Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer Albums

It's July. Your cruisin' with the car windows rolled down, your best friend in the passenger seat (which might be your Labrador, Lucy, if you're me), and nowhere to be for the rest of the day but the beach or someone's birthday BBQ. What else could you possible need? The ultimate summer soundtrack blaring out your shoddy stereo system, that's what!

In keeping with this, I present to you a list of summer 2008 albums for your consideration and, I hope, enjoyment:

M83 -- Saturdays=Youth
Ultimate Summer Track: "We Own the Sky". Hands down. This song is brimming with airy, multi-layered synths, wide-eyed innocence, romance and a little bit of mystery all against an uncomplicated drum machine. It's like coming of age in five minutes. 

Cut Copy -- In Ghost Colours
Ultimate Summer Track: Pretty much everything on here. This is one of those albums that's solid from start to finish. That said, I literally look for someone to high five whenever I hear "Hearts on Fire"

MGMT -- Oracular Spectacular
Ultimate Summer Track: I might be tempted to say "Time to Pretend" because of how much the beginning of the song makes me think of fireflies; however, the nod goes to "Electric Feel," which has a groovy, summer of love kind of thing going on that I... well, let's just say I dig it.

Does It Offend You, Yeah? -- You Have No Idea What You Are Getting Yourself Into
Ultimate Summer Track: "Let's Make Out". Needless to say, making out is great for summer. I can't emphasize enough how much I dislike the band's name, but I digress. The album is like a solid pass through Blood Brothers and Death from Above 1979 and, alternately, The Killers and The Bravery (their older, better work).

The Presets -- Apocalypso
Ultimate Summer Track: "Anywhere". Didn't make it to Ibiza this summer? No prob. Just pop in this track and you're halfway there -- with some of Australia's finest gentlemen of electronica, no less.

Crystal Castles -- Crystal Castles
Ultimate Summer Track: "Courtship Dating" is space pop with unintelligible lyrics and some well-placed screaming -- it roolz!

Ultimate Summer Track: "Brown Bike". This album is like taking a road trip down the Baja Peninsula. The horn section is especially rock and roll.

There you have it. Enjoy.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Projects Up and Coming

Happy Belated 4th!

I am currently hosting two guests, Russell Bentley and the lovely Sky Madden. 

Russell BentleyIMG_0735
We went downtown to watch the fireworks right next to the S.S. Midway and got stuck in traffic for the next couple of hours following the demonstration. Still not sure if it was worth it.

Here are the things on my plate at the moment:

I am currently helping the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society put together a cookbook featuring historical recipes, contemporary submissions from current residents and famous recipes from local businesses. I'm hoping to get Chino's Farm, The Inn, Delicious, Thyme in the Ranch, and Milles Fleures on board as well. I'm also helping the society renovate their website and begin a blog to update their members. We'll see how that goes.

When I'm not spending time with Russell and Sky (and Miss Lucille), I'm working on my summer Arts Reporting directed study. I've read some submissions from MFK Fisher and Alex Kapranos' collection of food memoires from his tour with Franz Ferdinand called Sound Bites. Next I will read "Vibration Cooking or the Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl" by Vertamae Grosvenor in order to write an essay comparing the three as well as my own food memoire. Where to begin? I have so many great memories that involve food.

I'm also working on an essay about the importance of lyrics. Namely, do they matter in music? If so, under what circumstances do they matter? The Professor of Pop (who is currently away from the internet for a month or so to write about Zep) is overseeing this one. Feel free to give me your thoughts on lyrics. I've gotten a mixed bag of answers so far.

More to come. 

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Let Us Discuss Lettuce

This summer I am taking a directed study course on arts reporting with assignments from Professor Teresa Moore and the Professor of Pop, Andrew Goodwin.

One of my first assignments was a food comparison exercise. I was to select and compare nine different types of salad greens, focusing on aspects like softness/crunchiness and sweetness/bitterness, among others. Here is what I found:

Heirloom Freckles Romaine Lettuce (from my own garden)
Heirloom Freckles Romaine Lettuce (from my garden)Freckles romaine lettuce -- an heirloom variety -- is oval, narrowing at the base of the stem. The leaves are smooth, slightly waxy and very thin, tearing easily. Their color is striking – pale green with blood-red freckles and a light pink stem. They taste grassy and nutty with a sweet finish.

FrisseeFrissée has thin pale-yellow branch-like stems off a thicker main stem. The jagged, narrow chartreuse green leaves on these branches curl around each other, adding to the tangle of aggressively bitter greens. The leaves are soft, but the stem is crunchy and rigid – this unusual structure makes it somewhat difficult to eat.

Iceberg lettuceIceberg lettuce has waxy, concave round leaves with a ragged edge. These leaves hug closely to one another, the foremost leaves conforming to the layers beneath it. Iceberg is pale green at the base and lime green around the edges of the leaves. The top of each leaf is soft and floppy and partially crunchy like Styrofoam towards the base. It is watery and sweet with a grassy finish.

SpinachSpinach’s fibrous, dimpled leaves are lobed, almost spade-shaped at times and grow a single leaf to each stem. They are medium green, dull and soft with fine veins. The stems are long, thin and crunchy. Spinach is nutty and slightly salty with a metallic finish. The stem has a greater concentration of this flavor. The smaller leaves seem to be bitterer.

Romaine Lettuce
Romaine LettuceRomaine is large, compared to other salad greens, with a round tip that becomes jagged on the edges near the base. It is leathery and slightly ruffled with many veins and a big stalk-like pale green stem. The leaves are a medium green with a mild flavor and only a hint of bitterness in the stalk. The leaves are soft relative to the crunchy stem.

RadicchioRadicchio is soft and flexible at the edge of the leaf with a stiff, crunchy stem. It has a waxy texture, similar to iceberg lettuce – rounded into a concave “bowl” with many ripples and folds. Radicchio is predominantly a saturated magenta with contrasting white veins and stem. Its taste is equally sweet and bitter.

Arugula (from my garden)
Arugula (from my garden)Arugula has a thin, crunchy stem and soft, flat lobed leaves that increase in size up the stem and end with a round lobe at the top. These leaves are grass green with thin magenta veins and rimmed with the same bright pink color along the edge. Arugula is not overly toothsome, but it is fibrous like spinach. The taste of arugula is nutty and salty initially, followed immediately by intense bitterness and a peppery punch that moves in quickly and recedes slowly from the tongue. The flowers are also edible with a similar taste.

Red Mustard Greens
Red mustard greensMustard Greens are thin and feathery, like a quill, with a pointy leaf and edges that poke out like flattened green fused thorns. The leaves are flat towards the tip and slightly curly where jagged along the edge. The stem is crunchy with tiny prickly hairs that disappear towards the base of the leaf. Most leaves are a medium green with a yellow tone; however, some have a deep pink stem, much like radicchio, while some stems are predominantly yellow with a hint of pink. The flavor of mustard greens is intensely bitter (the magenta-stemmed ones appear to be more bitter than their yellow-stemmed counterparts), then nutty with an acrid finish.

Belgian endive
Belgian endiveBelgian Endive’s leaves are very pale – almost white – yellow with light fuzz (like one finds on a peach). This fuzz is denser on the top of each leaf. The edge of the leaf is soft and tears easily. The stem is thick and crunchy and blends into the thin leafy portion. The leaves fit tightly together like shingles to form a dense core and when pulled apart resemble hollowed out rabbits’ feet. Belgian endive is slightly bitter, although less so than frissée.

These are just a few of the many varieties of lettuce out there. Next on my agenda is to make three recipes using some of these greens. Stay tuned for that.