Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday AM Memo to the Sun...

...Where the fuck are you? Look, he's even smirking at me.

I woke up at 7:30 to hit the sand dunes and salt water waves. Summer's almost over. Don't deprive me of precious rays. Instead I'm welcomed by rain and clouds. What part of the game is that? Not cool sun, not cool. If you want to go out and get wrecked on a Tuesday or Wednesday, do you big yellow. But we need to you to be well rested on Friday and Saturday nights. And Sunday night this week for Labor Day. Please don't disappoint us, me.

Fear not readers, I'm still in high spirits, and after you see what I'm about to share with you, you will be whistling dixie too. I've had it for a week, so I apologize for hording this collection of treats, but I had to let it marinate and carry weight. What is it you ask?

Dip Set "Paid In Full" mixtape. Featuring 4 new Cam tacks (Aura and Let The Beat Build have been making the rounds). Oh shit. Whips on my fist, houses on my wrist, your budget on my neck, your spouse on my dick... Dick in her mouth I tell her I'm getting money... Finally we can have more of this back in our lives. Swagger alert is on famo. Jimmy and Juelz round out the rest of the CD.

Also bringing you DJ Hitz- "This is Hip Hop." One of the better mix CDs I've heard in a while. Features the complete Joe Budden Who parts 1 through 3 where he's spitting his shit along with some new Ghostface, Jay, Saigon, Big Boi, Joell Ortiz, Raekwon, Jada and others. The tracks are untitled but I'm sure you are all capable of following along by peeping the tracklistings. Enjoy.


Dipset- Paid In Full mixtape

DJ Hitz- This is Hip Hop

Friday, August 29, 2008

HowFresh + BBQ Festivals = Fat Pig... Hudson Valley Rib Fest and the Hudson River Blues Festival

I am Carnivore. Hear me ROAR!! Straight gluttony. I ate a lot of meat. Pause. Now I understand Jeru's issues with Trichnology, the Gate Keeper of Trichinosis. One evil motherfucker just waiting to infest your intests.

The past 2 weekends have been filled with pork, tunes, lines, smokers, and Henry Hudson. August 16th was the Hudson Valley Rib Fest and a week later on August 24th was the Hudson River Blues Festival. Luckily the upcoming weekend will be protein deficient. Hopefully. Just a lot of sports. On my T-Rex or Donny Baseball, I'm so fucking macho.

New Paltz's Ulster County Fairground hosted the 4th Annual Hudson Valley Ribfest & BBQ Tournament from August 15-17, 2008. Unlike the NYC Big Apple BBQ Block Party, there was plenty of space to enjoy oneself without feeling confined to a tiny area. One huge field had vendors selling 'cue, dry goods, a stage, 2 large covered dining areas, kiddie rides, and behind the cue for sale was the area cordoned off for the participants in the bbq contests. Smokers from Texas to Connecticut showed up to partake in the New England BBQ Society Grilling Competition and the Kansas City BBQ Society BBQ Competition.

I didn't have a game plan for who and what to hit. There weren't many vendors offering grub so I figured I'd be able to sample all, plus I wasn't too aware of the vendors slinging 'cue. The Big Apple BBQ had nationally renowned pitmasters while this event had more local and regional grillers. And honestly I didn't care. I was just excited about taking Metro North all the way up to Poughkeepsie. Scenic, tranquil Hudson River views for close to 2 hours on an early Saturday morning. Nothing could beat that. I never took that ride before and this was the perfect opportunity. See that ladies. The kid has a sensitive side and appreciates life's finer things. Sunset walks on the coast and petting baby buffalo in Big Sky Country. You get the drift. Shit, I almost plagiarized D's co-best man speech at Buck's wedding. He murdered me on that one.

First off we hit Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ from Mt. Laurel, NJ. For the Food Network enthusiasts, Butch challenged Bobby Flay on a showdown. He was the short stout guy with a big white bushy beard. I believe he won. That gave me the impression that his product would be pretty good. Ordered a half rack with beans and slaw and was quite impressed with the non-typical flavors.

The ribs weren't that meaty, yet were easy to bite off the bone and had a nice bark. There was a subtle smoky and spicy flavor. I really enjoyed them. The type of rib that you could eat an entire rack and not be overwhelmed by the sauce or spices.

Also tried the pulled pork sandwich. Moist and smoky swine was plagued by a weak excuse of a bun. D, one of my BBQ cohorts, was very disappointed with this and felt a better bun would have produced a better finished product. You hear that Butch??

Next up was Smoke' N Dudes BBQ Co. from Bensalem, PA. Ordered the combo of 3 ribs, chopped brisket, pulled pork, slaw and beans. We also ordered the pulled chicken sandwich and a brisket sandwich.

The ribs were much meatier than Butch's but taste wise they came up short. Aside from the sauce on the outside of the rib, the porkiness was overwhelming. They lacked smoke and other flavors, prevalent in the meat of Butch's ribs. The pulled pork was decent (Full disclosure- I'm not a huge fan of pulled pork, or I just haven't had that transcendent mouthful- pause) and the brisket was good but too sweet. I prefer brisket to be sliced as opposed to chopped or pulled. Let the meat rest on it's own laurels without any sauce.

D and wifey got down with the brisket sandwich and he approved of the bun this time. You can just tell from the shine.

The pulled chicken got a huge BOOOOOOOO mainly because it was cold. I don't understand how vendors unknowingly serve cold food. There were plenty of people behind the counter to prevent this. Some dude needs to get smoked. Real talk.

The final vendor we hit was Hickory BBQ from Kingston, NY. Their signage was nothing compared to the other vendors and that was probably the reason their line was the shortest. But you should never get wrapped up in all the bells and whistles, as Hickory put out some good food.

They were the only spot with sliced brisket so you know I went in, and D ordered the chicken thighs. They must have put a pound plus of meat on that plate and there was no way I could finish it. It smelled and looked great, but unfortunately the meat was a bit tough. There was a nice smoky taste, but too much chewing. Either the meat wasn't of the best quality or it needed to stay in the smoker a little while longer. Even the pieces with the extra fat were too chewy. I need that glistening buttery fat, not the dense opaque off-white flab. It happens.

Turns out the chicken won this battle. And I never eat thighs. Strictly breasts or legs- you know how I do. The golden brown skin on the moist and tender meat was some serious business. The chicken was so moist and smoky with a slight pink smoke ring. Good stuff.

As if that wasn't enough grub we also went in on some fried pickles and garlic. Sliced half sours in a light batter. Who doesn't like fried anything? The garlic was chewy and sweet, similar to platano maduros. Home made fudge followed that and some fried dough ended the party. Throw in some beers and fresh lemonade and there you have it folks.

I'd be remiss to omit the hot sauce- pause- episode. One of the vendors was selling his own hot sauce and giving out samples. I tried the regular and habanero versions without incident and then asked to try the headless horsemen version (that was the image on the label). This tiny dot on a toothpick almost took me over the edge. It was the HOTTEST shit I ever had. It caused hiccups and odd bodily movements. I thought vomiting was inevitable. Buckemdown didn't believe me so he gave it a shot. He's a believer now.

A week later and I'm at the Hudson River Blues Festival on Pier 54 at 14th Street. There were only 4 local vendors there this year, Dinosaur BBQ, Mara's Homemade, Dallas Jones BBQ, and Brother Jimmy's. The lines were crazy. What's new? I wasn't fazed.

For some reason I was set on going to Dallas Jones. I think the line was so long last year and I didn't have time to wait, that it filled my head with the idea that they made that bomb shit. Boy was I wrong. First off, the food was cold. As mentioned earlier, just unacceptable. Was that fake fire under the grill? I just don't get it. I ordered a half rack of ribs and my sort of blues and BBQ afficionado friend Mark ordered the chicken.

The ribs had nice flavor but no bark and no pink smoke ring. You know I love that pink. The question is- is it really BBQ without the pink? If it isn't smoked is it BBQ or just grilled meat? Everybody has their own opinion on this. I'm not sure what the correct answer is, but I'm growing partial to slow cooked meat in a smoker.

The room temperature chicken tasted decent but the temperature issues disqualified both plates off the jump. The only item that came heated up was the beans- and they were very good. Cooked in a tomato base with chunks of tomato and some nice spice. The problem is I didn't come here for the beans.

Dinosaur BBQ renewed any doubts I was having about BBQ on the Hudson River that day. They provided me with visions of plump little pigs bathing in fine mud puddles as the sun set yonder the grassy knolls. I would like to take this time to personally apologize to John Stage and the entire Dinosaur BBQ staff for listening to all the lies and slander about the how quality of their product was waning.

The first bite I took of my half rack immediately crushed any doubts I had. I hadn't been to Dino for about 2 years after being a semi regular for a little while and just lost touch. Never again.

They make close to a perfect rib. A burnt red bark covers a beautiful mix of that thin layer of fat and supple swine flesh with a very prominent smoke ring. Each bite is a reason to thank the heavens for pig and smokers. It should be noted that Dino was the only vendor with a visible smoker. Further reinforcing my earlier gripe, a smoker really takes it to the next level.

I'd be lying if I told you who was performing. But I do know I was around blues royalty. And I was protected. Rich made sure nobody bothered HowFresh and Marky B while we grubbed it out.

The blues served as a nice backdrop to some 'cue slinging. Several beers and a lot of sun, and life is good. Since it was getting late and I was pretty full, 2 plates were enough. I had no interest trying Brother Jimmy's and whoever reads this site knows I'm a huge fan of Mara's but just wasn't in the mood to test my intestinal fortitude.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

H is for Hold the Fuck Up.

I know that the fitted content on the site has simmered down. It's summertime and I'm trying to get some color on the crown. Plus the factories boycotted making "H" fitteds. At least that's what I think.

So I'm surfing Fitted Hawaii, told you I get down with the waves, and I had to sit down after these ankle busters completely caught me off guard. These dudes are back on the H-ustle. Wow. And I'm late for most of them. In that case H can be for Hallelujah since I can't cop and drop 50 nuggets, but damn h-omie. Not digging all of them, but the black on black and the army green with orange are staples for the rotation. And then the Triple H came out of nowhere from Hall of Fame. Don't love the mesh, but love the H cubed.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It Was Only A Matter of Time.

But I'm back. The new Nike Sportswear spot on Mercer is the greatest thing to happen to NYC since Giuliani left office.

It opened Friday, August 22, and what better way to kick off a weekend, than peeping some new and hard to find kicks. I had no clue what to expect. I knew they were dropping the Air Max 90 Infrareds earlier in the day and they would be long gone by the time I got there. Cool- wasn't beasting for them anyway. What I encountered upon my grand entrance- by grand I mean half clad dimes dropping rose petals with each step- caught me completely off guard. Kind of like if Xzibit knocked on my door and wanted to pimp my ride. Or my kicks.

3 exclusive air force ones in NYC team colorways were being dropped in celebration of the store's opening. Yankees, Knicks, and Jets. All featured the visible air bubble and a back panel and swoosh in croc-textured white leather. The Yankees dark obisidian with white back was so simple, yet so dope. And it had a clear outsole- so from the bottom you could see the air bubble- similar to Air Max 180s. The bad news was that they were $225 and the good news was that they were sold out of my size. However, my boy popped his footwear hymen and went in on the last pair in the building, a lovely size 9. I got to catch a little vicarious feeling off of it. Props to for the images.

Then I peeped these crazy 2 toned forces featuring black front panels and midsoles with genuine crocodile skin side and back panels and matching outsole in a variety of colors. Orange, green, purple, amazing. Quality unsurpassed. Again, simple formula but attention getters without a doubt. The vibrancy of the colors was arresting. The black and orange was incredible. Bright orange, almost neon status, with rich oily black leather. Wowzers. The real wowzers was when I asked the price and was matter-of-factly told $2000 dollars. Seriously, don't let me touch sneakers of that degree with no visible price tag so I have that 10 second period where I vision them on my feet and really consider dropping several hundred dollars in a blind sneaker rush. I'm sure the workers there could write a book based on reactions to the same question. Turns out they are hand made to order in Italy, and as stated earlier, genuine croc skin. More props to for the images.

But it gets even better. I noticed one of the workers wearing these Wildwoods that I only saw rendered images posted HERE. Thinking they were samples I tried not to get too excited. After I asked him about them and was told they were available, my self imposed sneaker boycott came to a screeching halt. The "Fuck Sneakers" and "There is more to life than air forces" signs were dropped in the middle of the store and it was on. So on. The size 12 came out and I looked at my feet in the mirror and thought things inappropriate to post here. Shit like this is what it's all about.

It's very appropriate that the store is located on Mercer St. just a stone's throw away from Howard St. Welcome back How.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Me and Sharon Jones, We Got a Thing Going On- Live at Summer Stage

Can I jam? Please. Just let me do my thing and jam right now.

I had no clue who Sharon Jones was prior to last Wednesday. And it was made very clear to me that I should have known who she, along with her band the Dap Kings were. And I'm kind of ashamed I was in darkness on this one. I mean, come on now, HowFresh is a man in the know. Food, music, kicks, nothing should get past the goalie pads. I must have been ogling some birds in the front row and the puck slid past me. Never again. Time to get my shit together.

So my sort of hippy, Packers fan friend put me on to her show at Central Park Summerstage on Sunday. I wasn't fully committed to it, but was in the city and after some early am hoops and early afternoon Shake Shack the kid was ready for some early evening grooves. You know that feeling you get when you take a shot at something and it's really dope. Extraordinarily surprised status. That's how I feel about this. As they say, real recognize real, ya dig? That's what Jimmy told me. Mark, good looking.

Her live show was dope. She demands your attention with her voice and stage presence. Rarely was she stationary, constantly moving to the beat, shaking, convulsing, jumping, the woman put in work. She is undoubtedly the female reincarnate of James Brown. True story. In her silver and black shiny dress, she slithered in the sunlight. And her band the Dap Kings. WOW. They keep that shit funky. Rarely does a live band sound that crisp, rich and vibrant. It's no wonder that they were hired for Amy Winehouse's Back to Black album. I also learned that several members of Dap-Kings, along with members of El Michels Affair, Antibalas, and Budos Band joined together to create The Menahan Street Band, responsible for Jigga's "Roc Boys" sample. I'll admit that I thought it was a sample from yesteryear, not 2007. The entire record is crazy, peep it below.

The fact that I wasn't familiar with any of her tunes didn't matter. The experience was what all concerts should be like. People enjoying themselves, not giving a fuck what anybody else thought. As that quote goes, "dance like nobody's watching." It's a beautiful thing when inhibitions are thrown out the window. Going to hip hop shows for 15 plus years, you rarely witness this. Looking cool and putting up that front is so commonplace that it's a shock to see people just letting loose and being free. Just jamming baby, just jamming.

Between this and driving through New Paltz on Saturday I think I'm becoming a hippy.

Puts the peace sign in the sky and throws on a little patchouli oil.

Here are 3 joint she's done over the years. I've been bumping the shit out of How Long... I haven't copped any albums yet, but I will. If you dig it, do the same.

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings- How Long do I Have to Wait for You?- 2004

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings- I'm Not Going to Cry- 2007

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings- Make It Good to Me- 2002

Menahan Street Band- Make The Road by Walking- 2007

Italian Shaolins Wilding on 14th Street- Artichoke Basilles Pizza

I couldn't get Incarcerated Scarfaces out of my head as I waited for my slice. The owners are from Staten Island where one of their families runs Basilles, an Italian restaurant, and I couldn't shake the Shaolin/NYC connection. Plus I needed something to distract me from the dancing hipster weirdos in the tight quarters. It was just too fucking extra for me. Not to the point that we had to bounce, but close. Hopefully the disco ball was just an aberration.

Artichoke wasn't on my radar. I read the review in the NY Times several months ago but it didn't fill me with that feeling of urgency to run downtown and see what I was missing. Honestly I was heading down to St. Mark's to grab an egg cream and there was an empty spot on the corner of 2nd and 14th. AlFresh, HowFresh's brother, suggested we park there and walk a couple of blocks. So romantic. Then he remembered that Artichoke was right around there. Little man knows his shit.

I passed it once or twice in the past month and there was always a decent sized line snaking out the door heading west. At around 10:30 on a Saturday night there was a small line maybe 10 people deep. I'm getting tired of lines. Unless it's for a pair of sneakers. Holla. The longest I ever waited for pizza was close to an hour and that was at DiFara's in Brooklyn. But it was for a pie, and you got to watch the artist at work. What's deceptive about Artichoke is that the counter is only 6 feet or so from the door, so as long as there are 6 people, a small line will form. Don't get gassed.

I ordered a plain slice while Fresh Junior ordered the namesake Artichoke slice. At first I thought that was all they made, as that's all I heard being ordered, but when I got to the counter I saw an odd pie in the left corner. Turned out to be a crab pie. No thank you. It seemed to take a little while to get 2 slices. There appeared to be some confusion behind the counter. There were several slices sitting on the silver disc but nobody was dishing them out. And people were waiting for plain slices. I'll chalk that up to the mini rave that took place earlier. All those glow sticks can fuck up your train of thought.

The slices are big. And very filling. For the $3.50 or $4 you pay (I believe both slices cost $7.50- not sure of the exact breakdown), you get your moneys worth. The plain slice has a nice cheese to sauce ratio. The tomato's sweetness comes through on a slightly charred crust. That alone works for me, but what elevates this slice to the next level is the use of whole fresh basil leaves once the pie is removed from the oven. The bites of fresh basil with some added parmesan cheese make this a winner.

I don't care for artichokes, but this place makes a mean artichoke slice. It isn't your typical slice with cheese, sauce and the topping. It seems as if an artichoke/spinach dip is ladeled over a thick focacia type crust and evenly spread throughout. It had a nice creaminess with strong hints of garlic. It was thicker than the regular slice with a doughier, chewier crust.

As long as the lines aren't unwieldy I'll be back. Be aware that there are no tables, only a small counter that can accommodate 4 people. I'm not too aware of decent slices in the surrounding area, so this place will definitely fill a niche. As far as the Brewery part of the title, beats me. I didn't order any beer and didn't see any beer to be ordered. Guess it has a nicer ring than just pizza.

Artichoke Basilles Pizza & Brewery
328 E. 14th St. betw. 1st and 2nd Aves.
NY, NY 10003
Call for hours.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Baaaaaaack- Red Hook Ballfields

Upon first glance of the Clinton and Bay Streets intersection you'll notice the differences and wonder how the experience will change. No longer are the vendors within the perimeters of the park, but now line the streets with their Dept. of Health approved ice cream truck kitchens. I admit, it was a little disheartening since I rather be in the park on the grass and dirt, and see the food being prepared in the open tents. But I'll take what I can get so you won't hear any complaints.

I'm no pro at this, but being that I came several times in the summer of 2007, I had an idea of which vendors to hit. The huarache truck was tops on the list, and apparently the same for everyone else. This was the stand directly to the right of the entrance last year, with several grills laid out and a cavalry of help. Let me note that most stands are in the exact location as last year, just on the other side of the fence. The line was long very long. It stretched across the entire corner and passed 2 vendors on Bay Street. And it didn't move. I lied, here's a complaint. Due to the decreased kitchen space in the trucks, less customers can be tended to at a time. This was extremely evident. Now you know, so plan accordingly. It also didn't help that Fabi ahead of me (that's what his fitted had stitched) ordered approximately 26 huaraches (orange shirt above). Damn papi.

Bistec Huarache

The huarache de bistec is a must. Handmade oval tortillas blessed with slices of grilled steak, tomato, lettuce, onion, cilantro, and a white cream sauce. Homemade too I suppose- Yikes. After taking a bite, the hour wait seems so distant that you just enjoy the flavors and freshness. The crispiness of the onions and coolness of the cilantro play off the strong flavors of the beef. Outdoor stand or truck, the quality and taste wasn't compromised at all. I also ordered a chorizo taco, but was semi-disappointed. Way too liquidy- excess sauce. Ayo.

Ayote Pupusa (Zucchini and Cheese)

If you come with a dining companion you must split up and wait on different lines- double the food for half the time. My PNE (Partner in Eating) waited on a line serving pupusas and several steak dishes- seemed more Dominican than Central American. The line was short and there was a reason for that. I guess you have to learn the hard way. The official pupusa stand, one to the right, had a very long line, so a corner was cut. There's no way to bypass the lines. If the line is long that's a testament to the quality of the food. Don't be slick- wait and you will be rewarded. Turns out the pupusa I got was very good- Ayote- cheese and zucchini. A pupusa is a stuffed tortilla- similar to a pancake. The fillings are limitless. Next time I'll hit the main spot. PNE ordered Carnes de Res Fritas- fried beef, and it wasn't that good. Dry chunks of charred beef with rice and beans and platanos maduros.

Carne Res- Pass

With 2 stands down it was time to bring in the heavy hittter. And that would be the mixed seafood ceviche. After some heavy food, the lightness of the seafood and lime is a nice break. The eastern most stand on Bay Street, the ceviche stand is where the party ends. Or begins. The mixto contains shrimp, slices of octopus, calamari and small chunks of white fish. Extremely fresh in lime and cilantro juice. The octopus is a bit too chewy for me and there's a lot of it, so I might opt for the shrimp only ceviche next time and make that dollar hike to $9.

Ceviche with shrimp, octopus, fish and squid

There are some great beverages to try too. I had a Jamaica, pronounced Ha-My-Ca, to start with. It's a Hibiscus drink, burgundy color, and sweet and delicious. Really impressed. Purchased from the first truck on Bay St. by the entrance. They have tons of other options. Later I ordered a Tamarind drink from a stand near the ceviche spot based on a recommendation from a local, saying it was a great compliment to the ceviche I was eating. It was super sweet but there was way too much pulp. Every pull from the straw had stringy fruit which got annoying after a while. Most places have huge clear jugs that display the drinks being sold. You can get an idea of colors and textures by taking a look.

Things might be a little different, but that's no reason to stay away. The food is still great and the soccer is still being played. Make sure you give yourself enough time, and preferably bring somebody with you to speed up the process. Plus Ikea is several blocks away so step you can step up your home furnishing game after stuffing yourself like a pig.

Red Hook Ballfields
Clinton St. and Bay St.
Saturday and Sunday