April 28, 2011

Keep Rockin' While Ya Still Can

One of the first cd's I owned was Steve Earle and the Dukes' Shut Up & Die Like an Aviator (live) (1991). Came in that old packaging that carried like a plastic briefcase. I couldn't wait to get it home. For reasons they'd soon regret my good parents had bought me a Kenwood KRX-891 Amp and all the accompanying bells and whistles any 13 y.o. could ask for... turntable, dual cassette deck, five-disk CD player and (faux) wood speakers as tall as I was. Used to listen to Guitar Town over-and-over cranked up loud as it would go. That bass would hit right at "Speed trap up ahead Selma town..." a lesson I'd come to appreciate a few years down the road.

Looks like the hillbilly rocker's got a few more miles on him here. Reckon that's due in part to his two-pack habit and general bad-assery, but the ol' boy's still got something to say... (audio only. see video here).  

Video via: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concerts.

April 26, 2011

For the Halibut

I’ve never fully considered the vast utility of the banana leaf outside its more mainstream uses: a runway for potable water, ropes from which to swing through the Ecuadorian jungles, padding for produce carried from farm to market; you know… the everyday aspects of sophisticated living.

But last weekend, as I sifted through the cremini and chanterelle at my friendly neighborhood grocery, I noticed a pile of them there, stacked and folded and ever-so-green against the backdrop of the earth-clod fungi and it dawned on me… I can cook with these. So $0.53/lb and a couple halibut filets later I strode home, bounty affixed firmly to my noggin.

Into a mixing bowl go the filets.  Apply a healthy dose of olive oil and slightly more conservatively the S&P. You’ll also need some citrus, so get to squeezing.  Then lay out the halibut individually onto whatever remains of the banana leaves not yet fashioned into your weekend footwear. Top with slivered tomatoes, diced jalapeƱos and grated ginger and wrap the whole thing up like a tamale. Grill them on low heat for about twenty minutes, flipping more than halfway through, and serve over couscous with toasted pine nuts and a little butter. Maybe a little more butter.

Not certain how much flavor my versatile husk provided but the taste was pure and lacked the typical char you get from going directly off grill or that cedar you get from planks. For a few bucks more next time I ought to have enough for that hammock.

April 23, 2011

Commercially Viable

I’ve got no problem taking my music with a little product accompaniment. Part of the business I’d assume. If I had any talent whatsoever I’d sell out faster than you can say bag-o’-cash and free coffee for life. So I’m really digging this Freelance Whales song… brought to you by Starbucks. Happy Saturday…

April 18, 2011

Go with the Local

A couple months back I was prepping for a trip that would ultimately entail my traipsing through New York, checking out some of its specialty markets and finer foodstuffs… rough gig. Brooklyn was high on the list for a number of reasons, not least of which is the culinary culture it has established these past few years that stresses craftsmanship and collaboration.

The borough has become an incubator of sorts for locally-made artisanal products – beer, cutlery, chocolate, charcuterie, pickles, pasta, you name it. Being into food means getting into food, yourself, up to your elbows (think: breaking down whole animals in-store). But I’d never been and there was lots to see, so in order to make the most of my limited time I sought out the expertise of local Brooklyn-enthusiast Matthew Hranek, noted photographer and steward of The William Brown Project, a written and visual collection of some of his experiences and inspirations.

A brief run through Matt’s blog gives a good indication of the diversity of what he’s into (clay pigeon shoots, hunting dogs, caviar merchants, old Barbour jackets, smoked meats, smoked anything… and that’s just from the past week), and very quickly it should become clear why his was the counsel I sought when picking a few can’t miss places. 

We met up on the corner outside Union Market. He’d just come from having a bite at Prime Meats (which he’s written on a couple of times here and here) and suggested I do the same. 

Walking into Prime Meats at the handsome corner of Court and Luquer is like walking into a Garden & Gun photo shoot: distressed leather benches, reclaimed wood, antiqued mirrors. The waitstaff looked like the Avett Brothers. Hell even the fonts were cool. 

The cocktails are fresh and deliberate, the meats are cured in-house, and the crisp signature beer is from local brewer Sixpoint Craft Ales.  I started with the house-made pretzel with butter and mustard and continued with a pastrami sandwich washed down with the Prime Meats pilsner. The meat was so tender, not over-poweringly salty and with a great smoke to it.   

Sat there for a couple hours with some good friends, soaking up this one physical embodiment of what Brooklyn food culture is hanging its hat on. Let a local be your guide - that should be a rule – and this rec is a testament to why.

425 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY

April 14, 2011

April 13, 2011

Alone in a Crowd

For six years I took the bus to work - first the 42 from Adam's Morgan to Federal Triangle and later the dirty-thirty to 18th & H. There was something therapeutic about the routine. It got me reading. I loved the isolation and the proximity to my fellow passenger. Not to romanticize the whole effort, mind you: at times that proximity was closer than cozy… at times so close it would make a Japanese man blush. The vagaries of the insane were the worst. Then of course the scourges of society… men who refused to yield their seat to women. And waiting, in the rain, for the bus that never came.

But the commute provided a welcomed anonymity… a way of being alone in a crowd. Solitary moments in the midst of the morning chaos, barreling down Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenues papers shuffling headphones in eyes forward corners too fast and brakes too strong and grateful for the early spring breeze coming through the open windows.

For some reason this was on my mind a couple weeks back. I was on the 6 train heading from 51st Street toward Canal to meet a buddy for drinks at Tribeca Grill. Hordes of folks – in the subway, on the street, at the bar – doing their thing, each one with a story. And two days later, at the Nasher in Dallas, these exhibits captured the sentiment well.

George Segal
Rush Hour, 1983

Magdalena Abakanowicz
Bronze Crowd, 1990-91 

2001 Flora Street
Dallas, TX 75201

Photos via: Newman Photography.

April 11, 2011

Viva Fiesta

In D.C. we had the cherry trees blossoming along the Tidal Basin to visually mark the arrival of spring. In San Antonio we've got Fiesta, a cherry in its own right. King William Fair, King's Ball, Queen's Ball, River Parade, Pooch Parade, Battle of the Flowers, Show Us Your Boots. And on and on it goes, for ten days this 120 y.o. tradition that galvanizes the city and raises hundreds of millions of dollars for charity, one puffy taco at a time.

April 9, 2011

Meet me at the Hyphen

... that's what they'd say.  Between the Waldorf and the Astoria. 

Not sure if Peacock Alley has a quiet hour. The buzz flows through, constantly, whether from the eight-dollar cuppa coffee or the eighteen-dollar cocktail. There's a unique sense of being in the Waldorf=Astoria when you walk through the lobby of the Waldorf=Astoria. Take stock. Feels like the Drake, only statelier. It's a presence, of history. Wood-paneled walls, Art Deco everything, mahogany, marble... the embodiment of a charm and sophistication of an era gone by. Never to return? Who's to say. Labor too expensive and aesthetic rides in back these days. Now we trade on functionality. Reduction. I need it faster. I need it cheaper.

The Waldorf is frozen in time, anchored ironically by the gilded clock in the center of the lobby, singing its tune on the quarter hour. Our first stop each night was Sir Harry's. Clink Shake Pour Salud went that song, and a lot more regulalry than every fifteen minutes. We'd emerge, past the debutantes and the photographers and the black ties and the hecklers* and beneath the chandelier and through the revolving door and into the cold New York night.  The wind stings your face ever-so-slightly and your eyes focus and Park Avenue... back into the spinning world.  

Upside down on Park Avenue. Rather indicative of how I felt each morning, both mentally and monetarily.

From my window... 49th and Lexington

*I may be the last to have figured this out, but did you know that half of the world-class heckling duo Statler and Waldorf is named for the hotel; indeed, Waldorf's wife is named Astoria. So there's your party trick for the weekend.

301 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Waldorf Astoria Clock photo via: New York Daily Photo; Statler and Waldorf sketches via: Muppet Wiki (seriously).

April 5, 2011

Speaking of Reasonable

BG is great lunch in a pinch. The women are happy because they're already there. The men are happy because the women are happy. Take the escalator to the 7th floor, eyes open, and when you sit, sit with your back to the window... the view is even better.

Two young ladies sitting next to us must have worked nearby. Looked great but spoke with a haughty inflection and paid with a gift certificate courtesy of a well-heeled client I presume. Couple tables over old partners dressed impeccably. Good conversation and looked like they'd been there before. Again and again. The gentleman wore tweed, tortoise shell spectacles and a repp tie that seemed to have some substance. They seemed to have some substance. I'd like for us to be that old couple someday.

Women's Store, 7th Floor
5th Ave at 58th
New York, NY 10019

April 3, 2011

Italian Market (old school)

Just 'round the bend from Spiceman's is Jimmy's Food Store. Jimmy’s gets a lot of play in the "you're not from Dallas unless..." category, and for good reason: a DiCarlo family owned-market of some form or fashion has been on the corner of Bryan & Fitzhugh for three generations.  Good folks from across town flock to the shop for its old fashioned know-how and singular focus on all things Italian. This focus, it seems, is what keeps Jimmy's thriving in the face of an ever-changing competitive and neighborhood landscape.

It's got an impressive cheese selection, cured meats, and wine - all from Italy save for one bottle of Portuguese, which according to the gal passing out samples "must have snuck in somehow... it won't be here for long."  They've got a fresh meat case, fresh pizza dough, and fresh sausage made in-house (and sold to a number of local restaurants). And where else in East Dallas you going to find semi-boneless marinated quail? 

There's salumi, hot sandwiches made-to-order (I can vouch for both the Cuban and Muffuletta), and about five doors of refrigerated ravioli that looks like it was rolled, stuffed and cut in someone’s grandmother’s kitchen - packaged in Ziplocs with the flavor handwritten in Sharpie. 

Specialty engenders loyalty, and if Jimmy's keeps it up I don't see why they can't stick around no matter what changes await.  But there again who I am to say?  I'm not even from here.

4901 Bryan Street
Dallas, TX 75206