2021-04-12
Ryley Walker
Course In Fable

Ryley Walker has proven himself a master producer, performer, arranger, interpreter, creator, instrumentalist, improvisor, stylist, mind. He can do it all, and his taste is consistently impeccable. But what he isn't a master of is songwriting. Everything else is there, everything sounds amazing, layered beautifully, played with heart, everything is interesting. But the actual melodies and progressions and words seem to always hit a little flatter than you'd expect. Not that he writes in a way that's simplistic or derivative, but he just seems to be searching and circling to find the song in his work, and finding a whole lot of other cool things, but never actually landing on it.

This is all laid bare in his full album of Dave Matthews Band covers from a couple years ago. Say what you will, of course, about Dave Matthews, but they had songs. When Ryley Walker went full steam into covering and interpreting and rearranging those songs, the results were truly incredible. Better than anything DMB ever released on their own (stripping away all of that band's magniloquent regard of their own material), and easily the best thing that Walker's ever released.

This record is good. I like listening to it. It takes you on a dozen different journeys, and like everything Walker records, there are layers to dig through every time you listen. I just can't wait for the day that he cracks his own cipher and figures out how to write a song. He'll be unstoppable.

2021-04-11
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END!

I won't waste your time telling you how good this new Godspeed album is. It's exactly as good as you want it to be.

But what I will tell you is I think it might be Godspeed's most rock album. Parts of this thing sound like it could be Pink Floyd. In a good way. The best way. Fuck, I just thought about what would happen if GYBE got David Gilmour to sing on an album.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor would kill me and burn my body if they found out I compared them to Pink Floyd.

2021-04-11
Bruiser Wolf
Dope Game Stupid

Last week I heard one song from this Bruiser Wolf character ("I'm An Instrument"), and thought it was honestly one of the more unique sounding hip hop songs I've heard in a long time. In fact it's just occurring to me now that it reminds me of The Avalanches "Frank Sinatra" from a few years back, which ironically (or not) featured Danny Brown, who is also featured on "I'm An Instrument," and who runs the label that discovered and signed Bruiser Wolf.

So I heard the song, and had no idea whether I actually liked it. Yeah it was unique and kinda fun, but also a little grating and not particularly deep. I said "well that was interesting," and moved on, with no real interest in diving deeper into Bruiser Wolf.

By the end of that day I had listened to the song 4 more times and bought the whole album. And every other track is almost as interesting as that one.

2021-04-11
The Vernon Spring
A Plane Over The Woods

Solo jazz piano that's as profoundly chill as something like Grouper, but with chops.

I think there's an entire ecosystem of quiet piano solo projects floating out there on Spotify and Bandcamp, to fill up late night homework playlists, and otherwise make the artists who recorded them feel like they're making something sublime and heady. Mostly it's just people playing minor chords very slowly and maybe adding a lot of room tone. This, though. This feels different. This guy (I don't think his name is Vernon) can actually play. Of course these references are completely overselling it, but the quick names that come to mind are Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal. Take the quietest, sleepiest, patientest Evans and Jamal recordings you can imagine, run them through Grouper's 4 track, and maybe let William Basinski accidentally let some of the tapes melt, and you have In The Aeroplane Over The Sea A Plane Over The Woods.

Oh and one track he plays like Alice Coletrane, which is also cool.

2021-04-11
ISGHERURD MORTH
Hellrduk

OMG I have so many albums to catch up with on this blog! Here's one: Hellrduk by ISGHERURD MORTH. All caps.

Weirdo black metal. I'd almost say "prog black metal" if that was a thing that didn't make me want to choke. But the long and short is this is a band that's ostensibly playing black metal, but is actually willing to go there, and do stuff that most other black metal bands won't—well, actually can't. I wish it was engineered a little better, and I wish the lead singer didn't sound like fucking Gollum. But otherwise it's pretty sweet.

2021-03-28
Mare Cognitum
Solar Paroxysm

Mare Cognitum makes great black metal in the same sense that the Foo Fighters make great rock music.

That's the end of this music review. But what I really want to review is Mare Cognitum's logo. Look at the logo. Beautiful. I could look at it all day.

2021-03-23
Poison Ruïn
Poison Ruïn

This debut album (or maybe it's a collection of two EPs? Hard to tell what's going on) from Poison Ruïn (fucking killer band name) is fascinating and good. I don't know if I really like it, but still: fascinating and good.

What we have here is ostensibly a punk band (or maybe it's a post punk band? Hard to tell what's going on). They play fast and dirty, the vocalist chants and barks, and it all sounds like it was recorded on two tracks of a 4-track recorder. Lo-fi, ever heard of it? But two things make Poison Ruïn stand out. One is their embrace of what weird music kids regrettably-yet-fittingly call "Dungeon Synth," a cliquey, Reddit-friendly micro-genre that uses dusty, distorted synth tones to recreate the kind of spooky, minor-key, pseudo-Medieval dirge you could imagine hearing in the soundtrack of a straight to VHS Dungeons & Dragons knockoff. Seriously, look it up. There's a shocking amount of Dungeon Synth out there, most of it all sounds exactly the same, but it certainly fits a mood. But Poison Ruïn doesn't lean too heavily into the stuff, mostly saving it for the occasional intro and outro and segue.

What interests me more, however, is the band's impressive use of chords. And notes. Music, you could say! That sounds stupid of course, but remember when I said up there that Poison Ruïn is a punk band? They very much are. But they're a punk band who's made the important realization that there are 12 notes in the Western chromatic scale. So much punk shit stops at 3. Maybe 4 if you're Green Day (6 if you're Bad Religion). But whoever is writing these riffs is having a damn good time just running up and down their progressions; a fill here, a counter melody there, an extra bass lick now and then, throwing two more ascending major chords up the scale before going back to the root. Playing music. With joy and verve. It's a pleasure just listening to the creativity in some of their riffs—it's fun and it hits hard, occasionally even leaning into the whole "dungeon" thing and sounding almost like a classic NWOBHM band. (There's a whole other aspect of this where I mention that they're from Philadelphia, and how their entire aesthetic, from the guitar heroics to the heavy metal zine cover art, feels umistakingly familiar to fellow Philadelphian band Sheer Mag, but I'd have to research that the really make sense of it. Maybe they share a band member?). In short: Poison Ruïn can play the shit out of whatever it is they play.

The only thing that stops me short of declaring total victory for this band is that barking, yapping vocalist. Everything I just said about their playing, the verve and the vigor and the musicfullness—their singer has none of it. He's just a punk guy being punk and honking like a punk. If there's even the faintest hint of melody in his vocals, I haven't quite yet ascertained it. It's frustrating. But it's not a dealbreaker. Sure I wish he brought more tunes to the party, but he still gives these songs energy and muscle, and I guess that's good enough. Oh also the lo-fi recording: I'm all for it to a degree, but I could go for just a little more fi in their lo.

Still. Poison Ruïn. (Did I mention that band name fucking slays?). There's a huge amount of potential for something here, and I'm excited to see how it pans out.

2021-03-16
Pino Palladino and Blake Mills
Notes With Attachments

Sometimes I try to write things on this music and food blog that will describe some music to you, why I like it, maybe some little backstory about it. I don't know, music blog stuff. But in this case I think I'm just going to keep it to myself. Or at least I'll leave it to this: Pino Palladino is incredible, Blake Mills is on the verge of incredibility, and this collaboration between the two of them actually lives up what I imagine could happen when the two of them work together. My biggest complaint is that it's too short.

Go listen to listen to the album and get back to me.

2021-03-11
Screaming Trees
Sweet Oblivon

Previously, on Music & Food...

"This is a Polish metal band that plays a sort of grimey doom metal that also happens at times to sound a weird amount like Alice in Chains and Screaming Trees, without being as fun or weird as either. I don't know if I like it? But it has made me want to go listen to Screaming Trees."

Hey, this Screaming Trees album is good! I've never actually sat and listened to this band before, but it absolutely hits an early 90s grunge sweet spot, and you can hear every bit of influence they had on the entire genre after them. Much more listenable than SUNNATA.

2021-03-11
SUNNATA
Burning in Heaven, Melting on Earth

This is a Polish metal band that plays a sort of grimey doom metal that also happens at times to sound a weird amount like Alice in Chains and Screaming Trees, without being as fun or weird as either. I don't know if I like it? But it has made me want to go listen to Screaming Trees.

This is my review.

2021-03-07
Black Nash
Black Nash

I know you're not supposed to describe music by saying "it sounds like this combined with this." It's presumptuous and diminishing.

But Black Nash sounds like a combination of Steve Lacy and Devendra Banhart. Like precisely. Take Lacy's lo-fi minimalist recordings of whip-sharp old school R&B guitar work and pop melodicism, and run it through Devendra Banhart's psychedelic weirdo surrealist crooner filter, and you've got yourself Black Nash.

And damn, it absolutely works. I got this album on a whim during Friday's monthly Bandcamp sale, and on first listen thought maybe it was a bust, but since then I've zipped through it probably 4 times. It's fun and weird but totally vibes, with that Ween-like energy of total technical competency that doesn't take itself seriously. But thankfully, while we're talking comparisons, that's where that particular comparison ends.

2021-02-27
Metallica
A Ranking of Every Metallica Song

My entire life has led me to this.

Originals only, official recordings. No covers, although that could be its own list. Oh and nothing from Lulu, because jesus christ. Stick around afterwards for some thoughts.

Here we go:

1. One
2. Master of Puppets
3. Battery
4. The Unforgiven
5. Dyers Eve
6. Damage Inc.
7. Wherever I May Roam
8. Orion
9. Creeping Death
10. Enter Sandman
11. Bleeding Me
12. Blackened
13. Escape
14. For Whom the Bell Tolls
15. Hero Of The Day
16. My Friend of Misery
17. The Four Horsemen
18. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
19. Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)
20. Disposable Heroes
21. Sad But True
22. …And Justice For All
23. Nothing Else Matters
24. Fade to Black
25. Harvester of Sorrow
26. Ride the Lightning
27. The Outlaw Torn
28. To Live Is To Die
29. Leper Messiah
30. Hit The Lights
31. Ain’t My Bitch
32. The God that Failed
33. Frayed Ends of Sanity
34. Until it Sleeps
35. Fight Fire With Fire
36. Fixxxer
37. King Nothing
38. The Thing That Should Not Be
39. The Call of Ktulu
40. No Remorse
41. The Unforgiven II
42. The Shortest Straw
43. Phantom Lord
44. Carpe Diem Baby
45. Fuel
46. The House that Jack Built
47. Eye of the Beholder
48. Spit Out The Bone
49. Whiplash
50. Through The Never
51. The Thorn Within
52. Mama Said
53. Of Wolf and Man
54. Jump In The Fire
55. Where the Wild Things Are
56. The Memory Remains
57. 2 X 4
58. No Leaf Clover
59. Ronnie
60. Poor Twisted Me
61. Low Man’s Lyric
62. Seek & Destroy
63. Metal Militia
64. Cure
65. Motorbreath
66. Struggle Within
67. Don’t Tread on Me
68. Trapped Under Ice
69. Holier Than Thou
70. St. Anger
71. Slither
72. I Disappear
73. Devil’s Dance
74. Dream No More
75. Broken Beaten Scarred
76. Halo On Fire
77. Now That We’re Dead
78. Wasting My Hate
79. All Within My Hands
80. -Human
81. Halo on Fire
82. Cyanide
83. Man Unkind
84. Moth Into The Flame
85. Atlas Rise
86. Dirty Window
87. Better Than You
88. That Was Just Your Life
89. Judas Kiss
90. Attitude
91. End of the Line
92. Hardwired
93. Confusion
94. Lords of Summer
95. Am I Savage?
96. Bad Seed
97. The Unnamed Feeling
98. All Nightmare Long
99. Shoot Me Again
100. My Apocalypse
101. Unforgiven III
102. Some Kind of Monster
103. Frantic
104. Murder One
105. Prince Charming
106. The Day That Never Comes
107. Sweet Amber
108. Purify
109. Here Comes Revenge
110. Suicide & Redemption
111. My World
112. Invisible Kid

This started two weeks ago when I did my once-per-decade dive into St. Anger to try to once and for all figure it out. There's a big long stupid writeup about it a few posts down if you care, but I hope you don't care too much. The main takeaway from that listen is that almost every track on that weird fucking album had something interesting in it—even if that interesting thing was in service to an awful song. It got me in a state of thinking about Metallica, which is something that happens to me sometimes. I then spent the last two weeks doing a deep, deep dive into every album, especially their newest ones, which, like St. Anger, I never really investigated thoroughly enough to form any strong opinions about. Going back and forth from the old stuff to the new stuff to the middle stuff and back, I actually started seeing it as a whole body of work, rather than a walled-off series of eras. I even started liking the "new" stuff more than I ever did? Inasmuch as anyone is actually able to "like" it.

Then I remembered I have a music blog. So here we are. Here's some important thoughts:

Surprised how quickly it got difficult. 1 and 2 are "One" and "Master", no questions asked. I've looked at a lot of other lists that websites have put together, and many of them have "One" lower, but as far as I'm concerned, it's still the best thing the band ever did, and one of my most beloved pieces of music by anyone ever. And then "Master," many sites' #1 choice, is obviously a perfect piece of heavy metal. It's untouchable and inarguable. But then immediately at #3, I wasn't sure what felt right. On a personal level, I almost went with "Dyers Eve," but after listening through to my favorites multiple times, I just felt like it doesn't have the objective strengths of something like "Battery." Again, most lists I read put "Damage Inc." higher, even on top, but I think "Battery" is a much stronger composition.

The first real place that some fuckin hesher longhair might scoff at this is with "The Unforgiven." When I was just kinda mind-compiling this list before actually writing anything down or even listening too deeply, I don't think I considered this song so high. Yet when I went through the Black Album, it really stuck out and I couldn't ignore that it's truly been a favorite of mine ever since I was a kid. And not that I'm trying to sequence this list in any way, but 1–3 are pretty heavy thrash, and it just felt like one of their mid-tempos or ballads needed high placement. "Unforgiven" felt very right, even more than "Nothing Else Matters" or "Fade to Black" (the former of which, I must admit even as a snob, is better than the latter).

"Orion" in the top 10. I think this has been a favorite of true-heads forever, but I always thought of it as "just one of the instrumentals." Like, it's okay I guess, and with that little bass lick in the middle, but I never really canonized it growing up in the same way I did their "real" songs. It's only been in recent years of my adult life that I've gone back to it and realized how absolutely perfect of a piece it is, and that maybe there was something to all that Cliff Burton worship after all. It rules.

"Bleeding Me" introduces Load all the way at #11. I've long been a staunch defender of Load for literal decades now. I won't waste your time with my essay here, but I think it is a good and sometimes great album, despite being a point of mockery with certain sects of metal dudes. I don't think any list I saw online had anything from that album anywhere in the top 20, and even then it's often "Hero of the Day" or "Until It Sleeps" that sneak in. But I think "Bleeding Me" is a beautiful piece of work, and I almost wish I could've snuck it into the top 10. But there's no way I'm moving "Orion" or "Roam" or fucking "Enter Sandman" for it.

Fuck you, I'm going with "Escape." James Hetfield has publicly hated "Escape" for three decades. Fans have long dismissed it as absolute filler on an otherwise killer album. I too would almost always skip it to get to "Creeping Death" on my Discman. But about 6 or 7 years ago, I was listening to Lightning in my car, and "Escape" came on and something clicked. "Escape" rules, you guys. Yes it does stand out from their work at the time for its simplicity—no tricky riffs, no complex interludes, an easy bopping mid-up-tempo, a power metal singalong melody for the chorus. It's almost their first pop song? It's stuck with me ever since that listen, and I truly think it's one of their best pure, simple compositions. It's #13 and you can fight me behind the gas station.

"Spit Out the Bone"? WTF? Before this exercise, I couldn't even have told you which of the 3 "newest" albums "Spit Out The Bone" was on. Magnetic and Hardwired in particular were just a blur in my mind. But part of this whole thing was just to be able to dig in to those two albums to make some more sense of them, actually hear the songs as songs rather than just passing them off as late-era old-men-trying-to-find-that-old-flame bullshit. I ended up being more impressed with both of these albums than I was before, but I was fully awestruck by the final track on Hardwired, "Spit Out The Bone." I think in previous (rare) listens, I barely even got to the last track, or was otherwise so exhausted or bored that it didn't even register. But when I finally gave it my attention... holy shit "Spit Out The Bone" is great! It fucking thrashes! It's got hooks! It's got riffs! I don't want to say it's like "old Metallica" again, but it's the absolute closest they've gotten since Justice. And the fact that it landed as high as #39, ahead of a handful of tracks from Justice and Lightning, is mind-blowing to me. I didn't think they had it in them. But it also pisses me off, because if they did have this in them, why did they save it all for this one track??

"Carpe Diem Baby" is actually good? I know, weird. ReLoad is almost entirely filler, very little killer. And over the years I've melded all that filler into one lump of forgettable nothing in my mind. But going back and doing deep listening for this exercise, I'll be damned if "Carpe Diem Baby" isn't actually one of the best tracks on that album. Stupid title aside, it's a good tune, good melodies, weird cool harmonies, groovy riffs. I think the stupid title is maybe what made me pass it off this whole time.

How does each album fare? Interestingly enough, ranking by the average placement of each album's songs, the rankings more or less align with my head-canon of which albums are the best-slash-favorite, with maybe a little surprise or two.

If you held a gun to my head over the years, I would've told you Justice is my favorite Metallica album. The numbers say otherwise, and I'm okay with that. "Favorite" and "best" are maybe two different things. There's no denying the greatness of Puppets. My biggest surprise here is how well Lightning fares. Honestly, in my heart, I'd put both Black and Load (I know, right?) above it. But I think when it comes to ranking these things song-by-song, there's just so little chaff on Lightning to weigh it down. "Trapped Under Ice" is the closest we get, whereas Black and Load both have 3 or 4 (or 5) tracks that place so low that they pull the averages down. But if this was a desert island situation, honestly, I'd keep Black before I keep Lightning. Heresy, I know.

The bottom half of the list is less surprising. St. Anger stinks. There's no denying it. But I'm a little shocked how close it came to Death Magnetic, only about 2 points separate them! And yet I can barely sit and listen to St. Anger without bashing my head against a wall, while Magnetic, especially after hearing it multiple times throughout this little exercise, has grown damn-near enjoyable to me.

Here's a chart to visualize the dominance of Puppets and Justice.

What I did here, see, is to block out each album on the list (in chronological order), stretched from their first appearance on the list to the last. I was just curious to see how often the worst song on one album places higher than the best song on another. As you can see, Puppets and Justice far outpace anything from St. Anger and Magnetic, as does Kill, Lightning, and Black. This would almost be the case with Hardwired too, if it wasn't for that pesky and shockingly good track "Spit Out The Bone," which placed much higher than anything else on any of those albums, and sort of skewed the results of this exercise. That song placed just one spot after Justice's "Eye of the Beholder." An earlier edit of the list actually had "Spit" beating "Eye," but I did one last listen and decided that just wasn't the case.

The other flukey thing here is the title track of "St. Anger," which I placed farther up than it might deserve, keeping it from being shut out by Load. As it looks, it just barely got beat by Black. I still don't know how exactly I feel about placing this song so high—as I feel about a lot of that album, it's fucking weird, and has some moments that make me want to chuck my headphones out a window. But it also has some ferocious momentum and energy, and some cool weird vocal shit (there's a theme here) and interesting call backs to some of their very early work. It's interesting. Does it deserve to be at #70? I wrote the list so I guess it does.

The Listenability Horizon

Something that impressed me is that, considering how long this band has been around, and for how intensely mockable much of that career has been, when I look at the full list of songs, there are many more that I enjoy listening to than not. The point at which this break happens is right there at #86, "Dirty Window," still somehow the third best song from St. Anger. Anything above "Dirty Window" I'll gladly sit and give a spin and bob my head and make secret little metal horns with my fingers. Everything below becomes a chore. A little math tells me this that break happens at the 78th percentile of the list! I'd say that's pretty good! If you were to ask me before this list, I would've guessed something closer to 50%. Still sad how much of the new albums find themselves below that threshold though. I'd say this is maybe because I'm underrating these Magnetic songs in particular, but I think it might actually be that St. Anger is slowly and unexpectedly impressing it self onto me. Like maybe it's actually a little good and weird and cool? Maybe?

I should note also that "All Within My Hands," the only other song from St. Anger above the Listenability Horizon, is there almost out of a grudging respect rather than any actual enjoyment I get out of the track. It's a fucking weird song. Easily the weirdest thing they've ever done (Lulu not withstanding), practically "experimental" as far as these things go. Is it fun to listen to? No. But out of sheer respect for committing it to tape and keeping it in the cut, I placed it higher on the list than it probably actually deserves.

And funny to see how so much of Hardwired juuuuuuust squeaks its way on the listenable side of the line. And that plays out in reality—a whole lot of that album is just interesting enough to keep my attention. But just barely.

One more thing stands out from this graph. Lookie here:

Song placements on the list generally cluster pretty cleanly from album to album. But I noticed two large gaps, where the distance between the worst (and best) song on an album is much wider than most other gaps. The songs in question are "Trapped Under Ice" from Lightning, and (here we go again) "Spit Out The Bone" from Hardwired. Both are crazy outliers on their respective albums. In the case of "Trapped," it's also an outlier in my own opinion. I hate that song. Never liked it. Don't know why, most lists place it pretty high, some people think it's one of their better pure thrash tracks. Whatever, I think it stinks and I always have. And its low placement really drags down Lightning's average. Funny because my high opinion of "Escape" goes a long way to even it out. As for "Spit Out The Bone," look—it's 3 minutes too long, but when it's humming, it actually kinda rules. Far and away better than anything else on Hardwired.

Okay, just one last chart:

Just about sums it all up huh? (Actually while we're here, I just want to mention that "The Unforgiven II" is a way, way, better song than it has any right to be. A fucking sequel to a song that literally puts a "II" in the title, and then has the gall to use the phrase "You're unforgiven too" in the lyrics? Fuck you! But I'll be damned, it's a totally solid song and genuinely works as a sequel to the original. I don't know of any other instance in popular music that this has actually happened before or since. The third one, though, is garbage.)

That doesn't actually sum it all up. This does. My ultimate takeaway from this whole thing isn't particularly earth-shaking: Metallica is a good band. Wow, right? But seriously, I've been listening to so fucking much of this stuff for the last week—I've been listening to so fucking much of this stuff for my whole life, really—and at no point have I started to see any cracks. On the contrary, the stuff that I assumed was nothing but cracks has proven itself much more competent than I gave it credit for! Yes, all my old critiques of their newer records still apply: they're trying way too hard to impress everybody who "doubted" them, they're throwing around way too many intros and transitions and tricky time signature breaks and adding too many bridges and outros, it's all way too much. Too many notes. But when they fucking chill out and jam, and most importantly land on actual melody (melody, as stupid as it sounds, has truly been Metallica's sharpest weapon since the 80s; for all the emphasis on speed and aggression and heaviness in this stupid genre, this band has always outdone their peers in the simple ability to write a good song), they can still put together some amazing moments! And they're pushing 60!

As for the old stuff, there's truly not much else to add, other than an unceasing admiration for all of it. Those classic albums are every bit as good as everyone has been making them for decades. There's no "um actually" to be found. Nobody can argue their way out of Master of Puppets, you know? It's undeniable. Quintessential. People can try to argue out of The Black Album, but at some point they need to just give in. Listen to that thing. Dud songs aside, the killer is killer, and it sounds like the greatest heavy music ever engineered. I'm even getting the sense in recent years that Load is starting to get some amount of respect that it has long deserved. Doing this stupid deep listen into all this stuff hasn't spoiled any of these old records.

Ok so I guess is the part where I restate my hypothesis and bring it to a close or something. But I'm not going to because I just learned that Rob Trujillo has now been Metallica's bass player for longer than Cliff Burton and Jason Newstead combined. This fun fact has shaken me to the core, and means I'm far too old to waste any more time writing this longform analysis of a 40 year old band. Yikes.

Join me next year when I will rank every Grateful Dead live bootleg.

2021-04-11
Skylight DinerManhattan
Cheese omelette and sausage

It's been so long since I've sat in a diner and eaten breakfast. So long. You know this, why am I telling you? We've all gone through this shit at the same time, I don't need to sit here and tell you how much I missed eating breakfast in a diner.

This very average omelette and sausage links and home fries at the very average Skylight Diner in Chelsea on a very average Saturday morning was the absolute best kind of average. I loved it and I can't wait to do it again.

2021-04-11
Joey Bats CafeManhattan
Pastéis de nata

Just need to update you that I ate another pastéis de nata. This one at the incomprehensibly named Joey Bats Cafe in the Lower East Side. It's far hipper than the Teixeira Bakery in Newark, more expensive than the Teixeira Bakery in Newark, but not as good as the Teixeira Bakery in Newark.

Don't get me wrong, it was good. If you're in the Lower East Side and want a pastéis de nata, by all means absolutely do it. You'd be crazy not to. But if you can only eat one pastéis de nata this year (that would be a weird situation... what would lead to that?), get yourself to Newark.

2021-02-15
MincaManhattan
Ramen, gyoza

Minca is pretty old as far as American ramen shops are concerned—it was apparently one of the first to open in New York City during the initial ramen boom of the early 2000s, and it's still going strong 20 years later. Impressively strong, actually, considering it's still just a tiny little kitchen with a bar and a couple tables in the Lower East Side. Considering time and its reputation, you'd imagine someone would've convinced them to expand or otherwise upgrade over the years, yet they've seemingly decided just to keep it simple and make good ramen. Even the menus look like they were designed in Microsoft Word and printed on someone's inkjet in the basement.

As for the ramen: excellent. The pork was maybe the best pork I've ever had in a ramen bowl—it was fatty and melty like you'll often find, but it also had a perfect caramelized char on the outside, a little smokey even, which led to some perfect bites on the edges. The pork alone made the trip worth it. The rest of the ramen was delish, no complaints at all, but was outshined by the pork.

Meanwhile, the gyoza: unbelievably almost as good as the pork. And also maybe the best gyoza I've ever had. Just about perfect.

Also worth mentioning we ate in an outdoor Covid cabana on a 25 degree day, right next to a space heater. Which I think might actually be the perfect way to eat ramen.

2021-01-31
GlazeManhattan
Chicken teriyaki

Glaze serves "Seattle style" teriyaki. Which of course means "overpriced and heavily gentrified, yet so serene and tasteful that you can't help but to enjoy it." Their two locations are in Midtown and Williamsburg, their branding looks like a podcast-sponsor meal kit company, and yet it was the best teriyaki I've ever had* and I don't know whether to love Glaze, hate Glaze, or hate myself for loving Glaze.

(* Don't get too excited, I haven't had much teriyaki in my life.)

2020-12-30
Regina's GroceryManhattan
Meatball parm

Regina's is a new-fake-old Italian deli in a real-old space in the old-fake-new Lower East Side. The guy who runs it was rude as hell and I waited a half hour for my order, but I wasn't even mad because this was the best meatball sandwich I've had in this town.

2020-12-30
BorrachitoManhattan
Tacos

Okay tacos. Don't know why I'm posting about them. Moving on.

2020-12-30
Maison PickleManhattan
24 layer chocolate cake

I didn't mention in the post below that we went to Emily for my birthday, which was already almost 4 weeks ago because I'm terrible at updating this blog. While we were in Manhattan for such a special day (my birthday), we decided to go all out and take a bus (you're not a real New Yorker until you realize that sometimes the bus is better than the subway) to the Upper West Side to get a slice of 24-layer chocolate cake from Maison Pickle. This place seems to want to be famous for its french dip sandwich, but has seemingly become more famous for its 24-layer cakes. Thus, us on a bus.

(I was going to add more here, but I just wrote that sentence and now I cannot continue. This review has peaked. The cake was good but not hype-worthy.)

2020-12-09
EmilyManhattan
Burger

Some people say the Emily burger is the best burger in the city. I'm not going to go as far as to say that it is; when I ate it, it was delicious, but I felt that I was more impressed by the burger at Mu (a precisely constructed work of burger art), and more spiritually satisfied by the burger at Andrew's Luncheonette (like a good no bullshit midwest bar burger).

However. If you were to come up to me right now, with a tray containing a Mu burger, an Andrew's burger, and an Emily burger... I think I would choose to eat the Emily burger.

What does that mean?

2020-12-09
Bubby'sManhattan
Thanksgiving dinner

You don't need me to tell you that Thanksgiving was weird this year. Erin and I (and you, hopefully) decided to stay home and get a pre-made dinner with all the trimmins from Bubby's, a down-home comfort food diner in Tribeca. Bubby's, coincidentally, started in 2000 as a pop-up pie shop on Thanksgiving day! They weirdly didn't seem to mention the fact that it was literally their 20th anniversary, but it's a nice piece of trivia, no?

Anyway I will now rank the items we received as part of Bubby's Thanksgiving dinner:

  1. Stuffing
  2. Biscuit and jam
  3. Potatoes and gravy
  4. Sweet potatoes
  5. Ham
  6. Green bean casserole
  7. Deviled eggs
  8. Cranberry sauce
  9. Pickled veggies
  10. Ambrosia salad
  11. Pumpkin pie
  12. Salad
  13. Turkey dark meat
  14. Roasted vegetables
  15. Apple pie
  16. Turkey white meat
  17. Pecan pie

The pecan pie had orange zest in it. Or something. It was a real mess. And that turkey, yikes. Still! I'd call it a success! Thanks Bubby!

2020-10-16
Pastrami QueenManhattan
Pastrami sandwich

Holy shit I forgot to write about Pastrami Queen! Yikes. This goes all the way back to the "early days" of the pandemic—which simultaneously feels like years ago and just weeks ago—back when everything sucked but was still somewhat novel rather than being the full-on idiotopia that we currently find ourselves in.

Everyone knows Katz's, and I know I've raved and wept about Katz's on this site, or maybe to your face. And Katz's is indeed beautiful. I've also maybe typed one or two posts about other pastrami-heavy Jewish delis around town, how they've been disappearing for a couple decades, how there are still a handful still hanging around, blah blah blah. Well the one that seems to get the most attention outside of that (beautiful) place is Pastrami Queen.

Compared to its big competition downtown, Pastrami Queen is practically invisible from the street. It looks like it could be just about any other random shitty deli—cheap sign that was seemingly just put up a few years ago, bad logo that was probably designed by someone in Power Point two decades ago, and the space itself isn't much more impressive. It has a bit of an old school feel, but it's mostly just a quick take-out counter and fridge full of drinks. It's not nearly the spectacle that Katz's is.

But that's not really the point. The point is that their pastrami sandwich is damn near as good! And almost as expensive! I finally had an opportunity to stop in sometime back in May or June, when I finally decided to brave the pandemic and bike up through Manhattan. That's a whole other blog post—the whole island was such a weird unsettling ghost town for a couple months there. But anyway I got my sandwich, sat outside and ate it on a construction barrier, and enjoyed the hell out of it.

2020-10-13
Scarr's PizzaManhattan
Pepperoni pizza

I'm so far behind on food updates that I'm just gonna leave this one here and hopefully get back to it later. Things have been crazy, ok?

2020-04-28
New York Times CookingManhattan
Coq au vin

This isn't a recipe blog, but these are difficult times. So here, go make this recipe and prepare yourself to thank me, because it will be the best damn meal you'll make yourself all year.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018529-coq-au-vin

2020-03-28
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.

2020-03-17
Los Tacos No. 1Manhattan
Tacos

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.

2020-02-16
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?

2020-02-12
PongalManhattan
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.

2019-12-13
Prince Street PizzaManhattan
Detroit style pizza

I biked through SoHo on a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, which wasn't a great idea because SoHo on a Saturday afternoon is a shitshow of tourists who think they're too good to be part of the Times Square shitshow of tourists. Plus those brick paved streets. Yikes.

Anyway while I was weaving through the mobs, I noticed two establishments which had roped off lines of people down the sidewalk waiting to get in; one was Moncler, maker of extremely expensive extremely French goose down jackets, and the other was Prince Street Pizza. Maker of pizza.

I don't think I'm super plugged in to the pizza trends in this town, and I thought maybe I'd heard of Prince Street Pizza before, but I was surprised to see the sheer number of people lined up for a slice—not to mention the preparedness of the place to deal with such a line. Clearly they get this every weekend. But I had no idea why.

So a week or two later, I was in the area on a random weeknight and thought I'd go see what the big deal was. Best case, I figured, was I'd get a decent fresh slice comparable to John's—pretty fine New York pizza that becomes so inexplicably popular that its fresh pizza turnover rate allows quality becomes self reflexive—and at worst I'd still get an okay slice of pizza. But Prince Street threw me a curveball: Detroit style!

You know about Detroit style, right? Well I'm not gonna get into it here. Go ahead and google it. But I assume that Prince Street just recently made a switch to Detroit style (or opened anew), and probably got some press somewhere or another, and now they've got lines around the block. Thing about Detroit style pizza is, it's legit. I don't think it's a fad, I don't think it's a marketing ploy, it's not some make believe bullshit like, ugh, Sota-style (thanks Red's Savoy). It's real and it's beautiful and it's almost always delicious. And Prince Street's was more delicious. Seriously fantastic. Maybe the best slice I've had in the city so far? I think it might be.

2019-12-13
Shanghai 21Manhattan
Soup dumplings, spare ribs

There's a whole lot of Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, and I'm not about to try to tell you which are the good ones and bad ones. Big Wong's does a totally decent roast duck and rice for cheap, North Dumpling does totally decent dumplings for shockingly cheap, the Malaysian jerky shop is always a fun stop to make, and now I can confidently tell you that Shanghai 21 does very good soup dumplings and even better spare ribs. Not necessarily cheap cheap, but that's not really the selling point here.

2019-10-29
TaïmManhattan
Falafel

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

2019-10-10
Sardi'sManhattan
French onion soup

Sardi's is one of those famous old Manhattan joints that you've probably seen in a movie and has probably been referenced on Seinfeld where the bartenders wear bowties and there are autographed celebrity caricatures all over the walls and you can go sit and pay way too much for a drink after seeing a Broadway show. I can't speak for the drinks, but their world famous French onion soup was totally decent, as were the meatballs. And you know what? It was nice! It was a nice chill pleasant evening in a weird old bar, which is actually a pretty rare thing in the middle of Times Square's nonsense.

2019-07-29
Hudson & CharlesManhattan
Roast beef sandwich

This is the best sandwich I've had in New York, and seriously, I don't remember where I got it. It was a sort of bougie artisanal-type butcher shop on the Upper West Side (or was it just in the high 50s of Midtown?), and I've been looking all over Google Maps to figure it out, but I think it just disappeared. It's the Brigadoon of sandwich shops. But anyway, it was a roast beef with arugula and horseradish—very much like Clancy's but not quite up to that god-status level—and it was a beautiful reprieve from the endless parade of Boar's Head cold cuts that this city usually offers.

If I figure out where I got it, I'll be sure to let you know.

UPDATE: Hudson & Charles. That's the name of the place. It's on 86th and Amsterdam. There you go.

2019-04-29
MomofukuManhattan
Spicy pork belly ramen, sausage buns

The gist: Extremely hot ramen, sweaty bros next to us couldn't handle it, incredible sausage buns, chicken wings that looked unbelievable but where only just pretty good. Momofuku is for real and surprisingly affordable and accessible. Just maybe think real hard about going spicy.

2019-03-16
Lions and Tigers and SquaresManhattan
Detroit style pizza

I'm going to try to keep this short. Because there's so many levels to it that I'm just exhausted from it already, especially having just written a 30 page essay about black and white cookies. Here's what's up: Detroit-style pizza is a thing now. It's a thing. Do they really make pizza like this in Detroit? Because if you ask me, what's known as Detroit-style pizza is what Rocky Rococo has been making my entire life. Square pan, thick crust with butter-crispy edges, personal sized pizza. You can even find versions of it in this city called something like "Sicilian style" or "grandma style." Where did this Detroit thing come from? Are you from Detroit? Can you help me?

That said: Detroit style pizza is delicious. Lions and Tigers and Squares, a new little shop that's decided to kickstart the trend in Chelsea, does a fine job of making it. It's probably an insult to them for me to say I like Rocky Rococo better though. But that's okay; Rocky Rococo is the best. Have you been there lately? There's one left in Brooklyn Center. Check it out.

And I have to admit, despite my annoyance at this whole "Detroit" thing, Lions and Tigers and Squares is an extremely clever name. Think about it.