Museum Exhibits Coming To A Movie Theater Near You

Few people can fly half way around the world just to see an art exhibition, and now, thanks to a new documentary series they don’t have to. One company is set to bring culture to the masses by broadcasting major art exhibitions at movie theaters around the globe.

Much like a real trip to a museum, the documentaries walk you through a current or recent exhibit, pausing at important works along the way. A noted historian provides commentary and insight into the significance of the artworks, while interviews with museum curators and a backstage look at the exhibits round out the 90-minute films.The company behind the documentaries, BY Experience, is the same one that brought live concerts from the Met Opera and London’s National Theater to the big screen. Those live screenings proved a huge success, earning the opera and orchestra groups millions of dollars each season. In much the same way, the art galleries involved in the documentaries are set to cash in on the screenings.

The films will focus on an art exhibition limited to one location, giving those who can’t travel to that particular city a chance to view it. The documentaries kick off this week with an exhibit about Edouard Manet from the Royal Academy of Arts in London. A retrospective on Edvard Munch and an exhibit featuring Johannes Vermeer are also slated for later this year.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Martin Beek]

Flags of the World: the ultimate online resource for flags

flags, flag, GreenlandI’ve always loved flags. They say so much about a place, and every little province and town seems to have one.

Take this one, for example. It’s the flag of Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland. This town is at the chilly latitude of 69°14′50″ N on an island of the same name off the west coast of Greenland. Given its location, it’s natural that it has a whale and northern lights on its emblem. Qeqertarsuaq’s population is barely more than 900, yet it has a flag!

Where did this arcane information come from? A cool website called Flags of the World. This online haven for vexillology (the study of flags) has been around since the early 1990s and has almost 80,000 images of flags from everywhere you can imagine. All the flags added to the site run the gauntlet of FOTW’s discussion group, a hard core of a thousand or so vexillologists who do some serious fact checking. If they aren’t sure it’s 100% correct, they say so, as with the Qeqertarsuaq flag. If only the researchers over at Wikipedia were so honest!

On the front page is a clickable world map. Click on a continent and you see all the countries. Click on the countries and you get states and provinces, along with lists of counties, cities, historic flags, and military flags. When my kid was three he got obsessed with this and we had lots of fun flying around in our imaginary plane exploring the world. There’s even a free printable flag coloring book. My kid preferred doing the flags freehand, and presented his teachers (who are from Kenya and Uganda) with their national flags.

The site has historic flags as well, and the latest news on new flags, or even old/new flags such as pre-1969 flag of Libya, which has become the standard for the anti-Qaddafi rebels. The website is always expanding, so if one of your local flags is missing, drop them a line.

Check out the gallery for more rare and unusual flags from Flags of the World!

%Gallery-126522%

[Thanks to http://flagspot.net for special permission to reproduce these flags. Qeqertarsuaq flag image by António Martins-Tuválkin]

European cheeses: holiday entertaining with the taste of travel

European cheeseI work part-time in a cheese shop, and I’m also a contributing editor at culture, a consumer cheese magazine. I can’t help noticing that, despite a still-sluggish economy, people don’t want to do without their cheese. Especially if they’ve fallen for a specific type during their (usually European) travels.

Not everyone who bellies up to the counter is a globetrotter or a cheese geek, but they’re all eager to try new things and learn about the animals and cheesemakers responsible, and what, if any, cultural role certain cheeses play in their country of origin. It got me thinking: why not show Gadling readers how to do a bit of armchair travel to Europe via their local cheese shop?

Cheese has long been associated with revelry, in part because of its cozy compatibility with beer, wine, Champagne, and certain spirits. With the holiday season upon us, I put together a list of some delicious, versatile, affordable European imports that will make any small party more festive. The best part? You don’t need to be any kind of cheese wunderkind to put together a banging cheese plate (suggestions coming up).

[Photo credit: Flickr user cwbuecheler]

European cheeseI usually allow about an ounce of each cheese per person, assuming there’s more food. If you’re throwing a big party, it may not be financially feasible to purchase certain products (and there’s nothing wrong with serving a mass-produced Gruyere or Gouda). Note that some styles of cheese are less dense than others, so depending upon price, you can get more dairy for your dollar.

If you can’t find these cheeses at your nearest grocery, Whole Foods (which have generally excellent cheese departments), or specialty shop, try online sources Murray’s Cheese, Cowgirl Creamery, Formaggio Kitchen, and Artisanal Premium Cheese. Click here for a national cheese retailer directory by zipcode.

In addition to picking some of my own favorites, I turned to one of culture’s co-founders, cheesemonger Thalassa Skinner of Napa’s Oxbow Cheese Merchant, for advice:

The Cheeses

France
Langres (cow): Traditionally served with Champagne poured over it (those decadent French!), this well-priced washed-rind is a little bit stinky, with a dense, creamy interior and tangy lactic finish. From the Langres plateau in the Champagne-Ardenne region.
European cheese
Holland
Ewephoria (sheep): Nutty, rich, with a hint of crystallization, this butterscotchy Gouda will convert even the ambivalent into cheese aficionados.

Switzerland
Appenberger (cow): This buttery Alpine-style cheese from the Schweitzer Mittelland region has a faintly grassy tang. A surefire crowd-pleaser.

Italy
Robiola due latte (a blend of cow and sheep or goat’s milk): A rich, mold-ripened number with a slightly sour, mushroomy finish, from the dairy-rich Piedmont and Lombardy regions. Top imports include those by Perolari due Latti, Robiola Bosina, and Robiola delle Langhe.

Spain
Leonora (goat): A loaf-shaped, mold-ripened cheese from the northwestern village of León. Creamy, tangy, and delightful, with a blindingly white, dense, chewy interior.

Portugal
Azeitao (cow): Yeasty, full-flavored, with a slightly bitter finish; a beer-lover’s cheese. From the village of the same name, in the Arrabida Mountains, near Lisbon.European cheese

England
Stilton (cow): Colston-Bassett makes perhaps the finest version of this historic, earthy blue cheese. It’s a classic British holiday treat, produced in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire. Stichelton is the equally delicious, raw milk version; it’s a bit more fruity and crumbly. But for another British tradition, go for a robust Cheddar. Keen’s (cow) is buttery, with a horseradishy bite.

Ireland
Coolea (cow): This dense, buttery, Gouda-style from County Cork has a sharp, grassy finish. Unusual and delicious.

Belgium
Wavreumont (cow): A smooth, full-flavored, monastic-style washed rind. Trappist beer, anyone?

Cheese Plate 101

K.I.S.S.: This is a fun little acronym I learned in culinary school. It stands for, “Keep it Simple, Stupid.” A foofy, cluttered cheese plate with too many accompaniments just detracts from the headliner. You can keep sides as simple as some plain crackers or a baguette, or add toasted almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts, and some preserves, or honeycomb or dried frEuropean cheeseuit or grapes or slices of pear or apple (in summer, use stonefruit such as peaches or cherries, or berries).

You can also go the savory route with dry-cured or green olives (Picholine are my favorite) and some salumi (add grainy mustard, cornichons, and a hearty rye bread for a winter supper). Forget the sundried tomatoes, pickled onions, pepperoncini, artichoke hearts, tapenade, stuffed peppers, or whatever else the local deli has in its antipasti bar. It’s overkill.

Stick to three to four cheeses that increase in intensity of flavor. You can do whatever you want: all blues, or all goat cheeses. For a diverse, well-rounded plate, try: One creamy/mild; one semi-soft or semi-firm with some kick, or a washed-rind/ surface-ripened; one hard-aged; one blue or something really punchy (taste this last, because the stronger flavors will obscure your palate). Your cheesemonger can help you pick things out and explain these terms to you, or click here for a glossary.

When pairing cheese with beer or wine, a rule of thumb is to match the intensity of flavor of the cheese to that of the beverage. The following are some suggestions for some of the more tricky, assertive cheeses.

Goat cheese: A good rosé will almost always work, as will a light German beer like Hoegaarden.
European cheese
Big, stinky washed-rinds: Pair with sweet bubbly; the effervescence will help cleanse the palate and won’t compete with the flavor of the cheese. If you’re drinking beer, go with a light pilsner or lambic.

Blue cheeses: Go for a sweet dessert wine (not Port) or Lambic beer with fruit, such as framboise.

For additional cheese plate ideas, click here.

[Photo credits: Neal’s Yard, Flickr user foodmuse; Gouda, Flickr user manuel/MC; cow, Laurel Miller; grapes, Flickr user lakewentworth; goat, Laurel Miller]