Tag Archives: Northwestern University

Drinking Wine Like Grown-Ups

For the past couple of months, we’ve been touring the world of wine. We signed up for the weekly, introductory Wine Appreciation “mini course” at Northwestern University’s student center to start drinking wine like adults instead of college kids. Below is a regional run-through of what we learned, as well as descriptions of some of our favorite bottles, most of which cost under $15. This is by no means an exhaustive tour, but you have to start somewhere!

The Basics

  • Hold the glass by the stem so your hand doesn’t warm the wine.
  • White wines in this price range are better when younger (more recently bottled).
  • The term “estate bottled” means the grapes are grown and bottled by the same vineyard. This ensures quality.
  • Reserve (or reserva) means the producers kept it back a year or so to age before distributing it. Drink them right away; there’s no need for extra aging.
  • Gewurztraminer is the current trendy choice in white wine. It’s hearty and aromatic, and is one of the rare few that goes well with Asian cuisines (BYOB, anyone?).


Sparkling and dessert wines at Wine Appreciation, by Karina for TKGO


United States: West Coast
Chardonnay is the most popular grape in America. Pinot noir originated in Burgundy, France, but also grows well in Santa Barbara.
  • Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2008
  • Bonterra Mendocino County 2008
  • Turn Four Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2007
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Washington
You won’t be able to discern the varietal (or type of grape) from the label, which is a departure from wine labeling in the rest of the world. What’s important in France is where the grapes grew and the wine was bottled. French people themselves tend to drink wines from the Loire Valley.
  • Muscadet Henri Poiron 2008, Loire Valley
  • Cotes du Rhone Jean-Luc Colombo 2007
South America
Chilean and Argentine wines are famously delicious and easy on the pocketbook. Malbec is a varietal used in blends all over the world, but Argentina is the only producer to bottle it alone.
  • Santa Ema Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Reserve, Maipo Valley, Chile
  • Terrazas Malbec, 2008 Argentina
Australia and New Zealand
Chiraz is the national grape of Australia. Though rieslings are often German, New Zealand makes some rieslings to reckon with.
  • Yard Dog White Blend 2008 Australia
Sparkling/Dessert Wines:
Champagne is sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. Anything fizzy made elsewhere is just called sparkling wine. In order from dry to sweetest, the classifications are brut nature, brut, extra dry, sec/dry, demi-sec and doux. Brut is most common, and it’s typically 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent chardonnay.
  • Method Champenoise Gruet Blanc de Noirs
  • Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Blue Top Champagne Brut

Grab some bottles and start tasting. Cheers!

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Q&A with Roxana Saberi

Roxana Saberi is an American foreign correspondent and former Iranian political prisoner. After her release in May 2009, she wrote Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran, released March 30, chronicling her experience in Iran and her five months in Tehran’s Evin Prison. I interviewed Saberi for The Rotarian, Rotary International’s U.S. magazine. To read the full story in The Rotarian, click here.


Roxana Saberi at Northwestern on April 13, courtesy of Hallie Liang for The Daily Northwestern


Tara: You made a rule for yourself not to cry before your release. Why was this so important to you?

Roxana: Not crying was a message to try to stay strong and to try to keep a positive mentality. I cried enough before that, it’s not like I was holding in my emotions. Enough is enough. It doesn’t help to think about the past, or the world beyond the prison walls. I should think about what I do have.

Tara: What are some of the greatest lessons you learned from the women with whom you were imprisoned?

Roxana: One is to try to change challenges into opportunities. Sometimes through suffering we can have an opportunity to become stronger. And even when you’re imprisoned you still have a power to control your attitude.

Tara: What aspects of your trials bothered you most?

Roxana: There are so many problems with both trials. The first trial I didn’t know was my trial until after the first 15 minutes. It was just a joke, it was a sham. I didn’t get the attorneys I wanted. I was threatened I shouldn’t take them and the attorneys I had, I was not happy with. I think they were under a lot of pressure from Iranian authorities, so much so that they have been intuited into sacrificing their own principles to have me as their client.

Unfortunately a lot of Iranians are falsely accused of crimes, including espionage, through the soft revolution or whatever charges they fabricate. In my case, in my false confession, they knew. ‘We know you’re not a spy’; they told me this in private. It made me wonder, do they knowingly falsely accuse people to tighten their grip on society and to silence people? In many ways it is not unique.

Tara: What message do you want readers to take from the book?

Roxana: What happened to me is happening to a lot of people who are still in Iran today. They are faced with many injustices. International support and media attention helped in my case. I think similar support can be given to them as well.

Tara: Do you understand Iran better now, after your imprisonment?

Roxana: I understand certain aspects of Iran better than before. One way, I’ve seen how certain people in power are so blinded by their want of power that they’re willing to go to almost any means to keep that power, including trampling on the rights of individuals. In the long run this only breeds resentment. Instead I think they should tolerate different ideas and allow for an exchange of ideas and try to tackle the roots of problems instead of people who speak about them.

Tara: Do you love Iran any less after being imprisoned? Do you love it differently?

Roxana: I love it just as much as before. In fact, I met some of the best Iranians I’ve ever met in prison; they were my cellmates.

Hungry for more? Listen to Roxana Saberi’s hour-long presentation to Northwestern students, detailing her experiences in Evin Prison:

Tara for TKGO

Paris, Circa 2008

It’s been a rainy week in Evanston, and on top of that, it’s midterms season at Northwestern. After I found myself five episodes deep into the first season of True Blood (thanks to Comcast On Demand), I started thinking about better rainy weeks.

In March of 2008, I attended Northwestern’s weeklong International Media Seminar in Paris. We heard from the legendary former Life photo editor John Morris, correspondents and editors at the International Herald Tribune, editors at Libération, one of France’s leading newspapers, the chief press and information officer at the U.S. embassy and many other leading figures in international culture and politics.

Like this week in Evanston, Paris was overcast. And on days like that, there’s nothing better than romping around an old city with new friends.

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Tara for TKGO

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park

As graduation approaches (signaling the end of my time inhabiting the North Shore), I have been frantically searching for opportunities to cross items off my Chicago Bucket List. This past weekend my mom was in town, and with her rented car we drove southwest to Oak Park to peep displays of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural genius — something I have planned to do for years.

We arrived at the Oak Park visitor center and, warned the Unity Temple was only open for about another hour, rushed over to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house of worship on Lake Street. The Unitarian temple was the only of his masterpieces we entered, since all the other homes (with the exception of his personal home and studio) are private residences.

After exploring Unity Temple, we visited the architect’s nearby home and studio to rent headsets for the self-guided walking tour. We spent about the next hour walking around Lloyd Wright’s home neighborhood and pausing to learn about ten of his Modern residential creations with our super touristy — but very informational! — audio gear.

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The architect’s work, with its clean, straight lines and strong angles apparent in everything from the Unity Temple’s organ and light fixtures to his houses’ windows, is impressive even to the untrained eye. Learning about the thought process and intention behind Lloyd Wright’s designs reveals even more brilliance.

Here are some points I picked up and found helpful to understanding Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park architecture:

  • The homes Lloyd Wright designed in Oak Park are from his Prairie Period, which was around the turn of the 20th Century: about 1892 to 1908.
  • The Prairie Period is characterized by long, horizontal lines intended to reflect and work with the flat Midwestern terrain.
  • Lloyd Wright considered the hearth the center of the home, symbolically and, in his designs, literally.
  • The architect was fascinated with Japanese art and design.
  • Lloyd Wright often obstructed or hid the front door; his homes aren’t designed to appear inviting to the outsider. He was more concerned with creating architecture that complemented nature and the surroundings.

My mom recommends the book Loving Frank as follow-up (or if you want, pre) education and entertainment to an Oak Park trip. I haven’t started reading the historical fiction novel yet, but the guy’s life did take some soap opera-worthy turns.

Also, if you happen to be at the Northwestern University Library, ask the archivists about original FLW documents we have somewhere in that massive structure.

Karina for TKGO

The Bloomsbury Group

One of Northwestern University’s hidden treasures is the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art. It’s located conveniently right on campus and best yet, it’s free for anyone who ambles in. Still, few students take advantage of the opportunity to see art from Mapplethorpe, Michelangelo and Motherwell on display, all of which happened in the past year.

We recently stopped in to see the current exhibit, A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections, which runs through March 15. The British modernist group included artists and writers (plus an economist) Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, E. M. Forster, Roger FryDuncan Grant and John Maynard Keynes.


"Dancers" (1910-1911) by Duncan Grant, from the Tate Museum (tate.org.uk).


The Bloomsbury group was, in essence, a group of friends that became a self-proclaimed “family.” Lacking a common ideology or artistic style, friendship was the only glue that held them together. Bloomsbury was a terribly unchic part of London in the early 1900s, and they spent their time there experimenting with styles and surfaces that defied Impressionist and Post-Impressionist tradition. At the Charleston Farmhouse (their vacation home in East Sussex) and the Omega Workshops (in Bloomsbury), they learned from each other; Vanessa Bell was called a hopeless painter by critics before she met Roger Fry. Walking through the five rooms of the exhibit, you not only see each artist’s experiments with different artistic styles, but the works of those around them, whose influence is obvious.

What stuck with us the most was not the art, but the camaraderie. And as corny as it sounds, when reading about their collaborations, we couldn’t help but see some of ourselves and TKGO in the Bloomsbury artists and their movement. Good friends are all you need to start a project that changes the way the world is perceived.

(Unfortunately, museum rules prevented us from taking photos, but check out some images at the Block Museum official site. For more information on the Bloomsbury Group and images, take a look at this site.)

Tara and Karina for TKGO

A Compás (In the Rhythm)



Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, October 15, by Karina for TKGO.


One of the nation’s top flamenco troupes—Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company—visited Northwestern University’s Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, and we managed to secure tickets before it sold out. Below are our reactions to the event. (Here’s a hint: We were mesmerized the whole two and a half hours.) To peek at what we saw, watch the video below (which isn’t actually from the show at Pick).

Tara’s Take

My flamenco background is by no means extensive—I’m the only one wearing a red skirt in a Northwestern University class full of black-skirted women and a couple guys—but it’s been a month now since the class started, and I know the difference between a farruca and a bulerías.


My Northwestern University flamenco class, with instructor Joel Valentin-Martinez (left), by Tara for TKGO.


Paco Peña’s was the first live flamenco show I’d seen, but because I’m the worst in the class, I do a lot of YouTubing. The show’s selection of flamenco styles all follow the a compás rhythm, a 12-beat measure with emphasis on the third, sixth, eighth, tenth and twelfth counts. They stuck to a traditional range of flamenco music, but the dancers often added touches of Spanish ballet to modernize the show. They didn’t even stick to the program! The highlight of the first half was when Ramón Martínez took the stage by storm doing zapateado (“footwork”) in blood-red patent leather shoes. After the intermission, we saw Charo Espino’s solo performance, which in my opinion she was made for: Her impeccably clean but fluid arm movements only looked better with a shawl as a prop.

But the energy during Explorando el Compás was unmatched. Paco and the gang hammered on steel tabletops, clapped a jota, and hit the bass for the ultimate garage band sound. The best part? The improvisational goodie bag at the end, when the stout, gut-wrenching martinete singer, Inmaculada Rivero, took the dance floor in a messy, passionate, authentic close to the performance.

Karina’s Thoughts

My time spent abroad, as I’ve professed before, threw me into a love affair with all things Spanish. So when Tara forwarded me the Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company performance information, I didn’t even double check if I was free. I would be there.

During the performance I was so caught up in the intensity of it all I was practically immobile. Charo Espino fiercely twisted her dress around and I felt caught between her ruffles. Ramón Martínez spun in repeated circles, beads of sweat flying from the top of his head in beat with the passionate cries of Inmaculada Rivero and I was stuck in his spins, her song dictating my emotions. Every element was enchanting, but Paco Peña’s guitar playing would have been an astounding performance on its own. He nimbly plucked the instrument, fingers expertly flying over the strings, and it was as though I was hearing a guitar for the first time. The guitar became a living creature in his possession, seemingly with its own breath and heartbeat. I have never felt, seen or heard Spanish guitar like that.

The show was so authentically Spanish, from the late start and lengthy intermission (but who wants to rush artistry anyway?) to the way every number seemed to devolve into an overwhelming and confusing cacophony, but then come to together perfectly, precisely right when it needed to (which is essentially a parallel to how I felt at times while living and studying abroad). Spaniards are passionate people, and Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company’s A Compás performance epitomized that characteristic.

-Tara and Karina for TKGO