Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Morning View

Summer is comming to South Florida

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Deep End

I’ve been a little unsure as to how to explain this post.

I’ve tried to think of a pithy catchphrase that could sum it up.

But I failed. The closest I’ve come to explaining it, is to say that I’m debunking popular opinion. Or kicking some sacred cows. Or basically admitting that there are some things in music that I just do not get. And I know I’m not alone. I can’t be.

Whether we care to admit it, we’ve all been there. Bought a record that reviews rave about and been left cold. Listened to an album that is constantly name dropped as an influence and been left bewildered. Heard a band so ingrained in popular culture that they’re beyond criticism and felt like an outcast by the musical snobbery. There’s a kind of bullshit mystique built up around certain bands and records, that not liking them makes you something of a leper. An outcast from musical society. Shut out in the cold. The lone voice that dares not speak out in opposition, lest they be lynched.

And it’s not just a case of not liking the music. It’s more than that. I’m sure we can all think of plenty of bands and records we don’t like but which we can appreciate why others would. But there are some records and bands whose elevated status and seemingly untouchable nature is beyond comprehension. It goes beyond merely not liking it to a whole other level. One where not only do you not get it, you can’t understand why others do. Or at least, you can’t comprehend the adoration that surrounds it and you wish someone would sit you down and explain it to you. So you buy it and intermittently return to it. Hoping you’ll suddenly see the light. Waiting for the road to Damascus moment to happen.

Only it never does and halfway through you turn it off, put something else on and file it away back on whichever shelf or box it came from. It’s something similar to that article I mentioned where people were lying about the books they’d read, in order to appear more intelligent. A kind of culture snobbery. One where, such is the myth and status surrounding the record or the band, you feel embarrassed if you have to admit to not liking them. A lesser music fan for not being able to see what the fuss is all about. As though there’s something wrong with you. When really it’s only you that sees the truth. It’s only you who can see past the wall of praise, of legend, of critical acclaim, of groundbreaking innovation and hear the record or band for the middling lump they really are. So I thought I’d offer up a few records and bands whose reputations and critical acclaim simply baffle me.

1. The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan & The Band. Now I love Dylan and I understand why the mystique of this home recording session arose. But surely the official release would have been completely obliterated that when everyone got to hear what a bunch of half baked, dull tunes these were.

2. Cold Play. Average band makes average record with below average singer. The new stuff is purely manufactured anthem rock.

3. Pink Floyd. Smoke another one. Love Gilmour.

4. Radiohead. I have heard a couple of tunes that I would listen to twice, but not much more. They're so beloved that I have tried repeatedly to listen to the entire catalog.

So there you have it. Feel free to list anything you don’t get in the comments. Or if you feel like it you can attempt to show me the light on any one of those.

Pete is someone whose elevated status I do get - especially live. You have to check this out -

1. Won't Get Fooled Again
2. Second Hand Love
3. Give Blood
4. Behind Blue Eyes
5. After The Fire
6. Slit Skirts
7. Blue Light
8. I Put A Spell On You
9. Hiding Out
10. The Sea Refuses No River
11. Face The Face
12. Interruption)
13. Pinball Wizard
14. A Little Is Enough
15. Rough Boys
16. Nighttrain


Where the Wild Things Are

A teaser trailer for the long awaited Spike Jonze movie “Where the Wild Things Are” has finally arrived online. Although, technically, this is the second official trailer. The first one, for “Where the Wild Things Are”, directed by Spike Jonze, came in the year 2000, and premiered in front of the Jim Carey movie, “The Grinch”. Suffice to say there were some problems. Maybe because the book is idiotic and doesn’t make an ounce of sense. Also it’s like 45 words long, and most of those are the same phrase said several times, like a jump rope song, or drinking chant. It probably shouldn’t have even been a book it's so dumb. But it was one of my favorites as a child. And, Spike Jonze. Spike Jonze.

Speaking of Wild is Pearl Jam from the 1990 / The Mookie Blaylock Tape. The Mookie Blaylock demo tape was recorded on October 13, 1990 only six days after becoming a band.

01. Even Flow
02. Once
03. Breath
04. Release
05. Girl
06. Goat
07. Alive
08. Alone
09. Oceans
10. Black
11. Yellow Ledbetter
12. Weird A
13. Daddy Could Swear, I Declare


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Morning View

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wire and Vice

Fixated on U2 lately for two reasons. First, a plethora of great old material seems to be surfacing from the buzz about the upcoming tour. Second, I'm really trying hard to like the new album. It's in constant rotation, I just can't get into it. Part of the problem is I am constantly comparing it to Joshua Tree and The Unforgettable Fire.

"Wire" is easily the most rocking - in fact, the only rocking track - on their 1984 transitional LP The Unforgettable Fire.

Like several other tracks on the album (including the epic and my favorite, "Bad") "Wire"'s lyrics tell a tale of the horrors of drug addiction, which is why it fits right in on this episode of Miami Vice:

Anti-drug diatribe or not, the Edge, Adam and Larry's groove on this track is so urgent and irresistible that Bono could be singing about how to pour the perfect Black & Tan and it would be equally compelling.

Despite being one of their strongest rockers, "Wire" remains a hidden gem, which is curious as it is sandwiched in the sweet spot between one of their biggest hits, "Pride (in the Name of Love)" and the dreamlike title track. I'm pretty sure I've never heard it on the radio.

"Wire" established a template for the band for instrumentally tight, album-track style barn-burners. And almost every record of theirs since "Wire" has featured one: "Even Better than the Real Thing" from Achtung Baby and "Magnificent" on their new record No Line on the Horizon are two examples that come to mind.


Monday, March 16, 2009

It's Them in Ma.

U2 perform live and answer audience questions as part
of "U2 3 Nights Live" broadcast by ABC Satellite Services
and Westwood One. Audience members are mostly radio
contest winners. The location is kept a closely guarded
secret and it turns out to be the Somerville Theatre in
Somerville, just north of Boston. Full details of the gig
and the Q&A session can be found in our article here.

01 - Get On Your Boots
02 - Magnificent
03 - Breathe
04 - I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight / Come On Eileen (snippet)
05 - Vertigo / She Loves You (snippet)


Chefs are a Different Breed

The business of restaurants is tough. It's filled with people of many different personalities and skill sets. Among them - financial guru's, die hard operators, alcoholics and drug addicts, and those that live for food. Yes, Chefs are a different breed.

So you like to cook. You harbor dreams of owning your own restaurant some day. Something small, rustic, “neighborhoody.”

Your friends tell you how great your food is. Their compliments are nice, but in the back of your mind is the nagging voice that keeps telling you that hard work lies ahead if you want to accomplish your dream. You've got a lot to learn...and almost zero money for school.

The first thing you need to do is mentally prepare yourself for what’s to come. Things are going to be hard. You're going to push your mental and physical limits, usually far past your breaking point. You will have almost no cash; so whether this endeavor means saving your pennies, or getting some financial help from family, just know that whatever you spend will be far less than what going to school will cost you. Get used to being broke.

Second, business is business, and a restaurant is a business. Being a great chef does not mean the restaurant will succeed. You need basic business skills that only a mentor can provide. Also - the sincerity and the way you speak to people will directly effect the influence you have with them. Don’t ever forget that. You need to run a business, and that requires employees and guests. You need to learn how to communicate to them.

Mainly though, you need to submit to many things at once; those that will teach you, your desire to have some “me” time, and the urge to talk back when you don't like the way things are going for you. – discipline. Self driven discipline.

Culinary School. Culinary school is all about learning the vocabulary of the kitchen. It is about having a knife in your hand every day. It has nothing to do with becoming a chef, or making up recipes, or discovering your own personal style. Mimicking this experience is fairly simple:

1. Buy either the Cordon Bleu or CIA textbook. Read THE WHOLE THING. As you go through the book, practice the cuts, recipes, and techniques. Buy bags of potatoes and carrots and onions and dice and julienne and brunoise. When you've completed your reading and are starting to feel comfortable with the knife, you're ready for the next step.
2. Gather your tools. You need an 8" chefs knife. Nothing fancy--stick with Wusthof. You'll also need a bread knife, a paring knife, a peeler, and a microplane. You do not need a santoku, despite what the guy at Sur La Table is pushing on you. Pick up Becoming a Chef by Andrew Doreneburg and Karen Page. It's a little dated, but the overall idea of the book is good.
3. Pick a restaurant you like, and go to the back door. Ask the chef if he/she will let you hang out for a night. Let them know that you will do anything: peel garlic, wash lettuce, sweep the floors. If they let you hang out, and you like it, make it your sole purpose in life to become a stagiere or prep cook in that restaurant. Offer to work for free.
4. Once your stage has started, don't give in to your urge to just work the 8 hours then go home. You need to put in extra work. Stay during service. Watch the cooks on the line. Offer to help anywhere you can. Around this time you need to pick up On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. This book is not for reading cover to cover, but more as a reference. If you're making vinaigrettes, read his chapter on emulsions. If you're making stock, read his chapter on gelatin. There is a section in that book that corresponds to every facet of the kitchen. Your understanding of the science in cooking is important. It's not magic.
5. If you've put in a couple of months, sit down with the chef and ask them for a review. What do you do well? Where are you weak? When does the chef think you'll be ready to give the line a shot? Don't let yourself get stuck in one place. Chances are that if you're doing a good job, they'll want to hire you on anyways.
6. Read The Making of a Chef and the Soul of a Chef. Kitchen Confidential is great and all, but it is not required reading.
7. Take everything that you've learned at work and start cooking at home. Go to markets. Cook for your friends and family. Read local restaurant reviews. Don't be tempted to watch Food Network--by this point it's time to cut that tether.
8. Self evaluate every day. Go back and re-visit all the books you read in the beginning. If you're not astonished by your progress, you need to get back to basics. Learn every day, and never settle. Don't get caught up in the lifestyle of a cook...learning is your only purpose now. Stop drinking so much.
9. Around the 6 month mark, branch out on your days off and stage in other kitchens. Take that money that you have already borrowed from your relatives and save it for a trip to New York, or San Francisco, or France, or Spain. This will not be a vacation--it's strictly business. Arrange a stage, or a series of stages. Again, don't get caught up. This is not a vacation.

Coming up as a cook is hard, but if you can dedicate yourself and focus, the way up will be rewarding. You'll look back on these early days with a smile. Just realize that the learning never stops. Things never really get easy. There are always more books to read, new techniques to absorb, new flavors to taste. With this guide though, you have a 12 month jump on the kids in culinary school.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Recent Reads and Links

U2 biographer Neil McCormick has his review of the new U2 disc at this link. He may be biased, but it's a damn great read. Jeff Giles of Bullz-Eye has an excellent review of the disc as well.

Jamsbio Magazine has a great review of the new Bruce Springsteen record at this link. I don't agree with the praise (its OK, not great) but this is a good read and well written. It's worth checking out.

Blabbermouth has the stats on the most recent Motley Crue concerts and it's underwhelming. After a dozen shows, not one broke the 10,000 barrier. The full outline is here. In a day and age where Motley's core audience is out of work, one would think they would have every ticket between $10 and $60. Besides, what are they performing on this leg that they've never done before?

The jam band Phish reunited this week and the first two shows appeared to be for the books. Billboard has a report from night one here and the second show with some killer covers. Here's the best part, the first two shows are available for FREE download at this link.

Bob Lefsetz even hops on the Phish bandwagon praising them at his recent blog post.

U2 has officially announced the outlines for their world tour. It appears less than 50 shows will be performed in 2009 with the tour to continue in 2010. The tour hits America shores on September 12th at Chicago's Soldier Field. While the $250 price tag is utterly insane for a stadium, it's good to see the band will have 10,000 tickets per show at $30 each and all field tickets will be $55.

I hate stadium shows but count me as jazzed for this tour. This could be a way to revolutionize stadium tours in the future. Here are the tour dates below. Only one Midwest date. I am guessing that Chicago, Toronto, Boston, New York/New Jersey will each get at least one show added (and in NJ's case, I am guessing 3 total).

Check out a virtual demonstration at this link. (Wow is all I can say)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Beer Basted BBQ Sliders

Makes: 12 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 7 hours


* 1 7 to 8 pound pork butt
* 24 slider buns
* 1 bottle Red Hot & Blue Mojo Mild Barbecue Sauce

Dry rub

* 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
* 1 tablespoon paprika
* 4 teaspoons kosher salt
* 3½ teaspoons garlic salt
* ¾ teaspoons chili powder
* ¼ teaspoon oregano
* ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
* ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
* ¼ teaspoon black pepper


* 1 bottle (12-ounce) dark beer
* 1¼ cup cider vinegar
* 1¼ cup distilled white vinegar
* 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
* ½ cup Worcestershire
* ¼ cup soy sauce
* 1½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
* 3 tablespoons chili powder
* 2 tablespoons salt
* 1 tablespoons sugar
* 2 teaspoons black pepper
* 2 teaspoons dry mustard
* 2 teaspoons paprika
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Build a charcoal fire for indirect cooking by situating the coals on only one side of the grill, leaving the other side void. Add a small aluminum pan to the void side of the grill and fill it halfway with water.

In a small bowl, combine the dry rub ingredients. Coat the pork evenly with dry rub, patting gently until the mixture adheres to the meat.

When the grill reaches 250 degrees Fahrenheit, place pork butt on the void side of the grill over the water pan, close the lid, and cook over indirect heat for four hours.

While the pork is cooking, combine all of the baste ingredients in a medium saucepan and mix well. Place over medium-low heat and simmer until the butter melts. Keep baste on low heat until ready to use.

Cook pork an additional three hours basting the pork every hour until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Continually monitor the grill temperature and add hot charcoal as needed, to maintain the grill temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the pork butt from the charcoal grill and let it rest for 15 minutes. Pull the cooked meat from the bone and serve mounded high on slider buns topped with your favorite barbecue sauce and cole slaw.

For the Love of Food

This post is a tribute to what I consider the absolute best non-commercial food blog - For The Love Of Cooking. Here is what I love about this blog:

-uses mostly fresh ingredients that you can find in season and locally. No "virgin goat foie gras", "kosher pork anus", or wild ingredients that you see on Iron Chef.
-recipes tend to be simple (from a fundamental standpoint) yet classic. They're not trying to impress anyone with gels, foams, and or "super micro infusion".
-photography is exceptional from lighting to composition
-the "view printable recipe" option for any posts makes it easy to import or print recipes.

Check it out!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Killer Sunday Morning View

So I thought I'd treat you to this acoustic version of 'When You Were Young'.

A slower, more contemplative piano version, it is still a damn good tune and for my money, probably the best track The Killers have knocked out. Much better than anything on 'Day And Age', that's for sure. I've tried and tried to like it but I just don't. It just doesn't do anything for me. It's playing up all the 80s influences I hate but that could be forgiven if the songs were stronger. It almost feels like The Killers spent all their time on the sound of the record without spending too much time on the actual songs. It just seems to lack any of the strong hooks or killer melodies that has always been their selling point. Plus it commits one of my most hated musical crimes. An irrational hatred that I wrote about way back in the day. Something that just makes me want to tear my ears from my head. A horrible, grating, entirely unnecessary and unconnected saxophone solo. If there's one thing I'm almost certain of, it's that if you ever got stuck in a lift in purgatory, a saxophone solo is sure to be the muzak playing.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Soundtrack of My Life

Smashing Pumpkins - cherub (live - acoustic version)

Miami Food and Wine quickie

I had several friends who spent the week / wkend in Miami at the Wine & Food Fest a couple weeks ago. This experience which doesn't seem to come as often in the present economy. Here is a random picture that was sent to me -

“Breaking out the caviar machine. We never use this, unless we need caviar for a thousand people. Notice the creative weight devices used to drive the syringes down with equal force.”

Very cool.

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