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.

11.21.2019 - by Steve
Cheesecake, brisket, latke

Junior's Bakery and Deli is a Brooklyn institution that I've just assumed—based on its cheesecake's ubiquitous presence in local grocery store aisles and its not one but two Times Square locations, as well as the general Perkins-level sleepiness of its interior that I see through its windows every time I walk by it—is past its expiration date. Comparing it to a place like Katz's, which revels in a dogged, hard-won legitimacy, or Russ & Daughter's and its craft-and-quality-above-all ethos, Junior's simply appears a place that's given up. Or rather, sold out.

I don't know what the going opinion on Junior's is amongst the locals here, but I'm comfortable taking this stand: Hey, Junior's is actually good!

Their cheesecake, obviously, is very good. I don't think that point is too heavily in dispute, even though the grocery store version lacks a little in comparison to the fresh stuff you find at their bakery counter—which is truly and non-hyperbolically the best cheesecake I've ever eaten. But what surprised me is that their actual food, at least what we ordered, is damn respectable! The menu, which I expected to be generic American/Greek diner fare, actually leans much more into the New York Jewish deli world, with pastrami and brisket and matzo ball soup. In fact, the item I ordered, which was featured years ago on the Village Voice's list of 50 Essential New York Dishes, was a monstrosity of a brisket sandwich that uses potato latke as a bun. It was truly obscene. But It was also truly delicious, far better than I feared it might be. Erin felt her matzo ball soup was a little canned tasting, but I honestly think it was better than she made it out to be, and even more enjoyable (really) than the bowl she had from Jack's Wife Frida a few weeks ago. I can't say it was better, quality wise, than Frida's, because it obviously wasn't. But I simply found it more satisfying to eat, which kind of sums up our entire meal. I enjoyed every bit of it.

And now I'm supposed to end this review like every Junior's review probably ends, by saying something like, "But you really go there for the cheesecake!" Which yeah is probably true. But y'know what? I just had such a fine evening from top to bottom at this place, that I'm not going to minimize it with the go-there-for-the-cheesecake bit. Junior's is a joy, and I hope they never actually sell out.

11.13.2019 - by Steve
Luke's Italian BeefChicago
Italian beef

Al's Beef is closed apparently. So I had Luke's instead. It was good.

11.13.2019 - by Steve
5 RabanitosChicago
Pork mole

Erin is always saying New York's Mexican food stinks compared to Chicago. She's right, and 5 Rabanitos is proof.

11.13.2019 - by Steve

There are whispers that Mu has the best ramen in the city. One friend of ours, a major ramen aficionado herself, claims it's the best ramen she's ever had anywhere.

The burger is even better.

Honestly this is the best burger I've had in New York*. I don't know what kind of magic was used in its creation, but really was a perfect specimen. In that uniquely precise Japanese way—a perfectly round burger fit plumb inside a perfectly round bun topped with a perfectly round pile of condiments. What were the condiments? I don't remember. Caramelized onions, some kind of homemade miso ketchup maybe. And exactly three perfectly fried potato wedges. But this thing melted and effloresced in my mouth on every bite, and it really was magic.

And also the ramen was fantastic and their pastrami fried rice was delicious. But this burger.

* Bougie burger edition. As far as lower class, bar style burgers, Andrew's Luncheonette is still on top.

10.29.2019 - by Steve
Kensington Kosher DeliGreat Neck
Pastrami on rye

This was an unexpected but welcome find, a legit New York style Jewish deli—and a dive at that—in the middle of small town Long Island. Well, not as much small town as profoundly wealthy suburb, but it was nonetheless quaint, delicious, and about half the price of those big city Jewish delis you've heard so much about.

10.29.2019 - by Steve

Good falafel, good toppings, a good pita, multiple locations. This is a short food post.