the bar also features a mural of the American Revolution.
Soak up the ambiance of one of the country’s oldest and most interesting cities. This sophisticated metropolis will inspire and delight with art, culture and creative cuisine. Enjoy theater, music and a colorful immersion in local history — honoring rebels and innovators everywhere. •