Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Leftovers: Volume 03: Issue 50

( #SundayLeftovers )



Howdy true be-loggers, welcome to Sunday Leftovers! It isn't Halloween yet and my teeth are already rotten with candy residue. The weather has been kind of nuts and I have friends that might be out of power for a week. A WEEK. What the heck is going on in the East Coast? I am already missing California. I type this between bouts of throwing stuff out of my fridge, so literally, lets see what is leftover...

[The Back Window]




CREDIT: The Decemberists - The Calamity Song

[Recipe of the Week: Mario Batali's Braised Short Ribs ]
Credit: Esquire

INGREDIENTS:

Short Ribs:
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 pounds boneless beef short ribs, cut into eight to ten 2-by-4-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chestnut flour
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch dice
3 Spanish onions, chopped into ½-inch dice
12 garlic cloves
Two 12-ounce bottles chestnut beer (or use any Dogfish Head beer)
2 cups basic tomato sauce (for quick results, try my Mario Batali pasta sauces by Gia Russa)
2 cups Brown Chicken Stock
1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs and
1 bunch fresh rosemary sprigs, tied together with kitchen twine

Gremolata:
• Leaves from 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
• Zest of 2 lemons, removed with a vegetable peeler and cut into julienne strips
• 4 ounces fresh horseradish, grated

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large, heavy-bottomed ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat until smoking. Season the short ribs aggressively with kosher salt and pepper, and dredge them in the chestnut flour, shaking off the excess. Place them, 5 at a time, in the hot oil and sear until deep brown on all sides, about 15 minutes per batch. Transfer the short ribs to a plate and set aside.

Add the carrots, onions, celery, and garlic to the skillet and cook over high heat until browned and softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, and stir in the chestnut beer, tomato sauce, chicken stock, and herb bundle. Scrape the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to dislodge the brown bits, and bring the mixture to a boil. Return the short ribs to the skillet, cover, and place it in the oven. Cook for 2 hours.

Uncover the skillet and continue to cook for 30 minutes, or until the meat is fork-tender. Remove from the oven and use a ladle or a kitchen spoon to skim the fat from the braising liquid.

To make the gremolata, combine the parsley, lemon zest, and horseradish in a small bowl, and toss loosely by hand.

To serve, place the skillet on a cutting board or trivet on the table, and serve the gremolata on the side.

[DIY of the Week: Disk Defrag]

After another call for help this weekend, I thought I would share this. Defragging is important for your computer, especially if you are running Windows XP. One of my favorite websites (Lifehacker) has a breakdown of the best defrag tools out there. Check it out.

Lifehacker: Best Defrag Tools

[Video of the Week]



[Conclusion]

Thanks for reading this week. I have a few articles about my time at MacMurray farm and Frei Brothers coming up soon. I might also do a few review posts to sprinkle throughout the week. If you need to reach me, you can do so here. As always, don't take shit from anybody.

Smell You Later,
~ Joey

Twitter | Facebook





Monday, October 24, 2011

Concert Review: The Jayhawks @ The Keswick Theater (Glenside, Pa)

( #TheJayhawks )

Opening Act: Tift Merritt
Date: Saturday, October 22nd, 2011
Location: Keswick Theater - Glenside, Pa

The Jayhawks are one of those bands that most people might not know well, but have probably heard a few of their tunes. Musicians like them because they are a band that focuses on harmony and they do it very well. Over the years, I really appreciate what Gary Louris has done with the band after Mark Olson’s departure, but it was a treat to see “classic” line-up...

[Opening Act: Tift Merritt]

Tift Merritt played a short and sweet set, which is considerate of any opening act. I had no prior knowledge of Merritt prior to the concert, so I listened with no expectations. Tift has a strong singing voice that reminded me of Sheryl Crow (that salt and honey sound). She was backed by two solid musicians, one that played pedal steel most of the set. Outside of the natural talent of the whole band, the set fell flat due to material. Most of the songs were downer relationship cliches that put the audience to sleep. The efforts of the pedal steel player gave the tunes a needed brightness, but not enough to keep me interested.

Bottom Line: Tift Merritt has talent and a good ear for musicians but would do well with brighter, faster paced songs that varied from the standard topics of old boyfriends.

[Main Event: The Jayhawks]



The first half of the Jayhawk’s set on Saturday night was sloppy. Somebody was really out of tune the first three songs and the harmonies that I was looking forward too took a while to sync up. That being said, when the band got their shit together, they were very good.

The band did a nice job mixing up older Olson tunes in with Louris’ material after Mark left. The crowd went nuts for “Miss Williams’ Guitar” which produced several whispers stating “they didn’t expect the band to play that song”. A nice surprise was a song sung by the drummer who had a great voice and got the crowd pumped. There was not much banter with the (very animated) crowd and any attempts to do so seemed... confused. Olson kept referencing the fact that they were playing the Keswick Theater and alluded to some history with the stage, but they didn’t let the newbies know what it was (if any reader knows, feel free to share). My buddy assured me that weed most likely played into the equation...whatever gets you through the night.

The band came out for a quick encore and called it a night. In total, they played about 90 minutes. As I mentioned before, once the band was on stage for about a half hour, they started to gel and play much better, but it looked like Louris was a little pissed off until the encore and Olson looked a little out of it.

Bottom Line: Overall, it was a good concert, not great, but definitely good.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Leftovers: Volume 03: Issue 49

( #SundayLeftovers, #Halloween )



Howdy true be-loggers, welcome to Sunday Leftovers! I am pretty happy with the last few weeks of output, I have posted several articles on this blog and on Drinking Made Easy. Some of those posts were due to a delightful vacation to California and others were due to my editors over at DME. That being said, this week's Sunday Leftovers is Halloween themed. Let's open the fridge and see what scary shit is floating around in there...

[The Back Window]


CREDIT: Anton Semenov


CREDIT: Ryan Adams - Halloween

[Recipe of the Week: Candy Corn]
You can make your own candy corn!?! Check this out.
Credit: The Harvard Crimson



INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup dry powdered milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup unsalted butter (or use salted butter and don't ad the 1/4 teaspoon of salt)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Food coloring

[DIY of the Week: Halloween Slime]

What you need:

A thickening agent, such as Natrosol, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, or Methylcellulose
Powder or poster paint for color
Lots of hot water
A container to mix it all in, and a spoon to stir it with

Basically you need to mix it all together, but for detailed instructions, check out Instructables

[Video of the Week]



[Conclusion]

Check out the blog later this week for yet another DME article, a review of The Jayhawks concert from last night, and a few others if I get around to it. If you need to reach me, you can do so here. As always, don't take shit from anybody.

Smell You Later,
~ Joey

Twitter | Facebook

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DME: Victory's Dark Intrigue

( @victorybeer, #DarkIntrigue )



Drinking Made Easy published a story I wrote a few weeks ago about Victory Brewing Company's Dark Intrigue Beer.
Check it out: DME: Creating Dark Intrigue with Victory Brewing Company

I have another related article with the brewer Jordan next week, so check back!

2011 California Vacation



I went on a trip to the California wine country and I found America. I wasn’t looking for her by any means. I wasn’t interested in finding picturesque landscapes that would make pretty post cards, but I found them and in a very American way: in a car and just driving.

As soon as we landed in San Fransisco International, we scrambled to get the rental car and we just went. My wife and I drove almost 100 miles away from the city and then took the whole route back on the iconic Route 1 coastal highway. There are miles of unmolested landscape and ocean. Mountains, fields, and for huge stretches, no people... it was fantastic. We stopped and stretched our legs, checked out some scenic stops and then we kept moving on. We had some authentic Mexican food at little road stop and then we continued to Napa for the night (and got snagged in a few hours of iconic American traffic).

The next morning we headed off to Sonoma for a private tour of MacMurray Ranch. This ranch was owned by Fred MacMurray, star of “My Three Sons”. The scope of this place blew my mind. It is 1100 acres of fields and mountains. The Gallo family purchased the property in the late 1990s after MacMurray died and converted it into a vineyard. Fred’s family is still involved with the property which is a nice touch.

The idea of holding that much property is astounding to me (not in a critical way). Past generations seemed to understand that you can’t over manage the land. Fred MacMurray left hundreds of acres alone (Gallo actually has a policy about that as well which is very cool). After we toured the ranch, we were taken down the road to see one of Gallo’s other non-public vineyards that was massive. I am going to do an actual write up about these places for Drinking Made Easy, but for the sake of this post, just walk away with the idea of land as far as the eye can see with mountains, trees, and in some cases grapes. I think I understand the imperial-land-grabbing-blood-lust of our forefathers.

The primary reason we went to California was to see Ryan Adams. I covered that already (read here). The show was great and the venue was small and intimate. It was a perfect night.

The next day we headed to San Francisco. We spent most of the day walking around the city without an objective. We went to China Town and Little Italy. We ate a nice dinner recommended to us by one of the local bakery owners (Michelangelo’s if you need to know). By the time we finished it was dark, so we took a cab back to the hotel and called it a night.

Tuesday morning we found ourselves on Golden Gate Bridge. We walked across as far as we could but didn’t get to the end because it was closed. We spent some time in the Golden Gate Park, walking up and down hills before it was time for lunch. We wanted to do Dim Sum. We went to an authentic dim sum place. Too authentic. I was excited when we walked in and saw only Asian people - I knew this place was the real deal. But then I noticed no menu and servers walking around with carts. Nobody really spoke English and I didn’t know what I was ordering. I managed to get my hands on some beef soup during the 30 minutes we were in there (one bowl), before we decided to split (paying was also interesting, I don’t think I was supposed to get up and pay myself - oh well). We ended up back in Little Italy which was not the plan at all, but we had a nice lunch at the Stinking Rose and we were served by Count Dracula, who was very nice (no I will not explain any further).

We walked around the city some more to burn off lunch and then went back to the hotel to clean up. I booked dinner reservations at “The House of Prime Rib” and decided that I needed to get in an extra run to burn off what I knew we going to be a calorie fest in the evening. I managed to get the gym completely empty and it overlooked the city in a small panoramic room. It was dusk and I was able to overlook the city which is a nice way to spend time on a treadmill.



Dinner was completely insane. This place served only one thing: Prime Rib. Salad, two sides. That’s it. It was perfect. Going back to my ghosts of America, this place was a call back to another time. Martinis and red meat. Baked potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. Classic.

In the morning, we found a nice little place (Honey, Honey) to get a simple breakfast and got ready for our flights home. Of course the flights were delayed and we ended up in Vegas, but that is all part of travel in the modern age. It is hard to get mad when you look down and see hundreds of miles of untouched landscapes and realize that there is still room to grow.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Concert Review: Ryan Adams @ The Uptown Theater (Napa, Ca)

( @theRyanAdams, #Napa, @JasonIsbell )


Opening Act: Jason Isbell
Date: Saturday, October 15th, 2011
Location: Uptown Theater - Napa, Ca

When Ryan Adams announced he was taking a break a few years ago I really wondered if he was going to play live again. Articles about Meniere’s disease and burn out made it seem like it could be a long time before a tour would be a reality. In the spring, Ryan announced select dates in Europe and I started putting away some money for a trip to California (Europe was too expensive, and I figured he might do a few dates near his home), he surprised many with a full blown tour. Long story short: I get to see him twice this year, as you can see in this review, I have no complaints.

[Opening Act: Jason Isbell]

Normally, I do a little research on opening acts, but I have been so busy with work that I completely forgot to do it. When Jason Isbell walked on stage and announced he was Muscle Shoals, Alabama I whispered to my wife “I wonder if he is in The Drive By Truckers” thanks to an piece I heard about them on NPR. He quickly confirmed my suspicions.

Isbell was sublime. I am so glad that I didn’t know much about him or his material because I had a chance to absorb his performance without any expectations. He is an outstanding guitar player and singer. Isbell has a natural way of bantering with the audience that comes from experience. Jason did a song that was based on a conversation with his dad that really sent a shiver up my spine. I can’t wait to get home and track down this guy’s back catalog because he is such a good songwriter.



[The Main Event: Ryan Adams]

Ryan Adams was excellent in every way last night. Since the venue held under 1,000 people and the show was billed as an acoustic performance, it was a very intimate. The one thing that stood out to me (after having gone to several Ryan Adams concerts) - is just how good his voice sounded. Ryan’s ability to convey emotion through his voice is often overlooked in favor of his prolific songwriting, but his voice might be the greatest weapon in his arsenal.

This was most definitely a thank you show to the fans. He played the perfect mix of “greatest hits”, new tunes, and fan favorites. Since he was solo, he tweaked several songs to make up for the lack of a band. The subtle changes were welcome and kept me listening for the changes. Ryan did a really nice solo at the end of “I see Monsters” that was new but fit perfectly. I am not going to rattle off every tune Adams played, but I am happy to have witnessed live performances of “Winding Wheel” and his piano version of “New York, New York” (they were awesome).

Ryan bantered with the crowd throughout the show. There was no tension. A few people in the crowd shouted out requests, but Ryan took it in stride and moved on with his set list. He broke out several improvised songs about people moving around going to the bathroom (it was funny, he kept asking them to come back, “Its not 2004!”). And the end of the main set, Adams soaked in the applause of the crowd. I have been to several Ryan Adams concerts in the past where he ran off the stage at the end of the show, it was nice to say thank you properly this time.

Ryan came back out and did a few tunes with Jason Isbell. He ended the show with an old Whiskeytown song “Jacksonville Skyline” - it was a fitting and satisfying ending to a memorable performance.. This show was a mutual love note between Ryan and the crowd and I am really glad I had a chance to witness it.



[The Curse]

I can’t do a concert review without sharing crowd experiences. I thought I was going to break the curse last night and not have any issues with an audience member because this was a fan oriented show. Wrong. There were four girls in front of us that talked THE ENTIRE TIME. At first the main offender was trying to keep it low, so it was easy to ignore her, but as the night progressed they all got sloppy drunk. She had to sing every song. She was told several times to quiet down, but as they got drunker she just laughed. Did I want to push her down the steps at the end of the night? I can’t say (yes). Oh well - at least she knew the words...

UPDATE:
Ryan posted this clip from the show on his facebook page

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Sunday Leftovers: Volume 03: Issue 48

( #SundayLeftovers )



Howdy true be-loggers, welcome to Sunday Leftovers! Only 4 more issues of Sunday Leftovers for volume three. An overhaul is coming, feel free to offer feedback readers. This week was fairly productive both professionally and semi-professionally. No need to banter, let's open the fridge and see what is leftover.

[The Back Window]




CREDIT: Ryan Adams - Ashes and Fire

[Recipe of the Week: Joey's Pesto]



INGREDIENTS:
3 cups of fresh basil
4 bulbs of garlic
1/3 cup of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Pine Nuts

DIRECTIONS:
1. Add all of the ingredients into a food processor
2. Chop until you don't see huge chunks of garlic.
3. Add on whatever you like.

[DIY of the Week: DIY Bow]

Robin Hood fantasy? Here is how to make your own bow for under $20 bucks.

DIRECTIONS: Instructables

[Video of the Week]



[Conclusion]

Thank you for reading this week. I am in the middle of working on a nice assignment for DME, which should be published the week of the 17th. I also will be on location at the end of this week and early next week, so stay tuned, lots of great material will be on this blog for the next few weeks (hopefully I will keep that wave going). If you need to reach me, you can do so here. As always, don't take shit from anybody.

Smell You Later,
~ Joey

Twitter | Facebook





Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Samuel Jackson vs. Sharks

( #SamuelLJackson )

Things have been a little heavy on the blog lately, so here is one of my favorite actors, Samuel L. Jackson bringing some levity to the blog. First Sam Jackson has an unfortunate experience with a shark...



And here is Dave Chappelle's take on that incident, playing Sam Jackson (warning, this has bad language):



PS: What is in that bowl at the end of the skit? It looks like cereal?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Rant: Drinking with Co-workers

( #co-workers, #drinking )


Credit: Dos Equis

The Most Interesting Man In The World Says: "I don't always drink with co-workers, but when I do, I wish I didn't."

I learned several lessons as a young adult about socializing with co-workers. Recent experiences while drinking with professionals (no just co-workers) have led me to create this rules of engagement document:

1. Unless expressly stated by both parties, a co-worker is not a friend. Do not treat them like one while socializing after hours. A co-worker can become a friend, but I suspect those chances are diminished greatly if people are losing control after a few drinks.

2. Don't talk about work. You probably just left the office and that project is falling behind, but use the time together to get to know someone as a human being, not complain—we all have problems.

3. Don't talk about work. Seriously, I know it is weird to try to start a conversation about something other than work stuff, but try, it pays off.

4. Be aware of other people around you: See how I said not to talk about work? I was in a bar a while back and people were complaining about work...LOUDLY. There was a girl who was obviously put off by the conversation and she had her head buried in her phone. I really thought she was tweeting the conversation. I checked when I got home but didn't find anything—that could have been a horrible situation.

5. Try to keep some of your more personal beliefs to yourself for a while: Topics regarding religion and politics should be avoided. I know this is funny coming from someone who has a blog that talks about this stuff, but the point is, I don't rub it in people's faces. After a few social events, if you feel like you know the person well enough to test the waters, go for it, but be prepared to back off if you have different views because you have to work with this person.

6. Having marital problems? I don't care. Open marriage? I don't want to know. Please don't ask the bartender for their number when I am in your company—that actually goes for any social situation and the rule applies to the wait staff as well.
Additional Advice: If you have a bar you really like or are a regular at, don't bring co-workers there until you know they are okay. If things get weird you might get banned from your favorite watering hole.

7. If you happen to be invited to someone's home, don't go through their house (this happened to a co-worker several years ago). If you see a guitar or other musical instrument, don't pick it up and start playing unless you are asked. You will look like a douchebag (well honestly, if you are rummaging around in somebody's house, you probably are a douchebag).

8. Don't start a fight at a bar when you are with co-workers. Sounds like common sense right? This includes saying anything that warrants you being punched in the face. Personally, I will not help you and will be hoping you lose a tooth.

9. Assuming we are working under the conditions I have outlined above—no shots.

Thanks for reading. It is my intent to help the workers of the world avoid making complete fools out of themselves and to (selfishly) avoid having to be in your company if you act like this. If you work with me, these are my ground rules for socializing. This article is a work in progress and will probably be updated several times.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Customer Service: Pep Boys

( @pepboysauto, #repairs )



I had an interesting couple of days with our cars. On Thursday, my friend known as GTT texted me to tell me that my wife's car in the driveway had a flat tire. I was in the office and could not deal with it until I got home (my wife and I carpool). Long story short, there was a screw in the tire and I decided to wait until the next day since we were both working from home.

The next morning, we got the spare on and I followed Allison over to Pep Boys so she could get the tired repaired. Heading down Woodbury-Glassboro Road in Pitman, the cops decided to have a check-point. Allison got through with no issue, but my car had a brake light out, and when they pulled me over I informed them that my driver-side window was broken. This thing has been giving me trouble for months (it kept getting stuck). Long story short, I got stuck with the cops for a while, but didn't get a ticket. I knew I had to get this thing properly fixed. So after her car was fixed, we left mine. I knew this was not going to be cheap.

This is where I will pause and pose a question that I generally get: "Why do you take your car to Pep Boys?"

My answers are many and there will be several in the course of this little story:
1. They are close
2. They are a corporation, so should I get poor service (which I have not), there is a chain of command I can follow to get my issues resolved.
3. They always have parts
4. They are much much better than Firestone (I have a whole story with them for another day).

One other thing about this particular chain (Glassboro, NJ), they have done several small fixes for my wife and I at no cost. A month ago, a heat shield half fell off my car and they removed it and cleaned up the area at no cost (and told me I didn't need anything else to be done even though I was willing to get repairs done). They also fixed my wife's flat at no charge (but I think that comes with their tire service when you buy from them - but either way, it was nice).

Back to my story, the manager called me and told me the repair was not going to be cheap (over $500) because the motor in the window had to be replaced. As I said, I was expecting this. They had to get a part from another store, but the car would be done that day. THAT DAY. When the car was done and I went in to pay, they let me use a 10% off coupon and the cashier noticed I had a $30 mail in credit that I didn't think I could use in combination (so I didn't mention it), but they saw it in my hand and let me use. Pep Boys sends coupons for service almost every month. Its smart of their part but also works out well for the consumer.

I figured I would put this out there since several popular blog posts document my negative experiences with car rental places, ticketmaster, and other retail outlets. I always have decent experiences with Pep Boys and never feel like I got taken advantage of. Their monthly coupons are smart because they keep us thinking about services for our cars. They execute a nice mix of good service, good marketing, and availability. Well done.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Sunday Leftovers: Volume 03: Issue 47

( #SundayLeftovers )



Howdy true be-loggers, welcome to Sunday Leftovers! The last seven days were a bit of a set-up week. I reached out and made contact for a few new article ideas, work was not all encompassing, and I managed start reading two new books. Today was a new clothes and haircut kind of day...all preparation with the intent of comfort. I also spent three hours making chutney - the weather was certainly agreeable to a 3 hour cooking session. So let's open the fridge and see what is leftover...

[The Back Window]




CREDIT: Dan Mangan - Robots

[Recipe of the Week: Spanish Style Roasted Potatoes]
CREDIT: Simply Recipes

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, or other waxy potato (peeled or un-peeled, your choice), cut into 1 to 1 1/2-inch chunks
Olive oil
Salt
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup white wine (can substitute stock)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
A 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons Tabasco or other hot sauce
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

DIRECTIONS:

1 Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss the potatoes with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and salt well. Arrange in one layer in a casserole pan or rimmed baking tray and roast until browned, about 50 minutes.

2 While the potatoes are roasting, make the sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium pot set over medium-high heat. Sauté the chopped onions, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes, or until they begin to brown on the edges. Add the garlic and sauté another 2 minutes.

3 Add the white wine to the pan and turn the heat to high. Boil on a high boil until the wine is reduced by half, then add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the crushed tomatoes, Tabasco sauce, salt, sugar and smoked paprika. Stir well and reduce the heat to a bare simmer. Let the sauce cook slowly while the potatoes roast. If you want, you can use a blender or an immersion blender to purée the sauce until smooth.

4 When the potatoes are well browned, toss with the tomato sauce and return to the casserole pan. Continue to roast until the tomato sauce dries out a bit on the potatoes and caramelizes, about 10 minutes.

Serve with the remaining tomato sauce as an appetizer or side dish.

[DIY of the Week: Easy Pumpkin Carving]

This can't get any more easy... want to carve a pumpkin? Use a cookie cutter and a rubber mallet
For those who need more information (and really nice pictures): Fresh Home Ideas: Pumpkin Carving

[Video of the Week]



[Conclusion]

Thank you for reading this week. I have a few really cool articles coming out if all goes well (and a few personal experience articles as well). If you need to reach me, you can do so here. As always, don't take shit from anybody.

Smell You Later,
~ Joey

Twitter | Facebook