Thursday, July 31, 2008

Positive Jams

I saw the Hold Steady at the Mezzanine this Tuesday. It takes a lot to get me out on a weeknight these days, but decided to go out for this show because it was an early start (8pm doors) and the venue was near a BART station. This meant that I didn't have to drive and could make it home at a reasonable hour, which are my two most important factors in going out for a concert.

The Mezzanine has free Wi-Fi and I had my iPod touch with me, so I was able to check email and browse the web at the show. There was a mini-storm brewing Tuesday night on a music mailing list that I'm on, and I was able to watch the entire thread unfurl in real time while the opening band (The Loved Ones) was playing. I didn't like being "that dude" at shows who keeps checking his phone or blackberry while there's a show going on, but it's hard to turn down the opportunity when it's offered.

On the downside, they only had five kinds of beer (in bottles, and none on draft), and the cheapest options were Bud or Bud Light (40% of their choices) at $6 per bottle! Instead of paying six bucks for a Bud, I decided to brave "America's greatest bar band" without being able to raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer. This was probably a wise decision, since the place was packed and the crowd was 90% male, which made the men's room a difficult room to reach.

In an effort to extend the capacity, the Mezzanine had removed every chair and table and bar stool, so there wasn't anywhere to sit. Standing up for three hours straight doesn't work for me anymore, so I found a wall to lean against for the duration of the gig. This saved me from fatigue and claustrophobia, but the sound bouncing off the wall gave me temporary tinnitus afterwards, because iPod earphones don't make very good earplugs.

Anyway, the Hold Steady rocked! Here's their setlist as pulled from the HS message board.

The Hold Steady @ Mezzanine, San Francisco, CA July 29, 2008

Constructive Summer
Chips Ahoy
Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night
Sequestered In Memphis
Girls Like Status
Massive Nights
Southtown Girls
Lord, I'm Discouraged
Yeah Sapphire
Hot Fries
One For The Cutters
You Can Make Him Like You
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Crucifiction Cruise
How A Resurrection Really Feels
Slapped Acress

Positive Jam
Stuck Between Stations
Most People Are DJs

The Hold Steady get compared to all the standard classic rock forefathers like Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones, but I think they're more directly influenced by bands of our generation, like the Replacements and Guided By Voices. Craig Finn sets a Pollardesque presence onstage, and guitarist Tad Kubler looks like Bob and Tommy Stinson's younger brother. They just look more like regular dudes than famous rock stars.

Craig Finn ended the set with the words "stay positive San Francisco!". It sounds kind of corny to quote the title of your most recent album as a mantra (something from the REO Speedwagon school of concert banter) but I found it inspirational. To paraphrase Enid from Ghost World, The Hold Steady are like the exact opposite of everything I hate about rock and roll.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Salmon Saag

As I've probably demonstrated over the course of this month, I'm a big fan of Trader Joe's simmer sauces, but their Punjab Spinach Simmer Sauce isn't one of my favorites. I like spinach, and I like curry, but the combination of spinach+curry (saag) doesn't do a lot for me.

But after one TJ's employee said that their spinach sauce mixes really well with salmon, so I picked up a frozen slab of boneless silver coho and a jar of spinach simmer sauce yesterday to try it today. I marinated the (frozen) salmon in half the spinach sauce, broiled it for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven with an extra batch of fresh spinach, and served it over linguine (since I'm still out of rice).

And it worked pretty well! There isn't very much salmon in the Punjab region of India, so it's probably an artificial combination, but the spices in the simmer sauce (tomatoes, garlic, ginger) complement the salmon really well.   

There are a lot of Punjabis in the Western U.S. and Canada, so "salmon saag" isn't a complete novelty (according to one twitter user, it "kicks much ass") , but it isn't something I would have ever though of preparing. One more recipe for the Wednesday curry rotation!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gettin' Ziggy with it

Looking back, I can remember the exact moment that the Oakland Athletics threw in the towel in the 2008 pennant race. On Sunday July 13th at 3:30pm (the last game before the All-Star break) the A's were on their way to being just four games behind the Angels. After two scoreless innings by Brad Ziegler, Huston Street blew a one-run lead in the top of the 9th inning and the A's ended up losing the game to drop six games back.

The A's have now faded 12 games behind the Angels and on their way to playing out the string in this 2008 season. One of their few bright spots has been rookie pitcher Brad Ziegler, who broke a major league record Sunday by throwing 27 scoreless innings to start his career. After 22 games in the majors, Brad's career ERA is 0.00.

Ziegler has been in the Athletics organization since 2004, and has been blogging at Athletics Nation since January 2007, so I was following his progress even before he was called up. He's kind of old for a MLB rookie (28), and has had a series of injuries and concussions on his way to the major leagues. He has a mathematics degree from Missouri State (yay MVC!), so he didn't turn pro until his mid-20s.

After changing to a sidearm delivery midway through the 2007 season, Ziegler suddenly became dominant, and reminds me a lot of this A's Hall Of Famer who became a dominant closer in his mid-30s. Ziegler has an Eck-like demeanor as well, so by this time next year, he's going to be a major league closer, hopefully with the A's.

But no matter what happens, Brad Ziegler already holds a major league pitching record after less than two months in the major leagues. And I "knew" him last year when he was just a minor league blogger!

Monday, July 28, 2008


There are only a few days remaining in NaBloPoMo food month, and since my neighbors have a whole bunch of spinach in their garden, this will be "spinach week" with two (and maybe three) recipes over the next four days that have fresh spinach as a central ingredient.

For anyone who's ever tried to make spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie) at home, and thought that the last four letters "pita" must an acronym for the pain-in-the-ass it is to work with fillo dough, here's a simple recipe for a spanikopita made with pizza dough instead of fillo dough.   

I call it "spanikopizza", which is a term that's also used by Rachael Ray, but her terrorist-appeasing spanakopizza has elitist ingredients like arugula. This recipe is a lot simpler: it has spinach, feta, green onions, eggs -- it's essentially spanakopita on pizza crust with pizza cheese on top!  

1 package Trader Joe's garlic-herb pizza dough (or sub)
1/2 lb fresh spinach
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 oz feta cheese
2 cloves garlic- minced
1 dash ground black pepper
1 egg (beaten)
grated mozzarella (optional, but needed)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash and clean the spinach. Discard the stems. Drain & cut the leaves into shreds. Combine the spinach, green onions and salt in a bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes, then squeeze out all of the liquid, and add the egg, feta cheese and black pepper.

Spread the pizza crust on a pre-heated pizza stone and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Spread the spinach mixture on the crust, then top with a small amount of mozzerella (if desired). Put in the oven for 10 minutes and then cool for 5 more.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Four minutes seemed like a long time then

Here's Jon Auer, with his solo rendition of "Golden Blunders".

Whenever I hear this song, especially performed acoustically, it reminds me of hearing it performed at a wedding in Ohio eleven years ago this weekend. Some folks might argue that this song isn't terribly wedding-appropriate, but I've heard it performed at two different weddings, so it's at least as wedding-appropriate as "I Knew The Bride" or "White Wedding".

Anyway, my main memory of this song goes back to the day before the wedding when I was trying to sleep off a red-eye flight in a warm, humid, and non-air-conditioned attic while the wedding entertainers were rehearsing downstairs.

They were having difficulty working up an acoustic version of "Golden Blunders" from the online tab (which turned to be transcribed by our mutual friend), and wanted to play the Posies' original recording as a guideline.

The only trouble was that the soon-to-be bride and groom had rearranged their CDs by spine color, and couldn't remember what color the Dear 23 spine was. Turns out it's kind of a saddle brown (#8B4513 hex), which is also hard to find in the color spectrum. So they had to wing the song from memory, and the faulty tab.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Except the dark knight always triumphs

From yesterday's op-ed review of "The Dark Knight" from
Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal.
There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war.

Okay, I saw "The Dark Knight" today at my local uniplex, and didn't see any parallels between Batman and Bush, but then I'm not a neocon wingnut who writes for Murdoch's WSJ.  

The main similarity I saw was that "The Dark Knight" was just as long and convoluted as Bush's "War On Terror". But Batman didn't start recklessly pursuing Picard (the villain who died at the end of "Batman Begins") after the Joker started terrorizing Gotham City, nor did he tell Gotham citizens to help fight the Joker by shopping and taking vacations, as Bush would have done.  This Batman was more like Bizarro-Bush from the alternate reality where GWB really does have fortitude and moral courage.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Vintage 1977 muxtape

I wanted to compile a muxtape of some of Scott Miller's favorite songs of 1977, but I only had about a half-dozen of the songs in my iTunes, and it was the boring half that everyone knows.

Over the past few days, I've dug up some of Scott's more obscure songs, and here's a mix with seven of them along with five more songs that I'd probably include on a best of 1977 compilation.

Vintage 1977

Tracks 1-7 are from Scott Miller's "Music: What Happened? - 1977".

1. "Aliens In Our Midst" - The Twinkeyz
When I first heard the Twinkeyz song on their 1998 cd reissue, it sounded a lot like "Brimful of Asha" by Cornershop , probably because both songs borrow the same VU riff.

2. "Bored Teenagers" - The Adverts
I knew of the Adverts, but didn't know the b-side to "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" until I found it online this week. I don't listen to a lot of "punk rock", but this is a great song.

3. "Where The Fun Is" - Chris Stamey
Another b-side (to "Summer Sun") and another great song. I have this on some home-burned compilation I can't find, so I had to find the song online.

4. "Ca Plane Por Moi" - Plastic Bertrand
If "Ca plane" came out in 1977, what's it doing on all those "hits of the 80s" compilations? I have this on Sire's great Just Say Yesterday compilation.

5. "Father Christmas" - The Kinks
I discussed this one last December (on the 11th day of Hot Roxmas), but Christmas music in July is definitely a concept I can get behind.

6. "Go Your Own Way" - Fleetwood Mac
7. "Heroes" - David Bowie
Blah blah blah.. Everyone knows these songs. I wanted to include Van Duren's "Oh Babe", but haven't picked up that reissue of Are You Serious? yet.

Tracks 8-12 are from my best of 1977 mix tape (compiled circa-199?)

8. "I Want You To Want Me" - Cheap Trick
The magnetism of Robin Zander, the charisma of Rick Nielsen. I'm one of the few people who likes the studio version of this song more than the live version that broke CT to a wide audience.

9. "Johnny Carson" - The Beach Boys
From the Love You album. The lyrics are kind of silly, but this song is a work of genius, musically speaking.

10. "Knowing Me, Knowing You" - Abba
Is this the greatest song ever? Maybe not, but it's definitely one of the top three Abba songs ever. Can't believe this one got scrapped in the movie version of Mamma Mia!

11. "Mull of Kintyre" - Paul McCartney & Wings
There are two kinds of Macca fans: the ones who like "Mull of Kintyre" and the ones who don't. I'm in the former camp. Another Paul hit from 1977 was the live version of "Maybe I'm Amazed", which also starts with the letter M (these songs are in alphabetical order, btw).

12. "Night Fever" - The Bee Gees
When I saw Scott Miller cover this song solo at SF's Bottom of the Hill during the release show for the Eggbert Bee Gees tribute, I started to realize that beneath all that polyester and gold chains was one of the best hits of the 1970s.

Right up there with "Knowing Me, Knowing You".

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pork Pasta Masala

Continuing with my series of recipes on Trader Joe's simmer sauces, here's a recipe for pork pasta masala, a dish that I think I might have invented because nothing shows up in google. What's pork pasta masala? It's pork vindaloo with TJ's masala sauce in the place of the vindaloo sauce, served over pasta instead of rice.

This was an invention, like most of my cooking creations, born out of ingredients that I had on hand: basically country style pork shoulder, masala simmer sauce, plain yogurt, and dried linguine.  Perfect for Italian-Indian fusion food. Here are the instructions.

Pork Pasta Masala
1 lb. of country style pork shoulder
1 jar Trader Joe's masala simmer sauce
1/4 cup plain yogurt
3 oz. dried linguine

Cut pork into cubes and marinate in half the masala sauce for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions (boil water with salt, add pasta for 10 minutes). Fry pork cubes until brown on all sides, add the rest of the masala sauce, bring to a boil and simmer on med-low for 10 minutes (while the pasta is cooking). Turn off the heat and stir in the yogurt until blended. Allow to simmer for 5 more minutes (while the pasta is resting).

Add pork and sauce to pasta and serve with TJ's garlic naan (Indian garlic bread) and two buck Chuck merlot. Total time: 30 minutes (including marinating) Total cost: under $10.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Alpha Bravo Bravo Alpha

Inspired by the Mamma Mia! movie (which I'm not plan on seeing) opening this week, and this entry from Sue's blog, here are a few of my Abba-related memories.

1. I never saw Abba live, but I've seen Bjorn Again twice.

2. I've also seen the stage version Mamma Mia! twice (in SF and Las Vegas), but I'm not sure why because I didn't even like it the first time.

3. I attended a wedding last year that used an Abba song (the title track to Arrival) as processional music.

4. My old iPod Nano used to default to playing the library in alphabetical order by artist and track. The first song on my iPod was "Dancing Queen" (track #1 on Abba Gold), so my iPod would start playing that song whenever I turned it on. Now if I never hear "DQ" again, it's all the same to me!

I like Abba Gold, except for the fact that it doesn't have anything pre-"Waterloo". My first Abba album (on tape) was their mid-70s Greatest Hits album that included pre-superstardom singles like "People Need Love", "Ring Ring" and "So Long".

The only Abba CD besides Gold that I have on CD is their first album Ring Ring, to get those songs. One of my favorite Abba songs is "She's My Kind Of Girl" a song from Ring Ring that Benny & Bjorn recorded in 1969, before they met Frida and Agnetha.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hudson Street Hooligans

Who'd have figured Columbus, OH as a hotbed of soccer hooliganism?  

It looks like things turned unfriendly during Sunday's "international friendly" between the Columbus Crew and West Ham United, after a few (dozen) West Ham supporters entered the heart of the Crew supporters section in the North End.

Words were exchanged, then $8 beers were spilled, and then punches were thrown. That's the way things roll in the C-bus!  Here's a picture of yellow and black Crew fans mixing it up with claret and blue West Ham fans.

West Ham supporters have a reputation for this sort of thing in England, and the Crew's North End supporters who call themselves the "Hudson Street Hooligans" (from Green Street Hooligans, the documentary about West Ham's ICF) are developing their own reputation for rowdiness. The Crew's flier advertising the game ("US against the Brits!") could have also helped fuel pre-match hostilities between the team's supporters.

Shortly after the halftime conflict, West Ham fans in the opposite of Crew stadium unfurled a banner reading "ICF - 30 Years Undefeated". According to reports, the fight was a draw, and West Ham won the real game 3-1.  Their (North) American tour concludes this week at the MLS All-Star Game in Toronto, so we'll see how their "ICF" will fare against Canadian sockey hooligans.

Edit: Quoting ICF.. I know they weren't the real ICF.

Monday, July 21, 2008

CPK style BCP

For pizza monday, here's a recipe for CPK-style Barbecue Chicken Pizza. They spell it "Barbeque", which I find a bit annoying, but it's one of my favorite pizzas, so I decided to start making it at home.

It's made with shredded chicken breast, barbecue sauce, smoked gouda, and sliced red onion on a pre-heated pizza crust. I use Trader Joe's whole wheat crust, but the rest of the ingredients can be found anywhere.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza
2 large chicken breast halves, shredded
1/2 cup hickory-flavored barbecue sauce
6 ounces smoked Gouda cheese, coarsely grated
1 pizza crust (homemade or Boboli)
1/2 thinly sliced red onion

Preheat oven to 450°F. for 5 minutes, then pre-bake the crust for 8 minutes. Toss chicken with 1/4 cup barbecue sauce. Spread half of cheese on crust, then chicken, then red onion, then the other half of the cheese. Bake until bottom of crust is crisp and cheese on top melts, about 15 minutes. Let pizza stand 5 minutes.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Padraig Harrington successfully defended his Open Championship today with a four shot victory over Ian Poulter and Greg Norman. I picked Harrington in my ongoing major competition with my brother, so I was glad he was able to defend his title. My position after one round didn't look that strong, but my guys (especially Padraig) ended up outperforming his guys. Sibling pride is mine!

I wasn't a big Greg Norman fan during his prime, but just being able to stay in contention in a major at age 53 is an amazing achievement, so I found myself pulling for Greg this weekend. His recent marriage to another sports legend must have fueled his competitive spirit, and he ended up in a tie for third. Norman's golf career is a big series of close but no cigars, so today made a fitting encapsulation of Greg's career if it turns out to be his last hurrah.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Let me tell you people's called Rock'n'Roll! Here are Cliff Richard & the Shadows from 1958.

I heard this song first from the 1978 cover by the Flamin' Groovies (it was also covered recently by the Jestaplero!), but this original version sounds ahead of its time!

Youtube has versions of "Move It" from the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, and the 00s-- everything from acoustic skiffle to raucus heavy metal. Arrangements and hairstyles may change, but Cliff still looks like he hasn't aged one single day in the last 50 years!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Where were you in '62?

Midway through the film American Graffiti John Milner (Paul LeMat) and his cruising companion Carol (Mackenzie Phillips) get into a spat over a song on the radio.
As the Beach Boys "Surfin' Safari" comes on the radio Carol turns the sound up; Milner turns it down; she attempts to turn it up and he stops her with the line "I don't like that surfin' shit. Rock 'n' roll's been going downhill ever since Buddy Holly died."
Carol, being at least six years younger than Milner speaks glowingly of the Beach Boys, "Don't you think the Beach Boys are boss?"

Scott Miller tackles 1962 in his latest "Music: What Happened?" entry. According to boomers, "the Sixties" didn't start until late '63 or early '64 (when JFK was assassinated or the Beatles hit America), which would put 1962 somewhere in the pre-Sixties. Around the time of American Graffiti there was a popular song called "American Pie" claiming that "the music died" when Buddy Holly died in 1959. I wasn't around, but I think of 1962 as the year the music was reborn.

I was going to do a muxtape of Scott's songs from 1962, but didn't get to it, so here's my own muxtape of songs from '62 (with some of Scott's and some he neglected to include).

Where Were You in '62?
1. The Beach Boys - "Surfin' Safari"
2. The Beatles - "Love Me Do"
3. Bob Dylan - "Mixed Up Confusion"

Exhibits A,B, and C for the case of 1962 being the year the music was reborn are that it was the year that the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Bob Dylan all made their recording debuts. "Surfin' Safari" was the Beach Boys' first single for Capitol -- this is an earlier version from the Lost And Found album. "Love Me Do" was the Beatles first single for EMI -- this is their June 1962 audition version with Pete Best on drums. "Mixed-Up Confusion" was slated to be Dylan's first single for Columbia (after his first album), but was shelved. It features Bob playing with a full rock band three years before he "went electric".

4. The Everly Brothers - "Crying In The Rain"
5. Elvis Presley - "Return To Sender"
6. Gene Pitney - "Liberty Valance"

By 1962, most of the first wave of rock and rollers were on the wane. Buddy Holly was dead, Elvis was making movies, and Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis had fallen from grace. The Everlys kept making music and having hits though. And even Elvis came up with the occasional gem (like "Return To Sender" from Girls! Girls! Girls!). Gene Pitney also started singing songs from movies, but "Town Without Pity" and "Liberty Valance" (from the movies of the same name) were some of the best rock/pop of the pre-Sixties. "Liberty Valance" is a Bacharach/David composition.

7. Peter, Paul, and Mary - "If I Had a Hammer"
8. The Kingston Trio - "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?"

The folk boom was still booming in 1962, with huge pop hits by the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Both of these future standards were co-written by Pete Seeger, and still resonate nearly fifty years after they were written.

9. Dick Dale & the Del-Tones - "Misrilou"
10. Booker T. & the M.G.'s - "Green Onions"
11. The Tornadoes - "Telstar"

Instrumental rock was also booming in 1962. These are just three examples of that. Dick Dale's "Misrilou" was a Greek rebetiko song rearranged for electric guitar. It gained a second life thanks to Pulp Fiction, but Dick Dale is still not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Booker T. and the MG's were the house band at Stax-Volt, and "Green Onions", according to Scott Miller "has had the longest continuous record for sounding utra-cool in any context on earth". "Telstar" also still sounds as cool as it ever did, and is probably the crowning glory of the late Joe Meek.

12. Cliff Richard & the Shadows - "The Young Ones"

I had one song remaining to fill my dozen, so I included this song. It wasn't a hit in the US, and most Americans probably know it as the theme to an '80s TV show. This was one of the last hits by Cliff and the Shadows before the Liverpool steamroller, which is a reminder to live and love while there are songs to be sung, because we all won't be young ones very long.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

There are no Tigers in the field

The 146th British Open Championship kicked off today without the best player in the world, who's on the shelf for the rest of the year after reconstructive knee surgery.

In the eyes of the media, an Open without Tiger falls somewhere below the post-Lance Tour De France publicity-wise, so only hardcore golf geeks probably even know the Open is going on, but this should open up the Open to another top player poised to take a major.

The World Golf Rankings are a bit of a clusterfutz after Tiger, with a whole bunch of good players without any dominant ones, kind of like the PGA tour was in the dark ages before Tiger.

Last night, my brother and I did our draft picks for this year's Open (via IM, since we don't live under the same roof anymore). This was my turn to pick Mr. Woods, but he wasn't in the field so I picked Phil Mickelson (world #2). Here are the rest of our picks along with their scores after one day.

His guys are beating my guys so far, but there's still a long way to go. My first two picks (Phil and Vijay) came in with 79 and 80, and the rest of my picks were only one half stroke better than picking random names out of a hat. I guess picking chalk doesn't work that well in golf, especially when Tiger isn't playing. I should have gone with my hunch pick of Rocco Mediate, who's tied for the lead after one round.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fit to be Thai'd

Since it's curry Wednesday, for today's post in my ongoing discussion of Trader Joe's simmer sauces, I'm going to talk about their Thai Green Curry Sauce. According to the label, this is a "classic Thai curry sauce with lemon grass & coconut and the subtle kick of peppers."

I'm not going to talk about the use of both an ampersand and an "and", and its "subtle kick of peppers" is a little too subtle for me ( I have to kick it up with curry paste), but its a versatile sauce that mixes with just about anything for an easy weeknight curry meal.

I like to mix the curry sauce with fish, any of the trio of T varieties ( turbot, tuna, tilapia) that also are available at Trader Joe's frozen food. The rest of the turbot used for yesterday's tacos can become today's turbot curry.

Here's the recipe. Empty a jar of curry simmer sauce a saucepan on medium heat, with a little green sambal or curry paste. After it's been heating for five minutes or so, throw a frozen fillet in. Five minutes later turn the heat off and let it rest for five minutes. That's a fish curry in 15 minutes. Take that Rachael Ray!

This fish curry should be served over rice (it even says so on the package), which takes 15 minutes in the microwave, but if you can multitask and cook the rice while you're heating up the fish and sauce, you can get home at 6:45pm and start eating at 7:00.

Speaking of "Thais", this year's MLB All Star Game came very close to ending in a tie, since both the AL and NL were on their last pitcher. The 2002 All Star game in Milwaukee was declared a tie after 11 innings (who says there's no tying in baseball?), which forced a change where the league that wins the All-Star game home field in the World Series.

Last night's game went all the way to the 15th before the AL finally pushed a run across to win 4-3. This pushed their winning streak to 11 games in a row (they're 11-0-1 going back to 1996). That stretch of AL domination could be due to Ichiro's legendary pre-game pep talks, but it might be that they just have better players.

In honor of Dick Williams being inducted in the Hall of Fame this weekend as the first Dick to make it to the Hall , here's major league baseball's All-Dick team .

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Turbo Taco Tuesday

This Summervillain entry from last week about fish tacos reminded me to share my fish taco recipe today. Many of my "vegetarian" friends and colleagues are pescetarians of some sort, but he's the only one I've heard who limits his intake to certain types of fish (cod and catfish).

I usually make my fish tacos out of either tilapia or turbot, because tilapia and turbot tacos are (a) alliterative and (b) cheap. They're usually cheap because they're "farm fished", which many pseudo-pescetarians view as "bad" but I view as "affordable"!

Turbot Tacos
Turbot (or another T whitefish) fillets
Corn tortillas
Shredded cabbage
Salsa verde
Fresh lime wedges
Sliced avocadoes

Since turbot and tilapia don't have a lot in the "taste" department, I like to marinate them before cooking, and Trader Joe's Cuban Mojito Sauce makes a great cheap fish marinade. Marinade it for at least 8 hours, then grill it quickly on a grill pan or frying pan for two minutes per side.

Microwave six corn tortillas for about 40 seconds, then spread salsa on each warm tortilla. Place fillet in center of each tortilla, add shredded cabbage, fold tortilla and top with sliced avocado. I borrowed the avocado idea from the grilled mahi mahi tacos at Baja Fresh and now I think it's an essential ingredients. Not guacamole, just sliced whole avocado. Garnish with fresh lime wedges and sour cream (or plain yogurt). Yum.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pizza Fran├žais

When Monday falls on Bastille Day, the solution is to make a French-style pizza. Not frozen Stouffer's, but a real homemade French style pizza.

This is another recipe made up entirely of Trader Joe's ingredients. The main characteristic of French style pizza is the use of non-mozzarella cheese, garlic, and herbs. My main components are Whole Wheat Pizza Crust, Fat Free Pizza Sauce, and Grated Quattro Formaggio (Parmesean, Asiago, Fontina and Provelone) along with fresh mushrooms, fresh garlic, and frozen peppers. Some versions also use ham or anchovies, but this has no meat products whatsoever.

Pizza Fran├žais

Trader Joe's Base Ingredients:
Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
Fat Free Pizza Sauce
Shredded Quattro Formaggio (Parmesean, Asiago, Fontina and Provelone)

Frozen Melange-a-Tois (green, yellow, red bell peppers)
Fresh Mushrooms (button or cremini)
Fresh Garlic (4-6 cloves minced)
Other Meats or Veggies

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Let the crust sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, then roll out on a pizza stone (if you don't have a pizza stone, buy one first!).

While the oven is heating up, put the peppers, mushrooms, and garlic in an oven save pan with some oil, and drop in the oven to roast. The toppings are ready when the oven hits temperature. Once it does, drizzle some olive oil and dried herbs (parsley, oregano, basil) on the crust, then prime crust by cooking for 6-8 minutes before adding toppings.

Then remove the crust from the oven and add a small amount of sauce, followed by the roasted peppers, mushrooms, garlic, and other toppings, and then the cheese. There's no need to measure ingredients, but keep the quantities down.

Bake in the oven for ten minutes, until its all hot and bubbly, then let it rest for five more minutes. Cut into slices and serve. Vive la pissaladiere!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bloody Sunday

From 23 years ago today, here's U2 at Live Aid during their white-flag waving heyday.

"This is not a rebel mullet! Despite the party in the back, it's all business up front!".

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Barbecued Blues

This weekend is the Russell City Blues Festival, so I was serenaded by delta blues this afternoon while riding around downtown Hayward on my bike.  Russell City was a predominately African-American section of unincorporated Alameda county between Hayward and San Lorenzo that was a hub of Bay Area blues after WWII.  

It's now a part of the city of Hayward,  but there's a blues festival every year to pay tribute to the area's Russell City heritage.  Strangely, the only black faces I usually see at the blues festival are the ones on the stage.

Anyway, hearing the blues puts me in the mood for barbecue, so I picked up a Santa Maria tri-tip roast for tonight's dinner. Tri-tip (so called because it's from the bottom part of a bottom sirloin and shaped like a triangle) is a versatile cut of beef that's usually sold as ground beef or stir-fry beef in other parts of the country, but grilled whole in Northern California.   

Tri-tips are usually 1.5-2 pounds, which is just right for two people, or one person who hasn't had anything to eat all day.   The best way to cook it is like a beef brisket (i.e. slow) with damp wood chips to get a smoky flavor.  It doesn't have as much fat as a brisket, so it requires a hot fire (as in glowy hot charcoal.. doesn't work on a gas grill or in an oven).  

Rub the meat with a dry rub (equal parts salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder) a few minutes before cooking, then throw it on the grill under direct heat for about 15 minutes per side.  Let it set for five minutes, then slice thin.   The usual side dishes are bread or tortillas, something green (salad or coleslaw) and either good beer or cheap red wine (nothing over $5/bottle!).

When done right, grilled tri-tip makes a simple and satisfying meal.  Just like the blues.

Friday, July 11, 2008

iTunes about iPhones

Today is July 11th, so the new 3G iPhones are here! Apparently some of the suckers who camped out waiting to buy them on the first day are having trouble getting them to work, but still get to brag about being the first one on their block with a 3G iPhone.

The new 3G iPhone cost half as much as the 2G models did when they were launched last year, and $200 less than they did yesterday, but that cost reduction comes with a few caveats. One is that the phones are subsidized the phone carrier, so they require activation of a new two-year contract, so existing customers with older iPhones need to start a new contract to upgrade, and don't get credit for the cost of their old iPhone (which kind of iSucks).

Another caveat is that the iPhone's exclusive carrier (in the USA) is the evil Phone Company that helps the government spy on their customers. Every iPhone sold in the US should come with a sticker that says "I support FISA immunity". Despite these reservations, I can't deny that the new iPhone is an amazingly cool gadget and the 4G revolution is at least 5-10 years away, so it's a few years from obsolescence.

To mark today's release of "the greatest device since the iPod itself", this week's muxtape has a telephone theme, with a dozen songs about the telephone. All but one of them (the Statuesque song), date from the 20th century with antiquated terms like "phone booth", "party line", and "answering machine". And the Statuesque song references "drunk dialing", a term that's still in use even though rotary dial telephones are a thing of the past.

iTunes about iPhones
  1. "Hanging On The Telephone" - Blondie
  2. "Ring Ring" - ABBA
  3. "867-5309" - The Chevelles
  4. "Telephone Line" - Electric Light Orchestra
  5. "Love On The Telephone" - Foreigner
  6. "Telephone Song" - Stan Getz & Astrid Gilberto
  7. "Party Line" - The Kinks
  8. "The Phone Call" - The Pretenders
  9. "Answering Machine" - The Replacements
  10. "Don't Drink And Dial" - Statuesque
  11. "Get Off The Phone" - Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers
  12. "As Soon As I Hang Up The Phone" - Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Harden My Heart

The main lesson I've learned as an Oakland Athletics fan is to never purchase an A's jersey with a player's name on the back. It seems my favorite Athletic becomes someone else's favorite Baltimore Oriole or Arizona Diamondback or Toronto Blue Jay. It's enough to make me start quoting Quarterflash.

Which seems appropriate now, since my latest favorite A's player to move on is Rich Harden, who was traded to the Cubs this week. Harden has been plagued by injuries for most of his short career, but he's overpowering and intimidating when he's healthy, like he's been most of this year. So far in 2008, Harden started 13 games, going 6-1 with a 2.34 ERA, which makes the trade all the more difficult.

I guess Billy Beane decided to deal Harden while his stock was up. I guess it does make financial sense to get a few prospects for someone who's set to be a free agent at the end of the year, but that's usually what teams do when they're out of it and building for the future. The A's are seven games over .500 and in second place, just five games behind the Angels, and a healthy Harden could have been one of the pieces to put them over the top this year.

For whatever reason, I wasn't feel emotionally invested in this year's Athletics even before Harden was traded. I've been attending my usual one home game per homestand, and still root root root for the home team, but if they don't win, it's no skin off my back.

After Harden beat the Red Sox in the second game of the season in Tokyo, I said the A's might contend if he stays healthy, and they've exceeded those expectations, so I still have hopes for the rest of the year, but it doesn't seem the same.

At least the A's still have the Duke (10 wins and a 1.78 ERA baby!) and I have my memory of Harden striking out the side on nine pitches against the Angels the last time I saw him pitch for the A's. And he'll still be a pitching juggernaut for the video A's on my Sony PSP!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Good Korma

Wednesday will be "curry day" on this blog through the month of July, so here's a recipe for a quick and easy Vegetable Korma for busy weeknights.

It's a vegetarian meal made entirely from ingredients at Trader Joe's -- frozen vegetables, plain yogurt and TJ's korma simmer sauce. Served with TJ's frozen garlic naan.

TJ's Vegetable Korma

1 (15-ounce) jar Trader Joe's Korma Simmer Sauce
1 (12-ounce) bag cauliflower florets
1 medium zucchini, unpeeled, diced into half-inch chunks
1/2 bag organic foursome (peas, green beans, carrots, corn)
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Pour korma sauce in a wide, large saucepan over medium heat. Add cauliflower, zucchini, peas, green beans and carrots. Stir until all ingredients are coated. Once simmering, cover pan and turn heat to medium low. Simmer for 12 to 15 minutes or until cauliflower and carrots are tender. Mix in yogurt, bring to a simmer again, and remove from heat.

Serve with Trader Joe's frozen garlic naan.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pay the man, Shirley!

I didn't end up buying any magazines for my Northwest trip this last weekend, but did buy a new paperback at the Borders at Seatac airport: Paul Shirley's Can I Keep My Jersey?.

Paul Shirley is a professional basketball player who's bounced around between the NBA, the CBA, the ABA, and various European leagues over his eight year career. He's one of those players who's good enough to keep playing, but not good enough to be a star. He's also a writer who kept a blog during his time with the Phoenix Suns in 2004-05 and later on, telling stories about his life in basketball in his own inimitable style.

Shirley's style is a dry, off-the-cuff wit that isn't for everyone, but I enjoyed reading his online columns and also enjoyed this book. It helped that two of his stops during his career were Yakima, Washington (the city I was visiting this weekend) and Barcelona, Spain (one of my favorite cities in the world that I just visited a few weeks ago), but some of his stories were "LOL funnee" as they say online.

Can I Keep My Jersey? is ideal for summer travel or beach reading, since it reads like a series of Paul's blog entries in printed form. It's all the enjoyment of reading a bunch of blogs without having to drag your laptop along!

Monday, July 7, 2008

vino di piazza

Since Monday night is pizza night, and I've been trying to keep the food theme going through the month of July, I should share the ideal wine to go with homemade pizza. Paradisos Red from Paradisos Del Sol in Zillah, WA.

I visited the Paradisos winery yesterday during a wine tour and tried a bottle of their house red with homemade pizza. I've always been more of the type that pairs beer with pizza, but this red wine may compliment the pizza even better than beer does.

The winery were sticklers about what kind of food worked best with each of their wines, and had two separate dips to complement their red and white wines, an artichoke-crab dip for their whites and a bleu cheese dip for the reds. They also name each wine after its ideal food pairing: their Riesling is a "sushi wine", the Paradisos Red is a "pizza wine", the cabernet is "lamb chop wine", etc. It's exactly the sort of non-pretentiousness I like in a winery.

Now that I've found a wine that pairs with pizza, my next goal is to find a wine that pairs with Mexican food, which seems to be the final food hurdle for the modern wine connoisseur.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Off the Record

I've been visiting friends in Yakima, WA this weekend, which usually entails a trip to their local independent record store, Off The Record. The last time I visited Yakima, around 18 months ago, I was astounded that this store was still in business, and was even more astounded this time.

Music retailers have been dropping like flies in the download era, and the only survivors have been stores like Amoeba with huge selections and high volume sales. Stores like Off The Record (a tiny little store in a strip mall in Central Washington) should not be able to survive, and yet they do, and seem to be doing pretty well.

The times I've visited Off The Record, I can usually find some lost chestnut in their dollar bin. Yesterday it was Bourgeois Tagg's Yoyo CD, which has been out of print for more than 20 years, almost since it was released! Finding a disc that goes for $15-20 on eBay in a dollar bin is a thrill that can't be duplicated on the web. Hopefully the store will still be in business the next time I visit Yakima, whenever that may be.

Another reason to visit central Washington is their wine region, which is like visiting California's wine country 25 years ago. There are a ton of micro-wineries in the Yakima and Columbia valleys with friendly staff and free wine tasting, and affordable prices on top of the line stuff. Washington's wine region is growing so fast that it's going to be as touristy and commercialized as Napa Valley in about 5-10 years, so it makes me feel like Lewis and Clark, enjoying something just before it gets discovered by the rest of the world.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Magazine Street

I'm in the beautiful state of Washington this Fourth of July weekend, and flew up from the Bay Area yesterday. I forgot to bring something to read on the plane and decided to pick something up at the airport, but since the flight to Seattle is just over a couple of hours, I headed to the magazine racks.

It's been a few years since I've bought a magazine at a newsstand, so I was astounded at how expensive they've become. It was $5.95 for the latest issue of Sports Illustrated with Tim Lincecum on the cover, or the latest issue of Rolling Stone with Barack Obama on the cover, and even news magazines like Time and Newsweek had cover prices above five bucks. That's even higher than a grande mocha or a gallon of gas!

I remember when magazines were all in the $2-3 range, and UK imports like Mojo and Uncut were around $7.95 (usually with a free CD). I think paying $5 or more for less than 100 pages of which 75% are ads is a bit steep -- does anyone buy magazines anymore?

I didn't end up buying anything to read, and made do with Alaska Airlines' inflight magazine. There are apparently a lot of golf courses on Maui, and Ruth's Chris isn't one of the ten best USDA prime steakhouses in the U.S.A anymore -- they probably stopped paying their bills to the beef lobby.

Now I just need to find something to read on my return flight!

Friday, July 4, 2008

These Are Not Americans

On this Fourth of July, it's important for US Americans (and most of my readers are American) to remember our status as citizens of the planet. While you're watching your outdoor fireworks or eating grilled animal or vegetable flesh, there's a whole planet full of people who don't really care about our Independence Day.

Here's a mix of a dozen songs about the USA by non-Americans. These songs are all sung by citizens of another great country that granted us independence 232 years ago (actually a few years later when we beat them in a war). Fire these songs up on your laptop (or wi-fi enable cellphone, or networked iPod) while your firing up your grill to remember the views of non-Americans like these Englishmen (who are all English and all men) toward our country. They don't hate us for our freedom, they hate us for our arrogance (and all the crappy music and movies and TV shows we send abroad!).

These Are Not Americans
  1. "America" - The Nice
  2. "America" - Yes
  3. "Young Americans" - David Bowie
  4. "I'm So Bored With The USA" - The Clash
  5. "Crawling To The USA" - Elvis Costello
  6. "American Squirm" - Nick Lowe
  7. "America" - Robyn Hitchcock
  8. "This Is Not America" - David Bowie
  9. "Just Like The USA" - Aztec Camera
  10. "American Eyes" - The Lilac Time
  11. "Help Save The Youth Of America" - Billy Bragg
  12. "51st State" - New Model Army
All three songs called "America" are different songs.  The Nice track is the one from West Side Story (written by Woodward and Bernstein, or Sondheim and Bernstein, or whoever) extended to seven minutes with lots of organ solos. The Yes track is the one by Simon and Garfunkel (or probably just Simon) about counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike. The Robyn Hitchcock one is by Robyn Hitchcock, and all the others are also written by their (non-American) authors.

There are two songs by (non-American) David Bowie from two different decades. Even though British people all claim to not like America, they continue to enjoy singing about its Ford Mustangs and President Nixons.

Happy 4th of July everyone. Don't drink or eat too much and stay safe!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I've Been Moved

I don't like blogging about work-related matters, but this was a notable week for me employment-wise. My company began outsourcing their IT functions to an International Blue Monster
(Here's the press release).

In this outsourcing operations, 60% of the IT staff are scheduled to be "rolled off" (corporate-speak for let go) by the end of this year. I was initially among those 60%, but was later deemed to be an Important Business Master and moved to the lucky 40% who will be staying on through the transition.

So this announcement means that I'm now an employee of the International Blue Monster, as of this month. I'm working at the exact same office doing the exact same job, but just getting paid by a different company. Welcome to the 21st century.

Obligatory Food Content: Today's lunch was chicken katsu from L&L Hawaiian Barbecue. With a drink. I can afford to pay more than $5 on lunch now that I'm working for a big company!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tikka to Ride

From Red Dwarf: series VII, episode 1
LISTER: What am I gonna do? Curry night was the one little beacon I had... made me feel like a normal ordinary guy, not some sad freak stuck in deep space; no woman, no hope, no curry.
KRYTEN: Worse still, a choice of only two alcoholic beverages: Cinzano Bianco, or advocat. Its a human tragedy!
LISTER: No lager??
KRYTEN: All the supplies on B-deck were destroyed, sir. There wasn't even any wreckage, no debris, zip.
LISTER: God... a few beers and a curry, it was the highlight of my week!
KRYTEN: I used to look forward to curry night too, sir. seeing your little face all happy and smiling, come rain or shine we'd always make time for curry night. Every Friday.
LISTER: Saturday.
KRYTEN: Sunday.
LISTER: Tuesday.
KRYTEN: Wednesday.
LISTER: Life without curry? Its like Laurel without Hardy; the Lone Ranger without... that Indian bloke.
KRYTEN: Perhaps, you could learn to love... pasta?
LISTER: Pasta..Are you sick?

Wednesday night has always been "curry night" for me, going back to when chicken curry was the Wednesday lunch special at my high school in Singapore. Back when I used to live with my brother, we'd usually grill a whole chicken on Sunday night (aka "chicken night") and each of us would take a leg, a thigh, and a wing, which would leave the white meat (breast portion) leftover.

Leftover grilled chicken breast is ideal for captain curry, or Thai green curry, or the old dependable CTM (Britain's national dish).

Basically, leftover chicken is made to be curried, in every way possible, but I don't usually grill a whole chicken on Sunday anymore, so "curry night" usually involves ordering a takeout from Favorite Indian or Pakwan or Paya Thai, depending on what kind of curry I'm craving, or whether the signal light on B street is green (Thai) or red (Indian) when I hit the light.

Sometimes I eat curry on other nights (I had shrimp and vegetable curry last night), but it's hard for me to eat anything but curry on Wednesday. Tonight it's rogan josh from Favorite Indian. Like Red Dwarf's Dave Lister, I'm a curryaholic, and need a curry at least once a week. Preferably on Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Half the way there

We're now six months into 2008, and 188 days into the 366 day leap year, so it's the perfect date for me to list some of my favorite albums of the first half of the year.

Ten albums alphabetically by artist. Most of these albums are on emusic, my primary source for new music these days.

British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?
If you're answer is "yes", then.. you know the rest.

Flight Of The Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
All the songs from the TV show re-recorded in full rock band glory.

Robert Forster - The Evangelist
Forster without McLennan is like half of that pizza without the other half, but half a pizza is infinitely better than no pizza at all!

The Morning Benders - Talking Through Tin Cans
East Bay locals follow up their great EP from last year with an even better full-length CD (RIYL: The Shins, Rogue Wave)

Nada Surf - Lucky
More of what they do best, and then some.  

Pugwash - Eleven Modern Antiquities
A good one by Pugwash (aka Irishman Thomas Walsh) with help from Andy Partridge (who co-wrote two tracks), Dave Gregory, Eric Matthews, Michael Penn, and Jason Falkner. Recommended for fans of any of the listed artists.

R.E.M. - Accelerate
Greatest R.E.M. album of the 21st century? Almost definitely!

School of Language - Sea From Shore
SoL is David Brewis from Field Music, and this is the more experimental side of the band. His brother Peter's new project/album The Week That Was is the accessible/poppy side of the band. Put together, they're like two full Field Music albums!

Shake Some Action! - Sunny Days Ahead
I liked the first SSA album, but wasn't sure if they could keep the intensity up for another album. Turns out that they can.

Sloan - Parallel Play
Never Hear The End Of It condensed and cut in half. 13 songs in 39 minutes makes an ideal album and song length.

Looking forward to: The Hold Steady, Brian Wilson, Bye Bye Blackbirds, and more.

Obligatory Food Content
Today's Lunch: Jack in the Box (2 tacos for 99 cents and an Orange Sunrise Smoothie).
Tonight's Dinner: A shrimp-vegetable curry made with frozen vegetables, pre-cooked shrimp, and Trader Joe's Thai curry simmer sauce. Pan-Asian stir-fried lazyness!