Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

Good Stuff for the 4th

July 8, 2009

MB had friday off work and then she took a vacation day on Monday, so we had a nice four-day weekend together. Friday was a kind of putzy day, painted a bathroom that really needed painting, got the last of the plants in the ground that we’ve been trying to plant for a month or so, drank some good beer (Left Hand Warrior IPA, semi-sweet but a pretty good hop bite at the end) and went out to dinner.

Saturday, our good friends John and Hilary from Minneapolis came to town for the night.  It’s always great to see them. The day was oddly rainy and kind of cool for the 4th of July but it was just right for us. We thought about going down to the I.C. jazz fest but decided we’d rather cook out and hang out with a good bottle of wine (or two) and talk. The weather cleared and it was a beautiful summer evening. Kebobs on the grill with cous-cous, a nice bottle of Chateauneuf-du-pape that John brought, lemon cake and berries, and good conversation late into the evening. Fireworks surrounded us but all at a distance, some lights arcing above the trees, but mostly flashes and lots of noise. Really a perfect 4th for us.

Sunday morning we went for a nice hike on the Sac and Fox trail with J & H, some pretty good birding considering how dense the foliage is now (and John taught me the Common Yellowthroat’s song so that now I can recognize it). After J&H headed up to Minneapolis, MB and I headed down to the Jazz fest. We saw just a bit of Chris Potter. It sounded good, but it was a little more dissonant than we were in the mood for at that point. But the combo of Bill Frisell followed by Dave Holland was brilliant all around.

I have been a long time Frisell fan. Now he’s not exactly what I’d call energizing music (for that, see upcoming comments about Dave Holland or last year’s fest with Bonerama and Medeski, Martin, and Wood). The music is rather hypnotic. It was really perfect for a hot summer afternoon with the sun setting behind him as he worked his loops, and echoes, and delays to sublime effect, circling around themes and teasing them out, easing in to strains of Americana classics and dissolving into some molten psychedelia and back out. As much as I’m a fan of Frisell, though, what really made this show was the cornet of Ron Miles. His sound was absolutely crystalline and fit in with Frisell’s guitar work brilliantly, at times the two of them melding into one distinct sound, at times perfectly complementing and counterpointing.Their version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gonna Come” was stunning, fresh and innovative while still carrying the emotional depth of Cooke’s original. As I say, it’s not jump out of your seats music, it’s much more about subtlety and sonic textures and landscapes. Really a lovely, lovely set. Here’s a video I found of Bill with Ron Miles. They didn’t have the sax with them, and this drummer is different (but Tony Scheer was on bass), but I wanted a video that caught Frisell and Miles, so enjoy:

Dave Holland I was not as familiar with. Certainly I know him from his famous work on bass with Miles Davis from the Bitches Brew era and know his name quite well, but I didn’t quite know what to expect. In the end, I think that made it an even better show for me. His band is simply stellar: Robin Eubanks on Trombone, Chris Potter on saxophone, Steve Nelson on Vibes, and Nate Smith on drums. Like Frisell’s set, this was also about exploring sonic landscapes, and they covered a wide range of textures and emotions, all of them were driven by Holland’s stunning basswork. But unlike Frisell, this music was at times jump out of your seats music. They received many long standing ovations throughout the show as the band played with an unbridled passion and energy. Each member of the band is an incredible soloist, but what really moved me was the ensemble work. When all went together, the musical textures created an amazing tapestry of sounds that would almost feel as if it were going to explode, that it would be impossible to pull back together but just at the edge of real chaos Holland would pull them back in.  “Secret Garden” highlighted some great improv solos and numbers like “Lucky Seven” and “Easy Did It” really highlighted the ensemble work. A great, great show. Here’s a clip of “Easy Did It” from last fall, unfortunately a very short clip and they’re really just getting rolling as it ends, but a bit of a sense of what the quintet sound is:

Then, finally, for Monday MB and I went biking along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. A perfect sunny, warm, breezy day. We got back and made barbecued tempeh on the grill, put it in sandwiches with roasted poblanos and another really nice evening. As I said, the perfect long weekend for us. And we hope you enjoyed your holiday as well.

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And a New Friend!

October 28, 2008

The Street Parade is pleased to welcome Amelia Lindley to the world! We’re thrilled for CBD and Erin and Madelyn–who now shares her birthday with her new sister.  Welcome to the world Amelia! Now it’s time for me to get brewing and brew a celebratory beer.  Hmmm, what style seems appropriate?

Beer Appreciation 101

March 14, 2008

I have a good friend who is a fantastic chef at a small cafe in Mount Vernon. This is a New York Times-reviewed restaurant that people come from hours around to eat at, and Matt is on the short list for a James Beard Award this year. Now, the restaurant is not necessarily veggie friendly (as he says, “well I thought about making more vegetarian food, but then I thought, ‘fuck it’.”–I respect honesty after all) so I don’t necessarily eat there as often as many locals do (though all visiting writers I bring to campus go to the cafe), but I really respect his sensibility. He works with organic and free range meats, supports the local, organic farming industry as much as possible and is the kind of conscientious entrepreneur that I really appreciate. Besides that, he’s just a great guy.

He has never been able to sell alcohol at the restaurant which is unfortunate for both his customers and himself, but relatively recently he managed to buy a wine bar just two doors down. It’s a nice, comfortable place to get a good bottle of wine and take it to the restaurant. Wine is big in these parts: many foodies who love a good bottle of wine in the area. And don’t get me wrong, I love a good bottle of wine myself. But where, I ask, are all the beer fanatics? I know they’re around, (I mean this is the land of John’s Groceries after all) and I know they would probably love to have a good beer at the wine bar/restaurant as well. So, I took it upon myself to try to open up the door to good beer drinking to my friend Matt. I figured a foodie such as himself would really appreciate a good Belgian beer.

We had Matt and his partner and our good friends Tony and Sarah over to sample some Belgians. This is a much more daunting task than I imagined (at least if the goal is ultimately to have someone leave really wanting to sell some good beer at his bar). You want to pick good beer that will intrigue someone, but you don’t necessarily overwhelm them. I’m not going to spring a real sour Flemish red on someone necessarily unless they’ve already developed an interest/taste, yes? So many to choose from but the tastes are so different it’s difficult to know what someone will respond to. So, I picked a variety in what I think of as the classic strains: golden, double, triple, quadrupel, and a couple biere de garde /farmhouse style beers.

belgian-beer.jpg

Definitely a fun evening and, if nothing else, I think I got people interested in the idea of a beer session. People in general liked the Piraat. We had a couple St. Bernardus with dinner and I think we lost touch with actually tasting by that point, so while generally enjoyed I’m not sure we fully appreciated them. Matt did not really go for any of the darker beers, but he was certainly interested in the lighter styles, the farmhouse and the golden. My friend Tony and I agreed on the St. Feuillien–a really nice mustiness to the rich yeast flavor. Great stuff. I’m not sure I have Matt convinced to become a Belgian haven, but I’ll keep working on it. In the meantime, visit the cafe, enjoy the meal, and mention how good his exotic food would be with a really fine beer.

If I knew then, part II…

February 12, 2008

In an earlier post I mused on my early entry into the delights and wonders of good beer. The second phase occurred a few years later when I was working as a cook at Cafe Brenda in downtown Minneapolis. Saturday nights were “beer club.” We rotated whose turn it was to bring the beer and the goal was to stump the others while we worked. We played a game of 20 questions, yes or no only, to see if the others could figure out the beer. “Is it in a brown bottle?” “Is it from Europe?” “Is it a dark beer?” etc. My scope of beers at that point was still fairly limited, but it got my out looking for new, surprising beers. I spent a lot of pleasant time searching through Surdyk’s and Hennepin Liquors and France Ave Wine shop. After a long night, the usual suspects, Bo “Ramekin” Jacobs, Mike “Canola” Gintert, and I would sit back to enjoy a new beer; MB would join us after her own kind of grueling night (ah the joys of retail for her at the time) and we’d watch the Saturday Night downtown craziness go by. They were the best seats in town and some fine beer. Ahhhh…. Of course the beer we brought would disappear quickly so we would keep going with plenty of Summit from the bar, one of my standards. Beer club went for quite a few years and I sampled quite a few beers that way. Yes, Beer Club. I think it’s time for a revival.

Beer decisions part II

January 29, 2008

So, in an earlier post I mentioned the trials of choosing suitable beer to take when visiting one’s beer-savvy friends. I chose a nice selection of beers I had not tried this last weekend, all in all good drinking. But the two that I was really excited to try let me down a bit. First, a recommendation at John’s grocery was the Unibroue “Terrible.” It was a solid beer, a dark brown belgian with fruity undertones. It was good but not great. In fact, its taste was quite similar to CBD’s last two bottles of Trappist homebrew that we were privileged to share–but truth is, I think CBD’s was better (mmmm, trappist homebrew good…). The Unibroue didn’t hold up past the first sip or two for me (Oh, don’t get me wrong, I drank it just fine). I also took a Green Flash tripel that I was really excited about. I had recently sampled their amazing IPA and was looking forward to the tripel, but it was a beer that didn’t quite come together for me. Or, as CBD said, “it’s trying too hard.” It’s a challenge to try out untested beers when really wanting to share the Wow factor. On the other hand, it’s still good to taste new beers with good friends. And really the quest for the wow beer flavor is nearly as important as the beer itself (did I just say that? Huh? Okay, we can stick with “nearly”) Besides, how often do you get to jam with the crazy miss madelyn?

Jammin with Madelyn

Yes, good times were had by all.

Important Decisions

January 22, 2008

Well, MB and I are off to see our good friends CBD and Erin and Madelyn this weekend. We don’t see them nearly as much as we’d like to, so it’s always a pleasure when we do. The pressure, though. How can one show up without some really interesting beers in hand? Oh, what to choose? A trip to John’s Grocery in Iowa City is in order certainly. But the pressure of good friends who love good beer, oh man, I tell ya…