Posts from 21st October 2004

21
Oct 04

An open letter to

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 284 views

An open letter to Fancy A Pint.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for FINALLY starting to link to Streetmap for your maps of where pubs are. This is a lot easier than copying the postcode from the pub description, opening streetmap, putting the postcode in and then searching for it, and infinately better than the crappy old maps which were of very little use. Who knows, your directions from the nearest tube might start to make sense soon ;)

My Theory Of Magazine Buying

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 227 views

My Theory Of Magazine Buying

Apologies if I have gone into this before. Inspired by a Dissensus thread on the well-meaning Observer Music Monthly.

Basically once you’ve got to the stage where you actually know about something it’s best to stop buying magazines about it. This truth lies behind about 50% of the criticism of pop magazines (my grumblings included) – we know too much about music to get anything out of them, any magazine is going to be imperfect (especially compared to the ones we read when we didn’t know too much). It’s going to leave stuff out, it’s going to get its focus wrong, it’s going to spend time giving readers all that context that we picked up years ago.

Magazines tend to aim at the enthusiastic newcomer, and this more than ‘demographic targeting’ is why their audience naturally cycles. I really understood this when I stopped buying music ones and started buying mags about football and computer games – subjects I am interested in but know a great deal less about. They were fantastic – so much information, so much wit, so much enthusiasm! Why wasn’t there a pop equivalent of EDGE or When Saturday Comes? – those mags were giving me the buzz I’d got off Smash Hits when I started reading it, or the Melody Maker when I started reading it, or The Wire when…

You see a pattern? I’m already sick of EDGE, as it happens – after reading for a couple of years I know its prejudices too well (drooling over another import-only Japanese side-scrolling shooter…eyes glaze…). WSC continues to enthral but another FT contributor – who actually writes for them sometimes – seems as cynical about that magazine as I might be about Mojo.

So what I’m saying boils banally down to “don’t like em? don’t buy em!”. But it’s not that simple. Because magazines do appeal to the newcomer rather than the know-it-all, it matters even more that they do the job well. Meaning? That they don’t pander to received wisdom and quick-forming prejudices, that they find angles the reader won’t have thought of, that they’re as happy to reach for generosity as cynicism… it may be no good me complaining about Q et al/ these days, because they’ll never give me what I want, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them.

Light moustache for multiball

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Light moustache for multiball: the Hitler pinball machine may have been canned but we hope the Moses edition enters production – hit all ten commandments for jackpot…

Whose Cuisine Reigns Supreme?

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William Crump dines with the Iron Chef

In late 2001 I had just moved back to Mississippi after three and a half years in northern California, where I’d cultivated my gourmandism mostly on the cheap – during trips to the Bay Area, I discovered lamb shawarmas in the Noe Valley, Korean barbecue on Telegraph Avenue, pho in the Tenderloin, and the house-cured gravlax at the Dipsea Cafe in Mill Valley. I spent hours at a time communing with nature, if by “communing with nature” you mean “face-first in a pile of Dungeness crabs and a cooler full of Sierra Nevada.”

This was also the time when the Japanese cooking show Iron Chef hit big in the States, thanks to the Food Network’s repackaging of the Fuji TV series Ryori no Tetsujin. Iron Chef was a Friday night staple for several years – along with Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but that’s another story. By the time I moved back to the South, my tastes had gone global and my appetite was around the bend. I was also moving back within shouting distance of my good friend George Takaeda, part-time sushi chef and two-fisted gourmand. George and I have logged a lot of miles and eaten a lot of merely okay meals in search of transcendent cuisine.

When we heard that “Iron Chef Japanese” Masaharu Morimoto had left Nobu in NYC to start his own restaurant in Philadelphia, we hatched the plan to find cheap airfares and fly up Philly long enough to eat at the table of the Tetsujin. George’s brother Terry worked in Philadelphia at the time, so we would crash at his place; all it would cost would be meals and airfare. A little research, and done: we had e-tickets and a reservation for four — Terry and a coworker of his were up for the trip to Morimoto as well.

They met us at the airport on an unseasonably warm Saturday in March, and we trained for the big event with a cheesesteak at Pat’s (now they tell me: Geno’s, across the street, is apparently much better), a lot of walking around downtown, an hour in Sound of Market Records, and a couple of Yuenglings at the first bar we found. Finally, we went to the restaurant and sat upstairs at the bar, nursing a last drink, checking out the liquid flowing lines of the walls in the dining room, and noting that the lucite table dividers, lit from within, cycled through the visible spectrum roughly every half-hour.

We were seated about 20 minutes later in the packed dining room and immediately descended upon by an army of service staff. Even though it was our first time there, George and I knew we wanted the full balls-out “Chef’s Omakase Dinner,” nine courses of Morimoto’s divising, varying according to one’s spending preference – $80, $100 or $120. Terry went with the Omakase as well, and the co-worker ordered some oysters and a few items from the sushi bar, including a softshell crab roll. The staff also interrogated us about any food allergies, foods we particularly hated, and what we had for lunch that day. We were told that there would be a few courses from the raw bar, a sorbet to reset the palate, a couple of courses from the kitchen, a sushi course, then dessert. There was a nice sense of the dramatic: “Relax…lean back… here it comes…!”

We relaxed and leant back…and there it came.

From the raw bar:

1) Toro (fatty tuna) tartare, textured with tempura-batter bits, surrounded by dashi broth, topped with osetra caviar. Fresh grated wasabi on the side. This was an early declaration of fresh preparation, since the tempura bits were very crunchy – doing them ahead of time would have given them time to go soggy.

2) Steamed hamachi (yellowtail) and steamed Japanese turnip in miso-enriched broth; on the side were three tiny marinated squid with a tangerine-miso sauce. At this point, we remembered that we’d brought a camera with us. To hell with caring that we’d look like tourists – we wanted a visual record of the dishes.

3) A steamed Pacific oyster – huge! – with sea urchin, peppery greens and a generous amount of shaved black truffles in a “foie gras jus.”

4) Seared kampachi (kin to hamachi) with grilled turnip, another kind of greens and bonito shavings. I didn’t catch the description of the sauce, but it helped pull it together.

The palate cleanser:

5) Wasabi sorbet. Each spoonful arrived in three stages: flavor of wasabi, flavor of lime, then flood of heat.

From the kitchen:

6) One-half of a grilled lobster, split side sealed with an eight-spice mixture. Served with citrus creme fraiche and grilled asparagus, broccoli and carrot.

7) Grilled Kobe beef steak topped with a slice of seared foie gras, served with Japanese yam potatoes. Another amazing sauce.

From the sushi bar:

8) The sushi course. From left to right, giant clam, shad, kampachi, hamachi, toro. Only criticism of the meal: painfully large amounts of wasabi under most of the pieces. I would have liked to taste the fish, but I was gulping water.

The dessert course:

9) Actually, three desserts. Japanese mountain-plum sorbet. Rice cake, very similar in texture to cheesecake. A cake I missed the description of (because Morimoto had just come to the table to ask how the meal was and shake hands all around), but which seemed like a pumpkin-spice cake, served with a vanilla custard topped with a sprinkle of something powdered and blisteringly hot.

I’ve eaten some amazing meals in my life, but this made the most haute of the haute cuisine I’ve had seem like a trip to the Burger King drive-through window in comparison. Worth every penny. The final damage for dinner for four, the pre-meal bar tab, beer and sake during the meal, and tip: $600.

(To top the weekend off, the next morning Terry took us to his favorite cafe for breakfast and I had scrapple for the first time – no more or less exotic than the caviar, baby squid, foie gras, fresh (not powdered) wasabi and Japanese mountain-plum sorbet.)

the greatest comeback in sports history

TMFDPost a comment • 672 views

the greatest comeback in sports history??

clearly it is odd for me to be bloggin abt the SoXorZes but i am v.interested of curses – there are not enuff in brit sports i think… anyway, outlanders, is this claim true beyond the borders of the us? they went from 3-0 down to win 4-3 but i think all sorts of other records got broken also, plus drama galore plus allsorts

FREAKY TRIGGER TOP 25 SCARIEST THINGS 11. Being Stalked

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FREAKY TRIGGER TOP 25 SCARIEST THINGS

11. Being Stalked

I have never been stalked and I think it unlikely that I will be. But unless they’re a very, very famous celebrity I think anybody thinks it ‘won’t be them’. And yet week in week out you find stories of ordinary lives ruined by stalkers’ obsessive attentions. I’m sure there are many reasons for stalking but the one that resonates – the one that people think of when they hear the word – is romantic obsession. It’s frightening because it’s a curdling of something which can often be welcome, even sought after. And it’s also frightening because it’s a twisted version of emnity as well as love.

An ordinary enemy may well be scary but you generally know what they want and you have a few strategies to stop them (avoidance, confrontation, reconciliation, and so on). A stalker is different – they would never admit they’re your enemy, and so the usual strategies won’t work. Avoid them and they’ll track you down; confront them and they might take it as a sign of your attention or affection; treat them nicely and they’ll come back doubly keen. The legal means – court orders and so on – available to fight it seem puny: how can words and a piece of paper keep two people apart?

An extra frisson of fear is added by how easy it now seems to get all sorts of information about people. The legion of online data-merchants are only too happy – this is anxiety not knowledge talking – to sell everything they know about you, no questions asked. And what could be wrong with that – if you meet someone you really like, aren’t you curious about them? Like a lot of unpleasant behaviour, stalking is only a couple of removes from what might be classed as normal – so the fear of being stalked is bolstered by the thought that nobody will believe you’re being stalked. For some people, after all, stalking was considered a legitimate part of courtship.

Chronicles of Googled Homework Assignments Part 2,495,876

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 283 views

romeo and juliet + victim or vixen?”

While proper management nerds

TMFDPost a comment • 294 views

While proper management nerds are waiting for the knock-down drag-out battle between Championship Manager 5 and the all-new Football Manager, I have been waiting for tomorrow’s release of LMA Manager 2005, their idiot-proof console cousin. I like LMA because it is pretty, it is easier without being stupidly easy, and you can play it on the sofa. But what of the new features in the 2005 edition? Let’s see which is most attractive:

playable Portugese and Dutch leagues? Can’t see myself getting much out of these frankly.
playable English Conference? Bit more like it.
more detailed feedback on player mood? Might be handy.
better goalkeeper AI? I’ll believe it when I see it.
EyeToy capabilities? NOW WE’RE TALKING! Yes, what is mostly selling me on the need for an upgrade is the capability to take photos of my ugly mug in states of joy and anger, which will then appear on the in-game news headlines. Kevin Toms would have approved.

The Great British Spelling Test ITV 9.00pm

Do You SeePost a comment • 576 views

The Great British Spelling Test ITV 9.00pm

Innoculate! Noticable! Cemetary! Foriegn! Ecstacy!

This was a surprisingly enjoyable ninety minutes, spoiled only by the rather annoying talking heads: a selection of ITV newsreaders and representatives of the Apostrophe Protection Society and Simplified Spelling Society. Most amazingly of all, they even managed to generate some sexual tension between the presenters, Gabby Logan and Dr Fox!

Anyone beat 86%?