Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Tornado Alley" IMAX Movie Coming in March 2011

It's been an incredibly long road for filmmaker Sean Casey. His idea to make an IMAX film capturing the intensity, power and beauty tornadoes and severe weather in the U.S. Plains grew from humble beginnings 8-9 years ago, with his chasing escapades over the seasons turning into a "movie within a movie". His ideas, creations and adventures sotrm chasing across the Midwest for the past 8 years spawned dozens of interviews, specials, and even a starring role in the on-going Discovery Channel series "Stormchasers". He's made friends and fans, and he's also made enemies in certain chasing circles. Sounds like your typical storm chaser to me. Nobody's ever doubted Sean's passion for his craft, and his reverent respect for his star of the film, Ma Nature.

Finally, the film he's dedicated the last 8 years to making is finally coming to the biiiiig screen on March 18th, 2011. Narrated by Bill Paxton, the film will feature some of the very best tornado and severe weather footage ever captured. I'm happy for Sean and the entire team that helped make this movie happen (some chaser buddies included). It wasn't without its share of blood, sweat & tears.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Letter 2010

There seems to be certain things that become widely accepted once you become parents. You instantly relate to any discussion regarding parenting, an experience that’s been lost on you as long as you could remember without a kid. You also feel compelled to cover the back window of your car or SUV with a lot of unnecessary family or activity-inspired stickers of various shapes & sizes. After the birth of your first child, you also become aware that with some time & effort you can finally fill a page with things that may be mildly interesting and entertaining to some friends & family.

And so it began, on Groundhog Day, February 2nd, 2010 when Blaine Andrew Dixon was born at 2:16 PM. When I called Roger, my father-in-law, from the delivery room to tell him what his name was, the actual name was apparently lost in translation. I met the grandparents in the waiting room a few minutes later to tell them the great news in person, welcomed with hugs & tears of joy. Awkwardly, I was asked by my mother-in-law Lois what the impetus was for selecting the name “Duane Allan”. A fair & honest question, indeed. The miscommunication was quickly corrected, and a potential lifetime of uncomfortable explanations to inquisitive friends back in their respective hometowns was averted.

We brought Blaine home in the snow two days later, and upon sitting down for the first time in our house with the little man still strapped into his car seat, I had a good cry in the living room with our dog, Alexandria (or Alex. She has an identity crisis), finally succumbing to the totality of the event that every parent feels. Life had certainly changed for the better for all of us.

Since then, it’s been the predictable sleepless nights, groggy mornings leading to being notoriously late for work, and evening dinners eaten well past 8:30 PM, before attempting to fall asleep and stay in a dreamlike state for more than an hour at a time, doing it all over again the next morning, coming all too soon. Put all of these incredible days together, and it’s the fastest ten and a half months we’ve ever experienced. But what am I telling you parents that you don’t already know?

Also, predictably, Blaine’s gotten nothing but endless love and affection from his grandparents and extended family. His birth even inspired the impossible: Bill & Ida Dixon purchased their first computer. They look at it inquisitively, as if it should be doing something more than just sitting there on the desk. Ida resists coming within three feet of it, as to not provoke it and suffer a nasty bite. Outside of card games, Facebook and Skype, it gets little use of its true abilities. Nevertheless, Skype has been a huge help in keeping in regular contact with everyone. It doesn’t replace slobbery kisses from an infant, I’ll grant you, but we can’t complain with technology like this, linking us over the miles.

2010 was a year of obvious “firsts” for Blaine. There was his first family vacation to Leech Lake in Northern Minnesota in July, getting passed around to a sea of adoring women (some of whom were complete strangers) in a crowded restaurant in Malvern, his first Nebraska Cornhusker Football Tailgate in September, His first Halloween (a vicious, man-eating tiger!), his first trip to the magical Land of Christmas Trees, and, of course, his first meeting with Santa Claus (predictably, not a big fan).

Of course, Blaine won’t remember any of these “firsts”. Those big events aren’t necessarily for our newborns, are they? They’re for us. And we’re perfectly fine with that. There was his first real smile, his first try at real solid food, the sheer euphoria of the Jumparoo, and his first real laugh….one that made the past 5 months of our ridiculous baby talk and funny faces all worth it. Finally figuring out the art of the forward crawl, or pulling himself up to reach the keys on the piano. We’ve got ‘em all. And we can’t wait for more of the good stuff,…more “firsts”… over the years to come.

We wish you Happy Holidays, and many “firsts”, for you all in 2011!

J.B., Lisa, and Blaine

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Last-Minute Gift Ideas for the Kids

So, uh, Barbie takes a knife once in a while. Or maybe Ken gets cut, you know what I mean?

Holiday Cold Remedy: Thrash Metal

My formula for fighting this Wintertime head cold: Green tea with honey, NyQuil/DayQuil combo, rest, and the shredding guitars of Dave Mustaine, Dimebag Darrell, and Scotty Ian.

Precision metal from Dave & Co. from Roskilde Festival 92.

Phil, Dime, Rex & Vinnie at their absolute brutal best, Monsters of Rock 1991, Moscow. A record that changed everything in metal, and made seemingly well-adjusted teenagers want to break things.

"Wake up dead in a plywood bed, 6 feet from the rest of your life
And when you couldn't see your own dependency....N.F.L. Nice Fuckin' Life."

They don't make 'em like they used to.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Breaking News: This is (not really) a Food Blog

Okay, so I'm going back on my word. This isn't a food blog. It isn't a music blog. It isn't a blog about anything, really. And contrary to popular blog belief, that's perfectly goddamn okay. Okay? Okay.

Truth is, I wasn't doing a very good job being a regular contrubutor at UUKBlog before I made the proclamation that this would be a food-themed site, with reviews, tips, tricks, pretty pictures, etc. But every time I wanted to throw some funny, interesting nugget of nutty-brown bullshit on here, I remembered that I had pidgeon-holed myself, limiting posts to a food theme.

Screw it. This is still good therapy, and good interaction with....well, whoever still cares to look for updates here from time to time. And I really don't have any other place to go with a lot of this stuff.

So, back to the shotgun approach. And here's something we've never talked about: Pearl Jam.

Wait. What?

Call it a welcome back. For the 5th or 6th time. No promises on timely updates. That, I can promise you. Here's PJ from their amazing Late Show with David Letterman appearance on May 4, 2006, after the release of the Avocado album. Dave let the band have the stage after the taping of the live show, where they played an amazing short set, including this particular highlight, a personal favorite, Present Tense.

Go find some food pr0n somewhere else. For now.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Texas BBQ Trail Tour: City Market, Luling, TX

For a guy who is a self-proclaimed addict of the style of food preparation in question, the word "Barbecue" has admittedly gotten a little old to me in certain aspects. Specifically when proprietors, enthusiasts, cooks, and misguided "grillers" throw the word around as much as they do. A conversation/interview sentence might go something like, "Barbecue is love, and good barbecue should be barbecue that's made like good barbecue should be made. To me that's just good barbecue." Call it the John Madden Syndrome.

Nevertheless, the word "barbecue" cannot be over-used when discussing one of the most unique regions of local indigenous cuisine in the U.S. It's small area bounded by a 40-mile like east-west through Austin, south to San Antonio, known as the South Texas BBQ Trail. A few small towns in this area are home to tastes, techniques, flavors and aromas that can be found nowhere else. I had done my homework, reading/drooling over photos and articles about BBQ in this area, knowing that it would take a special reason to get down there and sample some of these soked eats. The opportunity presented itself when I had a conference to attend for work in San Antonio. I found a free afternoon, and dedicated it to the 3-4 hour round trip that would be my baptism into how BBQ is done in the Lone Star State. My goal: hit at least 5 joints in 2-3 different predetermined locations in the span of an afternoon, and have the gastro-intestinal fortitude to finish. I didn't know if/when this opportunity would present itself again, so I was determined to make the most of it; future soft, smoke-infused bowel movements be damned.

My first stop took me east of San Antonio about 40 miles to the small town of Luling, a tiny but busy little railroad town, home to one of the true American BBQ legends, City Market. The barn-door red painted brick building looks completely unassuming, like it's home to any other Mom & Pop cafe you would find along any other main street in small town Texas. As well-known it is to true Q enthusiasts, the unassuming facade of City Market is part of the charm. Once inside, it's not the decor that grabs you, it's the aroma. Post Oak wood smoke has bee slowly staining and saturating the pores of this place for a few decades. I want to wear this cologne.

Ordering your smoked meat products occurs in the pit room, one of the most incredible food experiences I've ever had. This moment, this scene in this blackened room on a hot Texas summer afternoon....this is what makes this kind of barbecue fundamentally different from any other in the country. Freelance writer Katharyn Rodemann captures the scene beautifully in her description from Texas Monthly Magazine's 50 Best BBQ Joints in Texas.

This is barbecue’s holy of holies: City Market’s dark pit room, located in a back corner of the main dining hall. Clouds of post oak incense have been rising from its five pits for fifty years, and the smoke envelops manager Joe Capello Sr. and his crew as they slice your order—a choice of brisket, ribs, sausage, nothing else—onto butcher paper. You pay at the blackened cash register (bread comes free, onions, pickles, and peppers for pocket change), then reemerge into the dining area, where staff at a central counter sell sides and liquid offerings: vessels of potato salad and beans; hunks of yellow cheese; an array of beers, Big Red, IBC Root Beer. You take your place at one of the pine booths or tables among the multitude of other devotees, a startlingly ecumenical mix of faces white, black, and brown. A handwritten notice proclaims the righteous requirements of the meat before you: “No forks—use your hands.”

My standard, predetermined order for all of my stops (except for one) was 1/4 lb of brisket and one sausage link. I ordered as if I wasn't meeting one of my idols or something, acted like I had been there before, and confidently placed my order. No sides for me. I found my way back into the dining are and sat alone, scanning the rest of the 3/4 full dining area. Rodemann's description is perfect, as it was a true mix of everything and everybody. I was smiling, and I hadn't even taken a bite. The brisket was cooked to perfection, prepped with the simple salt-and-pepper dry rub that everyone seems to make in this region. It made me completely rethink my approach to my own brisket preparation. Why do I bother with a rub with 12-15 different ingredients? Does brisket really taste better with a little finely ground espresso roast coffee in the rub? Or ground ginger? Really, J.B.? This simple preparation and flawless smoke bath in the City Market pits was a flavor explosion, and an epiphany for me. I was a doubter before I came here. I mean how good could it be when it's made so simply? What a fool I was.

As good as my first experience with Texas brisket had been, I had yet to savour what would be quite possibly the best thing I have ever eaten in my life. My experience with sausage has been pretty limited (hey.....dirty mind!). Pre-made links like those you would get at the supermarket, or the rare find at a small butcher shop, perhaps a pork-based bratwurst. That was about it. Just as unique to Texas as their brisket is their take on smoked sausage. Handmade, hand-tied, 1/3 lb links of love, made with the same simple approach that "less is more", smoked sausage in Texas has no BBQ equal. A bold statement, I acknowledge. And there is no better sausage than the all-beef beauties at City Market. Cutting into that first bite, you could see the coarseness of the filling inside the natural casing. I distinctly remember uttering aloud to nobody (or to everybody?) in particular, "Oh my God." I had taken a bite of something truly life-changing in my own little food world. The bar had been raised. Perhaps never to be reached again. Holy hell. Who could possibly begin to make something any better than this? (Hint: I didn't find them that afternoon, or since then)

People asked me after I got back from Texas if I thought Texas BBQ was better than Kansas City BBQ? My answer to them wasn't really an answer, as I said it's comparing apples to oranges in my opinion. Kansas City joints aren't trying to do what they do in Texas (They couldn't), and Texas isn't trying to make KC Que (They wouldn't). What I would say is that if you ever get the opportunity to get down to that part of America, seek this stuff out. The beautiful part about this trip is.....I still had 3 more places hit up that afternoon. City Market was an incredible experience, and it wouldn't take a back seat to the rest of the spots I visited. More on those coming up......

City Market
633 E. Davis
Luling, TX
Open Mon–Sat 7–6.
Closed Sun.

City Market on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Local Food Reviews: My Approach

One of the driving reasons that I wanted to really focus in on food as the main content driver of this blog is because I'm always kind of bummed that there isn't a very good selection of food blogs in the Lincoln area. Specifically, I'm talking about food blogs that have local restaurant reviews. Sure, there's a few out there (a couple of which you may see linked to the right), and while they do provide some good content, I wanted to explain what you WON'T see on UUKblog.

If you're looking for scathing, tersely worded posts on how I might have gotten some slow service, or how I might have been disturbed by a restaurant's decor (or lack thereof), I'm not going there. I'm not a big fan of snarky, snapshot reviews. I'm willing to give most places the benefit of the doubt, food, atmosphere (I don't need much, honestly)and service included. Running (and maintaining) a restaurant is hard enough without getting unnecessary bad press from a person who's probably not qualified to critique every single aspect of their business, especially in a 30-40 minute window of time. The succesful ones will rise to the top in time. The ones with problems won't last. This is pretty much restaurant rule #1. You pretty much know who they are in both cases.

Instead, it would be safe to assume that if I haven't talked or posted about a restaurant, it's for a few reasons....

1. I didn't care for it, for whatever reason.
2. I haven't been there yet.
3. It's a National "Chain" restaurant (there may be a couple of exceptions
in extreme cases).
4. I've been there, and I plan on writing about it, just
haven't gotten to it yet.

Just wanted to get that out there before I started diving in to the realm of what I would consider some of the best places to get delicious, honest food made clearly by people who care about what they're creating. Those are the people and places I want to write about, because their hard work and dedication needs to be highlighted and rewarded (case in point). Let's not kid ourselves here....Lincoln isn't a Foodie's Paradise. This needs no argument. But hopefully we can find the goods even in this ocean of uninspiring sports bars & grills, with the same tired, half-assed menus. If there's good stuff out there, and it's gonna get talked about here eventually.

But it's not all about Lincoln, or even restaurants. This will be much broader than that, including home cooking stuff, road trips, all of the above. Stay tuned, kids....I know you're itching with anticpation. (Actually, you might want to get that looked looks red and inflamed. No....stop itching it. Staahhhp.)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lincoln Good Eats: Phat Jack's BBQ

It's hard to fake me out when it comes to food. I'll know probably before I take a bite of something whether or not it was made on the premesis, or flash-frozen and shipped from some salmonella factory Guatemala, or Sam's Hamburger Patties in Dung Pile, GA (E.Coli Free since March!). Fake food annoys me. It's easy. It insults our intelligence as consumers. But, what's to be expected? Haven't we been lulled to sleep over the decades from companies and restaurant chains who know that the vast majority of Americans could give a shit less where their food comes from, let alone how it even tastes half the time? Is it cheap? Is it fast? We buy it. We drive away from the drive-thru window.

It's safe to say that's not how things are done at Phat Jack's BBQ. It's a great success story (at least a story that hasn't had a quick and abrupt ending, like so many start-up restaurants). Matt and Jackie started out as a competitive BBQ team, cutting their teeth around the Kansas City area beginning in 2004. Like most winning teams, practice patience and time brought them some success, with such accomplishments as taking home 4th place in the 2007 World Brisket Open. Others include reserve chamption at the 2007 Cookin' on the Kaw, and 2008 Eagle, NE Days Grand Champion. With their success, they were drawn as an invitee to the prestigious Jack Danilel's Word Championship Invitational in 2008. "The Jack" is one of the crown jewels on the competitive BBQ circuit, but due to a scheduling conflict, they were unable to attend.

In 2009, they took their passion to the next level, and opened up their own restaurant, committed to offering "competition-quality" BBQ to the masses. While they can't cook in such quantity as some of the others, their quality certainly makes up for it. They make all of the usual favorites: Brisket, ribs, pork shoulder. I can't say that any of these selections are anything less than above average to excellent. Personally, I'm a sucker for their brisket. Tender, but not mushy, great flavor, perfect smoke.

Another favorite is a daily special, featuring slices of smoked sausage serving as the bed for a mound of pulled pork, drizzled with sauce. Heaven.

As for the crowds? Get to this place before Noon, otherwise you'll be standing in line....sometimes out the front door. The seating area is fairly small, but I like that. And have patience trying to get to the's not the easiest to pull into, depending on which direction of Cornhusker Road you're traveling.

A full, ringing endorsement for this tremendous hidden gem for BBQ fans around Lincoln, although it's popularity is catching on. It may not be the exact same consistency from day-to-day, but that's the nature of cooking competition BBQ. I wouldn't want it any other way.

Phat Jacks BBQ on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Football" fans in a Football Town

I'm not really sure how to react to this. Check that.....I do know how to react to this: With complete shock, bewilderment and disgust.

How did we allow this to happen? for so long, we've looked down our noses at such an inferior game. Men running around aimlessly on a field far too large for what's needed. 8 shots on goal.....per 90-minute game.

Shake yourselves, Lincoln....Midwest.....America. You have The National Pastime, AND America's Game. You live in one of the most revered college football towns in America. You've got everything you need as a sports fan.

Then you go and act like this.

I was in a downtown bar in November of 2001 when Eric Crouch caught the touchdown pass from Mike Stuntz to beat OU. This didn't happen. Drinks were not thrown. Barstools were not wielded. Scarf thingies were not swung over heads. Yes, everything in my pockets flew out in a frenzy, but, in my defense, it was freaking NU-OU. You expect things to get broken when a play like that happens.

But soccer? Cheering for soccer like you're living in Brazil? In Lincoln, Nebraska?

Here it is: Captain Jack's Bar in Lincoln, and the reaction to Landon Donovan's game winner over "world powerhouse" Algeria, to punch a ticket to the round of 16 in the World Cup. Apparently that's a big deal or something.

I don't know what town, let alone what country I'm living in anymore.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chipps Cooney: Magic Genius

Looks like the secret is out: Chipps Cooney's magic is now a Nationwide phenomenon. See Chipps in his element, before he lowered his standards and went on America's Got Talent, and marvel at this master of illusion.

A New Holiday for Me

It's Father's Day, my first. Actually, it's been Father's Day Weekend. I received a laminated card made from construction paper made at daycare by the girls; a cutout of Blaine's hands glued to it, with the message 'Daddy's Helping Hands". I think back to a time no longer than 6 months ago when I would be the cynic about parents constantly fawning over their kids. I would instantly recoil, desperately wanting to say aloud what I was thinking at the time: Nobody cares. Your kids are not special.

Crude scribbles in various crayon colors, a stick figure family drawn with markers, the dry macaroni glued to a paper plate resembling perhaps what Picasso might create with similar materials, all of these covering bulletin boards or file cabinet drawers of proud parents at the office. Memo to all of you that I have looked down on for your open and outward pride in your kids: I get it now.

((Note: There IS a line here, mind you. The above memo does not include parents that cover the back window of their minivan with dance, soccer, football, softball, track, cross-country, basketball, and golf stickers, embazoned with their kids' names and numbers. Or my new personal favorite, the family of stick figures, including the dog, cat, hamster and goldfish. All of them, just plain stupid.))

Here's the man recently joining the foray of cereal consumption (sloppily, as you might imagine), and hopefully a lifetime of the enjoyment, love and reverence of food. Preferably barbecue. Preferably not anyting in a blue box. This pasty, flavorless groul will have to suffice for now.

Oh, and Happy Father's Day, Dad. I see what all the fuss is about now. Smile, will ya?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Froggy went a-courtin' he did ride...Crambo!

Few things take me back to childhood quicker than this particular Tom & Jerry skit. Few things still crack me up like this skit, as well. Trust me, you'll be singing this song just like Uncle Pecos next time you're stuck in traffic. This one's for you, Thad.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A New Brown Thing

From the mind of Merlin, and his brilliant blog, not me....speaking (hopefully) for a generation.

A New Brown Thing You'll Totally Eat

Hi. We’re KFC.

And, it’s become abundantly clear that you sad bastards will eat literally anything that we can find, photograph, and shit into a little plastic coffin.

Believe me, we know.

Because, for years now, we’ve been testing you. Aggressively. Time and again.

Through a mind-boggling series of product releases that call to mind Europe’s inexorable slide into the Second World War—with each new development bringing something more unfathomable, disturbing, and unspeakably inhumane. But, just to be dead honest, it stopped being fun for us a long time ago; you guys have been like the Neville Chamberlains of dignified food. At a certain point, we realized you didn’t even need to be sold on this inedible dreck.


It became surreal—like you couldn’t stop hitting yourself with your own hand. Only that hand happened to be clutching a glistening piece of fried bird like it was a pontoon on the last chopper out of Saigon.
The game really changed on the day we realized you wouldn’t blink twice at the idea of a junior high dropout serving you breaded chicken, jug gravy, frozen corn, and a rudimentary ecru paste of modified potato starches and salted oil—all in the same fucking death-black wading pool.

You’d eat that. On purpose. With a large Mountain Dew
and a fucking “parfait.”

Yeah, that was when we had to admit that our
once-rewarding experiment on the limits of human despair was no longer even a sporting challenge. it became more like—what?— shooting diabetic fish in a barrel. Or, I guess, more appropriately, a “bucket.”
(Yes, we’re the same company that first made American adults like your grandparents feel entirely comfortable feeding their family out of a greasily translucent cardboard bucket. High five.)

So, you know what? Fuck it. Let’s go for broke. Go out on a high
note, y’know? Here’s…this. This…thing. Which is…food. Of a kind.

Shit, we’re not even sure what to call it. Internally, we’ve been banging around “the new brown thing.” Although, that’s actually what we call any new atrocity we’ve dreamed up that we’re pretty positive you’ll buy five at a time and eat alone in your Pinto while listening to talk radio and crying.

But, for what it’s worth, this unit’s actually been an interesting ride from a process standpoint. We told our R&D boys they could come up with basically anything they wanted—as long as it could be thrown together from existing ingredients, cost less than 40 cents to make, and looked enough like dog shit that impressionable lardbutts like you would get a raging food boner the first time its commercial ran on whatever basic cable reality show keeps you from killing yourself for
another week.

And, yes, if it’s not already clear, we think this new brown thing feels like another big-titted hit for Team Colonel.

So, you know. Go nuts. Buy one. Hell, buy forty. Ask for “the scabby-looking new brown thing that shiny, out-of-breath people in sweatpants and UGG boots who look pretty much like me keep ordering.” Actually, it’d be awesome if you’d say it exactly like that. Because the counter kids would sure get a kick out of it.

(As your almost-daily visits may have shown you, these youngsters are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. And, frankly, given their lack of benefits and likely-permanent Original Recipe odor, they could really use a good laugh)

Thing is, you’re already pretty into this new brown thing, aren’t you?
Sure, you are. It’s that cadaver-colored cheese product and that bacon-flavored “hickory striplette” and that engagingly pus-like corn starch sauce, right? Totally.

And, you see that outside part? Yeah. That definitely looks like fried chicken or something. And, if memory serves, fried chicken or something are two of your favorite foods. Just after “anything not made of metal or glass that I can squeeze, fold, roll, fellate, or
otherwise manipulate into a shape that can be accommodated by my gaping maw.”

But, if you’re not into it? Eh. You will be. Eventually. Some night when
you’re all drunk on peach schnapps and working up an appetite from jerking it to late 80s Penney’s catalogs. You’ll crave you some brown. And that’s fine with us.

And if you don’t? Well, really, who cares? We’ll be fine. We know our
customers; those fucking bowls didn’t get famous by themselves.

So, thanks. And, seriously: enjoy the new brown thing. But, thanks, also for whatever brought you to this point in life. Because, the truth is, we simply couldn’t do our jobs as well as we do without knowing folks like you will devour literally anything we make.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Summer of the Rock Show

Wow.... Where to begin. I suppose that Pearl Jam's Summer U.S. Tour announcement has to go to the top of the stack. It's been since 2003 since they've come to Kansas City. Honestly, I had kind of given up on the thought of them playing there again, for some reason. Calling this a Must-See Show should go without saying.

But then, perusing a couple of sites this evening, I stumbled across this one, and I've gotta tell moved.

Seeing these two bands on the same bill, bands that have had such an influence on me, musically, it seems almost too good to be true. I've never had the opportunity to see either band, but it MUST happen this summer. Chicago, perhaps?

August rolls around with a show that only I will appreciate, the American Carnage Tour, featuring Megadeth, Slayer, and Testament. They've got an August show in Kansas City. If Dave can stay off the needle long enough, this actually might happen. Certainly this show isn't everyone's cup o' tea, but you can't expect me to get rid of my metal roots, now, can you?

Wrap up the Summer with the love-him-or-hate-him grooves of Dave Matthews Band, playing the Quest Center in Omaha. Not fitting the "Rock Show" theme? Fair enough. Sorry, but I'll never pass up the opportunity to watch Carter Beauford do what he does behind the drum kit. If it wasn't for his incredible playing, DMB wouldn't be the success that they've been over the past 17 years, if they'd be a success at all.

It's funny....with all of these upcoming shows, it feels different now that fatherhood is here. I feel like if I don't experience these shows now, then will it ever happen again? I mean, let's face it, a few of these bands don't have a lot left in the tank as the years click off. Maiden, especially, even though they still sound as good and as tight as they did in '85, you never know when they decide to pull the plug. Same goes for Mustaine & Megadeth, although he may keep going because it's keeping him alive.

Regardless, it's shaping up to be a great summer of music. No matter what your musical tastes, there's nothing like a live show, whether it's a 50-seat club or a 25,000-seat ampitheatre. Get out & go. Your soul deserves it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Why We Should Cook. Really Cook

For the few of you who still drop by this little page (one that could always be better), you've probably noticed that there seems to be a bit more focus towards one of my true

There, I said it. I cook.

I cook for myself, for my family, for a crowd, for stress relief, for exploring new tastes, for the joy of creating a perfect product that is the sum of its unique individual parts.

I cook because I love food, the feelings that the act of cooking gives me, the pleasure that eating food made from hands that you can see.

Noted food author & blogger Michael Ruhlman gives one of the most succinct descriptions of why he cooks, why I cook, and why you should think more about cooking, yourselves, in a TED Talk he recently gave in his hometown of Cleveland. It's not rocket science, and it doesn't have to be every day, every meal. He speaks to the history of cooking in our society, and to its role in human existence as we know it today. He also speaks to how society today looks at what their perceptions of what food actually is, and the dangerous answers we're giving.

I encourage you to check out his amazing blog/website, and a few of the other food-themed pages I've linked to over on the side here. Now go pick up a pan. Fry an egg. Roast a chicken. Make a casserole....without opening a can of Cream of God-Know's-What Soup. Just start cooking, and reap the benefits.

"I'm asking you to consider that cooking is far more important than any of us
ever realized. Don't view cooking as a luxury, or a hobby, or something
you'd do only if you had more time. Think of it as an imperative.
Don't underestimate how important the routine act of cooking can be."
--Michael Ruhlman

NOTE: The blog will probably continue with this food focus for a while, with some other ridiculous odds & ends peppered in, usually only humorous or interesting to me. Just endure it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cooking Pr0n

There's many weekends full of experimenting & riffing on ideas & techniques in this book from one of the biggest, and still somewhat mysterious rock star chefs in the world. All the talk about the buttermilk fried chicken recipe is justified; probably worth the investment alone. Simplified for the home cook, yet revealing to those who look for the subtle techniques that can make good meals great, it lives up to the hype its been getting.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

My City of Ruins

Timely, because of the destruction in Haiti. You can purchase this song on iTunes, with all proceeds going directly to the relief effort. Even Bruce is moved by this performance...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Surfing With The Alien

(Also: More Geeky Guy Rock Music)

I've never grown tired of this song after going on 20 years, and Satch is one of maybe three guys that I can listen to and almost wish I had picked up a guitar instead of a pair of drumsticks. Almost. "Surfing..." is what I consider his personal best (followed closely by Flying in a Blue Dream), among an amazing career songlist/guitar clinic.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lincoln Good Eats: Ali Baba Gyros

Far overdue for such rich accolades, Ali Baba Gyros, the downtown Lincoln dive since 1990, has been the only consistient 3-times-a-month lunch spot for me since we moved out here 9 years ago. The brothers and their nephew that run the place are always friendly & appreciative, typically remembering your usual order after just a few visits. About once every other week (it could easily be much more often, if I let it), the craving becomes overwheming. I need a "Z" Plate. Slap down a warm pita, a layer of their perfectly steamed & griddle-finished Greek fries, gyro meat, their flavorfule, creamy/tart tzakziki (cuccumber) sauce, feta cheese, and some oregano sprinkled on top. The way I like to finish it? I good dousing of simple Louisiana Hot Sauce. Not for the heat so much, which isn't even that hot at all, but it seems to mingle with that cuccumber sauce perfectly. I walk through that plate like a fat kid loves cake.

Recently I had eaten a far-too-light breakfast (I'm trying to get this whole metabolism thing right), and by 11:00, I was ready to eat my own arm off. Burger fix. As long as you don't do this daily, or every other day, and you tend to move around more than the average person.....go ahead, indulge. Ali Baba's was the destination for something I'd never tried before.....the Gyro Cheeseburger. To call it a religious experience might be a stretch, but not by much. The stats: toasted sesame seed bun, 1/3-1/2 lb grilled patty, swiss cheese, ketchup to adhere a pile of gyro meat to the burger, lettuce, tomato, cuccumber sauce, finished with a bit of hot sauce. My new favorite ground bovine sandwich in Lincoln. God Bless you, boys.

For Lincolnites who still go to that other place next door to Ali Baba' know, the one on the corner claiming to be "King of the Gyros"?? Forget it. 3 things that trump the other guys: THe Greek fries, the sauce (actually MORE than just sour cream), and Ali's Tuesday & Friday special, the roasted Greek Chicken. Easily the hidden gem of Lincoln lunch specials. This is the definition of real food. But don't take this hack's word for it....look at the crowd. Need I say more?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How I Make Cajun

There's not too many things that make my mouth water like the spicy, rustic, bold flavors of real Louisiana cooking. I remember watching Justin Wilson's Louisiana Cooking show on public television when I was a kid, marveling at how this old country boy could throw together these amazing meals, all topped off by a little Beaujolais. He would say things in this Louisiana accent that was almost impossible to understand. I would marvel at his complete disregard for proper sentences, his butchering of the English language. The the ol' boy could cook. "Now what I got to did is take these heeah shrimps....put a little of that in theahh, and Whoooooohhhh....." Of course my mother would never dare try to cook dishes like these. Cayenne pepper might as well have been moon dust as to the likelihood of either being found in her kitchen.

Cajun cuisine, like any other regional fare, is based around what is available in the area, with an obvious emphasis towards seafood found around the gulf. This area has also given us the delight of Andouille sausage, a spicy treat that can stand alone or be incorporated into any of a thousand different dishes. Obviously chicken can easily be incorporated into good cajun items, as well. One of my favorite go-to Cajun meals that I have learned to make well is my riff on a Louisiana staple, Etouffee.

Not knowing much about the specifics of etouffee, all anyone really needs to know to make a good Cajun meal is just a couple of things. First: The Trinity. One of the building blocks of French cuisine is a mirepoix (carrot, onion, celery). Arcadiana cooking ot it's beginnings from French influences, and The Trinity is Cajun's mirepoix, consisting of onion, celery, and bell pepper. Whether it's gumbo, etouffee, or just about anything else, you'll recognize the Trinity is in there.

The second big thing for Cajun cooking: the roux. The base of etouffee starts here, with the combination of slow-cooking butter with flour, always stirring, never walking away from it, never letting it burn. I like to cook the roux till it's a rich chocolate color, even though I sacrifice the thickening power of a lesser-roasted roux. The magic that happens over this 20-minute process, the transformation of two ingredients into the backbone of the entire meal, this is the essence of the dish.

Once the roux is ready, I throw the Trinity into the pot, always stirring. After the vegetables have softened a little, usually around 5 minutes, then the garlic goes in (the real stuff, never from one of those me, it's worth it).

At this point I add a bottle of dark beer, whatever I have on hand, but it's important that it it is a darker beer, to stand up and add to the richness of flavor. I let it thicken up some more with lots of stirring.

Next I add a quart of chicken stock (more on making stock in a later post sometime). Also thrown in at this time are some Worchestershire sauce, hot sauce, and a couple teaspoons of brown sugar. Once it comes to a boil, the diced cooked chicken gets thrown in the pool. I reduce it down to a simmer.

After letting the pot simmer for about an hour or so uncovered (stirring about every 10 minutes) I add some andouille sausage (from Mullholland's Grocery in Malvern, IA, of course....amazing stuff!). You don't want all of the fat and flavors of the andoullie to leach out. You still want it to taste like the ingtredient it is, so hold off on putting it in until it still has about a half hour to simmer.

Once the etouffee gets to the thickness & consistency I'm looking for, it gets poured over a bed of white rice (made with more chicken stock...Why not flavor your rice a little?).

Especially during the Winter months, this dish is just as satisfying & warming to me as my favorite chili or soup recipe. It hits the spot every damn time. The beautiful thing about it is that you can riff on this endlessly, using ham, whole chicken, even pork or (Gasp!) SPAM.