June 2, 2009

Choice Downloads - May

A whole lotta inactivity on the blog this last month. Sorry about that. I guess you could say Slopey Seconds has been going through a silent transition. You won't see (m)any food posts on here anymore; I'm going to focus all of my attention on music. In the process, I'm considering rebranding. Any ideas?

On to the music...
This past month, I downloaded/purchased/received over 4 gigs of new music, more than twice my total in April. That's 1.7 days or 555 songs. It was no small task listening to and rating that much music, let alone whittling it down to a manageable list, but I think I did a fairly good job. What about you?

There are two songs on the list titled "Revenge." Why? I have no idea. I'm not feeling particularly vengeful this month or anything. The second "Revenge" is off of Dangermouse's new project Dark Night of the Soul. If you haven't downloaded that album yet, stop what you're doing right now and snag it; if you can't find it, shoot me a line or leave me a comment and I'll point you in the right direction. David Lynch has his hand in this work which explains why I've watched Mullholland Drive and the first season of Twin Peaks in the last week.

Other albums represented on this list that you should purchase immediately include I Think We Need a Bigger Boat, Norman Cook's (aka Fatboy Slim) recent collaborative album released under the name Brighton Port Authority, Passion Pit's much anticipated Manners (if you like to dance), Steve Earle's Townes (if you like Country/Blues) and Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest (if you like listening to good music).

There are also two 80's remixes on list. That wasn't intentional. For the record, I've never been a fan of Hall & Oates but I got hooked on this Streetlab remix. Speaking of stuff I thought I didn't like, my cuz-in-law, Bryan, sent me the new Japandroids and I ended up liking a few of their tunes after hating on them last month. Alright, enough talk...

He's Frank (Slight Return) feat. Iggy Pop - Brighton Port Authority
Casablanca - So Cow
Electric Avenue - Woodhands
Belated Promise Ring - Iron & Wine
Hold Up f. Masta Ace & Sean Price - Marco Polo & Torae
Revenge (Russ Chimes Remix) - Justin Faust
Ambivalence Avenue - Bibio
The Boys Are Leaving Town - Japandroids
Revenge (feat. Wayne Coyne) - Dangermouse/Sparklehorse
Ladies - Lee Fields & The Expressions
Little Secrets - Passion Pit
The Bitch Went Nutz - Ben Folds
White Freightliner Blues - Steve Earle
Director's Cut (feat. Uncle Murda) - Busta Rhymes
Stay Famous - Cougar
Get On Down - Louis La Roche
Cheerleader - Grizzly Bear
Vermillion Plaza - Deastro
A Pipe Dream And A Promise - Finale
Hold The Line (DJ Edit w/Santigold) - Major Lazer
Waiting for My Night - Katie Herzig
Days Go On - Greg Laswell
J'aime Vous Voire Quitter - Islands
Magdalena - Josh Rouse
I Can't Go For That (Streetlab mix) - Streetlab vs Hall & Oates
Narita - Lymbyc Systym

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May 19, 2009

New Passion Pit Album "Manners" Released Today

Just wanted to remind you that the new Passion Pit album is available for consumption. I'm in the process of downloading it as I type and will offer a review sometime later this week. Read Full Entry

May 12, 2009

Bjork and the Dirty Projectors @ Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

Last Friday, I took MB to see Björk and the Dirty Projectors at the Housing Works Bookstore for her birthday. After a lobster roll at the Mermaid Inn, we headed to the venue to get a good spot in line. Tickets for this super-exclusive event were pretty pricey - $100 for our standing-room tickets, $400 for reserved seats and, according to an employee standing near us, between $800-$950 for the auctioned front row tables - but all of the proceeds went to a great cause and we were witness to the premier of a brand new suite of music written by Mr. Longstreth specifically for his group and Ms. Guðmundsdóttir.

The whole evening was the brainchild of Brandon Stosuy, a writer for Stereogum. Before introducing the performers, he explained how he worked with the Dirty Projectors on a cover of Björk's "Hyperballad" and, a few weeks later, had an interview with Björk who happened to mention her admiration for the Dirty Projectors and their vocal arrangements. Although both parties were eager to collaborate, it took Mr. Stosuy some doing to find a time when all of the performers were both available and in the same location.

To start the evening, the Dirty Projectors and Björk each chose an opening act. Nat Baldwin, bassist for the Dirty Projectors, introduced the first opener, Kurt Weisman. According to his myspace page, Mr. Weisman describes his music as experimental and apparently most often works with electronics; for this event, he simply played guitar and sang. Unfortunately, the combination of his soft, ethereal voice and the two-and-a-half feet that separated his mouth from the microphone made it nearly impossible to hear him even though we were standing less than 15 yards away.

Next up, we got our first glimpse of Björk as she introduced Ólöf Arnalds, a fellow Icelander and vibrant folk singer. Ms. Arnald's set was much easier to hear and the audience fed off her youthful energy. In a nod to the main attraction, she performed the only Björk cover of the evening, a solo version of "Unravel" with Ólöf singing and accompanying herself on violin. Later, she was joined by two other musicians and at one point, pulled out a small, 10-string guitar-like instrument with a body made from an armadillo.

After Ólöf's set, and a break that felt like an eternity, the Dirty Projectors finally took the stage, performing 4 songs off of their upcoming album, Bitte Orca, which is due out in early June. When these were done, we were finally ready to hear the main event. The pain we were feeling in our legs from the 45 minutes spent standing outside the venue and another three hours inside quickly melted away as the collaborators premiered an impressive six-song suite which told the tale of a woman standing on a mountain, looking out at a whale in the ocean and the whale, in turn, looking back.

Like the Andrew Bird show at Carnegie Hall earlier this year, I decided to record the event on my iPhone for my own personal listening pleasure. I'm very reluctant to post any of it here as the event was professionally recorded, filmed and photographed, suggesting the entire performance will be available sometime in the not-so-distant future. However, the second song in the suite was so vocally impressive, no amount of explanation is going to do it justice. In an effort to satisfy your curiosity without offending the performers, I've decided to make this 20 second clip available. Over the the pulse of the bass and guitar, you're hearing the alternating voices of two women. Even as I watched them do it, I couldn't really fathom how it was possible. Not only are they singing every other note in a difficult rhythmic pattern, there making ridiculous jumps in their range. Absolutely breathtaking.

Six-songs and roughly 18 minutes later, the show was over. As the performers walked past me, I turned to applaud and plead with the rest of the audience for an encore, which sadly never came, but once I was facing away from the stage, I realized the man with the shock of white hair standing directly behind me was David Byrne. According to other attendees, M.I.A., Fourtet, members of The National and Vampire Weekend were also in attendance. Now, I've heard a lot of people complain that the show was far too short for the price of admission, and I have to admit, I feel the promoters could have done a better job setting appropriate expectations - instead of "Björk and the Dirty Projectors," the show should have been billed as "The Dirty Projectors with a special appearance by Björk" - but the excitement of watching these performers debut brand new material in such an intimate setting cannot be overstated.
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May 4, 2009

Choice Downloads - April

Just like March, I felt like this list was weak compared to the previous month. It's been growing on me, after a few listens, so i hope you find it worth our (re. my) time, at least as far as new music.

I'm not saying I didn't dredge up some oldies. Take Phoenix's "Napoleon Says." The band's latest - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - was officially released this month but I posted "1901" back in February. Rather than upload a B-side from their latest, I think it's better to show off this gem from one of their older albums (It's Never Been Like That). On the flip-side, I posted an old Metric tune - Monster Hospital - because I downloaded their latest - Fantasies - and didn't find much worth mentioning.

I also relied on a number of recommendations from friends and readers. White Denim, for instance. My cousin-in-law, Bryan, gave me Workout Holiday several few months ago. I gotta admit, when I came across Mirrored and Reverse, I didn't think much of the band, but thanks to Bryan, I had a backlog to catch up on. I much prefer their older stuff but I thought you'd like to see both ends of that band's spectrum. Ms. Benisch also deserves mention - she gave the The Morning Benders album for my 29th birthday.

There were also a few obvious bands that didn't make this month's cut. Dinosaur Jr.'s latest single was a major disappointment. I felt like I was listening to an Eddie Vedder impersonator who lack a decent Jeff Ament facsimile. If that description sounds like a good time to you, let me know and I'll send you "I Want You to Know."

If you're headed to Manchester, TN in June, stay tuned for my May list. I'll give you a rundown of my favorite tunes from the bands playing this year's Bonnaroo Music Festival. In the meantime, take a listen and let me know what you think...
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April 27, 2009

Upcoming Events

Aside from a few food posts I still need to write, there hasn't been much blog-worthy activity in my life recently. The event horizon is jam packed, however, so I figured I'd post what the future of this blog will tackle in the coming months. Have any ideas of other shows/food events I should attend in the greater NYC area this summer? Hit me up in the comments.

5.8 - Bjork with the Dirty Projectors
??? - MB's Bday Dinner @ Candle 79
5.22 - Dinner @ Gramercy Tavern
5.30 - Tortoise
6.7 - Dosh
6.8 David Byrne
6.11-6.14 - Bonnaroo
6.18 - Anniversary Dinner, potentially @ Modern
6.19 - Phoenix
6.20 - Passion Pit
7.8 - Juana Molina
7.13 - Wilco
7.31-8.2 - APW Festival
8.4 - Depeche Mode
8.7 Casiokids
8.16 - Phish Read Full Entry

April 19, 2009

Trimming the Fat

For some reason, every year I forget how much easier it is to eat well once it's nice outside. Walking to the market is much easier, grilling is once again a viable option and fresh produce abounds. After months of being lazy and ordering in or eating out on a near nightly basis, MB and I have completely switched gears and in just 2 days, I feel like a different person.

Yesterday, with the temperature clearing 70 for the first time this year, MB and I walked down to Union Market to grab food for the week. Our mantra lately has been lots of whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, and nuts. Other than an occasional cheese plate or ridiculous hamburger, we're what we like to consider part-time vegans.

Although our house is stocked to the brim, we still wanted to visit the new Le Bagel Delight's, conveniently located just down two avenues down 7th street from our apartment. But rather than grab a pair of bagel's covered in cream cheese, we decided to get a fresh whole wheat bagel and bring it home to make a panini using avocado, vine-ripened tomatoes and Oaxacan cheese. The result? A delicious bagel without the food coma.

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April 14, 2009

Choice Downloads - March

It's time once again for some delectable downloads from yours truly. This month, I sorted through 14.3 hours of music, or 186 songs, to bring you 23 tunes for your listening pleasure. At first, I wasn't as happy with this month's collection as I was with last month, but after listening to the playlist for the past 2 weeks, I think they're on par with February.

As usual, most of the set is comprised of brand new music but there are a few older goodies as well. If you're a fan of Rodrigo y Gabriela (and how could you not be), check out the live version of Diablo Rojo. I've seen them twice, once at Bonnaroo and once in the rain at APW; it's mind bending how well two individuals with acoustic instruments can command the stage. I also really like Bob Dylan's latest, Beyond Here Lies Nothin', probably because it reminds me of Tom Waits' Way Down in the Hole which was used as the theme song for The Wire.

Gabriela at APW 2008

After lots of people told me they liked the Passion Pit song, Sleepyhead, from last month's list, I decided to include a remix of the song. I also posted another Emiliana Torrini tune to coincide with my blog post earlier this month. The rest is an eclectic mix ranging from country to house to hip hop to indie (whatever the hell that even means). After you take a listen, drop a comment and let me know what you like and what you hate.

Like last month, I'm going to post songs on drop.io. I was going to zip everything together but I realized you can listen to the songs directly from the site before you decide whether or not you want to download. I'd also be interested to hear if you take advantage of that feature or if you'd rather just download everything in a bundle.

Happy listening!

Lakeside - Blk Jks
Diablo Rojo - Rodrigo y Gabriela
Cupid - Amy WInehouse
Beyond Here Lies Nothin' - Bob Dylan
Proper Rock - The Chap
Turn Cold - Cut Off Your Hands
The Angst - DJ Hell
Mirador - Efterklang
Me and Armini - Emiliana Torrini
Welcome, Ghosts - Explosions in the Sky
Automobile - The Fumes
My Beach - Human Highway
Seven-Mile Island - Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Day 'N' Nite (Crookers Remix) - Kid Cudi
Volume - Libretto
Your Love - Pacha Massive
Golden Phone - Micachu
Sleepyhead (Wallpaper, Dio Remix) - Passion Pit
Tracy's Waters - Patrick Watson
Slow Club - Slow Club
Drumming, Pt. 4 - Steve Reisch/So Percussion
Bag of Hammers - Thao With The Get Down Stay Down
On a Neck, On a Spit - Grizzly Bear
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April 9, 2009

Pan Fried Wild Arctic Char with Asparagus and Three-Bean Salad

Like everyone else in the city, I'm ready for spring to stop putzing around and arrive already. Every time I think I'm going to get the ol' grill out, we get hit with another cold snap. When my sister-in-law came over to use my copy of TurboTax last Wednesday, I had visions of cooking a meal like the main course I served my mother on her birthday last July but Mother Nature had other plans. Desperate for food with a char (no pun intended), I pulled the grill pan out and flooded our apartment with smoke.

The meal was really straightforward but it still took me about an hour to prepare. For the bean salad, I grilled a few ears of corn and some red peppers and combined them with diced red onion, vine-ripened tomatoes and canned cannellini, black and garbanzo beans, over which I drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Once the salad was finished, I threw the asparagus in the grill pan and pan fried the arctic char. Once the fish was cooked, I threw together a simple white wine sauce with oso onion, garlic, lemon and butter. I used too much onion and garlic so the "sauce" came out a little chunky but it was still a tasty topping for the fish. Read Full Entry

April 7, 2009

Brunch @ Sidecar

When MB and I woke up last Sunday, we knew we wanted brunch but we couldn't decide where we should go. After rattling through the regular suspects - Sette, Miracle Grill, 12th Street Bar and Grill, Stone Park Cafe, Little D's, Applewood - we decided to take a walk and see if we could find something new. After enjoying a long walk down 7th Ave towards Greenwood Cemetery, we headed down to 5th Ave. By the time we reached 6th Ave, we were starving so we headed to Sidecar, hoping they served brunch. Lucky for us, they do.

The last time we dined at this local eatery was back in August, under completely different circumstances. As we walked in, we saw my former coworker, Trevor, who was just finishing his meal. Trevor lives right around the corner on 15th between 3rd and 4th and according to him, Sidecar only recently began serving brunch. It was actually his first time eating there too but he strongly recommended the migas and the home fries.

Rather than sit in a booth, MB and I ponied up to the bar. I couldn't decide what I wanted to drink but as soon as our bartender, Joe, mixed a Bloody Mary, I knew I had to have one. Their mix is decidedly cajun which, in addition to the horseradish vodka, really brings the heat. Even the garnish was out of the ordinary; celery and olives were replaced by a pickled green bean and a cherry pepper.

As we sucked down our drinks, we focused on the menu and put together a ridiculous mid-afternoon meal. Relying on Trevor's recommendation, we split an order of migas and home fries but we also grabbed some cheese grits, bacon and toast. It's hard to say what was the best part of the meal - everything was stupendous - but the bacon was probably the most noteworthy. It wasn't much to look at and when I picked it up, I felt the thickness to crispness ratio wasn't up to snuff, but when I finally tasted it, I could tell we were enjoying some grade-A pork. I don't want to understate the quality of the migas but the cheese grits were also top-notch. Of course, I'm a Yankee, so my opinion in these matters doesn't really count but MB gave her seal of approval and seeing as she's a Texan, I'd say that's all the credibility we need.

As we were finishing our meal, I decided to take a bite out of the cherry pepper garnishing my drink. I made the wise decision to confirm the variety of the pepper with Joe before chomping down on it. After all, a pickled cherry pepper looks a hell of a lot like a scotch bonnet. Although they only register a mild 500 Scoville Heat Index rating, I aimed for the flesh, letting the seeds and inner juice drip out into my glass. Of course, when I took a huge slug of my Bloody Mary moments later, I quickly realized my efforts were completely wasted. Fortunately, the burn dissipated after 10 minutes or so.

As if brunch wasn't enough food, MB had a hankering for something sweet so we stopped by the Delices de Paris bakery on 9th Street on the way home and picked up this delectable little bear pastry.

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April 1, 2009

Emiliana Torrini @ Hiro Ballroom

DOWNLOAD: Birds - Emiliana Torrini

This past fall, my friend Paul spent some time in Iceland and Sweden. Upon his return to the States, he provided me with a bunch of new music from abroad including Emiliana Torrini's latest album, Me and Armini. I knew nothing about the Icelandic singer prior to listening to this album but I was immediately impressed with her voice and her song writing. Just a few months later, Paul mentioned she was playing an intimate show at Hiro Ballroom.

Hiro is a beautiful, Asian themed room located below the Maritime Hotel. On a typical night, the venue is home to DJs and table service but my experience with the club has been anything but typical. The only other time I've been there was back in October when I saw Andrew Bird the same week he finished recording his latest, Noble Beast.

Opening for Ms. Torrini was another Icelandic singer, Lay Low; her given name is Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir but she uses Lay Low onstage. Paul had hooked me up with latest, Farewell Good Night's Sleep, when he gave me Emiliana's album but I hadn't listened to it more than once before the show. Her performance was pleasant but subdued; as I'm writing this review almost a week and a half after the show, I can't say much about her set stands out in my mind.

Emiliana's set, on the other hand, was very memorable. Although she played several songs off some of her older records, the focus was decidedly on Me and Armini. There's not much to be said about her stage presence but she told wonderful stories between songs. She also did a masterful job selecting songs, building the set steadily throughout the evening.

The show really hit a peak about three-quarters of the way in when she played Birds and she managed to keep the energy up for the rest of the show. Clearly, things went even better than Ms. Torrini had hoped. With the audience clamoring for more after a pair of planned encore tunes, Emiliana quickly conferenced with her band and decided on one extra tune before calling it quits.

Overall, I was impressed with her performance. Even though the show was slightly more restrained than I was in the mood for that evening, it was abundantly clear why she's so popular in the U.K. With some good press and an extended tour of the States, I wouldn't be surprised if she became a household name in the U.S. within a year.
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March 29, 2009

Hanco's Vietnamese Sandwich Shop

At some point this winter, the Tea Lounge on 7th Ave closed its doors and has since been replaced by Hanco's, a Vietnamese sandwich shop that has it's primary location in Boerum Hill. Recently, I read somewhere that more bánh mì eateries have opened in NYC in the last year than any other type of restaurant. I haven't had the pleasure of trying one until Saturday.

One glance at the ingredients in a bánh mì and its pretty clear these sandwiches are a delicious by-product of French colonial rule in Vietnam during the 19th and 20th centuries. Ham, pork and pâté with shaved carrots, daikon radish and cucumber served on a baguette with some mayo and butter? Sign me up! Everything inside the sandwich was incredible but the bread really held the sandwich together, literally and figuratively. The baguette was crisp but not to hard, making it possible to eat the sandwich without destroying it.

To accompany the sandwich, MB ordered up her favorite Vietnamese treat, a pair of gỏi cuốn - spring or summer rolls, depending on who you ask. Unlike their fried cousins, chả giò, these rolls are basically a small salad you can eat with your hands. Peaking through the uncooked rice paper, you could see the three medium shrimp resting on a bed of rice vermicelli and greens. The rolls are served with a light peanut dipping sauce.

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March 28, 2009

Spring-loaded - Grimaldi's, Flatbush Farm's Bar(n) and APW Festival Announcement

A week after its official arrival, Spring finally made it's presence known in NYC this evening. Fortunately, MB and I had no major plans so we were able to enjoy a relatively quiet evening in BK. After jetting home and taking a quick nap, we headed to DUMBO for some Grimaldi's pizza with a bunch of friends and some out-of-towners.

If you're not from NY (or you've been living under a rock for the past century), Grimaldi's is one of city's more famous pizza joints. I'd had the pleasure of consuming a few of their slices in the past but it was always during the summer at a "Movies with a View" event under the Brooklyn Bridge, roughly 3 or 4 hours after it came out of the oven. In that condition, I never thought much of the pizza, but after tasting it at it's best, I've got to say their pizza is worth the hype.

The line out the door was as advertised - we waited about 45 min for a table - but we were more than happy to spend the first nice evening of the season outside near the water. Once inside, I couldn't believe how quickly our group of 8 strangers put together a communal pizza order. One white pie, one cheese and one pepperoni. What more could you ask for?

My biggest problem with the 4-hour old Grimaldi's pizza I'm accustomed to eating is the crust. It's usually just slightly charred. On a luke-warm, hardened slice, the carbon makes it taste like ash but when the pizza is fresh out of the oven, it adds just the right touch of flavor. To cap off the meal, MB and I split a cannoli and an espresso.

We thought about staying down in DUMBO for a drink or maybe to catch whatever was happening at Galapagos but decided to head back to the Slope instead. When we got back, the night was still too young and too beautiful to head inside so we took a walk down 7th Ave. Earlier in the evening, I'd mentioned Flatbush Farm's Bar(n) as a potential nightcap locale so it wasn't too surprising when we ended up sipping on a Sixpoint Bengali Ale and a Coney Island Sword Swallower before heading home for the evening.

As we were sitting at the bar, I happened to check in on Twitter and noticed a post from Brooklynvegan about APW. There's been little press about the future of the festival, which was held for the first time last year in Liberty State Park, NJ, but I was keeping my fingers crossed that the people at Coachella Music and Arts Festival would bring the event back for a second year. Looks like I'm going to get my wish. The line-up will be announced on Monday. Brooklynvegan is sponsoring a contest where if you are able to pick the lineup, you'll get Saturday passes. Are you kidding me? This is like a March Madness bracket that I can actually win.
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March 27, 2009

Bjork with The Dirty Projectors @ Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

I just caught wind of a show with Bjork and The Dirty Projectors at a tiny venue that seats 300 people. After quickly checking my calendar, I snagged 2 tickets. As I woke up my wife, I realized the show is on her birthday. Last year, I surprised her with pit tickets for a Radiohead show in Charlotte, NC. At the time, I thought there was no way I could live up to that gift this year. I'm safe for now but I'm screwed in 2010. Read Full Entry

March 26, 2009

The Mermaid Inn

After destroying my friend Ashley's camera last weekend, I was more than happy to help her move a microwave from her office to her apartment, 5 blocks away. After all, she lives/works only about 10 blocks from my office. MB was coming in from Queens so we decided to rendez-vous near our old stomping grounds around the lipstick building in midtown-east. Ashley had more work to do but MB coerced her coworker, Andrea, to join us. We met at Vero, a conveniently located, albeit slightly pretentious, neighborhood wine bar.

A little more than one glass of wine and a plate of cheese later, we'd covered some important ground. To start, MB and I are going to look into The Modern as a venue for our anniversary dinner. It's also quite clear that, barring some unforeseen circumstance, we're headed to Gramercy Tavern with Andrea and her husband, Adam, sometime in the not-so-distant future. But the most relevant decision was to vacate the premises and head to The Mermaid Inn in the lower-east side at the corner of 6th and 2nd.

It wasn't a tough sell. We were sold the second the words "lobster roll special" fell out of Andrea's mouth. $20 for a good lobster roll ( a lobster sandwich, actually) and a Blue Point Toasted Lager? Sign me up. Sadly, we arrived at 7:25 and the special only lasts until 7 PM but that didn't really have much effect on the outcome other than the size of our bill. After splitting a half dozen oysters, half east coast and half west coast, we dove into our sandwiches.

"Sandwich" doesn't really do the dish justice but it's decidedly not a roll. There's no traditional New England-style hot dog bun. Instead, The Mermaid Inn uses a flakey roll with a brioche-like crust and croissant consistency. The replacement is more than acceptable and compliments the lobster meat well. Kissed with just a bit of mayo and Old Bay, I liked the lobster consistency, although the meat wasn't quite as chunky as I would have hoped for. I also liked the chives. They got me thinking about Spring. Paired with the sandwich were some mediocre Old Bay fries; I'd give 'em a 6.5.

At the end of the meal, we were served a small cup of chocolate pudding - forgettable, but an appropriate ending for a simple meal - and a Fortune Teller Miracle Fish. According to that small piece of plastic, I'm either fickle or dead.

[Update] For some reason, I completely forgot to mention the soundtrack to our meal, which was nothing short of awesome. MGMT. Kings of Leon. Frightened Rabbit. Either they use an incredible satellite radio station or someone put together a kick-ass playlist.

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March 23, 2009

Choice Downloads - February

Many of my posts last year came in the form of the Tunes at Work series. During the workday, I'd listen to my +130 GB music collection on shuffle and track the songs I liked the best. At the end of the week, I'd post links to my favorites in the iTunes store. I want to resurrect the series but I'm going to change the format a bit.

Starting last month, I've been downloading music like a fiend, most of it free and nearly all of it unprotected. By the end of February, I'd collected 103 songs or nearly 800 MB of music. As I've listened to the music, I've ranked the songs using iTunes' five-star system. What follows are direct links to the 4- and 5-star music I think will be worth your while. I should point out that most of this music is relatively new but you'll also find several are older tunes that have only recently arrived on my computer.

The tunes will be hosted on drop.io, an awesome site for hosting content of all varieties; if you don't know about it, you should check it out. There's a broad range of genres represented, everything from folk to house to metal. In future posts, I may do a little background on the individual bands and why I like the songs but for now, just enjoy the tunes (links to the music are after the jump).
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March 21, 2009

PSA - No Mr. Grifter, I Did Not Break Your Glasses

A few weeks ago, MB invited me to a happy hour with her coworkers down in the financial district. As I wandered around looking for the Pound and Pence, a dude came out of a doorway, looking the other way, and bumped into me. I kept walking but I was polite enough to look back and offer a half-hearted apology. That may have been my mistake. I noticed the guy was picking something off the ground but didn't think much of it and continued on my way.

As I got to the corner of Nassau and Liberty, I could start to feel someone behind me. As I rounded the corner, I pulled my head phones off and started to glance over my shoulder. Halfway to Broadway, I could tell this guy was coming after me, so with a mounted police directly beside me, I turned to face the guy.

He held up a pair of crunched glasses and started complaining that by bumping him, I'd caused him to drop them and they'd broken. In the head of the moment, I didn't think to say, "Why would your glasses be crushed if you just dropped them on the ground," but the New Yorker in me made it very clear that he bumped into me, not the other way around.

Suddenly, things got a hell of a lot more heated. He started pressuring me that the glasses were "$99 and I told have no fucking insurance." Stone faced, I apologized again but told him that it wasn't my fault. At this point, he stopped making sense all together, asking me, "Why you laughin', mother fucker. You think this is funny or something?" As I was not laughing, I realized that this creep might try more forceful approach to get his money out of me so I started weighing my option. Unfortunately, the mounted police officer was now nowhere to be found so all I could do was fight or flee. I prepared for the former while attempting the latter.

Somehow, I was able to talk/back my way out of the situation but I was more than a little jittery as I made my way back north on Broadway. Looking over my shoulder, I went into evasion mode, crossing the street just in front of a series of cars, doing everything in my power to make it hard for this guy to follow me. I called MB to find out where exactly the Pound and Pence is located. When she described the exact spot where this guy bumped into me, I made an executive decision to call it a night and headed home.

A few days later, as MB was regaling this tale to her sister, Becca stopped her halfway through the story and completed it, using a lot of the same language as the grifter in our tale. Turns out, this and several modified versions, are classic scams. Although I felt a little weird in the moment, it confirmed that I'd done just about everything right in this situation. How would you have done? Pretty good? What if they guy had done the insulin variation?
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March 20, 2009

Puss 'n Boots, Pronto at the Mercury Lounge

Last night, I caught an unusual bill at the Mercury Lounge featuring a pair of side projects. First up was Norah Jones's all-female cover band, Puss 'n Boots. Featuring Sasha Dobson on acoustic, drums and vox, Catherine Popper on bass and vox, and Ms. Jones on a Fender Mustang, the trio played a relaxed set of classic Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash and Doc Watson tunes, among other tasty covers. Midway through the set, we got a real treat when the girls invited Mikael Jorgensen from Wilco up to play a cover of his band's Jesus Etc. (click here for a clip of them performing the same tune at the Black Swan in Tivoli, NY this past February).

Jorgensen's side project, Pronto, was the second band on the bill. I've got to say, I wasn't very impressed with their performance but I've since gone back and listened to their tunes on myspace and I like them a lot more. The vocals are a little weak but the production is great. The horn parts on All is Golden are particularly choice.

MB and I have long been fans of Norah's "smoke 'n honey" voice since her first album came out in 2002 but watching her perform from 5 feet away made it clear just how good she really is. To her credit, though, she doesn't overpower her fellow band members. In fact, I think Ms. Dobson's demeanor, voice and musical prowess makes her the band's most entertaining member.

I do have to mention how stunning Ms. Jones is. As luck would have it, she was leaving the bar just as I was grabbing a few beers for my crew and I somehow managed to avoid making a complete fool of myself when I struck up a conversation with her. Thanks to Lawrence and Daniel for hooking us up with this awesome pic.

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March 11, 2009

Makin' up for lost time - Mardi Gras

Hello friends. I know it's been awhile since I've posted anything but things have been non-stop since we got back from Florida. So the posts should come hot and heavy for the next couple days. Where to begin? How 'bout Mardi Gras?

MB, Becca and I spent Fat Tuesday at the Bell House, a venue that literally down the street from our apartment. We had been planning this night for awhile. Nathan Warner, a friend of MB's from ND, and his band, The Sugartone Brass Band, were on the bill and they did not disappoint. They're an eight piece New Orleans band and they bring the soul and funk, hard! I can't remember the last time I saw a full band with no electric instruments. Why have a bass player when you can have this guy on tuba?

Beads. Hurricanes. A brass band. Jambalaya from Great Jones Cafe (great stuff - just on the right side of too spicy). What could be better? The audience was definitely having a good time. By the time they threw down Chameleon, I was pretty tipsy so I felt it was my sacred duty to let everyone in the room know how friggin' awesome that tune is.

If I had anything bad to say about the evening it would have to be our hurricane to jambalaya ratio. It was a little, how do you say, off? I guess what I'm trying to say is we had a great evening but a miserable Ash Wednesday. Oh, and if for any reason members of the band come across this post, all I can tell you is the surprise you had at the end of the evening was entirely my doing. You're welcome!
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February 26, 2009


This past weekend, MB and I flew down to Florida to see her folks. Her parents have a beautiful home, right on a canal on Siesta Key, just an hour or so north of where I was born in Fort Myers. As always, our visit was full of great food including a bunch of fish caught by my father-in-law. Friday night, we had a delicious ceviche of scallops, shrimp and amberjack followed by seafood stew. Ceviche recipe after the jump.

Here's the recipe my father-in-law used to make the ceviche. He didn't do it over night, just 3 or 4 hours, but he stirred it regularly, probably every 20 minutes. The dish was great that evening but even better the next day.

1 1/2 lb firm flesh fish, shrimp, scallops or combo
5-6 limes (Enough Juice to cover fish)
1 cup diced fresh tomato
1 green pepper, sweet, chopped
4 tablespoons chopped parsley or chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (or more to suit your taste)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 dash Tabasco sauce
lettuce leaf (to line serving bowls)
avocado (optional)
black olives, sliced (for garnish) (optional)

Dice the fish (shrimp/scallops) (approximately 1/2-inch dice if using shrimp
use cleaned shrimp).

Marinate fish in the lime juice in the fridge overnight (4 hours, in a

Stir often.

Pour off most of the lime juice (just leave it moist). Add remaining ingredients except lettuce, avocado and olive. Do this
preferably a few hours before serving & refrigerate. Toss well and arrange in individual serving bowls that are lined with the
lettuce leaves. If you wish garnish with sliced avocado and sliced black olives.

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February 12, 2009

Hop O-drama: Feds Haulted Production of Six Point's Limited Presidential Beer

An interesting story on Gothamist today claims the Feds closed down the Hop Obama beer I blogged about back in November claims the Feds served a cease and desist order to shut down production of the Sixpoint's limited run because, "...having the President's name in conjunction with [their] product...apparently violated some federal statues." 

Oh well. They were only going to make it for a limited time anyway. Didn't make the beer any less delicious.
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February 9, 2009

Stone Park Cafe Brunch

This past weekend, my sister and brother-in-law left their two children with my parents, hopped on the train, and headed down to the city for a visit. They arrived in the Slope around 10:30, just in time for brunch. We considered several options - Applewood, Sette, Miracle Grill, Little D's - but with the temperature hovering around 50 degrees, we decided to take the walk down to Stone Park Cafe. As always, it was completely worth it.

Breakfast nachos? My brother-in-law couldn't resist!

Stone Park is probably our favorite brunch locale in the neighborhood. Not only is the food delicious, the drinks are strong, the music is great and the general atmosphere is perfect for a Saturday or Sunday morning, regardless of what you were up to the night before. But really, it all comes down to the food...

Since the second or third time we went to Stone Park, MB and I have ordered the same thing. The story goes something like this. Someone we knew had been to the resto recently and claimed the burgers were the best in the 'hood. Being afficionados of ground beef patties, MB had to put this fare to the test...but when we got there, we were really in the mood for breakfast. Solution? The most ridiculous burger order we could think of. To this day, I've been too embarrassed to make the order but my wife is all over it:

"I'll have a burger, medium, with sauteed onions and mushrooms, bacon, cheese and an over-easy egg."

If I was preparing this bad boy, I'd put the egg on top of the burger but under the cheese --- but after you make an order like that, it's hard to offer any additional suggestions without pissing off the waitstaff or the kitchen, Regardless, the burger is delicious. The key to eating it is to put the bun on top and press firmly for a minute of so until the yolk from the egg drips all over the burger and the rest of the ingredients mush together. Half-burger, half-croque-monsieur, the result is a delectable feast unto itself. To top it off, they serve nearly-perfect fries (thin but not too thin and extremely crispy) served with a spicy creamy-mayonnaise-y sauce.
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February 4, 2009

Arancini - Cheesy Deep-Fried Risotto Deliciousness

I've been meaning to do this post since I first tried this recipe back in December but I kept forgetting to get pictures before MB, our friends and I devoured all of the goods. But before I get into the food, a quick update on the layout of this blog. I finally figured out how to get the "Read More" links to work. That means there will actually be more content after the jump. Finally!

Enough of that. On to the balls!

The whole arancini fetish started back in the fall when MB and I were brainstorming menu ideas for our annual Christmas party. Despite being the worst party food idea in history, I couldn't get risotto out of my head. Suddenly, I got the idea to bread small wads of leftover risotto and deep fry them. Presto! All the goodness of risotto in a bite-sized, finger-friendly ball...

3 seconds of researching deep fried risotto balls and it was pretty obvious I wasn't the first person to come up with the idea. Arancini are street food in Sicily and have been around for centuries. The word "arancini" literally means little oranges. There are several different varieties but the most common are filled with ragu, tomato sauce, mozzarella and peas. For our version, we decided to forego the extras and stick with rice and cheese.

As far as I can tell, arancini came about because people don't like leftover risotto. I say "people" because MB and I don't agree. Sure, the leftover rice doesn't have the same texture as a freshly made batch but if you've seasoned the dish well, the leftovers can make for a quick, delicious dinner if you're in a rush. For the record though, I will agree that the best way to eat leftover risotto is in a deep fried ball. 

So, how do you make these bad boys? Well, assuming you're already sitting on a pile of cooled risotto, it's really pretty easy; if you don't know how to make risotto, read four or five different recipes and give it a whirl. 

First, take a chunk of the rice and flatten it out in your hand, kinda like you were going to make a small hamburger. Then add whatever you want to stuff inside. Again, I've been sticking to mozzarella up to now but I could see adding meats, mushrooms, spinach, you name it.

Next, fold the rice over the cheese or whatever you've put inside and roll it into a small ball. Once all of your rice is rolled up, its time for the breading. There's some different strategies for this stage depending on who's recipe you're reading. Like many Old World recipes, people can get down right violent about how these things should be done "properly," but I say, whatever you want to do that will make a nice crunchy crust on the ball is gonna be good. Personally, i dredge the balls in flour, then in egg and finally in breadcrumbs. Once I'm finished, I like to throw the balls back in the fridge for a bit so they keep their shape.

Once the balls are ready to go, get the oil ready for frying. I use vegetable oil in a Le Creuset pot but you can do whatever oil/pan combination you like. Just make sure you know what the smoking point of your oil is. For my setup, I get the oil up to around 340 degrees - I use a candy thermometer to gauge the temp. Once the oil is hot, I ease the risotto balls into the pot. Because the balls are super dense, they sink to the bottom so you need to stir them occasionally so they don't over-brown on one side. After a few minutes or when the balls look like "little oranges," pull them out and place them on some paper towel to draw out any excess oil. We sometimes serve ours with a side of tomato sauce but they're just as good plain, if not better. Bon appetito and, as always, let me know if you give it a try.

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February 3, 2009

Andrew Bird @ Carnegie Hall (con'd)

Last Wednesday, I closed the book on the 3rd of three projects that had been dominating my life since before the New Year. Between unprecedented levels of sleep deprivation and consecutive weekends of work, I was due for a break. MB was in pretty rough shape too; she had just come off an intense class that met four nights a week for four hours a night. Needless to say, we really needed a night to relax.

We'd booked the Andrew Bird show sometime back in the fall, almost immediately after we caught him at the Hiro Ballroom. That show was his first public appearance after he completed work on his latest album, Noble Beast (which, according to Mr. Bird, should be intoned in the voice of David Attenborough). It was neat to see Mr. Bird and his new band in an intimate setting trying out the new material for the first time. Sadly, he wrapped up the show a little early because he had to run over to the Music Hall of Williamsburg for a DNC fundraiser - it was the night of the 2nd presidential debate. All in all, it was a great show but nothing like what we caught at Carnegie Hall.

Mr. Bird opening the show by his lonesome

After a quick drink at a nearby pub, we entered the fabled venue. The last we were there, we watched Trey Anastasio play songs off his orchestral album, Seis de Mayo, with the Vermont Youth Orchestra. This time around, instead of sitting 10 or so rows from the very back of the room, we had wonderful seats just left-of-center in a box in the 2nd tier. Before we went into our own box, we watched couple after couple walk into a box, walk back out, approach a staff member and ask, "Is this really the right seats?" Not only were the box seats great, but we were in the front row, right on the banister.

Before Andrew came out, his "opening" band Dosh took the stage. Dosh consists of everyone in Mr. Bird's current band, sans Mr. Bird. Martin Dosh started the evening on his own. Surrounded by a drumset, a trio of synths and keyboards, and an Akai Headrush sampler pedal, he got things going with Simple X. After a pair of solos, he was joined by bassist and clarinetist, Michael Lewis. A few songs later, Jeremy Ylvisaker added his guitar to the mix. All of the Dosh songs were instrumental, a very appropriate considering the venue.

After a short intermission, Mr. Bird took the stage by himself, playing three looped instrumentals featuring his usual mix of violin, guitar, whistling and oohs & ahhhs. After his second song, he thanked the audience for letting him ramble a bit. "Alright, this is gonna be fun. Thanks for indulging me; I just had to play like that in this room." By the time he invited his band onto the stage, the excitement in the room was palpable.

Most of the set was dominated by songs from Noble Beast with a smattering of old favorites like Imitosis and Tables and Chairs. Overall, the show was very similar to what we'd seen at Hiro back in October but it was clear they'd spent a significant amount of time mastering the songs. That being said, Andrew felt the initial loops for Fitz and the Dizzyspells weren't up to par so he stopped the band and took another stab at it. After 3 or 4 half attempts, he joked, "It's a slippery slope." Personally, I thought this minor hiccup added to the performance, demonstrating just how real (re. not pre-produced) all of the sounds were.

By the end of the evening, the audience was roaring after each song. After closing the set with Tables and Chairs, the entire crowd immediately rose to their feet, encouraging Mr. Bird back for not one but two encores; they would have had a third if the house lights hadn't come up.

After snapping a shot of Mr. Bird on my iPhone during his first number, I remembered I have a Recorder app. You can download nearly the entire setlist (minus that first tune) here: http://drop.io/abirdcarnegie. (quick side note - drop.io is a great site for hosting files of any type or variety). The quality of the recordings aren't stellar but the room was friendly, especially on the quieter tunes, and I think it's worth the listen. Some of my favorite tunes are the ones I don't know the names of - #1 and #8. Enjoy and let me know what you think.
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January 29, 2009

Andrew Bird @ Carnegie Hall

Absolutely incredible show. Very similar set to what we saw at the Hiro Ballroom back in October but the band was clearly much more comfortable with the new material. More to follow...

Andrew Bird starting off his set with a pair of solos

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