Friday, November 28, 2008

PTSD (Post-Thanksgiving Starch Disorder)

Ten minutes shy of noon and I'm finishing up the bottle of wine I opened last night: an Australian blended red with grenache as the base, with equal parts mataro and shiraz for flavor that went well with the chocolate ancho mole I whipped up.

After the dishes and kitchen were cleaned, I sat down in front of the computer for a bit, surfing and checking e-mail (a compulsion I can't seem to shake on holidays). Whenever I browse YouTube I can't help but root around for old hair metal bands. I found this gem:

The band was called Nitro and, like many bands of the era (Vinnie Vincent Invasion comes to mind) they ascribed to a "bigger is better" aesthetic. Guitarist Michael Angelo Batio was one of those guitarists who could fill an eight-bar solo with thousands of notes. Singer Jim Gillette had claimed to have a six octave range — he legitimately could hit four octaves — and routinely shattered wine glasses with his voice in concerts.

Too bad they couldn't write a good song with guns pointed at their heads. But this was the late 80's, so that never held Nitro back. Both Batio and Gillette released popular instruction videos through Doug Marks' "Metal Method" series in which each purported that, with the right amount of training and instruction, you, too could suck as hard as they unleash your untapped musical potential.

The great thing about Nirvana and the grunge explosion is that hack bands like Nitro were killed off immediately. To their credit, Nitro also wasn't one of those bands that hung on long after grunge died whining that they could have been big if it hadn't been for Kurt Cobain's ability to write good songs.

Not that Gillette has anything to whine about, nor would he give a damn if he ever came across this. He's living a charmed life. Post-Nitro, Gillette took his instruction video money, moved to an island, started training in jujitsu and MMA, and became a legitimate, fireplug-bodied badass.

Oh, yeah, he also married Lita Ford, which is as ultimate a "fuck you" as one can get without having to actually mouth the words.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Your Thanksgiving Menu

The turkey was pardoned this year. This year's Thanksgiving menu will be:

  • Brined chicken breast confit with ancho chocolate mole and homemade tortillas
  • Cranberry serrano salsa
  • homemade baked sweet potato chips
  • Wild Mexican rice and black beans
  • lots of whisky

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Taking Stock, Making Stock

Yesterday's banner day food-wise was typical of how we've been going lately at the site. We put out a call for new writers at Chicagoist a few weeks back. Marcus and Jim are poring through the applications for general and A&E writers.

With the exception of a few tweaks I'll be working on with the other writers, I'm very pleased with our overall food and drink coverage. Laura Stolpman's become an amazing photographer and is handling the weekly events roundup, taking some load off my shoulders with regularly scheduled features. Anthony Todd and Rob Christopher are tag-teaming on the "Properly Sauced" cocktail column and are just starting to hit their stride re-creating favorite cocktails from the city's better bars and restaurants. Jacy Wojcik expressed an interest in switching to food and drink, so we placed her on a quick learning curve starting with Chicago Gourmet to combine her interest in this with her love of design to give some new facets to what we cover. They're all also very solid writers, which makes editing their copy a breeze.

That, and a lot of trial and error, has helped diversify our coverage to allow a better balance between original reviews and articles and posting to newsworthy links; expand the scope of our coverage past restaurant reviews into subjects that we feel are worthy of coverage such as slow food, sustainability, and agriculture issues; give the others a wide outlet for their work and opportunities for freelance work; and make me a better organized editor (although I still have a ways to go).

I try to check in with them weekly via e-mail (keeping Marcus informed, as well) to see what stories they're working on, hash out ideas for future coverage, and get updates on other stories we might be running behind on. And I'm almost always available via IM for them to pose questions. We've set up an editorial calendar where we can post updates to deadlines, press releases for news ideas and ETAs for openings, closings and events. The most important thing I try to remember is that they all write for the Chicagoist because they love writing for Chicagoist. I could demand that they stick with deadlines, but that appraoch tends to alienate volunteer writers. I love the work they do and make sure they know it; this is another thing I've picked up from trial and error. But they certainly deserve the kudos.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

While You're Waiting For "Chinese Democracy" to Happen...

Yeah, I streamed it on Myspace and you can have my free Dr. Pepper when it comes out tomorrow. I'll stick with "Appetite for Destruction;" a timeless record — one of the last to be mixed with vinyl in mind — and with some salacious stories regarding the recording.

It got me to thinking how dangerous Guns N' Roses seemed at the time. They were the one band that could match Mötley Crüe drug for drug and stripper for stripper, yet, unlike the Crüe, still garner some positive reviews for their music. Plus, Axl could start riots with an unprovoked mood swing.

So I looked for the best example of this balancing act between being a legitimate threat to the public safety and the biggest band in the world. I found it in their performance from Farm Aid in 1990. It would be the last performance with the original lineup. In typical punk sneer, they perform the UK Subs' classic "Down on the Farm." Axl prefaced the song by saying they were gonna play it "for humor's sake, since we don't mind, and if you can take a joke."

This performance was also the first time original GNR drummer Steven Adler ever heard of the song, which he related in this interview with Metal Sludge a few years back (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Friday, November 21, 2008

She Still Can't Pronounce "Iraq" Properly

Sarah Palin was back home in Wasilla Main Street, "Real America," yesterday, to "pardon" a turkey for Thanksgiving in one of those cute political stunts that occur this time of year.

Where did this take place? At a turkey farm:

Sarah Palin — like herpes — is the gift that keeps on giving.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lost in Norwood Park

Back in my living-on-the-North-Side twenties it became a Saturday ritual for me to walk over from my studio apartment on Ashland to Jim's Grill a few blocks away on Irving Park Road to rid myself of the dog that bit me the night before. Owner Dave Choi is a devout Buddhist and vegan, but he was also a businessman. Dave slowly worked bi bim bop and dry pancakes made with kim chi and brown rice onto the menu, along with a variety of spicy teas and soups guaranteed to clean you out.

Dave and I eventually struck up long conversations as he began to recogize me more and more. Well, I was also a pretty fearless eater, even back then. One day we were discussing eating meat - Dave was in the process of opening the first version of his vegan Korean restaurant Amitabul at the time - and Dave told me, "I want you to go to the grocery store and buy a steak. A good steak. Then cut a couple slices off it, put it in a beaker and let it sit out for a week."

"I know it's gonna sit there and rot, Dave," I said.

He replied, "That's also what it does in your digestive system." So I did what Dave asked. I also ate the rest of the steak while the two slices I removed were rotting in a beaker. When I returned to Jim's Grill the following weekend, Dave asked me how the experiment went. "Steak tasted really good," I said.

I hadn't seen Dave in a many years. He moved Amitabul from Southport to Milwaukee Avenue in Norwood Park around the same time I moved to Bridgeport. The move has don
e him well; Dave has a dedicated clientele who hang on his every word and suggestion as though it's Gospel. Some of them even buy his diet plans: one $65 package has you eating nothing but fiber for three days as a natural colonic. His food is still hands down some of the best vegan cuisine in the city. I've got enough of Dave's cure-all soup to help me fight the hangover I'm certain to wake up with tomorrow and Monday.

It should ahve been a two-hour trip, tops. But I forgot that Milwaukee is still located east of Northwest Highway, even that far north. So when I disembarked from the Metra this afternoon, I started heading west after a disgruntled waitress gave me half-assed directions. I stopped for directions at a Lutheran church, but the deacon I asked for directions wasn't very charitable with his advice. Nor was he charitable with his combover or hair dye.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

We Could Be in Green Bay

  • Never attend a craft beer festival on an empty stomach.
  • Always try on your snow pants before you buy them.
  • If you fall asleep on the couch watching a repeat of "Svengoolie," you deserve the infomercial that wakes you up at 4 a.m. Or worse, the Jay Mohr movie.
  • Turned out the lengthy walks both I and my dog walker neighbor took Emmy on this summer aggravated her pre-existing limp. Thank God there's nothing wrong structurally with her bones.
  • Spent Friday dividing time between the vet and Micro Center. Preferred the vet.
  • Spent Saturday cleaning out my hard drive of eight months worth of eMusic downloads. Still have another 6 GB to go.
  • I really did see a white kid on the Green line yesterday with "The only promise in life is death" tattooed on his skull and forehead. Guess he isn't a glass half-full guy.
  • The pork rillettes are coming, Lauren. Perfection takes time.
  • Fucking Bears. My Pop Warner team could get a better pass rush going.