Chili Quest Vol. 5 - Pleasant Ridge

...even the champ has been here. what was once a simple Cincy community, now gentrified and immaculate by most Cincy standards. I wasn't the least "worried" driving the length of Montgomery. I was actually enlightened.

...this is a diner -- first and foremost -- it could sit on a calm lake, four blocks into walnut -- what would that be? crawford or canal -- a river, perhaps, there's a river not that far from here. admire the booths, the awnings on those booths, the pictures of Cincy you wished you had in Dayton or Columbus or Cleveland for fuckssakes...

...goodness these were good. two, as always. presented as such, as always. except the chili, a recipe the waitress couldn't reveal/"fuck with," was on another level. it could've been synthetic, i got the taco bell burps in the 7th inning. but there was an unnamed spice among the usual Cincy chili vapors. upon initial contact it was magical. trumping camp. wash. by millions in a blink.

this was all-world Cincy chili. made for the taste. the lasting. emblematic of the city. Since 1964 Pleasant Ridge has sustained a neighborhood with a staple. my city needs more staples. i'll be back. Price Hill awaits a challenge.

Guess I shoul'da had the cheese fries too.


This was my "weekend" on Facebook. Showing the world of "friends" what they were missing. Namely, a "real" Brasilian Churrasco. The way I remember it on the tiny street in Rio, at the guy's driveway, with the stone grill, feeding us beer and "soap operas." Believe me, I've tried this many times -- ever since my first churrasco in Uruguay -- and it has never ended in such a feast. Though the fancy steakhouse version of churrasco in Brasil is often a pale specter of that glutton in America.

I owe most of my successful night to my Pittsburgh friend, Thiago (a true man of Brasil). He handled the knife, I worked on my "tony bourdain"-ish, wanderlust, marinades.

I'm going to try to re-create here for your use -- can easily be acheived on a small 12" gas grill, in a-la-carte, more than you can eat, firing sessions. Keep in mind we did not have/could not find blood sausage, chicken hearts, or farofa/farina. But those nights in Rio, we didn't have any of the above. (If you can recommend a butcher that still sells hearts, please let me know).

Wood Skewers (they come in packs that contain more than enough, these are kabobs essentially so you'll need to soak the skewers in water most of the day to prevent burning)

We used:

6 Lbs. of Top Sirloion (cut into one inch cubes)
2 Lbs. of Large Rock Shrimp (veined and skewered)
Old Bay Seasoning (all the shrimp needs)
3 Lbs. of Chicken Breast (cut into one inch cubes)
Vinegar Brasil (soaked with rose, rosemary, chamomile -- for the steak)
Orange Juice (the 50% less sugar kind, for the chicken)
Sweet Tangy BBQ Marinade (housemade by Weiland's, for the chicken)
Fresh Lime (a pre-spritz for the shrimp and steak)

(Kabob Additions)
Two White Onions
Two Green Bell Peppers
Four Hothouse Tomatoes
Two Zucchini

The caveat of a true churrasco is the salt. What you coat it with right before the fire. I'm fortunate enough to have a half-cup of the finest churrasco salt containing -- rock sea salt, calbrese (sausage seasoning), dried garlic, white pepper, and other secret spices -- to rain on the mountain of meat we'd created.

In Rio it's all about sticks. How many you've had? Which were the best? By the end of the parade of meat is comparable to finishing the best filet you've ever consumed. The best seafood meal in your life. It's actually kind of more than that. A communal happening. The social aspect makes all taste extravagant. Or there's nothing like minimal meat?

I've always made a variation -- Spicy Meat -- which marinates steak stick in Green Tabasco, cayenne pepper, Sriracha, and fresh jalapenos. It always works.

The Ohio Express at the Ohio State Fair

While waiting for DEVO at the Ohio State Fair -- thereby breaking a long-standing family tradition of experiencing the OSF in all it's endless glory, the schedule just wasn't all that this year, you didn't miss any mind-blowing foodstuffs this year Jeff -- we meandered on over to the "side-stage" usually reserved for lion tamer shows and half-hours with comedian hypnotists (no, for reals). This year, the Ohio Express claimed the 6:30 slot. Much more intriguing than Ra Ra Riot. Who knows how many of the 8 days of the Fair the Ohio Express played this stage, but when we rolled up, we were shocked by the comfortable nostalgia of a Steely Dan number. No connections were made intitially.

The crowed was a total of 23 or so -- all scattered about in 1945 fold-up chairs, ratty and scratched. You can smoke at the Fair still (I Was) -- but this was depressing, Grapes of Wrath, non-ironic trucker hat, smoking. Scattered about. Once the Ohio Express started explaining themselves -- as the 2003 - Present touring version of the mythic pre-fab "real" Ohio Express -- and played a "neu" song, the crowd dispersed like a Keno (Bingo) bust.

See, this guy, in the front, was the drummer of the original "fakes" that toured the country as the Ohio Express. They never actually "wrote" Ohio Express nuggets, like "Yummy Yummy Yummy" or "Chewy Chewy" (below), but they acted like it. And in 2003 when they "re-united" the original "fakes," it stood. They can play "bubblegum" with the best of them. And apparently, in Germany, they are huge, writing new material, and lip-synching songs made 50 years ago. It was intriguing when everything came together and you can imagine the legend of the Ohio Express and all of the resonance it has actually had -- Simpson Reference Trumps All.

(P.S. The Ohio Express had one more hit in 1970 -- played by what would become 10cc. Buy all 10cc records you can find.)


Miguel Cairo is Greater Than...

I was going to sit around all day and contemplate five things the Reds need to do to assure a playoff spot this year. Dad's convinced Joey Votto needs to move of LF, I'm convinced anyone you bring up from Louisville is going to fill their role (i.e. Zack Cozart please?), Adam convinced Dickerson deserves to be an everyday center fielder. Everyone has an opinion -- so it's not my way to sit here and tell Dusty and King Walt what they get paid to do. Since Reds Fest in December, Jocketty has been brilliant in putting an entertaining winner on the field. I haven't had this much fun during a Red's season in a long, long, time. All I think needs to happen is for the fans to make it more entertaining. These players need nicknames, we need homemade t-shirts at games, a theme song, spontaneous promotions at the ballgame, big caravans that take you down to Cincy and back, beer cans with Red's logos, etc. etc. etc. All the ephemera I remember attached to that amazing '90s team.

Doug probably feels the same. Maybe that's why he's back in the blogging world. He's convinced Miguel Cairo > LeBron James. I can't disagree with that. Miguel Cairo is a Prince. Let's hope Miguel Cairo is Greater Than continues unabated till October. My brother knows more about baseball than you.


I Saw Yo La Tengo

Assuredly it's the enormity (coupled with the flora and fauna that surrounds)of the Ohio River that constantly provides awe and a certain type of magic when attending a show at Newport's famed/historic Southgate House. Don't get me wrong, I love Columbus, even Cincinnati, but there's something about being on the other side, hugging the border, mixing with the locals in these hallowed halls, on the wide, hilltop, front porch, that provides the perfect environment for a rock show. All that aside, Yo La Tengo provide their own sort of magic, something that transcends nostalgia, and most definitely trumps the flood of '90s indie acts looking for the payoff that comes from reuniting years after calling it quits. Think about it. Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew, have never called it quits. And after almost 25 years of continuous records and touring, they don't seem to show signs of age. On this Saturday night, the trio weaved and bobbed and flowed through a tidy set of hits and current favorites, that was never short on soulful energy and genuine love for the songs they write and play. If there's a more earnest and grateful band in rock today, I'd love to meet them.

In seeing this particular set (of Yo La Tengo I believe I've seen five or six over the years, never disappointed), the band leaned heavy-ish on their latest album, Popular Songs. It's one of those that I think will hold sway long after we have forgotten about it, seems a lot of press already did. That's likely because they tacked on an additional record of three longish fever dreams to an already spotless album. This is Kaplan's Motown/Mac record, and behind the keys on this Saturday night, he proved his experience in soul -- this is entertainment, not a Spoon concert. This is "in the round" showmanship, switching back and forth between Velvets strum and blistering guitar solos, to organ folly and crisp summer pop. Ira Kaplan > Thurston Moore and Georgia Hubley > Kim Gordon. Them's the facts kids. Couples were dancing, heads were bopping, faces often melted (especially on the rousing one-two of "Big Day Coming" and "Nothing to Hide."

I always had my love/hate relationship with Sonic Youth, but after seeing this life-affirming performance from Kaplan, surgical destroying his guitar then lulling it back in baby's arms, I'm convinced he's the pre-eminent axemen of multiple generations. Who else ends their shows with songs from Neil Young, Gary Lewis (which they learned on the stage), and Sandy Denny? Even your parents would appreciate the craftsmanship and sincere professionalism that goes into every single YLT performance. At least for today, they are my favorite band -- still going.

Chili Quest Vol. 4 - Empress Chili (FAIL)

The Chili Quest was supposed to be easy. The Googles informed me that there was an Empress Chili directly off of I-75 on Vine Street. I've found nothing on the 'nets to discourage this claim. There are two other locations (are they open?), but this was the closest, easiest to access, and in a neighborhood that had some history. So, to our dismay, this Empress Chili looked as if it had been closed for a decade or more. Thanks Empress Chili, you were the first -- so you should make the effort to stake that brand and thrive in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, on our journey around this area of town, this part of Cincinnati is on the decline, rapidly, sharing traits with Detroit when it comes to endless blocks of emptiness and urban blight. Remind me never to exit off Vine Street again.

We didn't have time to try and find the "other" Empress locations, so I'm looking at you Empress. If you want to be included in the Quest, you'll now need to go out of your way to get my attention, to get me to frequent one of your parlors. You know where to find me. Luckily, on our way home, at 1 AM, there was a beacon in the night in the form of Camp Washington -- the only parlor open 24 hours. Though it was the first stop in my Quest, I honestly didn't mind repeating. So far, they are the true champions -- though there are many squares left to be checked.


Poison Clan Tell 'Em

Hopefully you had the chance to see the excellent 30 for 30 documentary The U when it premiered a few months back. It chronicles the rise and fall of perhaps the most dominating/entertaining/lawless collegiate sports team in history, the University of Miami Hurricanes football teams of the late '80s/early '90s. For me it was a flood of nostalgia. I remember vividly my family's frequent trips to FLA to visit the relatives and our eventual allegiance to one of the big three teams in the state. Doug was a Gator, Adam was a Seminole, and I often fantasized of one day being a Hurricane on the campus of UM. It was really hard not to like a team that carried themselves as a flashier, quicker, more culturally tuned-in NFL franchise. They were bigger than the native Dolphins at the time.

I do believe a lot of my Hurricane love went in tandem with my increasing fascination with Luke Skyywalker, 2 Live Crew, and the emergence of the Miami Bass sound. In retrospect, 2 Live Crew were an awful group nearly on par with ICP -- kind of like hip-hop's version of Larry Flynt. I would never endorse Hustler, but would be right up front to trumpet their triumph's with the First Amendment. The Banned in the USA album is pure trash, but did teach me a lot about the saga that unfolded that year in Broward County. Their beats were revolutionary and sustaining (see the evolution of Baile Funk), though who created that beat is still in question. So by all accounts, Luke's reign was over a false empire. I suppose besides his fight for his right to be nasty as he wanted to be, his only other achievement is discovering Poison Clan.

Dubbed the "baby 2 Live Crew," it's likely, should a memoir be written about the scene, that JT Money and Debonaire were the over-achievers of this Miami circle, kindly pushed to the side to make room for the 2 Live spotlight, even though they were the only speck of talent on the roster. Giving them this title was already a slight they would never be able to squeeze out of despite the success of "Shake Whatcha' Mama Gave Ya" and the influence their primitive samples and beats had in shaping the eventual rise of the Dirty South. That hit (as seen below in it's full uncensored glory) does co-opt the Miami Bass to full effect, spiraling the Bambaataa arpeggios into a club banger all about the booty, and it's probably the most recognizable, but in no way should it be emblematic of Poison Clan's M.O. On the album 2 Low Life Muthas, the lyrics are blunt and dumb, but full of an attitude and relaxed cadence that it sounds like sweet tea in the strip club -- not trying all that hard to impress, boast, or steal turf. Here it's the samples, from pliable funk to skunky blues to stuttering soul horns. Highly recommended is the epic "Juveniles," very similar to Too Short's "Cuss Words" only slow and easy, likable and humorous. A Floridian's narration of life as a Sunshine State hoodlum. Too bad Luke didn't see all that talent and instead saw competition. Just like the mentality that ruined the U. I don't think this duo had a mean bone in their body.

Poolside with Jane Wiedlin's "Rush Hour"

The verdict's still out on whether or not Jane Wiedlin abandoned the Go-Gos to fuel her own raging ego, or if she was simply maligned by the rest of the band for writing all of their good songs. Needless to say, she got the raw end of the deal in the end -- breaking out in 1985 with her first failed solo record, and then not arriving to the Top Forty until 1988's Fur, only to be eclipsed by rival Belinda Carlisle's chart dominance throughout the '80s. It's hard to fault Carlisle though, as she was the complete package -- the looks, the sultry voice, the elegant mystique-pop of "Circle in the Sand." Still, looking back, it's hard not to root for Wiedlin as the underdog. Especially considering she might have the best song of the two. After her first single, the much underrated "Inside a Dream" tanked, she co-wrote "Rush Hour" with Peter Rafelson, he of Madonna's brilliant "Open Your Heart" (a Poolside HOF moment). In the vid you'll see the petit and pixie-ish Wiedlin cavorting with dolphins, swimming poolside, swaying a guitar twice her size with a grin that's either cunningly evil (suffering in faux-happiness as a second fiddle) or perfectly innocent (oblivious to her career's downward spiral). By 1988 this strain of bubbly, chiming, sunshine pop was beginning to wane on the charts. So to call "Rush Hour" a Top Ten fluke is apt, as it likely only appeared there for a week or two before bowing out to her nemesis. Back to back with "I Get Weak," in the summer of '88, I likely preferred Carlisle's pomp and balladry to Wiedlin's chirpy mall-beat. But back then, I doubt I even made the connection between the two and just enjoyed their interchangeable ephemeral gloss with equal aplomb. That said. I'd kill for a copy of this 45.