09.19.2017
Kendrick Lamar
Damn

I was wrong about Damn. I heard the singles and wrote it off. "It sounds like he's given up and reaching for radio hits," I grumbled. "It doesn't hold a candle to has last two unimpeachable classics" I groused. "It's everything wrong with the current state of popular music," I whinged. Oh but then I listened to the damn thing. I already said I was wrong, what more do you want from me?


(1)
03.27.2016
Kendrick Lamar
untitled unmastered

There’s this whole contingent of music writers who refuse to accept Kendrick Lamar as our lord and savior. I understand them, but I don’t understand them. And it’s not an uninformed bunch. It’s hip hop dudes (albeit, probably like, white academic hip hop dudes who listened to Wu Tang growing up and wrote their doctorate theses on “Violence and Jewish Identity in Mobb Deep’s The Infamous”). They seemingly know their stuff? And yet there’s this uncomfortable unwillingness to give Kendrick Lamar his due. I almost feel like they want to fight off dudes like, well, me, who come in as outsiders who don’t really follow their world much, don’t care which mixtape Young Thug just released, have no idea who Lil Boosie is, and suddenly proclaim Kendrick (oh, sorry… “K Dot”) the contemporary master of the art form. I get it. We’re annoying. Kind of how I felt back when the Arcade Fire became a Thing. I had to be like, “Okay, calm down everybody” and then check out for a couple album cycles. But still—what’s their problem? The dude is great. He has things to say. He has a multitude of ways to say those things. His voice is a multi-instrument ensemble. He’s extraordinarily thoughtful, but still funny and surprising. His taste in collaborators and beats and arrangements is impeccable. What’s not to like? He’s the best. And this untitled unmastered proves it; it’s a collection of “unfinished” recordings not good enough to make his last album, and it’s possibly the best hip hop album of the year. I’m sorry hip hop music writer dudes. It’s real.

04.01.2015
Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp a Butterfly

Speaking of geniuses: Kendrick Lamar. This guy is the best rapper currently rapping. His lyrics are sharp and thoughtful and gut-punching. His delivery is dramatic and honest and musical. His choice in producers and collaborators is impeccable, and their work is seamless and progressive. To Pimp a Butterfly (as well as M.a.a.d. City) is an host-to-god work of capital-A Art. It should be playing on repeat in a museum somewhere. It's incredible. And it's no fun at all.

11.28.2012
Kendrick Lamar
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City

Either I've been totally brainwashed by the tsunami of critical acclaim this Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City record has been getting, or else I'm fully convinced that it is seriously work of capital-a Art. I can't decide. But for now I'm going with Art. The lyrics, the delivery, the production, even the between-song skits (!) all come together in a way that is rare in the rap world and form something that is way bigger than the sum of its parts. There are no singles, no real hooks, nothing to play at a party. But it has this energy and narrative to it that's like reading a good book, or watching a great movie. And a legitimately emotionally jarring ending! When's the last time you've been moved by the ending of a rap album? Pretty amazing. Now I just need to get over the fact that he aped his style from Andre 3000 and Lil Wayne, and I'm totally on board.

09.04.2018 - by Steve
Potter'sDinkytown Minneapolis
Sausage roll

I think I've had a Potter's pasty from their food truck before, but I honestly can't say I remember much about it. But this weekend I finally got to their brick and mortar store (which is only a brick and mortar store in that they sell some food out of a window connected to their commissary kitchen in the basement of a building connected to the back side of a convenience store), and was duly impressed by their sausage roll. See, I'm a bit of an expert on sausage rolls; I went to England one time. So. Anyhow, these aren't quite as good as the rolls at Greggs (um if you've ever been to England like me you'll know what I mean, mate), and they don't serve them with HP Sauce (God save the Queen), but rather with a sort of tangy apple reduction, which I don't think quite worked with what was more of an Italian-style sausage than the traditional English breakfast sausage that you'd expect from a roll. But despite that, I fully enjoyed the roll, and have to say there's something very refreshing about a place in Minneapolis that just sells out of a basement window. It's the sort of secret-handshake "in the know" place that doesn't usually exist around here.

09.04.2018 - by Steve
MeyvnUptown Minneapolis
Bagel

Meyvn is the latest attempt to bring a 'Montreal style' deli to Minneapolis, and considering the fact that my bagel was served in a cardboard box with a salad and was somehow wet, and the fact that the interior is designed to look like a reclaimed barnwood retro futurelounge rather than, say, a Montreal deli, it will surely be the next Montreal style deli to close in Minneapolis.

08.22.2018 - by Steve
CampingGrand Marais
Knockoff Nando's chicken

We'd been thinking a lot about Nando's lately, the British peri peri chicken chain, which has become nearly as ubiquitously 'basic' in England as Chipotle is here. We ate it earlier this year during our trip out there, and it was legitimately delicious. Which wasn't totally a surprise, because even though it's almost become a punchline over there, it's still (like Chipotle) beloved by nearly everybody. So when it came time to find some good recipes for camping up on the North Shore, I got the idea to find a recipe for a Nando's grilled chicken facsimile. The one I found wasn't the traditional flavor (peri peri peppers being a little hard to come by in the upper midwest), but was Nando's bbq flavor. Basically a marinade with bbq sauce (cheating, I know), worscestershire, a bunch of garlic, hot sauce, etc. So the morning we left, I tossed some chicken in the marinade, let it linger in the cooler all day, then at night I tossed it right on the campfire grill. It was a little nerve-wracking for a while, since a wood campfire isn't terribly consistent. But after giving it a good blackening on the outside, I wrapped it in foil for another 10 minutes and prayed that it was cooking through. Upon opening up the foil, I was greeted with the most perfect looking chicken I've ever made. And then I tore off a piece, and my god it tasted as good as it looked. I can't say whether it actually tasted like Nando's or not, but it was some of the best anything I've ever grilled, camping or not. Ledge.

08.22.2018 - by Steve
BellecourWayzata
Escargot, short ribs

Did you know escargot is snails? Ick.

08.08.2018 - by Steve
OMCDuluth
Barbecue

I'm going to try to not be too critical of OMC because honestly, Duluth needs good places to eat. And not just good places to eat, but good places to eat that are away from the Canal Park / Fitgers continuum. This place is in a little business strip in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, which is cool and neighborhoody and up-and-coming and I didn't even know it existed until now. But also it's weird and gross, because this entire block is seemingly owned by the Bent Paddle Brewery, OMC included. So between OMC, and the "Detroit style" deli, and the cool ice cream place, you're basically just spending your night at a glorified brewery food truck lot. It's weird.

Oh also did I mention that OMC stands for "Oink, Moo, Cluck?" Yep.

So anyway, their barbecue is good. It all has that extra 'something' that makes it stand out from your standard barbecue, a little oddball seasoning here and there, some nutmeg maybe, who knows. And the pulled pork has that porchetta vibe that makes sense for the north country. My problem (as usual) comes because I'm a cheap jerk: It's just too expensive for what you get. The portions are decent-ish for a regular restaurant, but not for a bbq joint. That would maybe fly over in Canal Park, but this is a Locals Only street. It's not expensive real estate. You can't be charging this much for not all that much meat. Plus there's no bread! No bread! Just throw some Wonderbread on the plate, OMC! Help us out here! Plus, even though I enjoyed the little extra 'something' in the meats, they kept adding somethings into the sides, until it was all too much. They need to find some very simple, baseline flavors that you can pile all the good good meat on top of!

How bizarre.