Tuesday, January 31, 2006


One of the things I look forward to on Tuesday is the arrival of Flavorpill SF, a free email magazine that serves as a cheat-sheet of interesting upcoming events. Each week, their writers and editors listen to tons of cd's, comb through stacks of magazines and trade lots of email with people even hipper than them to find the best upcoming cultural happenings.

Their taste is eclectic and they recommend diverse events from jazz performances to art openings to DJ parties to old films, listing only the best few per day. Highlights for this week include: the 8th annual SF Indie Film Festival (all weekend, schedule); the Thursday release party for this unusual book; and the Friday Of Montreal concert at the Great American Music Hall. This week's issue also has a glowing review of Cat Power's new album and lots of goodies from the masters of bleep and noise at Warp Records.

Monday, January 30, 2006

the downy ball

Sometimes my posts will be about the brand new (or at least new to me). Other times they will cover things I've known about for a while but that I used or appreciated that day. Tonight's topic is an example of the latter.

Downy fabric softener and I go way back. My parents always used it for laundry so April Fresh is a smell I associate with childhood. Except for a brief experiment with the inferior Bounce fabric sheet freshman year of college, it has been a part of almost every load of laundry I have ever done.

Why use liquid fabric softener you may ask? It's recommended by some apparel manufacturers to prolong the life of the clothes, it makes everything really soft, it reduces static and it smells great.

Why did the fabric sheet ever become popular if liquid is the way to go? The traditional problem with fabric softener is that it needs to be added during the rinse cycle. This is a big inconvenience if your machine does not have a special dispenser.

Enter the Downy ball, one of the great inventions of the past decade. The ball is hard plastic with a rubber plug. Fill it with a capful of softener, seal it up and drop it in when you load your machine. All through the wash cycle the ball floats along riding the sudsy waves. But, when the machine drains and spins in anticipation of the rinse, bam, the ball hits the side of the washer, the plug opens and water and softener begin to mix. Ingenious.

Take my advice and get April Fresh, or use their product advisor to find the Downy scent that is right for you, but on your next trip to Target, pick up a Downy ball.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

santana row

santana rowYesterday I was chatting with a person I'll call Doubting Thomas for now, and the subject of Santana Row came up. He dismissed SR as too crowded, expensive and 408. Although some criticism along those lines is valid, Santana Row is a frequent destination for me. In fact, it is where I spent the afternoon.

Santana Row is a highly planned, 3 block-long shopping and residential "neighborhood" in San Jose next to Valley Fair Mall. The main part is a center street lined with boutiques and restaurants on the ground floor and condos and apartments above. The Hotel Valencia and its 2nd-story V Bar occupy the middle, and a mutlti-story Crate &Barrel and Century Theater's CinéArts anchor the ends.

On Sundays, the have a small farmers' market that runs until 3, perfect for a later riser. At farmers' market today I purchased a pomelo, some mandarins and fresh-pressed pomegranate juice. I also gambled on some frozen lobster ravioli from the ravioli stand, but the main purpose of the trip was lunch.

lobster roll from yankee pierSantana Row has a lot of restuarants. Several are San Jose branches of established Bay Area brands (Amber, Left Bank, Straits Cafe, Blowfish). Two more are part of larger chains (Maggiano's , Pasta Pomodoro), but the most interesting ones are from peninsula restaurateurs. Chris Yeo (of Strait's) opened Sino; Tim Stannard (of Village Pub) joined Gordon Drysdale (Gordon's House of Fine Eats) to create Pizza Antica; and, Bradley Ogden (Parcel 104 and Lark Creek Inn) developed Yankee Pier, today's lunch destination.

Santana Row also has many little shops, and my favorite are the ones that make men's shoes. Tod's (the Italian manufacturer with the English name) has a large corner store. Donald J Pliner occupies a corner as well, and the Spanish Camper is directly across from Pizza Antica. It is a perfect place to browse while you are waiting for your outside table at PA.

In future weeks, my faithful readers will learn more about what I love at Santana Row (hint: all the pizzas at Pizza Antica), but for those who are like Doubting Thomas and haven't explored Santana Row, I encourage you to head down one evening or weekend afternoon. It might even be worth the drive down from the city.

新年快乐 Happy New Year!

恭喜发财 Upcoming San Francisco events include:

Saturday, January 28, 2006


I had dinner at the Hard Rock Nobu last night. I dine there almost every Vegas trip and two things are always true: I never get seated on-time; and, the food makes up for the inconvenience. Friday was no exception.

After a 45 minute delay, we arrived at our table, enjoyed our complimentary drinks and began to order. Sequencing is important since a proper Nobu experience requires the selection of cold dishes, warm dishes and sushi. So, after a brief consultation with our friendly waiter Jimmy, we settled on the following plan:

  • Fresh Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno
  • Black Cod with Miso served in the alternate syle with lettuce cups
  • Arctic Charr Broiled Medium Rare with Crispy Baby Spinach
  • Dover Sole with Black Bean or Spicy Black Bean Sauce
  • Rock Shrimp Tempura with Creamy Spicy Sauce
  • Alaskan crab leg tempura
  • another order of the amazing black cod miso
  • hamachi, sake, shiro maguro, maguro and wonderful pink snapper nigiri
Outstanding! A possible disappointment at Nobu is that their sake selection is small. We enjoyed the crisp Nobu Junmai Daiginjo, but it would have been nicer to have been able to order a large bottle. The above caveats aside, after 6 years in Las Vegas, Nobu is still hip, crowded and tasty. It is also highly recommended.

Bonus links: Nobu Matsuhisha's website and his cookbook

Nobu at the Hard Rock, 4455 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, NV (702) 693-5090

Friday, January 27, 2006


I'd been looking forward to a return trip to Bartolotta since my first visit in November, so last night we headed to the Wynn. Bartolotta specializes in coastal Italian cuisine and they focus on fresh, simple flavors.

At the first meal, Claudio Villani, a Bartolotta sommelier and previously at Incanto, ordered all of the food and wine for our table. Claudio was not in Thursday night, but happily the other sommelier took excellent care of us and guided us through the menu. For dinner we enjoyed:
  • cappesante dorate con porciniseared (sea scallops with porcini mushrooms)
  • polipo con insalata di fave (octopus salad with fava beans, olive oil, and lemon)
  • insalata mista alla'italiana (traditional italian mixed salad)
  • insalatina di carciofi, porcini, ruchetta e pecorino sardo (artichoke salad with porcini mushrooms, arugula, and pecorino cheese)
  • risotto ai frutti di mare (risotto with clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, langoustines, and calamari)
  • ravioli di ricotta con caciotta Toscana (sheep's milk ricotta ravioli with Tuscan pecorino cheese and Marsala wine glaze)
  • gnocchi di patate con fonduta di pomodoro (potato gnocchi in a creamy tomato sauce with butter and parmigiano-reggiano)
  • rombo (turbot cooked whole, filleted off the bone at the table, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and served halved mini-tomatoes and herbs)
  • zucchine (zucchini thinly sliced and sauteed in olive oil)
  • costata di manzo al sangiovese (pan seared 18 oz. ribeye in a sangiovese wine sauce)
These were paired with a crisp Tocai Friulano to start, a wonderful Pignolo from Friuli for the pastas and a majestic '97 Sangiovese from Tuscani for the fish and steak.

To end this perfect meal, the staff brought us every dessert - 10 different flavors of gelati (including rosemary) and a series of others that I was too busy eating to be able to carefully describe. I think that there was a semifreddo, a chocolate torte, a pear custard tart and a lemon spongecake, and they were accompanied by a lovely pink, sparkling Italian dessert wine.

Bartolotta is not an inexpensive restaurant, but the pastas and whole fish (flown in daily from Italy) are marvelous and worth splurging on. Next time you are in Vegas, visit Claudio and enjoy some of the best Italian food in the country.

Bartolotta at the Wynn, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV (702) 770-7000

Thursday, January 26, 2006

the hype machine

No, it's not a Web 2.0 business model. Rather, The Hype Machine is an audio blog aggregator and perhaps the largest, most overwhelming mp3 site yet. It is also my pick of the day.

Each second the ingenious THM crawler scours the web for new music file postings and then enters these new finds on the front page. The end result is more than 300 entries a day each and every day. They post much faster than I can listen (and that really disturbs me).

To figure out how good the music is, I decided to audition all 388 tracks listed yesterday, Jan 25. My initial plan was less ambitious, but when it comes to music I am compulsive. Fortunately, they have an excellent flash player that queues 75 songs at a time. It also has a fast forward button to skip through the cr*p.

THM's selections are eclectic and range from the old and forgotten to the new and unreleased. In no particular order, here are the some I thought you might like along with links to the blogs that discuss and host them:

Behind - Lacquer (read post)
Husky Rescue - New Light of Tomorrow (read post)
Neko Case - Star Witness (read post)
Cat Power - Lived In Bars (read post)
Belinda Bruce - Falling Star (read post)
Joseph Arthur - In The Sun (read post)
Fashionmagazine - The Cold (read post)
Miles Davis - Yesterdays (read post)
Seu Jorge - Fiore De La Citta (read post)
Marigold - Champion of the Spelling Bee (read post)
Wilco - Outtasite (Outta Mind) (read post)
Mock Turtles - Can You Dig It? (read post)
Bristopher Crowder - Untitled 8 (read post)
The Minor Canon - Good Luck (read post )
Rocky Votolato - White Daisy Passing (read post)
The Elected - Would You Come With Me (read post)
Jim Noir - the only way (read post)
Cloud Cult - Breakfast With My Shadow (read post)
Mighty Six Ninety - Keeping You in Mind (read post)
Morningwood - nth degree (read post)

Unfortunately, there are no rating or categorization systems to make browsing easier, but THM does have three very helpful features that I wanted to highlight. First, you can search. Type in a song, band, etc. and get links to all the files it has found. Second, you can check out the most popular page. Third, you can listen to music lists by blog. For example, click here to listen to everything new from Motel de Moka. My advice: check out The Hype Machine.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

shiny shiny

I love gadget porn. There, I admitted it. And it doesn't matter whether if it is gadgets for boys, or in this case, gadgets for girls.

Shiny Shiny, the self-styled "girl's guide to gadgets," is part of the UK conglomerate Shiny Media and is a sister blog to such female-friendly publications as Shoewawa, The Bag Lady, and The Catwalk Queen.

Like the excellent gadget blogs Gizmodo and Engadget, Shiny Shiny finds cool stuff from the web and then talks about it, cool stuff like this bunny. Meet Nabaztag, the world's first smart rabbit. He can tell you when you have email , wake you up in the morning and report on Paris air quality (no joke). Visit his website for such goodies as Nabaztagland and the 85 reasons you need to buy him. My favorite is #19: because he has an Armenian name.

The coolest gadget sites: Gizmodo, Engadget, Gadget Review, Red Ferret
Gadgets for girls: Shiny Shiny, Pop Gadget

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

the weeping camel

I watched The Story of the Weeping Camel tonight. It is a beautiful documentary about life in Mongolia's Gobi desert.

Shot during camel calf delivery season in the spring, the movie captures the daily activities and traditions of four generations of a Nomadic family and its herd of goats, sheep and camels.

The family lives in a camp of 3 yerts, and filmmakers Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni shoot stunning wide-angel footage inside their small but colorful homes. The outdoor footage is even more spectacular, but it is Ingen Temee (the mother camel) and Botok (a rare white calf) that provide the subtle but moving story.

Of the excellent set of movies nominated for best documentary Academy Awards in 2004 (a group that includes Super Size Me and winner Born into Brothels), The Story of the Weeping Camel might be my favorite, and it is certainly highly recommended.

Additional links: Movie trailer, Photo gallery, Rotten Tomatoes review
Special bonus: The Cave of the Yellow Dog, the latest film from Byambasuren Davaa

Monday, January 23, 2006

Uncle Frank's BBQ

I seem to be writing about food often, so it should not be a surprise that today's post is about my dinner. I ordered take out from Uncle Frank's BBQ - "BBQ the way it was meant to be."

Uncle Frank's developed a cult following in East Palo Alto before they lost their lease, but this fall they re-opened in Mountain View.

Uncle Frank makes serious BBQ. It is Louisiana-style, and when you are in the mood for a big plate of meat there is no better choice. I have a friend who is a BBQ snob. If his brisket isn't smoked in Texas, he doesn't want to try it. But, after one taste of Uncle Frank's he was hooked.

Usually, I order the two meat combo with the slow-smoked brisket as meat one and juicy pork ribs to round out the order. That can easily feed two hungry people. Tonight I ordered just the pork ribs and selected Cajun corn (creamed corn with a kick) and black-eyed peas as my two sides. With dinner you get a pint of each side and some corn bread, the only item I've tried at Uncle Frank's that has been average.

The ribs were extremely tender and the sauce was spicier than usual, although much of the heat was masked by its deep, sweet flavor. Add in two large slices of their home-made sweet potato pie for dessert and I had take-out for two for $22, total. Very cool.

The pictures attached are of Uncle Frank from this profile of the BBQ master, half of our rib order from tonight and what was left over a few minutes later.

Uncle Frank's BBQ, 2135 Old Middlefied Way, Mountain View, CA (650) 964-4476

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Joy made cannelé and was kind enough to bring a few by. I am reasonably food literate, but until last week I did not know what cannelé were. For those who have not had one, they are like mini creme brulee with lots of brulee flavor as they are made by baking custard in small, specially designed molds. You should also know that they are very difficult to bake. Fortunately for me, Joy is an outstanding pastry chef, and her cannelé are my cool thing of the day.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Dinner tonight was in San Mateo at Shabuway. I enjoy shabu shabu, and Shabuway is fun, inexpensive and tasty. Yes you can find better beef, but not for $9. It is certainly worth the drive and, as we just discovered, they have a new closer location on Castro St. in Mountain View. The (secret) grand opening was today, and that bit of good news makes Shabuway my cool pick of the day.

Shabuway, 145 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA (650) 548-2483

Friday, January 20, 2006

free mp3s

When I was 4 or 5, I must have had too much for dinner one evening as I dreamed that strange men were forcing me to eat all of the food in the world. In my dream I was crying as I kept trying to eat more, and I woke up from this nightmare needing to throw-up. It was traumatic enough to remember these many years later, and it sort of reminds me how I feel about discovering new music. There are so many great artists and so much new material across so many genres, it is frustratingly impossible to keep up.

Fortunately, there is help in the form of weblogs and sites that introduce all that is new. For example, today I visited Motel de Moka. Thier coverage is original, eclectic, and I enjoyed much of what I heard. From entries in the last week alone I found:

I also discovered the French La Blogothèque where I learned that Maria Taylor of Azure Ray had released a solo album last year. Courtesty of La Blogothèque you can download the beautiful:
I like music, and I like free music even more. If you have some time, check out Motel de Moka and La Blogothèque.


Pandas are very cute. Sadly they are also very endangered (there are only 1,590 in the wild), but they are getting great PR these days. pandafix is a captivating new blog to stay abreast of all that is panda and to be overwhelmed by their cuteness.

The photo is of Tai Shan, taken last week when he turned 6 months old. Having grown up near the National Zoo, I remember seeing Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing many times. As an adult, I am more conflicted about captivity, but I am delighted at the attention that the many recent births provide to the plight of these gentle and beautiful creatures.

Bonus links:
Panda cub photos on flickr
The birth of panda-plomacy
The National Zoo's live panda cam
The Wolong Giant Panda Breeding Center

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fiesta del Mar

Guys' Night Out returned to one of our favorite restaurants this evening: Fiesta del Mar. We've been going to FDM at least once a month for the last 10 years. Their seafood dishes (especially the Shrimp Alex, pictured) are amazing, and their margaritas are the best on the Peninsula.

FDM is going through a bit of a transition. Their landlord has placed the property on the market, although their lease does extend into 2007. And, more impactfully for the guys, our hero and favorite mixologist, Jorge, has re-located to open a restaurant in the FDM family in Fremont.

Fortunately, Jorge's cousin Gilberto and the rest of the awesome staff continue to prepare great food (like my new favorite - Enjococada with a little Diabla sauce mixed in) and tasty pitchers. For giving the guys another memorable evening, Fiesta del Mar is today's cool thing.

Fiesta Del Mar, 1005 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View, CA (650) 965-9354

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Anton Kuerti in recital

Jeff invited me to a concert this evening. Anton Kuerti accepted an invitation from the St. Lawrence String Quartet (Stanford's ensemble in residence) to perform at a very small venue, the Campbell Recital Hall. The concert was last minute, having been scheduled only the week before.

In front of an audience of ~100, the acclaimed Mr. Kuerti performed Schubert's Three Impromtus (No. 3, No. 2 and No. 4) and his Sonata in C minor from memory. After the intermission, he was joined by Deborah Fong on violin, Barry Schiffman on viola and Christopher Costanza on cello for the beautiful Schumann Piano Quartet in E flat Major.

I can't describe how gifted Anton Kuerti is. CD Review has called him "one of the truly great pianists of the century," and after tonight I understand why.

1/31 Update: Stanford and the St Lawrence String Quarter have made some of their concert recordings available for free via iTunes. Download

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


At Christmas I gave Lisette a box of Petits Richart chocolate. The sampler I selected was filled with citrus flavors like Kumquat Coulis, Orange Zest Coulis and Grapefruit Ganache. She was kind enough to share and slowly we savored the flavors. Tonight we finished the last ones.

We also had some satsuma mandarins and split a pomelo. The pomelo is one of several fruits I didn't know existed until I came to California. Others are the pomegranate and the mango, but they have joined the burrito as staples in my diet. One fruit I was unaware of that I am less inclined to try, though, is the durian.

The Smithsonian Magazine has more about the interesting durian.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Ang Lee

Ang Lee did well at the Golden Globe Awards tonight, and I expect that the acclaimed director will be picking up more hardware for Brokeback Mountain at an upcoming awards presentation.

I also suspect that my readers are familiar with Mr. Lee's impressive back catalog and his substantial directorial talents, but if not, might I suggest:

3/6 Update: Congratulations to Ang Lee for winning the Best Director Academy Award.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mostly Martha

I watched Mostly Martha earlier tonight. Lisette's Netflix queue has been quite interesting of late (Born into Brothels, City of God, Winged Migration), and this was no exception.

Mostly Martha is the story of Martha Klein, the top chef in Hamburg. Martha's entire existence revolves around food and its perfect preparation until she must care for her 8 year old niece Lina.

The story is cute, the food looks amazing and Sergio Castellitto turns in a spirited performance as Mario. Although it isn't the best movie ever it is certainly worth a rental. It is also the coolest thing I did today.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Moët & Chandon

Oliver and Daphne hosted a champagne tasting tonight. They supplied 8 excellent bottles and delicious hors d'oeuvres, and then followed the tasting with a wonderful dinner.

Just within Bruts (the only kind we were tasting) there is a remarkable variety of flavors. The Krug reserve was quite unique in taste but unfortunately unaffordable. Among the more reasonably priced offerings, my clear favorite was the Moët & Chandon White Star. I greatly preferred it to the Vive Cliquot and Piper-Heidsieck, and, consequently, it is my cool thing for today.

Budget tip: Chandon Brut Classic sparkling wine is a great value

Friday, January 13, 2006


On Tuesday I discussed a Christmas present that I have really enjoyed, and this morning I wanted to mention another gift that I have been using even more: slippers.

I'm not really a slipper person. As a toddler, I hated feety pajamas -- too confining -- and since then I have always been a barefoot or socks kind of guy -- never slippers. However, for Christmas I received Tempur-Pedic comfort slippers and now I am a convert.

The footbed is lined with a thick layer of temperature-sensitive memory cells that provide the ultimate spring-in-your-step. The slippers are also fuzzy for warmth, but the material doesn't make your feet too hot. Stop by your local Brookstone store and give them a test walk. Your feet will be happy you did.

1/15 Update: I just learned that my friend Oliver, a true slipper aficionado, switched to comfort slippers over the Holidays as well.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Rosso Conero

I love wine, but I don't know that much about the grapes grown in Italy. That's why last night's dinner at Incanto was a special treat. We had some phenomenal and usual wines with our always excellent meal, but everyone's favorite wine came from Conero.

Rosso Conero is the appellation for the small region around Monte Conero where the Montelpulciano grape is grown. Conero is east of Tuscany and overlooks the Adriatic Sea. Most outstanding was the Rosso Conero "Fibbio" 2001 from the small family producers Luca and Beatrice Lanari. It was bursting with fruit flavors yet was balanced and complex on the finish.

Today, I set out to find the Fibbio. At one time Wine Club might have stocked it, but they were sold out. No luck at Beltramo's either. I did find the fabulous 2002 Sassi Neri from Fattoria Le Terrazze at K&L and was able to taste it this evening. I am definitely headed back to buy more and I will likely to order the 2003 Fibbio from a shop in NY.

Links: the Lanari website (in Italian), search for Lanari wine for sale

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I've had a flickr account for more than a year now, but I haven't used it. Flickr has great features: it is easy to upload, tag, share and blog through their web interface; but, the service hadn't "clicked" with me.

That changed last night when I discovered the Explore page. I searched via tag (always sorting on most interesting) and I was amazed at the incredible quality of the photos. There are some very artistics shots shared with the world via flickr.

Then I saw the last seven days. For more than an hour I kept hitting reload. Each page of 9 had at least one composition that caught my eye, and on one page alone I found this one, this one, this one and this one. You can even search via copyright status to find rights-free images.

Bonus link for the guys: flickrbabes

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Complete New Yorker

I grew up reading The New Yorker because my Mom and Dad read The New Yorker. In grade school the cartoons started to interest me. In high school I read select features. (The non-fiction pieces were really long in William Shawn's day). By college I became a fan of the Talk of the Town, and in grad school I desired to read each issue almost cover to cover. (I still skip the play reviews and the poetry.)

Schedule permitting, I read most issues, most of the time. However, I've been reluctant to part with older magazines just in case I missed something. Now I can do some spring cleaning since one of the coolest Christmas presents I received was The Complete New Yorker. All 4,109 issues published 1925-1995.

The Complete New Yorker is a 6 DVD set. I spent some more time using it today and I am impressed. Unfortunately, the contents of the DVDs can't be copied to your hard drive (silly, since that does not provide any piracy protection) and they are not full-text searchable (one day I'll discuss the legal reasons for this).

But, the articles I remember and the many more I was too young to ever have read are searchable by author, subject and abstract. Additionally, each issue is presented exactly as it was published and can be browsed as the magazine would have been.

At $61 shippedThe Complete New Yorker is an incredible deal, an essential addition to your library, and a slam-dunk for my cool thing of the day.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Winged Migration

If you missed the US theatrical release of Winged Migration, watch the trailer on iTunes and then run out to rent it. I just saw it and I thought it was fabulous.

Winged Migration stars puffins, sandhill cranes, pelicans, ducks, Canadian geese, snow geese, barnacle geese, European white storks, bald eagles, albatrosses, penguins, turtledoves, black-necked swans, robins, Arctic terns, egrets, flamingos, macaws, black-headed ibises and too many more to type.

It was filmed over 3 years on all seven continents, and it enlists the Himalayas, Saharan dunes, Greenland glaciers, paddies in China, a gorgeous desert oasis, filthy industrial districts of Eastern Europe, Antarctica. the Statue of Liberty, Mont-St-Michel, the World Trade Center towers and the Great Wall of China as extras.

These reviews are correct, Winged Migration is majestic, intense and staggeringly beautiful. It was also quite a challenge to film, and the DVD contains a featurette about the techniques the 100 person team developed to make the film possible. Don't skip this but don't watch it first either.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


I'm kind of a design snob. My favorite places for home furnishings (each of which will likely be its own post) are: Limn, Design Within Reach and Propeller, and I'm even more elitist when it comes to lighting. Still, I have to say that I enjoy visiting Ikea, and that is just what I did this afternoon.

Everytime I walk through their showroom I am amazed at the level of design of their products. Unfortunately the build quality and durability of their furniture doesn not match the design, but the prices do appeal to the budget shopper.

On this last trip I noticed that they are offering more sinks, faucets and appliances.

I also noticed lamps inpsired by more expensive design. From top to bottom, things that caught my eye are:

Knappa pendant lamp - $25
November reading lamp - $50
Cesium ceiling spotlight - $50
Antifoni work lamp (not picture) -$25

If you haven't been to your local Ikea in a while, stop by. Their storage solutions are good, and the $4 dinner isn't bad. Unfortunately, the cinnamon buns don't taste as good as they look.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Lou Rawls Live!

Lou Rawls passed away yesterday at the age of 72 after a battle with lung cancer. I first remember hearing his distinctive voice signing "Let it be Lowenbrau" in the commercials that were popular when I was little. More recently his renditions of "Merry Christmas, Baby" and "The Little Drummer Boy" have been an essential part of my holiday season.

He is great on his albums, but to really experience the vocal power of Lou Rawls, you had to see him live. I regret that I never did, more so now that I have purchased the 2005 Blue Note re-issue of Lou Rawls Live! It was recorded in the LA Capitol Records studios over 2 nights in 1966 in front of a spirited live audience. Herb Ellis, Tommy Strode, Jimmy Bond and Earl Palmer joined Rawls for this special event, and they all delivered exceptional performances. (Click to preview on iTunes or Amazon).

If you are a fan of the blues or jazz vocals, I can't recommend this album highly enough. The dynamic, the soulful Mr. Lou Rawls will be missed.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Sakae Sushi

This has been a solid week for food as I have been visting my favorites, and tonight I continued the trend by stopping by Sakae Sushi. It had been at least 6 weeks since I had seen Jun and Hiro(pictured), and I missed them.

I feel privileged to have gotten to know them over the past few years and they have been instrumental in expanding my knowledge of Japanese food and sake. At some point I will do a more extensive write-up, but their restaurant has the best sushi in Northern California (most of their fish comes from Tsukiji), and they have an excellent selection of premium sake. For the record, either quality would be enough to make Sakae Sushi my cool thing for the day.

Things I especially enjoy at Sakae Sushi: kanpachi, blue fin tuna, zuke, Hokkaido scallops, ocean trout and Daishichi sake

Sakae Sushi & Grill, 240 Park Rd, Burlingame, CA (650) 348-4064

Thursday, January 05, 2006

La Bodeguita del Medio

Guys' Night Out started the New Year in style with a perfect evening at La Bodeguita del Medio. Happily, Michael was behind the bar and we were able to catch up over a few mojitos before the meal and then over some rum and desserts after dinner.

Michael is a great guy, and his restaurant is even better. With its top-notch staff, fresh entrees and oh too tasty drinks it has been near the top of my list for dining experience since it opened 8 years ago. I must have had 100 meals at LBDM and I haven't been disappointed once.

La Bodeguita del Medio is a perfect spot for a date or entertaining a larger party. If you haven't been, go - and for an extra-special experience, try these tips:
  • Gather up a group of 4-8 close friends and make a reservation. LBDM is casual but it is also quite popular
  • Arrive a little early and start with a mojito or Hemingway from the bar. Non-rum drinkers should consider a Chimay (on tap) or one of their wines by the glass
  • Stay in the bar for appetizers or move to your table. Either way, order empanadas (watch out for the spicy slaw), crab cakes and their unique take on ceviche. Have at least one person try the conch chowder as it is as good as it is hard to find
  • Let your mood dictate your entree since they are all delicious. From the current menu, I rotate between the succulent masitas, the flavorful tierra y mar, the decadent ajiaco, the somewhat lighter rum prawns and the always wonderful special fish of the day
  • Take a deep breath after dinner; you need to make room for dessert. My favorites are the refreshing key lime tart and the insanely rich Havana bananas
  • Retire to the bar (or for cigar smokers, the cigar lounge) for a nightcap. The Ron Zacapa Centenario is fine choice.

Finally, get to know the folks at La Bodeguita del Medio as you will be back again.

Bonus link: drink recipes

La Bodeguita Del Medio, 463 S California Ave, Palo Alto, CA (650) 326-7762

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wong Kar Wai

Wong Kar Wai was just selected to the presidency of the jury for the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. This is the first time there has been a Chinese president but, more importantly, it is a reason to mention a fantastic director and one of the best movies from last year: 2046.

Together with his cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, Wong Kar Wai makes lush, atmospheric films that have a distinct and mesmerizing visual style. His plots are often non-linear and complex, so the story lines can be hard to follow. However, he works with the best actors in Chinese cinema and achieves unique and magnificent results.

2046 (watch the trailer) took so long to complete that critics in Hong Kong were speculating that 2046 would be the release date. Instead it debuted at Cannes in 2004 and had a US release in 2005. Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi join a cast familiar to Wong Kar Wai fans (Faye Wong, Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, his ever-present protagonist) and turn in spectacular performances in this stark and depressing chronicle of tragic relationships.

For those that have seen 2046, you already know that it is unlike any previous Wong Kar Wai film. For those who have not seen it, I would suggest starting with his earlier films. Recommended are:

Bonus photos: 2046 stills, Maggie Cheung, Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

lazy sunday

P: Where's the movie playing
S: Upper West Side dude
P: Well I set up Yahoo! Maps
to find the deepest route
S: I prefer MapQuest
P: That's a good one too
S: Google maps is the best
P: True 'dat, double true

Hmm, I am not sure that Lazy Sunday is epic enough for my third post, but it is darn funny, so here goes.

I saw it when it aired on Dec 17, laughed my a** off, and I was tickled to just find it as a free download on iTunes. It is also available free on YouTube and at NBC. Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg are brilliant.

Props to NBC for embracing the power of the web to promote their products instead of suing those who spread the initial copies from Dec 18 on. Now Lazy Sunday is the hottest video clip on the net. Heading to dinner soon, so I'm Ghost like Swayze.

2/22 update: I guess I spoke to soon about NBC. via boingboing, NBC Nastygrams YouTube over Lazy Sunday

Monday, January 02, 2006

Tres Agaves

Last night I had dinner at Tres Agaves. This is the 5th or 6th meal I have had there since they opened 2 months ago and the 8th or 9th time I have visited. What can I say - I love Tres Agaves. I love the drinks, the food and the stylish atmosphere. I do wish the service was more consistent, but I am confident it will improve as the staff gels.

Importantly, the margaritas at Tres Agaves are outstanding. They are all natural - limes, agave nectar and the tequila of your choice - and they are seductively delicious. If you are not sure which of the hundreds of tequilas to try, might I suggest Pueblo Viejo, Don Julio or Partida, a new brand that tastes remarkable like Regional.

The bar also features some innovative cocktails, so it is not surprising that it is often crowded. Try the Cucumber Fresca (tequila, cucumber, ginger, lime juice and soda) or the Apasionada (tequila, passion fruit, mandarin napolean and lime) if the mood strikes.

There is more to the restaurant than the bar, and the exhibition kitchen is home

to Joseph's marvelous cuisine. Modeled on specialties from Jalisco, entrees are packed with flavor, generous in portion and quite reasonably priced. I'm not sure which is best, but you can't go wrong with the Carne en su Jugo, the Pollo al Pastor or the fresh fish.

Go with a group, arrange safe transportation and enjoy Tres Agaves!

1/15 Update: for a less biased opinion, check out Michel Bauer's great review in the Chronicle.

1/31 Update: gorgeous pictures and another great review in the 1/29 Chronicle

Tres Agaves, 130 Townsend, San Francisco, CA (415) 227-0500.