Food and Wine

Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band played at Ram’s Head On Stage in Annapolis tonight. Fantastic blues show. Hugh Laurie is quite the showman, and an accomplished pianist and singer! I enjoyed the intros he gave to most of the songs, and the great rapport he had with the audience. Had a great time. Started the night off at Lemongrass restaurant (up the street) with a delicious chicken Red Curry. Genius Stout and Copperhead ale at Ram’s Head rounded it off. Delicious food and then wonderful music; great evening.

shape of inner space

Professor Shing-Tung Yau gave a lecture last night at the Smithsonian (Carmichael Auditorium of Museum of American History), based on his book, The Shape Of Inner Space. He basically described the trajectory of his career over the past 40 years or so, along the way describing “Calabi-Yau” space and how it relates to String theory and maybe even the real world.

The basic tenet of String Theory is that all particles, at their most basic level, are made of vibrating bits of tiny strings. Yes, strings. The way they vibrate basically dictates which particles they manifest as. I won’t even pretend to know the math involved. One non-intuitive (to me as a non-mathematician, anyway) upshot of the string theory math is that it requires (reveals?) a total of 10 dimensions – 6 more than the 4 with which we are most familiar (3 dimensions of space plus time). Turns out according to theory that the extra 6 dimensions are hidden away in Calabi-Yau Space. This invisible space exists at every point in “real” space.

At this point, Prof. Yau asked, “Who cares?”. Well, it turns out the exact shape/geometry of this “Calabi-Yau Space” dictates the properties of our universe and the kind of physics we see.

The lecture was sold out…

Keep reading to see how Yau’s discussion of Mirror Symmetry (spaces) can be related to eating at a British-themed pub…

After the lecture I managed to take some pictures of Washington, D.C. in the evening light. I had a half-mile hike back to the Metro anyway, as I used the Archives stop on the Green line. This involved no train changes, and the weather was just perfect for a walk downtown. It’s actually very relaxed in the evening, as most people have gone home for the day. The downside is that it can be a bit hard to find someplace to eat around the Smithsonian in the late evening. I asked a security guard who happened to be taking a break, and he pointed me to the Elephant and Castle Pub on Pennsylvania Ave. Ok, his exact words were more like, “not much open right now except super-fancy places- just that sports bar over there…”. That was not really what I was looking for, but I was going that way anyway and I had missed dinner, so I stopped in. Glad I did! Got a nice table outside (did I mention perfect weather) and had some Fish and Chips and a London Porter. Yum! Not too pricey, and the fish was delicious – just lightly breaded/ fried crispy and golden. The porter was delicious too- chocolately and coffee undertones.

Mirror Universe? I was quite intrigued by something the waitress said when she brought me my fish and chips (she was a different person than the waiter who took my order): “Hey, that’s funny, I thought I must be seeing things – there’s a guy inside who is also having a Porter, fish and chips, and using an iPad”. Neat!

I wonder if he is in a Mirror Geometry (Mirror Symmetry)? Turns out you can have two Calabi-Yau spaces with different topologies (shapes) but the same resulting set of physical properties (simplistic: i.e. same universe). I wonder what shape the other guy was? :)

Mirror-symmetry is powerful: if you have a hard time solving a problem (typically in string-theory) with one of the spaces, just use its mirror space! This has been successful in many cases, sometimes allowing problems to be solved that have eluded mathematicians for over a century…

From the lecture description at Smithsonian Resident Associates page:

Do we live in a 10-dimensional universe? String theorists believe we do, even though we can sense only four dimensions.

Geometer Shing-Tung Yau has mathematically proven the existence of the elaborate, twisted six-dimensional shapes at the center of string theory. If that theory is correct, these “Calabi-Yau manifolds” (pictured here) may dictate the forces and particles of nature.

Yau tells the story of how physics met geometry and the new picture of the universe that has emerged as a result. He concludes by describing the ongoing exploration of Calabi-Yau spaces and the quest to uncover the shape of this small, hidden domain that may govern almost everything in our universe.

I often make little smiley faces when I put ketchup on the kids’ plates, but these caterpillar pancakes (from My Paper Crane site) are just inspiring. I’m going to make these for my kids soon!


I went to see Jacques Pepin give a talk at the Baird Auditorium (in the National Museum of Natural History) on Wednesday night – one of the Smithsonian Resident Associate presentations. He’s my favorite chef, and I’ve been watching his tv shows, reading his books and cooking his recipes for 15 years or so (since his PBS show, “Today’s Gourmet”).
It was wonderful to get to hear him in person. He was interviewed by Joe Yonan, the editor of the Washington Post Food section. It was so much fun to hear him talk about cooking and doing cooking shows. Oh, and Jacques’ impression of Julia Child (and his anecdotes about doing shows with her) was hysterical.

Cookbooks are heavy, so I only brought 3 for him to sign. :)


Butterfield 9
Kirsten and I had a great evening this past Saturday. We had dinner at Butterfield 9 in Washington D.C., before walking a block to see David Russell perform classical guitar at the Church of the Epiphany.

The dinner was great. The restaurant has a nice ambiance – quite elegant. Kirsten started her meal with the Longneck Squash Soup (goat cheese, roasted pancetta, and apple compote) – “Delicious”. She then had a 1/2 plate of the Carnaroli Risotto (glazed butternut squash, swiss chard, and black truffle) – “Delicious.

I had the “Chocolate Steak” (New England Elk, creamed parsnips, bitter chocolate, fleur de sel). The waiter said that elk tastes a bit like venison. That would be a good comparison, except that I have never had venison (that I remember). I figured I’d give it a try. Cooked medium-rare, the elk was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It was coated with cocoa, making for a slightly crispy crust, while the bitter chocolate sauce under the steak was a neat complement; it definitely enhanced the flavors. My only issue was the size of the portions (small). Also, I was glad I ordered “Truffle potato puree” on the side, because what came with the steak was basically a garnish, and not a real side dish(es). The puree was delicious as well, though I would have preferred a more firm “mashed” potato side.

Neither Kirsten or I cared much for the “creme brulee” desert, as it was not a “classic” version; we would not have recognized it as creme brulee if not stated on the menu. It had a sort of “cookie” crust rather than caramelized sugar. The raspberry sorbet on the side with it was good.

David Russell Small

Butterfield 9 is only a block from the church where the concert was held, so we used valet parking at the restaurant and picked up the car after the concert.
Church of the Epiphany

The concert was very enjoyable; just Mr. Russell on a slightly raised platform at the front of the church with no amplification. I could hear the guitar just fine, but I had difficulty hearing his intros clearly (also partly due to his Scottish brogue :) ). The pews were hard to sit on for 2 hours (we were glad for intermission). The music however was great. We had been listening to his Bach and Baroque cd’s – but he didn’t play any of those pieces. I greatly enjoyed most of his pieces with the exception being the one that was actually written for him by a contemporary. Oh well.

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