Friday, January 29, 2016

Muse Restaurant & The Ringling Museum in Sarasota

Established in 1948, the Ringling Museum of the American Circus was the first to document the rich history of this popular entertainment, and because John Ringling had made Sarasota the Winter Quarters of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1927, many of the performers moved to the immediate area. As a result of their generosity, the Ringling Museum’s collection of wardrobes and circus memorabilia quickly grew and now includes performing props, as well as all types of equipment, including beautifully carved parade wagons, sturdy utility wagons, tent poles, massive bail rings that suspended the tent canvas and even a cannon that shot fearless performers across the big top. There's also a wealth of 19th and early 20th-century posters and props used by famous performers as well as a large collection of circus history and literature that includes newspaper clippings dating as far back as 1816. A must-see in the Museum is the film The Life and Times of John and Mable Ringling, narrated by Hal Holbrook which features the lives of John and Mable Ringling, the history of Ringling Bros. circus, the building of the Ca' d’Zan and the Museum of Art, as well as John’s influence in the development of Sarasota.

Original posters at the Ringling Circus Museum's current show — Glittering Grandeur: Spectacles Under the Big Top

While the classic circus performance is a rich spectacle in itself, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries show owners including P.T. Barnum and the Ringlings recognized that they had the ability to increase attendance by including a different kind of spectacle in their traveling shows. Circuses from a hundred years ago enhanced their programs beyond the artists of the ring by offering pageants, plays, and historic tableaus as part of the ticket price. Characterized by their richly costumed array of animals and performers, these theatrical displays, were known as 'specs', or spectacles. The largest of these productions included hundreds of performers engaged in scenes of battle and festivals of dance and song and were created on such a grand scale that they frequently rated several different poster designs each season. The grand tradition of the circus spectacle comes to life through posters created from 1890 through 1950, and gives a better understanding of both the evolving form of the traveling show, and the shifting expectations of audiences from the 19th century to today through the Circus Museum's current show — Glittering Grandeur: Spectacles Under the Big Top, which runs until February 2016.

Original poster from a Barnum & Bailey spectacle from the The 12,000-square-foot second floor that houses the archives of important collections of rare handbills and art prints, circus papers, business records and photos

Circus poster from 1900

Detail of poster featuring P.T Barnum and J.A. Bailey

Original drawings of costumes worn in old circus shows

Costume sketch of 'Oberon' from a Midsummer Nights Dream spectacle 

An interactive exhibit at the Circus Museum

The main floor of the Circus Museum features beautifully carved circus wagons and the magnificent Howard Bros. Circus miniature scale model created by Howard C. Tibbals which depicts a complete reproduction of and entire circa 1920s circus 

Handcrafted miniature circus models from the Harold Dunn exhibition

Dunn created these 1/2-inch to the foot scale miniatures and began exhibiting them in 1946  

Drawing from the rich and varied Japanese collection of the Stibbert Museum in Florence, we also visited another exhibition, 'Samurai: The Way of the Warrior'  in the Searing Wing of the Ringling Museum, which features over 80 exquisite objects related to the legendary samurai warriors with full suits of armour, helmets, swords, sword-hilts, and saddles, as well as objects intended for more personal use that belonged to the samurai warriors of medieval and early-modern Japan. Samurai translates as "those who serve," and their job was to protect wealthy landowners. Their code was known as bushido, or the way of the warrior, and focused on discipline, honor and loyalty. The samurai were highly involved in the Japanese government and rose to power in the 12th-century as a military dictatorship known as the Shogunate. They would rule until Japan was opened to the outside world in the late 1850s. The exhibit covers two time periods: the 15th to 17th centuries, when Japan was internally at war, and a second 200-year time period when Japan, which at the time was completely closed to the outside world, enjoyed domestic peace. Thus, many of the objects in the collection may have been designed for warfare, but were used and worn ceremonially. The samurai class was abolished in 1868, and the warriors turned to civil service and sometimes education and the arts for employment. Joining a docent-led tour the day we visited the museum was enormously informative and gave us a better perspective on this spectacular exhibition.

The Searing Wing of the Ringling Museum featured a new exhibition,
 'Samurai: The Way of the Warrior', which was on loan from the Museo Stibbert in Florence, Italy

Traditional Byobu screen from the 18th-century Japanese Tosa School of design was constructed out of painted fabric, coloured inks and gold leaves, and depicts a famous Samurai battle

Used to exemplify status and to strike fear in the enemy, this samurai helmet dates back to 17th-century Japan,  is made of steel, gilded copper, lacquer, gold, Japanese foxglove tree, silk and Japanese deerskin

Full suits of Samurai armour from the early 18th-century

After a full morning of exploring the Ringling Museum, it was time for lunch at Muse, the new rebranded restaurant that took over from Treviso in June 2015, and now managed by the Seidensticker family that operates Libby's Café + Bar and Louies Modern in Sarasota. Open for lunch and dinner, the new space is modern, bright and cheerful with lovely alfresco dining on the restaurants outdoor terrace overlooking the Ringling pond. The new culinary face of the museum, Muse has undergone some creative changes with chef Francis Casciato's new menu that features upscale local cuisine and creative twists on American classics, such as The Muse Burger with bacon-jam brie and onion frites, "KFC" Korean Fried Chicken with kimchee caramel soy glaze, unique appetizers like Goldfish Pretzel Crusted Crab Cakes, and delicious healthy entrées such as the outstanding Seared Farroe Island Salmon Salad with a 'rainbow' of vegetables, house salad and shaved beets with a butternut and gogi berry dressing. Relaxed and inviting, Muse confirms that the Ringling has now turned the museum into a total sensory experience — both culinary and cultural.

Muse Restaurant's outdoor terrace overlooking the pond

The inside entrance to Muse Restaurant from the Ringling Visitors Pavilion

The revamped purple-hued interior of Muse

The new menu at Muse, which is now a sister restaurant of Louies Modern of Sarasota

Glass of Antinori Santa Cristina Pinot Grigio from Venenzie, Italy

Nieto Malbec from Medoza, Argentina

Caesar's Devilled Eggs garnished with shaved garlic crumbs and julienned romaine 

The Devilled Eggs sit on a pillow of tangy Caesar Parmesan dressing

Muse Crispy Calamari with Giada's hot tomato sauce and pepperoncini aioli

Muse Grilled Cheese with Amish cheddar and Danish gouda with an American bacon-jam served on grilled brioche

Seared Farroe Island Salmon Salad with "Rainbow" vegetables, house salad and shaved beets with a butternut and gogi berry dressing

Patrick Seidensticker, Manager of Muse 

Raw Vegetables & Faroe Island Salmon Salad
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef Francis Casciato 

Artisan greens of your choice
Julienne vegetables: beets, zucchini, yellow squash and baby bell peppers
Purple cabbage, shredded
Cubed watermelon 
Grated feta cheese
4 4oz herbed seared salmon

Citrus dressing:
1 cup malt vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
4 lemons, tested and juiced
2 oranges, tested and juiced
2 limes, tested and juiced
1/4 cup shallots
2 cups grapeseed oil
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped