Brad Mehldau
Finding Gabriel

When I heard a few weeks ago that Brad Mehldau released a new album of original choral/synth/piano material earlier this year, I was pissed that I missed it. Then I heard it and I'm no longer pissed.

Brad Mehldau
Elegiac Cycle

Just try to convince me that Brad Mehldau isn't the greatest piano player alive. Do it. I dare you. Wanna fight? Let's fight.

Brad Mehldau
Highway Rider

I'm ready to place Highway Rider in the pantheon of Greatest Albums Ever Made That Nobody Other Than Steve Seems To Feel Are The Greatest Albums Ever Made. It's beautiful. It's flawless. It's unlike any record—jazz or otherwise—I've ever heard, without being esoteric or difficult. It's so good you guys. It should be on every list. And I might be the only one who cares.

Brad Mehldau

Highway Rider doesn't seem to have become some new classic since it came out a few years back. All the reviews I've seen of it in passing from real jazz folks seem to be a little cool on it. I don't know what their problem is, I think it's an absolutely beautiful peace of music, easily the my favorite contemporary jazz recording, and very close to my favorite of any era. That crowd seems to be more taken by his Art of the Trio series, a traditionally molded mix of standards and oddballs, while the young hip kids like myself are quick to point to something like Largo where he throws down Nirvana and Radiohead covers. Cuz that's so cool. But for my money, I'll take Mehldau original compositions. His playing is so unique and luscious; he plays these chords that I swear I've never heard before, with as much complexity in his left hand as his right. I feel like his original compositions make far more use of his unique voice, whereas his covers sometimes drag into boring old bop. This Places album, while nowhere near the majesty of Highway Rider, is nonetheless a lovely collection of originals. It's great. This guy, I really think, would be a legend if he was around back when guys like him could become legends.

Brad Mehldau
Highway Rider

Hah ahaha ah ha ah ahah ahahaha! So much for not wanting the album to end. Turns out it's actually a double album and I was listening to disc two that entire time. Unbelievable. So now that I know how it ends, maybe I should go back and listen to the entire first half of it. My whole listening experience is ruined! Jon Brion would be pissed!

Brad Mehldau
Highway Rider

This is the second album I've bought this year solely because Jon Brion has somehow been involved (the first one being an entirely disappointing and insignificant recording from Christina Courtin, who I'm sure is a lovely and well-meaning gal, but otherwise leaves me with absolutely nothing else to say). Brion is only (big fingerquotes on "only") credited as the producer, with no instrumental or writing credits at all, which is surprising considering usually he'll play an instrument (or five) on anything he produces. So obviously this isn't about Brion, this is about Mehldau. And let me say this about Mehldau: This kind of music usually bores the crap out of me on record. In person, sure, I can enjoy pleasant piano jazz, but recordings of it usually do nothing for me. The music on this record, however, is downright beautiful. I have absolutely zero insight about the modern jazz scene, and only the most basic historical knowledge, so I can't make any qualified statements about what Mehldau is doing or who he's channeling, or what makes this better or even different than the hundreds of other jazz pianists out there. But what I can tell is that there is a sort of spirit, a soul to this record that I just want to wrap myself in. It sounds like an April morning smells. Like coasting downhill feels. I'm still on my first listen, and scared that it might end.

03.28.2020 - by Steve
Katz's DeliManhattan
Pastrami on rye

Way, way, way back in the early days of this music and food blog, I posted about Katz's. I recommend that you don't go back and read it, but the gist was: Katz's is pretty good, but wowie is it expensive, and I bet you can do better!

Well now I'm older (much), wiser (a little), and richer (just barely), plus I actually live in this goddamn city, so I feel much more comfortable saying this: 10 years ago Steve was wrong as shit. Katz's is everything that is right and good in this world, and I don't give a damn that their sandwiches cost $20. Because guess what, there are other Jewish delis around town, and they're all just as expensive, and not nearly as good. Plus it's open all night!

Come to New York. Eat at Katz's. Get the pastrami. Skip the corned beef. Probably wait until like 10pm so you can actually get a table. Hopefully they make it through this junk.

03.17.2020 - by Steve
Los Tacos No. 1Manhattan

I'm drastically behind on food posts. Sorry everybody. But what better time than a devastating worldwide pandemic (is that redundant?) to sit inside and tell you about tacos?

This is Los Tacos No. 1, and I had a whole other specific introduction I wanted to give here, but a national law just passed that every sentence we speak and write must contain one reference to viruses, social distancing, quarantines, or at least use the phrase, "Crazy, huh?". But the short take on Los Tacos is that it started as a kiosk in Chelsea Market, became massively popular, then opened new locations in some of the shittiest spots in Manhattan. There's one in Times Square, one in the Financial District, and a new one opening (if humanity survives long enough) at Grand Central Station. Even just reading that list is annoying to me, and makes me want nothing to do with Los Tacos No. 1.

Except honestly these are some of the best tacos in the city. Like, practically perfect tacos. And even though the taco "authenticity" debate mostly makes me want to crawl in a hole (or lick a subway pole), these little guys at least seem as authentic as you could ask for. The place even has a fun (if contrived) throwback quality to it—minimalist hand-painted signage, a bare bones menu, employees wearing little short order chef hats and white aprons—it's all set up to feel like you're in an urban Mexico City taqueria that hasn't been updated since the 60s. It's a little corny, but it actually works. But more importantly, the tortillas are fresh, the fillings are outstanding, the service is extremely efficient, and you could find a much worse place to be quarantined inside of.

02.16.2020 - by Steve
Great NY NoodletownManhattan
Roast duck on noodles

It's roast duck on noodles. Look at it up there. Don't you want to eat it? Isn't it calling your name?

02.12.2020 - by Steve
Paneer rava

I think the food at this Curry Hill dosa place was real good. I think. And I also think we had a good time enjoying an evening with friends and sharing some delicious fried appetizers. Pretty sure we did. But it is all just a blur to me, because the waitstaff was so intent on getting us out of there so they could close, I'm not exactly sure what happened between sitting down and paying the bill. This isn't a snotty Yelp review or anything, I'm not really complaining, since it was partially our fault for getting a table 20 minutes before their closing time (although on the internet it said they closed an hour later, so...). And they were at least nice about it, constantly saying it wasn't a big deal and that we should enjoy our meal. But holy cow, the speed at which they moved, and the daggers with which they watched the state of our plates as we were finishing.

Delicious though. Can't complain about that.

02.11.2020 - by Steve
AlmaNortheast Minneapolis
Turkey burger

You might've seen the Alma turkey burger on my big Best Food of 2019 list, and then started scrolling and scrolling scrolling to find my writeup about it, and subsequently torched your laptop in protest of its absence. You might've done that. Sorry, I hadn't actually written about the dang thing yet.

The gist is that Alma is obviously an extremely good restaurant. And in recent years they opened a new cafe that is connected to the restaurant and hotel!? Wow, a hotel. Anyway when I was back in the Cities over Christmas, we wanted to hit up Al's Breakfist (RIP RIP RIP RIP RIP fuck everything there is no longer anything good in this shit world of ours RIP RIP), but the line was too long. So while searching for a backup, Erin noticed that Alma's cafe does a brunch and lunch menu every day—shocking to me because I had no idea they even served food, I just thought it was a coffee shop. So we went there instead, noticed plenty of open tables on a weekday morning,

I shouldn't be surprised that Alma makes an amazing turkey burger, but holy cow Alma makes an amazing turkey burger. It's perfect. Moist, flavorful, topped with just enough—and the perfect balance of—toppings. Absolutely loved it. And absolutely bummed that I could've been eating there the whole time I lived in Northeast.

02.11.2020 - by Steve
Tay HoSt. Paul
Pork chop

It's a classic Music & Food February Backlog! I did the year end lists, and then decided to take a month (or 2?) off, and now suddenly I have way too many new food posts to food post, so I'm just going to leave this here and make it quick:

Tay Ho is pretty good, you could do worse.