Desserts »Dates

medjool datesDates were the fruit of choice for nobility in Medieval times. They could afford to have the exotic and naturally sweet fruit in ported from the Middle East, where the fruit has enjoyed considerable popularity for centuries.

We got the soft skinned, Medjool kind from Fresh Direct, where they recommend stuffing them with “with blue cheese or cream cheese for a knockout dessert.”

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Hunks »Douglas Fairbanks, Jr and Snr

douglas fairbanks snr and jrDouglas Fairbanks, Jr followed in his father's swashbuckling footsteps in films like The Three Musketeers. Fairbanks Senior, known as Hollywood royalty was made famous for his heroic roles like Robin Hood, The Thief of Baghdad and Zorro. Few men have shaped the interpretation of outlaws of medieval and other historical times.

Both married Hollywood starlets: Senior married Mary Pickford and helped create United Artists with her while Junior was briefly married to Joan Crawford before she started diddling around with Clark Gable.

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Spend a Couple Hours »The Renaissance Faire

As is our yearly tradition, today we traveled to the New York woods for the Renaissance Faire. There was glorious weather, costumes galore, and plenty of beers enjoyed in the shaded forest with bestest friends.

Perhaps because of the sunshine, the place was packed with revelers and the money they've racked in has been put to good use. The usual spots, like one of our favorite places in all of New York to beer it up, The Blue Boar and shopping stalls like M'Ladies Panties, shone in a new coat of paint, while other attractions, like the rotten tomato toss and the huge traveling bell machine were brand new.

Jim splurged on some amazing completely customized moccasins from Catskill Mountain Moccasins. They make an actual cast of the foot and take several months to complete the shoes by hand. Shaun and Mike were a bit more conservative with their spending and went home with a souvenir mug and a skull crystal on a rope.

But the fair is more than the souvenirs you go home with, it's an experience that you really should try if you haven't already. The last weekend of the season is coming up, so get your tickets (buy online for discounted prices), throw back some mead, and enjoy a joust or two before it closes!

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Spend a Couple Minutes »Play the Hurdy Gurdy

hurdy gurdy paintingMy friend Shaun, who's peeking up all over this week's Renaissance themed week, is a real Hurdy Gurdy man. We pitched in to buy the once popular instrument for his birthday last year online.

The only catch was that he had to construct it himself. After months of toiling with scary looking woodcutting contraptions and crazy glue, a beautiful hand crafted piece has emerged, just in time to show it off at the Ren Fair.

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Movies »Excalibur

excalibur movieJohn Boorman's grave take on the Arthurian legend, Excalibur, almost never was. The meticulous sets and sweeping wide shot locations were originally intended for an adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, but rights could not be obtained. Fans of sword and sorcery and the epic legends of King Arthur should rejoice, as the movie is often beautiful and one of the best films made of its kind.

It lacks the modern technical flair of say, Peter Jackson's Ring trilogy, but here it is a good thing. After seeing so much of it, and so much of it not used in the great ways Jackson did, CGI has become boring. It 's interesting to see actors actually fighting while encumbered by heavy armor.

The movie is close to three hours long and sometimes suffers from it's deliberate pacing and it can take a short while to become accustomed to the strange tone and casting. While seeing a young Helen Mirren (as a mysterious and erotic Morgana Le Fay), Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson is great, the casting of Nigel Terry, who resembles a village idiot as the young Arthur is perplexing.

Still, for all it's flaws is it a must see for fans of the genre and lovers of lush cinematography. I love that the film takes itself seriously and it was both a critical and popular hit when it was released in 1981. You can watch it on demand with Netflix.

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Places to Visit »Kapellbr?cke

Kapellbr?ckeMy friend Shaun's job takes him to wonderful places. Like Kapellbr?cke in Lucerne, Switzerland, the oldest wooden bridge in Europe with hundreds of skeleton paintings from the 16th century adorning the ceiling. He took some great photos that you can view at Rotating Corpse.

The watchtower has a past as creepy as the imagery – it's been used as a torture chamber and prison.

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Albums »Please To See The King

please to see the king steeleye spanPlease to See the King is the most Renaissance-faire appropriate of the entire electric folk genre. Every song on the Steeleye Span is traditional and entail stories of betrayal, insanity, the devil, and romance.

Not only are the songs themselves culled from the traditional past of England, they use medieval techniques – like singing into the hallow of their instruments to amplify their voices to eerie effect.

Folk greats Maddy Prior, Tim Hart, Peter Knight, Ashley Hutchings, and Martin Carthy unite to make beautiful unique music here.

My favorite of the lot are Cold, Haily, Windy Night and Female Drummer, and Boys of Bedlam, but we've been listening to the whole album while gearing up for the fair.

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Posted on September 14, 2009

TV Shows »Henry VIII

henry VIII ray winstoneYou may not think it, from his hoodlum roles past,?but Ray Winstone makes a brilliant Henry VIII in this most entertaining television miniseries from a few years back. It's an oft told and adapted tale, but this production which also features a great performance from Helena Bonham Carter as Anne Boleyn is the best I have seen.

Angry reviewers, and there always will be angry reviewers online cry with outrage at the lack of historical correctness, on which I can't comment, but if you are not using this as a history lesson and merely want to be entertained, enjoy.

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Restaurants »Sui Ren

sui ren yakitoriWhen you go to the Renaissance Fair, you can find almost everything to eat on a stick, but undercooked chicken, pickles, and frozen chocolate covered cheesecake are no competition with the skewers you can find at the izakaya yakitori restaurant, Sui Ren, recently opened in Williamsburg.

While there everyday menu is mouthwateringly intriguing, we could not say no to the day's specials and opted to try them all: duck confit buns, fatty tuna skewer, and deep fried pickled radishes with an egg salad dipping sauce. We also shared the thinly sliced beef Gyu Tataki and the lightly salted grilled octopus. See my collection of photos here.

The food was great, and I am excited to try more of the menu on future visits. Drinks were equally note worthy, and I enjoyed sipping an oolong tea and soju combination. The staff is friendly, the back yard is pleasant, and the price is right for the quality of the food.

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Recipes »WIld Mushroom Pasta

wild mushroom pastaMushrooms have been cultivated for thousands of years but modern cultivation commenced around the 16th century. Epicurious offered the basis for my recipe of Wild Mushroom Pasta, but because I didn't use dried mushrooms, instead grabbing a bag of mixed varieties from Madura Farms at the farmer's market, I used chicken stock and a splash of wine instead of reserved mushroom water.

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Style Icons: Female »Vanessa Redgrave

vanessa redgraveVanessa Redgrave, who just suffered the horrible tragedy of losing a daughter was recently honored with a lifetime achievement award.

A Shakespearean theater star, she became the go to lady for portraying historical women through the age. She's played the Queen of Scots, Anne Boleyn, Guinevere, and Mother Capulet.

My personal favorite role of hers however, was out of the ruffled collars and into mini skirts by (possibly?) Pierre Cardin in the mind-warping, fashionably hip 1966 film, Blow Up.

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Web Sites »Historic Food

historic food websiteHistorical Food is a grand site for glimpses into the culinary traditions of the past. Ivan is the foremost authority on historical food and runs a working museum used as a teaching aid in his courses. Located in a seventeenth century farm in England, classes teach people how to create unforgettable feasts using old techniques and equipment.

Among the classes are: Late Medieval English Cookery, Italian Renaissance Cookery, Jelly and Moulded Foods and Period Sugarwork and Confectionery. For those of us unlikely able to attend one of these, the site is full of enticing, gorgeous photographs to fawn over.

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Style Icons: Male »Jan Van Eyck

jan van eyckThe Flemish and Dutch paintings area at The Met is one of my favorite places to stroll in the city. There's something other worldly about the quality of light and the serene portraiture that I adore.

Jan Van Eyck is perhaps the most accomplished painter of 15th Century and his masterworks: The Ghent Altarpiece and Arnolfini Portrait are spectacular. The Crucifixtion: The Last Judgment is on display at The Met.

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Songs »I Think Of You

renaissance i think of youThe band Renaissance had their own Renaissance when the birdlike voice of Ann Haslam took center stage. While I haven't been swept away by the entire Turn of the Cards album yet, the lovely ballad I Think of You has become a favorite.?

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Books »Romeo and Juliet

shakespeare's romeo and julietThere's a reason junior high teachers believe they can make pre teens care about Shakespeare?by giving them Romeo and Juliet to read. It's an engrossing piece of literature with a timeless story of undying love.

If you weren't forced to read it as a kid, I recommend reading it now, there's plenty of reasons it's inspired people for hundreds of years. Not everyone would agree though, as Samuel Peyps, of the famous diary once wrote “it is a play of itself the worst that I ever heard in my life.”

Franco Zeffirelli's film adaptation is a great accompaniment, though I might be out of date. These days kids are all about the Baz Lurhmann, Leonardo DiCaprio version, or more likely, High School Musical, which takes plot cues from the eternal popular play.

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Posted on September 14, 2009

TV Shows »The Dark Ages

dark agesThe concept of the Dark Ages, a time when mankind actually reverted – forgetting the advances of one of the most advances civilizations in history, has always been fascinating and mystifying to me.

Sadly, most History Channel series that I've tried to watch fail to quench my curiosity regarding historical events, but The Dark Ages was not disappointing. Neither dry nor too jazzed up and hip-ified, their collection of experts and recreations offer an insightful exposition on the time of plagues and superstition.

The series is available on netflix on demand.

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Posted on July 27, 2009