Friday, August 29, 2008

Absinthe

This was an "article" in our wedding zine. Instead of the usual champagne toast, we decided to have an absinthe toast instead. The wedding was on June 21, which is Summer Solstice, Midsummer… =Midsummer Night's Dream=Faeries=Green Faeries=ABSINTHE! Yeah, we're nerds. So we had special glasses made emblazoned with a seven-pointed faerie star (see below). And we went and bought a case of Lucid absinthe. Lucid, I learned from all the absinthe nerd message boards, is the only American absinthe that kind of sort of comes close to the real shit. The nerds didn't want to give it a thumbs up because they only drink the hardcore euro shit (in case you missed the sarcasm, there is nothing hardcore about Europe or absinthe), but they reluctantly said that it was "okay." And it was. Unlike "Le Tourment Vert" which some fucker at Bevmo tricked me into buying before I learned about Lucid. He said, "This is what everyone is drinking in the clubs in Vegas." (Not sure why I fell for that line, because there's nothing more despicable than the scum that frequent clubs in Vegas.) I love the bottle and the packaging, but it looks and tastes like Scope. The absinthe nerds laughed at it on the message boards. Don't buy this crap:


Anyway, everyone enjoyed the absinthe at the wedding. But, as you'll read below, don't bother with it. It's bullshit.



They call her “The Green Faerie.” She’s guided artists down some very strange paths. She’s made them cut off their ears. It’s fabulous stuff, this absinthe. So fabulous that it’s been illegal in the US since 1902. “STAY AWAY FROM THE ABSINTHE!” “IT MAKES YOU GO CRAZY!” “THAT STUFF IS GNARLY!”

No it’s not. Apparently it’s legal to buy absinthe in the US (I bought this stuff at Bevmo)? The FDA lifted the ban or something?—I don’t know, and I don’t care—because it’s just not worth it. I know, because Tania and I went on an absinthe “bender” a few years ago trying to find this so called Green Faerie. The Green Faerie, it turns out, was my dollar bills flitting through the air and flying over the Atlantic to Europe where they make this crap.

Okay, okay, it’s not that bad. We like absinthe. And we love the Green Faerie myth. But it’s like going to Disneyland: it’s really fun and totally awesome, but in the end, it’s total bullshit. Also, like Disneyland, absinthe is very expensive.

That said, let me tell you about our brief absinthe “bender.”

We wanted to experience this Green Faerie hallucination thing we’ve all read about. “Hey, we’re artists!” So we ordered a $70 bottle from Europe. I think it was from the Czech republic? Doesn’t matter. All of the bottles we ordered came from Europe and they all cost an arm and a leg. We got it, we did the little ritual, we poured water over a cube of sugar into a glass of the stuff, and we drank it… and nothing happened. So we did it again. And again. It wasn’t bad. At first. But after a dozen or so glasses we were like, “What the shit?” Drunk, but no green faeries.

“Perhaps we’re not getting the real stuff?” we wondered. Every website that sells the stuff claims they have the real thing. (Clue #1: pervasive insistence upon authenticity equals BULLSHIT!) “We have the real amount of wormwood, we have all the thrujol in the world! All other absinthes are imitations!” Yeah, yeah, yeah (look it up). We ordered bottle after expensive bottle and we got nothing but hangovers and licorice coated throats. And after extensive testing, our verdict was: BULLSHIT.

Absinthe is a novelty drink. You want to get drunk? Go buy a pint of Jim Beam. You want to get high? I’ve heard there’s ways of doing that too for a lot cheaper… none of which, of course, I know of firsthand, but I heard of a couple…

In conclusion (high school report), whatever they were drinking back in the day is not what’s available now. Either those dudes couldn’t handle their alcohol, or they were smokin’ crack. Or maybe it was crack? My suspicion is that the hallucinations weren’t caused by the ingredients so much as the bathtub-gin conditions in which it was being made.

The reason you’re drinking absinthe at our wedding is because it was a part of Tania’s and my life for a brief time. And, more importantly, it’s a symbol of art and faeriedom. So raise your glass to the Green Faerie! TO ART! HAIL THE GREEN FAERIE! She’s real—she’s all around you right now—it’s the drink that’s not.



Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sauerbraten Beef Ring


The only Sauerbraten Beef Ring recording in existence.

Chris Reed and I started a band in college back in the early 90s in San Luis Obispo called Sauerbraten Beef Ring. The name, as you can see, was derived from the recipe we found for the dish in an old cookbook.


The recipe to the Sauerbraten Beef Ring.

Chris was, and still is, a vegetarian, but he has a strange fetish for meat dishes. Mostly pictures of meat dishes. The worse, the better. He’s especially fond of anything that has to do with ham. I think he ranks it as one of the most disgusting meats.

“I think head cheese is my least favorite meat group,” Chris said. “But I can say that after 16 years after the formation of SBR, I’m still not that into ham. I did like what Wim Delvoye has done with his Ham mosiacs and tile work though.”



Wim Delvoye's "marble" floors. Mmmmm floors...

And while the SBR consists of beef, he loves it like a ham. As did I. I still don’t even know what that dish is. It looks like a bunch of poops? And what exactly is “hot meat liquid?” How did it get in the bowl? We were fascinated by this mysterious dish, which happened to be as perplexing as the music we were making.

Some might call the Sauerbraten Beef Ring “noise,” and, well, they’d be right. Our two 45 minute songs (no SBR song can be shorter than one side of a tape) are pretty much just feedback and distortion. Although the first song “A Black Hole Swallows a Space Ship” tells a story. It’s about a space ship that gets swallowed by a black hole. The second song is titled “Hibernating Rockets,” and it’s 45 minutes of what it sounds like when rockets are sleeping.

“The goal,” Chris said regarding how we made the tape, “which was very controversial and innovative, was to record until the four-track tape ended. And Dave and I recorded separately, and we didn’t listen to what the other person recorded. Now was that an accident because I didn’t know how to work the four-track? Maybe, but it’s still innovation."

To this day I’m still astounded that I actually liked this crap. Two dudes blindly recording noise onto the same tape? Yeah, that sounds awesome. But Chris loves it. He likes it so much he’s been bugging me about it for about a year now. I finally went through my tape box and sure enough, the damn thing still exists. I have mailed it to Chris who has promised to do big things with it. “The tape is our retirement plan,” he said. “It’s like gold.” Chris is going to digitize it and create new packaging. (We’ll post it here when it’s done.) I suggested we send it off to record labels to see if anyone bites. That would be funny. I also think we should write mean letters to the labels telling them how much gnarlier the Sauerbraten Beef Ring is than their current bands. Something Witch Taint did a few years ago to Mysticum.



“Don't get me wrong,” he wrote in an email, “I'm sure tons of chicks dig what you guys are doing, but I'm into some serious shit, not this strummy bullshit you guys seem to be into.”

video
A small sample of SBR. Any more and you'd throw up.

Like Witch Taint, SBR is some serious shit. We fuckin’ worship black holes and you can’t get any blacker than that. "None more black." You don't believe me? Well listen to that shit. But be warned: SBR made our friend Bill throw up. Literally. Bill even claimed that it had nothing to do with all the beer he drank or the load of pot he smoked. "It was the Beef Ring," he said, "it was too gnarly." We don't think you can handle it, so here's just a short sample. Any longer and you'll barf.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tania's Taco Testing In The Nickel (pt. 2)

Taco shacks don't give a fuck about correct spelling.
-Taco Testing In the Nickel attempt #3:

Some no name taco joint on the corner of 5th and Broadway.

It’s not a sit-down type place, it’s a good little taco shack were gardeners and janitors get their lunches on the go. Tacos aren’t allowed to be more than $1.25 each. And I’m pretty sure that they weren’t. There was no beer, but they did have a good alternative: Coca Cola in a glass bottle from Mexico. I love that stuff.

1. Dave went and picked up the food, so I didn’t get to judge the ambience of the establishment. I’m pretty sure it was just a one-room shack with a couple of tables that you can stand over while you eat. There may have been some white people in there, but that’s respectable because the menu was handwritten in Spanish on a day-glo piece of construction paper. That’s a big plus in their favor and an even bigger plus for the white folks brave enough to order food and hang out in there.

2. Four average carne asada tacos were brought up to the office in a styrofoam container. There were limes and radishes in the container, as there should always be. On the whole, it was acceptable.

3. Their red salsa was really good. I’m not judging the green salsa because green salsa is disgusting. If you like licking pennies, then more power to you, but I’m not gonna lick pennies all day just to tell you which one tasted a little less like a penny and more like a vegetable.

4. I feel obligated to mention that the people who ordered bean and cheese burritos were disappointed that there were only beans and cheese in it. That’s what a bean and cheese burrito is, dude. If you want rice, you order a beans, rice and cheese burrito (a BRC where I come from). If you want veggies, tell them what you want, or order a vegetarian burrito. If you order a vegetarian burrito at a real Mexican taco shack, however, prepare to get laughed at because that shit’s so lame that you may as well just ask to lick the taco man’s asshole. Everything in a Mexican restaurant is covered in lard.Even the tortillas in most places are made with some sort of animal fat. If you want to avoid that then buy a loaf of bread and suck on it because there’s no way to be vegan/veggie in a serious Mexican taco shack. That goes double for Chinese fast food, but that’s a different post altogether.

5. The burrito thing is not affecting the overall grade of the restaurant. I just needed to clear the air.

6. Overall, the food was decent and good for the money. I’d go there again.

Grade: B

FUN FACT: Dave and I ended up getting a carne asada burrito and a Coke in a glass bottle from this place and splitting it just about every other day.


-On a semi related note, how come the only place to get some decent carne asada fries in Southern California is Roberto’s? Has no one else caught on to their fantastic gastronomic delight? Just thinking about them makes me want to drive to Orange County or Ontario to feast on their greasy goodness. If you can recommend a place to get some good ones I will buy you an Orange Bang because those two things combined are the way of the future. There, I said it. -Taco Testing In the Nickel is back!

We went to another no-name taco joint on Fifth Street. Basically it was a little room with a few places to set a plate down if you were to actually try and eat inside. There were a couple of people in there and, with the addition of Dave and I, it was packed. Menus were painted on the wall or written on a piece of paper and taped to the wall. No one ordered anything off of the menu, you had to be “in the know” and order shit right. I respect that.

1. Only one person in the whole place spoke English.

2. There was an extensive breakfast menu.

3. Their al pastor looked really good, but I am bound to eat only carne asada until I’ve stuffed myself with grilled meat from every establishment in our neighborhood.

4. Their carne asada had a “mystery meat” quality to it.

5. Their red sauce was really hot, but kind of metallic. Yuck.

6. The tortilla fell apart and all the meat and salsa went everywhere.

7. The Health Department gave that place a B. They were being generous.

8. The only fair-skinned guy in the whole joint tried to warn me about the salsa. “It’s really hot. Ahur ahur ahur!” Duh, it’s salsa, asshat.

Grade: C-

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tania's Taco Testing In The Nickel (pt. 1)

I was food blogging even before we had a food blog, dudes. Last year I was at the helm of a different blog that wasn’t about food, but I sure as hell managed to talk about it incessantly. It was kind of inevitable because, as is the rule with most office situations, one generally likes to get away from their desk by going out to lunch. Dave and I were no exception for the while we worked in the beautiful Spring Arts Tower in downtown Los Angeles, right across the street from Charlie O’s. The Spring Arts Tower is an old, fancy building in the heart of downtown LA. And when I say the heart of LA, I mean the heart of illegal street drugs, discount clothing stores, bum activity, and hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants. It is on the corner of Fifth Street and Spring Street, which is also referred to as “The Nickel.” The Nickel is pretty fucked. There was a whole lot of drug dealing going on in the streets below our offices. And pooping too! One day we found this little gem on the side of our building. There isn't enough to say about that picture. It's human feces on a wall. Someone straight pissed out their ass on a busy street. Then they tried (?) to wipe with newspaper. They couldn't even do it in an alleyway. Nope, right on Spring Street. Everyday another thing amazes me beyond belief. It's a wondrous world that I live in. Too bad it smells like shit. Anyways, when there wasn’t pooping and drug dealing there was violence, usually in the form of fistfights, in the streets. And ambulances driving around and picking up junkies that OD’d. Oh, and I just couldn’t leave this picture out. It’s of one of our favorite junkie neighbors, Jiffy Pop. As you can plainly see, it was an amazing place and during our beloved time in The Nickel, Dave and I explored our surroundings and ate at every taco shack within walking distance. We even started testing them and rating them… have a look at some of our finds (again): -Taco Testing In the Nickel (TTIN) begins: El Rancho Mexican food on 5th Street There were tables and signs that were printed in English and other accoutrements that made the average white person walking around one of the sketchiest neighborhoods in Los Angeles feel slightly less vulnerable. WRONG. It is a well-known fact that the amount of intimidation that a taco shack puts into you before you walk in is directly proportional to how good the food tastes. Here’s the formula: Scary-ass Mexicans, who don’t speak a word of English, eating cow tongue tacos off of a shit-covered table in a rat infested shack = awesome tacos. If you want an English speaking staff that will happily give you extra sour cream and mild sauce, go to Baja Fresh. Look, I don’t make the rules, I just follow them. So we started off our taco testing at a mellow joint that served beer and spoke English. Those were the only positives at the El Rancho. The negatives included:
1. It was expensive. $2.50 a taco is highway robbery.

2. No brown people were eating there.

3. The carne asada had sautéed bell peppers and onions in it. That’s not carne asada, that’s fajitas. It’s also just gross.

4. I’m pretty sure the refried beans came from a can.
5. Their table salsa looked like tortilla soup.
6. The line of white people in professional office attire actually went out the door at one point. There are four taco shacks on that block and all of the white folks chose that one. Bad.
7. Their fountain didn’t work.

8. Dave was ashamed of himself after seeing all of those white bankers lining up for fajitas.

Grade : D-


-TTIN attempt #2:

Las Maracas at 217 5th Street

I don’t think I mentioned this before, but this series of tests is based solely on carne asada tacos. It’s the only thing we can order from these places until we’ve had the carne asada at every taco shack within walking distance of our office. And there are lots of them. I wanted to order an enchilada today, but remembered that it wouldn’t make sense to compare enchiladas and tacos. They’re like apples and oranges.

Okay, so now that that’s out of the way I’d like to tell you about my new favorite restaurant, Las Maracas. We chose Las Maracas today because it has a bar in it and Dave and I needed an afternoon beer. The place was filled with Mexicans, which is always a good sign. Futbol en Espanol was on all of the televisions and the jukebox was playing some mariachi jams while a drunken patron stared at it and pushed buttons. Do I need to go on? I know that I don’t, but I will because I like telling stories about tacos.

1. We ordered our taco plates and, to our surprise, it came with soup. Score one for Las Maracas. I love soup! It was mystery soup, which means I could recognize some of the ingredients, but not all of them. I’m certain I saw some onions and potatoes, but there were these little white squares floating in them that could have either been brains, tofu or bizarro cheese that didn’t melt. I don’t care what it was, it was tasty and I ate it all.

2. Our tacos arrived and to my delight there were tomatoes and avocado on them, in addition to the usual onion/cilantro mixture. It’s like they knew I was coming.

3. The drunk dude standing by the jukebox proceeded to get so drunk that he started hitting on the waitresses even though he could barely stand up. I think he bought one of them a rose from one of the wandering Mexican ladies that walks around the streets and inside restaurants selling single roses.

4. After I finished eating I used the sink in the ladies room to wash the taco smell off of my hands. When I came out of there ol’ drunkie made eye contact with me with his bloodshot eyes and said “how you doin’ baby?” AWESOME. This place gets an A just for that. I love when dudes are blacked out before 2pm.

5. At some point a tranny stuck his/her butt into the restaurant. She didn’t walk in, she just bent over and stuck her butt in and then continued on her way. Tranny butt.

6. Aside from our waitress asking us what we wanted, and ol’ drunkie’s come-on, I didn’t hear one word of English.

7. The only thing even remotely negative was their weak table salsa and their rice that looked like it may have been exposed to some sort of radiation. I’m pretty sure it glowed in the dark. And right now it’s lighting up my belly! WOCKA WOCKA.

Grade: A-

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tania's FTP List

A few years ago we had ourselves a going away party for one of our favorite French foreigners, Mik. We had the party for him at a bar called White Horse in Hollywood, which is on my FTP (Fuck That Place) list. The place was horrible and they basically charged $20.00 a drink for watered down vodka. The place was small and after 10pm it gets overrun with hipster trash. At the end of the night they charged Dave $150 dollars for beers and shots of Jager. Apparently those shots cost $20 each too because there is no way we drank $150 worth of anything. Fuck that place. And fuck those sneaky old Hungarian ladies that ran it. And fuck only having one women's toilet in the entire place.

But it’s not the only place in the world that sucks, oh no. It was the catalyst for the creation of an entire list. This list isn’t meant to hurt, it’s meant to help. To help you, our friends, to stay away from shitty places that make you want to stab. There are lots of other places, these are just a few examples of places that you should never go to. And if you are forced to go any of these places, I suggest that you shit in your hand and smear it on the wall. And don’t tip.


Casa Bianca, fuck that place.

Casa Bianca in Glendale, CA. Best pizza, gayest restaurant. They don't take plastic, they're not open for lunch, they’re not open on Mondays, the service sucks, they don't take reservations, they rarely answer their phone for take out orders, and there's always a line which means you have to stand on the street for forty minutes in order to eat there. Fuck that place.


The Doug Fir in Portland, OR. Retarded hipster bar with overpriced, watered down drinks. It's attached to one of the crappiest hotels ever, too. One late night, they wouldn't allow Nieratko and his wife in to eat because the bouncer saw that they had beers in their hands that they had brought from their room. Even when they threw the beers away (and couldn't buy anymore because it was 3am) they were still denied entrance. I went there for lunch the next day and ordered a grilled cheese with tomato soup. They fucked it up. They fucked up the most basic dish on the planet. How the fuck can you ruin cheese, bread and pureed tomatoes? Well, it was burnt, on the wrong bread and the soup was basically chunky salsa with basil in it. And then the waiter was a condescending asshole. Way to go Doug Fir, you suck. Fuck that place.

The Other Room in Venice, CA. We took Zach Galifianakis there after our interview, got really drunk, fought with a bartender for charging us way too much for drinks and Dave didn't tip. He's 86'd from the place (He went back and tipped the stupid bartender and he's not 86'd anymore, but fuck that place anyways.).

Senor Fish in Glendale, CA. It's just lame. There is just so much that sucks about this place I give myself a mental case of carpel tunnel when I think about all the typing I have to do to describe it.

Every Mexican restaurant in Portland, OR. Don't serve me black beans and squash in a whole wheat tortilla and tell me it's Mexican food. I live in California and I know what Mexican food is. There is nothing whole wheat in any Mexican dish. Nor is there any "soyrizo." The further away you get from Mexico, the worse the Mexican food is.





Jones Café
in Hollywood, CA. Fuck that place forever. If you can ever get inside that place, you’ll see for yourself how full of suck it is. How is it so exclusive and it’s not even fancy? FTP.




Cobras and Matadors
in Hollywood, CA. Fuck that place and its tapas and shitty service. For one of Dave's birthday dinners I bought two bottles of Veuve Cliquot to share with the table. It took a half hour for them to bring me champagne flutes. It would have taken longer, but I walked into the kitchen and started grabbing them myself.

Pete’s Restaurant in Downtown LA, CA. Worst service ever. EVER. It also gave Donny the barf shits.

Tan' Thumb (say it like "Tom Thumb")



Tania chopped off the tip of her thumb last night. It was midnight and we were going to go to bed, but she decided to eat the baked potato she had cooked earlier, after all. We were stoned and a cheesy baked potato suddenly sounded good. Plus we have trouble admitting the weekend is over. “Let’s just stay up a little longer… one more glass of wine… hey let’s eat that baked potato!” “Yeahhhhh, maaaan.” So she goes to chop up some scallions and WOOPS! She got some thumb. A lot of thumb.

“Oh no,” she said. She didn’t scream or anything. She just kind of moaned and kept saying “Oh no,” which, believe it or not, sounds worse than if she was screaming and hysterical. “WHAT? WHAT HAPPENED?” I yelled. We got the water on it, we got a towel and put some ice on it. She was in a lot of pain, but she handled it.

“Oh my god, there it is,” she said pointing at the cutting board. Sure enough, right next to the knife was the little hunk of Tania’s thumb. “Ewww!” It was shaped like an eye, or a little football. It was cleanly shorn off and it was all white, except for the slice of dark purple, goth-polish nail that came with it. Goth, severed limbs, how apropos.

Tania somehow managed to look up online on her phone with her other nine fingers what to do. She found a diagram similar to this.



Her injury was closer to a green cut than a blue cut. Meaning, despite the pain, it could heal on its own without a trip to the hospital. Which was a relief, because, again, it was midnight and we were stoned. I had a hard enough time at the grocery store trying to choose between all the bandages and gauze and tape and shit.

The strangest part of it all was my reaction to the li’l hunk of Tania on the cutting board. What do I do with it? Do I throw it away? That seems kind of weird throwing a part of my wife’s body into the trash with the cans of cat food and potato peels and the brown avocado and the moldy chili…gross. But then saving it is sort of morose, no? I decided I was too stoned to make a decision and the best idea would be to save it—I could throw it away tomorrow, I figured. So as Tania squirmed and whimpered on the couch, I scooped up the little hunk of thumb and took it back to my office and laid it in the middle of a legal pad.



This would be a good opportunity to do a short review of the Chef’s Choice 120 electric knife sharpener we got as a wedding gift. I had just sharpened all of our knives only two hours before. And as you can see, it works really, really good. I highly recommend it.

Aside from the pain, she’s going to be alright. In the meantime, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you. It would distract her from her thumb. Me? I’m just bummed that I lost 0.0000001% of the lady I married. I feel ripped off.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hell's Kitchen Tastes Like Chiggin


Tania and I have always had a problem with Jaime Oliver's fat tongue and novelty poop lips, but apparently Gordon Ramsey quite fancies it. "Ohhh, FOCK AAAWWWF!"

I know most people hate him, but I like Gordon Ramsey. I agree, he’s a blowhard and it’s a little hard to get past that fake, cussing, red-hot face. But I think it’s just an exaggeration of what he’s really like deep down. He’s a perfectionist, an artist, and he has a really strong work ethic. I admire those qualities, and I wish I saw more of them in myself. All I’ve got is the asshole part.

One of the most peculiar elements of his show Hell’s Kitchen is the blindfolded tasting test. They do it every season, and every time I see it, I wonder, “How would I do at that?” And while we didn’t have the pressure of television cameras and the eyes of a million people upon us, Tania and I created our own little Hell’s Kitchen blindfold challenge.

Tania really got into it and chose to administer the test, but as such, she, unfortunately, was then unable to take the test. My test suffered from the same problem because I also helped make the list of ingredients. Once you know what could possibly be going into your mouth, it’s not that hard to guess what it is. But making the list was definitely the fun part. We’d go to a bar and sit there and just write down foods to stuff in people’s eyeless faces. At first, our items were on the crazy side, but after seeing the show and seeing so many trained chefs unable to identify the most common ingredients, we decided to tone it down.

You should have seen Tania chopping that shit up the morning of the test. Tania has an anal retentive side to her and it really comes out when she starts chopping stuff. You should see her “mise en place.” And the morning of the test, she couldn’t stop chopping. After she chopped up all the stuff on the list, she started going through the cupboards and finding all kinds of weird shit. “What do you think of egg noodles?” she asked. I think I said “yes” to the noodles, but I remember at one point going, “I think you got enough.”

I don’t remember the final list of the foods she chopped up, but here’s a sampling: hard-boiled egg, peas, chicken, lemon, tomatoes, cheese, macadamia nuts (that was actually a weird one), cottage cheese, deli ham, etc..

video
Tania "Oh my god, I look so drunk" Carnie

When I took it, I got every one right. Except for tomatoes. Because as I was chewing it, I said, “I don’t know what this is?” I was just thinking out loud. And before I could answer, Tania said, “Tomato!” “I wasn’t done!” I squealed. Anyways… I didn’t find it very difficult at all, but as I said, I knew most everything that was going in my mouth.

And I’m proud to report that our friends didn’t find it that difficult either. Peters and Jason were the worst—probably because they were wasted—but even they didn’t do as bad as some of the contestants we’ve seen on Hell’s Kitchen. The girls—Sharan, Jessica, and Heather (not in video)—performed much better. Sharan and Jessica only missed a couple each, but Heather named every item that was stuffed into her maw correctly. Heather wins! Congratulations.

Heather may have won the Hell’s Kitchen Challenge, but I think the real winner that night was Jscrib2003 who managed to get more wasted than anybody. Way to go Jabby!