December 15, 2005

[Music] Rotation Devices 12.15.05

Greetings from butiboi! There's good news and bad news in Rotation Devices this month, therefore I'm adding a new section called Record Player Hater, which will feature a review of, to put it bluntly, an album that I consider a real shitty deal. Here goes.

[Record Player Hater]


MADONNA - Confessions on a Dance Floor
Warner Brothers 2005

Okay, where do I start? I'm sure we're all aware of the publicity blitz preceeding the release of this album; the fall from a horse with a spectacularly quick recovery, the so-called controversy over the "Isaac" cut on the new album, her new purple wardrobe, her strict guidelines for Lola (nigra, pleeze), the loss of her Mavervick imprint, and her new documentary, ad nauseum. To be truthful tho', I've always been a fan of hers, although the last albums with any true soul on it were Bedtime Stories and the superb, underrated Erotica.

Sadly, I bought into the hype that COADF was going to showcase the return to her dance roots, and thus, I eagerly awaited this release. I should have known something was amiss when I plugged into her website and read about the producers contributing to this project (Mirwais, Stuart Price), and the release of "Hung Up", which sounds like a techno-tweaker-gap-store-cum-abercrombie-&-fitch-store-mix nightmare to be played only on the so-called Party Station. BTW, any producer who would bite the vocoder effects of Cher's "Believe" should be served up a plate of iced cold shade! Surely, I thought, the whole album couldn't possibly sound like this - the release was trumpeted as a return to her dance ROOTS so I expected to hear some soulful/poppy/dance funk shit a la her collaborations with Shep Pettibone, Reggie Lucas (Stephanie Mills, Mtume), and of course Patrick Leonard and Steven Bray.

Great early albums notwithstanding, I guess I finally have to acknowledge what some critics have said about Madonna all along, which is that she is neither a great master of re-invention nor a great innovator, but a crass, manipulating, transparent fraud (American Life), who'll pander to any given trend of the moment. Now don't get me wrong, I didn't expect the album to be a total rehash of her past shit, but when you put out misleading info on your website that you're sampling groups like the SOS Band on your new album, then I buy the shit and it sounds like one long fucking 135 bpm mix for 20 year old twinks, with no variations on the theme whatsoever, then I'm gonna be pissed, a'ight?!! And I won't even bother discussing or listing tracks; what's the point?

If you go for this type of sound, great. This might be the album for you, but for me, it's just one more slap in the face for dj's and listeners who yearn for true soulful/funky house soundz to be played on the air, thus ensuring their true place at the top of the charts like back in the day. Whew! Was that a rant or a review?..............

........../'/.../..../......./¨¯........('(...´...´.... ¯~/'...')
..........''...\.......... _.·´

[Heavy Floatation]


A&M 1989

In 1985, I remember listening to the QUAKE, which was the premier alt/new wave station in SF at the time, and the moment I heard the line "summer girls in disarray, can be so free and easy now , well, we'll be free and easy" from "Stay", I knew what I was hearing was not only the most beatifully lush electronic jam I'd heard up to that point, but what I'd hoped would be a group that would stick around forever. Indeed the Blue Nile is one of those groups that I can truly say created the blueprint for what is now known as electro/chill. In 1989 the group released Hats, which has not left my turntable since! Lead singer Paul Buchanan's plaintive vocals combined with pristinely gorgeous, at times eerily dark melodies and straightforward lyrics ("sometimes I walk away, when all I really want to do, is love and hold you tight" "Downtown Lights") simultaneously transports me to the past and future......This album has no filler cuts, but my personal faves include "Over The Hilltops", "From A Late Night Train", "Let's Go Out Tonight", and "Seven A.M.". After repeated listenings, I'm sure you'll consider this record to be your "soundtrack" as you move throughout the day.

Although the group has released only 4 albums in 25 years; A Walk Across the Rooftops/1984, which includes their first hit "Stay", Peace At Last/1996, and High/2004, they've left a bounty of great jamz to tide you over, and while you're at it, check out Annie Lennox's cover of "Downtown Lights" on her underrated Medusa album. I'll also be reviewing "High" in the near future.

In the meantime, put this record on and feel the love, make a baby, touch yourself in a nice way, or just think about stuff, um-kay?

October 29, 2005

[Music] Rotation Devices 10.29.05

The first installment of Butiboi's thought-provoking music commentary spilling from the tender heart o'Brooklyn. Feel it!!!

nouvelle vague
Luaka Bop Records 2005

I'm completely feeling this French group whose specialty is lounge covers of punk/new wave classics. Sounds strange? Well it is, which
is why it's a must-own. Being a former 80's pressure-punk/funk boi myself, how could I resist liking droll loungy remakes of "Guns of Brixton" (The Clash), "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (Joy Division), "Psyche" (Killing Joke), and album highlight "Too Drunk to Fuck" (Dead Kennedys). The album dropped last summer, albeit under the radar, and is an instant classic. The Cure, Depeche Mode and Sisters of Mercy are just a few of the other groups covered on this gem. Lounge with. Attitude, indeed!

Intergroove Germany 2004

Goin' out tonite? Get your pre-party ya-ya's started with some
electro/funk b-b-beats. This set starts out with a little
synth-lounge ("Vertigo"), then builds to a crescendo of krisp
electro/funk/house jamz ("Double Identity", "Memento", "On & On"). They've even thrown in some weird but melodic interludes ("Mr Torrance"). This album is not a non-stop dance record per se, but for pro and aspiring turntablists, much can be done with the more minimalist tracks. File under house for the discernible listener.

[Heavy Flotation]

STEVIE WONDER - Fulfillingness' First Finale
Motown 1974

Remember when R&B meant SOUL?? This is the perfect album for going
through your old phone book and calling that old friend/lover/classmate just to find out what's up. Or maybe you could just roll a "tree" and listen to a symphony........or crack that bottle of wine you was saving for a special occasion and clean out that closet of yours! Or just chillax and do you. Whatever the case, program this cd on shuffle, and hope that the first track that comes up is "Creepin'", a truly sublime classic. And let's not forget "It Ain't No Use", "They Won't Go When I Go".

I particularly enjoy the first two of these three tracks because you can clearly hear Minnie Riperton's vocals in the background (unfortunately, this album signaled the beginning of the end of Wonderlove, Stevie's group of background singers which included Minnie, Deniece Williams, and Syreeta Wright, who were all launching successful solo careers at the time).

This is vintage Stevie before he released Songs in the Key of Life (his next album), at the height of his career.

October 23, 2005

Art at the Dump

Art at the Dump with Sirron Norris and Nomi Talisman (opening night)

Artists Sirron Norris and Nomi Talisman showcase their work made of found materials at Sunset Scavenger aka the dump. The show had good energy, and the scope of the artists' work was interesting. I wish I had better pics of Sirron's painted objects, but alas the flash was iffy. It is what it is.

Branding - Sirron Norris

Found Wood
Painting on found wood with recycled paint by Sirron Norris.

Sad pool
Found photo slide piece by Nomi Talisman. I loved many of Nomi's pieces, but this affected me the most that night.

Sneak Convergence
Mars shows Sirron a sneak preview of his upcoming book Convergence.

Leo laughs
Leo's good vibe is infectuous.

Hello Hello

ATA Hello Hello

Peter mentioned an interesting sculpture in the window of ATA (Artists' Television Access). We did the Valencia stroll and I made a point to check this out. A towering feat of toothpicks & glue, all the while it rains paperclips.

Artists: Krishna Khalsa, Emily Sevier, Charlene Tan

ATA toothpick clip sculpture, view 1

ATA toothpick clip sculpture, view 2

October 18, 2005

Emmy's Spaghetti Shack - The Mission

James gets boa constrictor-like at Emmy's
Taken right before James unhinged his jaw, boa constrictor like, and swallowed that meatball whole.

What can I say about Emmy's that hasn't been said already? Spaghetti & meatballs spaghetti & meatballs spaghetti & meatballs spaghetti & meatballs spaghetti & meatballs spaghetti & meatballs.

Whew! *burp* That was a mouthful -- and how. Can I tell you about the spaghetti & meatballs?

It was all James' idea, and thank his blessed-heart for it. It was a rough day. Friday really. More like end of the work week and let's celebrate a stabilized Indian Summer. Finally getting our groove on. So, James proposes a post-work trek to Emmy's Spaghetti Shack, a tiny, in-the-hood-restaurant on Mission known for the proprietor's namesake dish.

When we arrived, James & I took seats at the bar to settle for a drink before a booth opened up. This place is packed, and I'm glad we cabbed it there in time before the evening rush. The space is medium-small, so it fills up quickly. I scan the joint: moody lighting, local artwork on walls, very homey, a clothesline of vintage aprons hang from one end to the other, neighborhood hipster crowd, a deejay flanking the bar, and some of the sweetest, hottest servers rushing about. I'm shallow when I say the experience was very easy on the eyes.

The kitchen in full view, is in close proximity to the dining area. The chef/owner, Sarah Kirnon, is a strong figure working the hotline with authoriti oozing from every pore. She's going to serve it to you and you're going to like it.

My bar perch was high enough for me to check out people's plates. I thought to myself, "I can handle this." I was hungry enough, so my stomach was doing all the thinking. At the time, the spaghetti plates looked more than manageable. I had a glass of pinot and the very cute, cherry-lip glossed bartendress made some appetizer suggestions for our meal. James, not being a seafood-eater (dammit, another one), nixed some choices off the app menu, but we found a good compromise:

- sauteed green beans with bacon & almonds
- 2 bruschetta: one with pureed fava and tomato/garlic salsa, and the other with a spread of farmer's cheese and roasted eggplant
- and 2 plates of the infamous spag & meatballs

First off, the green beans were fantastic! Cooked till they just turned bright green, retaining their crunch. The almonds & salty bacon adding just enough flavor balance and texture. I think the both of us secretly wanted to horde this dish, but we politely took the democratic route and shared. The bruschetta with eggplant was smoky flavored and had simple flavors. You really tasted the eggplant, which can be difficult to achieve, so I give the kitchen big props for this. The fava spread bruschetta was good, but I don't think I'd this order again.

The other appetizer choices were interesting enough to merit several more visits: fried chicken livers, corn fritters, and other seafood-based dishes that escape me right now. I'm told the menu changes often, so these choices may be gone on my next visit. I like that -- a rotating menu. If this matters to anyone, well here's more reason to eat here.

The spaghetti & meatballs are comfort food, cuddle-bunny perfection. The taste of what you remember of this dish growing up. This is by no means a pretentious plate of semolina noodles lightly tossed in marinara with a fine chiffonade of basil and drizzle of the extra virgin. This is a hearty, stick to your ribs plate of adequately dressed spaghetti with four giant meatballs. The right balance of tomato sauce, herby meat, garlic and a nice topping of shaved parmesan. A task worth taking.

The only part of the experience that needed some improving was ultimately the deejay. Personally I think serious meatballs deserve serious music. None of this Powerbook/iPod/non-deck spinning setup. Come on! That's weak! And there was a rock block of Nick Drake, which is not appropriate enjoying a meal music. What was this dude thinking? James, funny enough, was mistaken by a fellow patron as the deejay, as he stood near the empty decks with "deejay-like authority." Well he should've been, but that's another story.

Emmy's Spaghetti Shack
18 Virginia St. @ Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

October 12, 2005

ChiaNi - recent wow


Originally uploaded by ChiaNi.

I recently came across the work of ChiaNi, a fellow Flickr-ite based in Chicago. She does amazing paintings in Photoshop sans pen or tablet, and only with a mouse! Her work is a great example of making up for the lack of tools with a ton of technique and creativity. The detail of her work stuns me.

ChiaNi's self-portrait set is comprised of digitally painted works of her image in famous paintings. All done with a mouse & mirror. As a fan of Klimt, I loved these two, in particular.

October 09, 2005

In The Street 2005, San Francisco

Tenderloin Children's Playground, Oct 8, 2005

The Luggage Store Gallery puts on In The Street, a non-vendor festival celebrating creativity, music and performance in the Tenderloin.

I missed out on Friday night's events, but Saturday had several daytime performances, including the Reconstruction project, a central event to the day's activities, put on by the energetic Miss Velvet Cream. The concept of Reconstructon was to bring an article of clothing, or choose from a pile, find a designer of your choice, and watch them make something new of it on the fly. Refreshed life breathed into a former lifeless garment.

I also caught some freestylin by rap crew, Who’s Rhyme is it Anyway?, an amazing jam session by Tussle, took Lindy Hop dance lessons, and watched older folks stretch out to a closing performance by The Broun Fellinis. All in all, quite a superb day with an interesting mix of creative folks.

Feelmore Rocks Crew, San Francisco
Fillmore Rocks Crew - Urban, West Coast b-girl stylin at it's finest.

Polo Clash
Polo prepped out navy/green sweater, carved earrings/plugs, burmese textile bag and lavender kicks? Hell ya!

Cocoon Boy
Rockin satin drawstring pants and self-made scarf. He reminded me of a butterfly inside his cocoon ready to emerge transformed.

Reconstructing Josh
Mikas attempts to reconstruct Josh

Expressing Velvet
Velvet gives me some booty and spirit, as my slow ass camera captures her mid-pose. Between her expression and the guy in the back's energy, this is a pretty good summary of the day.

Bunny Seren
Bunny Seren helps Mikas at the Reconstruction table, sporting her handmade floppy hat, and customized kitty-kat makeup.

September 17, 2005

Ocean Restaurant - Inner Richmond

shark fin dim sum

Rio recently took me to a little restaurant on the beloved Clement St., in the Inner Richmond, for some early lunch dim sum. I've been to Ocean Restaurant with Rio a few years ago, but the memory is fuzzy on our meal that day. I do remember something light, crunchy and delicious though.

That day was a bit chilly, but otherwise perfect. Rio was treating me to lunch for my birthday, and I had the day off, so my mood was elevated on many levels.

Ocean Restaurant is a small to mid-sized restaurant, white tablecloth style, with a large menu, but known to offer an array of dim sum dishes. We arrive to a dining room sprinkled with customers, and get ourselves settled.

Ocean doesn't cart around trays of dim sum dishes to choose from. You are given a list of dishes, which you check off and hand to the server. You then sit back and wait for the goodies to arrive.

I swear we picked one of the best days to eat here, because our dim sum came in courses, instead of all at once. The first thing out were the steamed dim sum: shark fin, pork siu mai, shrimp & leek, and shrimp & cilantro dumplings. We eat these with a small dab of Chinese mustard on the side. Stupendous! Delicious and steaming hot.

Next course was turnip cake that amazingly sustained a grilled crunch on the outside, and a very large shark-fin dumpling in broth with ginger and a dab of vinegar. All the while we have hot tea and a large mound of gai lan (chinese broccoli) with oyster sauce on the side.

Lastly was the fried bean curd sheets with shrimp. This was the dish that made our eyeballs roll back, on the last visit, but this time it was fried a second too long, salty and a disappointment. My guess was if they removed it from the oil a few seconds earlier, it would've been perfect, but alas...

There were some other things we ate, but I can't recall and these were really the top choices of our meal. We ordered a few repeats, shark fin and shrimp, but these are favorites and I didn't feel like we missed out on anything, at least. We passed on the green tea pudding, with plans to pick up a boba tea down the street.

In my opinion, Ocean Restaurant can take on any of the big dim sum houses in San Francisco. The food was fresh, delicious and the service fast and expedient. The prices are crazy! Only $24 for the two of us and a mountain of food; and I noticed most of the customers were local old-timers, which was a big plus in my book. My guess is they've been coming here for years, as most of them seemed to have good repoire with the staff. A positive sign.

Now I have a new spot to add to my Clement St formula:
Green Apple Books
Kamei Restaurant Supplies
New Mei Wah market
Bargain Bank
Boba tea (from the joint near Radio Shack w/the big counter)
Japanese snacks from any of the cute snack shops
and Ocean Restaurant for dim sum

Ocean Restaurant
726 Clement St @ 8th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 668-8896

Flor de calabaza


The other day, I left work early enough before the sun set and found myself further down Mission St in my old neighborhood. It was still early enough to catch one of my favorite markets, Evergreen, before they closed.

I love Evergreen! It's an Asian-owned grocer that sells a little bit of everything: produce, sundries and snacks. They're also a butcher, but I don't generally shop here for meat purposes. Some of the things I primarily like about Evergreen, is their produce is quite fresh, they sell an array of Brazilian and Asian items outside of the ubiquitous Mission market fare, and they have a nice fresh cheese case. Not to mention they carry a good selection of Cuban, Puerto Rican and Brazilian coffees --- AND sweetened condensed milk. I certainly get my Vietnamese Coffee swerve on here. It's empowering...

The main mission was to get some greens for my "girls" (the guinea pigs that is), and figured I could get some herbs & veggies and call it a day. Well, well, to my delight there were packages of fresh squash blossoms for sale. I was confounded at first. Picked them up and studied them, waiting for some genius recipe to hit me or something.

A latin woman, near me, noticed me staring at the blossoms and asked her daughter to ask me what I planned on doing with them. I told her I might stuff them with cheese and deep fry them. She then excitedly told me she enjoys them fresh, with a little chopped onion, epazote, chilies and queso in a quesadilla. Ding!! My alarm went off. That's exactly what I'll have.

I continued to chat with her in my horrible broken Spanish, but understood the basics:

Flor de calabaza quesadillas

- epazote (a Mexican herb) >> check!
- flor de calabaza (said squash blossoms) >> check!
- saboyas (onions) >> check!
- queso (I got me some queso cremoso - cream cheese) >> check!
- chilis >> check!
- corn tortillas >> check!

Hee hee.. I gleefully head home and await the power of squash blossoms to unfold their secrets to me.

I gently wash my blossoms and pat them dry. I did a bit of Googling on their preparation, and am advised to cut the green stem off, leaving the base intact, and remove the outer peak-shaped tips near the base.

Now onto prepare the quesadilla. Hot pan, lightly greased, tortilla, cheese, chopped epazote & onions, fresh squash blossoms torn, and one more tortilla. Grill till cheese is melted and tortilla is browned. Enjoy!

Very simple and delicious. The flavor is a gentle hit of squash, with the cheese and epazote coming up from the background. The important thing, I've discovered, is not to salt these much (or at all) and use only the faintest of condiments if you must. I had a dab of hot sauce, as I forgot the chilis, which rounded the flavor just a touch.

I might add I had these for breakfast, which intuitively seemed the best time of the day to enjoy them. Lovely and amazing! I now have a bowlfull of these blossoms left, in which I may really try stuffing them and light frying them crisp. Hopefully that's another post.

Evergreen Market
groceries from Mexico, Central & South America, and Asia
2539 Mission St @ 21st St
San Francisco, CA

August 06, 2005

Fantabulous! Fuko Ueda

illustration by Fuko Ueda

Several months ago, Roy showed me a number of beautiful illustrations posted on his LiveJournal community. He thought I knew the artist, but unfortunately I did not. This drove me into an internet search tailspin where I spent an hour of surfing to find out who the artist was. I came up with some references to the same images, but alas no name. Well, mystery solved! The awesome Fecal Face posted some thumbs of the artist with her name and a linky to her site.

Fuko Ueda is a young illustrator showing much of her work in Japan, thus far. If I can liken her style to my own experiences, her work reminds me of children's book illustrations from the 70's. There is also a translucent, light quality in her style that is similar to the illustrated Japanese stationery that was quite popular in the 80's. I don't draw these comparisions to discount her work in any way, but these memories are what pulled me to her illustrations in the first place.

Ueda's pieces involve characters of human, animal and surreal form in sparse environments. Her work is fine and delicate, but innocence is not a word I would use to describe her subject matter. There's an underlying current of sinister, sex, rebellion and dominance; but somehow this comes across in a curious, young and almost naive way. Not unlike one's outlook during those peculiar tween years.

July 14, 2005

One strong caipirinha to wash it down


Several months ago, my Portuguese friend, Mikas, clued me into a new Brazilian joint called Carioca, that opened on 3rd & Clement St in the Richmond. We went there on somewhat of a whim, and were lucky enough to squeeze one last meal out of the closing kitchen.

I had some of the best beef I've ever had that night -- a steak with mustard sauce and a beef carpaccio to literally DIE for. It was memorable, and we vowed to do it again.

Months later, we decide to treat ourselves to some nail salon action, then hit Carioca again for dindin. Well no such luck! As quickly as the restaurant opened, it closed. *Groan* With stomachs growling, we had to find a carnivorous joint as substitute and fast!

I mention seeing a newly opened Brazilian steakhouse on the corner of Gough & Market; and we hit the gas and fly over. Aiiii! It's Friday night and crowded. We couldn't wait the wait, so settle for Chinese in the Mission which was far, far away from the original plan. Again, we vow to check out that Brazilian steakhouse.

So Mikas rings me last Friday and we talk the possibility of steak. We hot-tail it to Espetus (the restaurant's name btw) and get ready for a much longed for dining experience.

Espetus is an all you can eat buffet-style Churrascaria, or "House of Barbeque." Before coming here, I was advised by a Brazilian guy to skip the buffet and just concentrate on the meat. "Don't even bother with the chicken," he said. Though delicious, the main event is the wonderful grilled beef, pork and lamb.

I meet Mikas and Mario at the front of Espetus and we proceed to get busy. The place is packed, and there's a bit of a wait for a table. Not too long though, for a Friday. We decide to grab drinks at the bar and wait it out.

Mikas scans the drink menu and mentions they serve caipirinha, a Brazilian cocktail made of muddled sugar & limes, mixed with a glassful of ice and cachaca, a VERY strong sugar cane brandy. Being a classic gin & tonic girl, I thought I could hold my own here, but damn! This cachaca was a totally new spirit for me. I could feel my cheeks warming and I wondered when we were going to get to the steak business, because the last thing I needed was to get loopy at the bar over a pre-dinner cocktail.

Finally, the hostess taps our shoulders and seating appears. Btw, Mikas and Mario both have delicious-looking Sangrias of both the red and white varieties. They looked fresh and yummy, and weren't overloaded with orange wedges like most crappy cafe sangrias tend to be. Ok, I veer, back to the beef.

We get seated, we grab plates, go to the corner buffet and carefully select from a choice of sides that are only the minor players tonight. I get a little paella, a green salad, hearts of palm, baby asparagus and a bit of white rice topped with a toasted root powder, that I know nothing about. Mario tells me Mikas always puts that on top of her rice, so I follow suit. I imagine it's like a manioc or tapioca starch which I'm pretty familiar with.

As soon as we get ourselves reseated, the swords of meat make appearances at our table:

pincanha (sirloin flavored with sea salt & garlic)
lombinho (parmesan encrusted pork loin)
linguica (pork sausage)
coracao de frango (grilled chicken hearts -- a fave of Mikas & Mario)
alcatra (more sirloin)
pork loin
jumbo shrimp

Our soldiers of meats & one seafood, are brought to our table and the server slices off what we like. Most is yummy and grilled to perfection. The pincanha especially! This is the main reason to go. It's sublime -- a thin slice of medium rare sirloin with an edge of fat and a salty char crust. Your mouth will thank you tenfold.

We realize we can't keep up with the march of meats, and notice there's a little "yes please" and "no thank you" sign at the edge of our table. The servers come to you when it's "on" and not when it's "off." We quickly turn it off and work in on the slices before us.

It was like a job -- the eating. You really have to pace yourself and take only what you can handle. Thankfully one of the servers comes out with a sword of grilled pineapple, to clear our palates midway through the meal. We manage to get it all down and proceed to nurse our drinks. Me with my big, strong caipirinha just waiting to take me down.

I couldn't believe we decided to do dessert, but man I'm glad we did. Mikas and I order coconut mousse and passionfruit mousse, respectively, with the intention of sharing. My Lord both mousses (meeses, mice?) were amazingly good -- especially together. You could go to Espetus just for these 2 desserts. Sooooo good. The coconut tastes like a coconut, not like an overly sweet interpretation you get with most non-tropic derived desserts (Baker's coconut can kiss my ass). The passionfruit mousse is strongly flavored and was a bit much for Mario. I love this fruit, so it was fine for me, but cutting it with the coconut elevated the flavor many more levels.

I'm exhausted now just reliving this eating experience. Alright, I'll wrap it up. Espetus -- go there, you will not be disappointed. Vegeterians you will be.

Brazilian Churrascaria
1686 Market Street @ Gough
San Francisco, CA
415 522 8792

July 03, 2005

Totally Tonkatsu - Japantown

Dinner, Tonkatsu
Originally uploaded by jetalone

I've just rolled home from a feast of a feast of a late lunch, and I am beat. A good friend is in town, and we're preparing for July 4th BBQ celebratons for tomorrow. After today's earlier meat selecting and gathering needed ingredients, the troupe of shoppers decided to head over to Japantown to Takara Restaurant, one of our favorite, comfy Japanese restaurants.

Takara is tucked into the back hallways of Japantown's maze of indoor/psuedo outdoor shopping malls. It's literally set back from the rest of "restaurant row" and you probably wouldn't know of its existence if someone didn't tell you about it.

I was introduced to Takara by my friends Rio & Peter who raved about its excellent tonkatsu. I have loved Japanese food since childhood, but never understood the appeal of tonkatsu. That is, until Takara. Ever crave a crispy, yet juicy porkchop? Well that's a good tonkatsu, and Takara does it right. Damned good right! The cutlet is fried perfectly: crunchy crispy w/out a trace of greasiness, and the pork within is juicy joylicious. Not dry and lifeless of past tonkatsus I've encountered.

We've never eaten at Takara during din-din hours, and discovered their dinner portions are double lunch size. That's a fried pork fest, I tell you. With our stomachs churning, we order a slew of dishes eating with our eyes:

agedashi tofu (fried tofu w/grated daikon in a light, sweet sauce)
karaage (fried chicken)
a large platter of various sushi
shrimp & vegetable tempura
saba (grilled mackerel)
chowan mushi (savory egg custard)
japanese pickles
miso soup
kakuni (stewed fatty pork)
tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet *the star*)
and one perfectly fried shrimp head (which Rio & I shared)

After bouts of "mini breaks", we all managed to clean our plates. I even had room for a small scoop of red bean ice cream to close my door. A marathon meal and worth it. Outside of tonkatsu, I highly recommend any of Takara's seafood dishes. Their sushi especially is fresh and clean tasting.

Skip any run of the mill Japanese dishes and go for the winners. I do have to note that although the karaage was flavorful, it was missing that "something" that would make me order it again. Maybe it needed more salt or another seasoning to kick it up a bit.

I would recommend the agedashi tofu. It's a different style from most places I've ordered in that the silken, fried tofu pieces come swimming in a thick, slighty sweet sauce with shitake mushrooms, but the taste is absolutely delicious. Not heavy as one would expect from the presentation.

If you're in Japantown craving hearty Japanese fare away from the tourist trap joints near Benihana, check out Takara Restaurant. It's located in the Peace Plaza, at the foot of the Miyako Inn fronting Post St, around the corner from Mifune and Seoul Garden. Make sure to call for hours and most importantly, bring friends!

Takara Restaurant
22 Peace Plz Ste 202
San Francisco, CA 94115-3611
(415) 921-2000
Cross Street: near Geary Blvd.

July 02, 2005

RIP Luther Vandross -- I raise my cup to you

Ritual Coffee Roasters
Opening day
Originally uploaded by DogMilque.

Some SF days are overcast and foggy. Summer can be a hit or miss. Today it was lovely outside and I couldn't wait to pull out my new-yet-used cheapo bike and take care of errands around my hood.

My can of Cafe La Llave has run out at home, and a glass of oolong milk tea just didn't cut it this morning. I remember seeing a new cafe in the neighborhood, next to Lost Weekend Video, called Ritual Coffee Roasters. It's nice, shiny exterior has taken over a space I barely remember. I roll over dying for a tall glass of espresso con ice.

After struggling for a few minutes w/my new bike lock (I'm still trying to figure this one out), I walk into a busy space reeking in the most delicious way of fresh, roasted beans. I figured I'd sit myself down w/a cup and write out the monthly rent check. No dice, this place was packed to the brim.

Oh well, I may as well get my coffee to go. I ordered a double iced espresso, and was served up a glass of ice mixed w/the anticipated dark elixer. I make my way to the bar to dress it up and find a nice surprise of liquid sugar! Now in Asia and most of the Pacific, liquid sugar (or sugar syrup) is a common sweetener for iced drinks. It's one of those common sense things that just hasn't caught up to the cafes here. With sugar syrup you never worry about stirring your drink to oblivion in hopes of dissolving the sugar crystals. Sweeten up and you're ready freddy.

Post-espresso dressing, I finally give my iced espresso a sip and oh my lord.... it was the best cup of coffee I ever had. Truly! It beat Martha Bros on 24th St in Noe Valley hands down. Now that's saying a lot. I had to have more.... but I felt aprehensive, especially since I really needed to write that rent check and get on w/my life. Oh what to do... I wanted to savor that cup slowly & surely. I figured the next best thing was to take away a 1/2lb of the house roast, "Hair Blender." Oh lovely this Hair Blender! I grab my bag of goodness and zip away.

After careful produce selection at one of my favorite markets on 23rd & S.Van Ness, unsuccessful thrifting at Salvation Army and roasted chicken noshing at one of the divey Chinese take-out joints -- I head home to feed the guinea pigs their Summer salad and take in some Chocolate City on

I realized much of this evening's mix was a lot of 80's & 90's soul, which is usually not the norm on this wonderful radio show. The answer to today's theme is brought to light when the host announces a tribute to r&b balladeer Luther Vandross, who passed away today at 54.

I have fond memories of Luther's early tunes -- Never Too Much, A House Is Not A Home, and the entire The Night I Fell In Love album. One track in particular, Creepin' is one of his most underrated songs. It's a slow, sultry tune that defined a mid-80's Summer. This is Luther before he went by the Disney soundtrack wayside. The power ballads to follow his early success never really sat well with me.

So in honor of the talented Luther Vandross, whose early music presented the backdrop to my awkward coming of age years, I raise my delicious cup of Hair Blender coffee in your memory....

Ritual Coffee Roasters
1026 Valencia St, between 21st & 22nd
San Francisco
415 641 1024

weekdays 7am-11pm
Sundays 8am-9pm

March 11, 2005

Natto Natto Natto

朝は納豆, originally uploaded by snowy's goodthings.


Oh it's been a loooong while since my last post, but have been doing some of this & that while dealing with a physical move. Whew! Now that that's over and done with, I can jabber about my food adventures as of late. Lately I've been on a quest to find interesting foods high in nutrition. I've always loved Japanese food and am curious about dishes served outside of the restaurant realm. Homestyle, if you will. Here is where natto and I meet.

For those unawares, natto is fermented soybeans usually eaten for breakfast. Natto for Everybody, Natto Land, and I was really just hungry all have the down & dirty on natto, its health benefits and how to eat it. Natto is an unsual sticky mash that is best mixed with a bit of asian mustard, soy sauce and some scallion. Add this mix to hot, steaming rice and you've got the breakfast of champions. Yum? It takes getting used to, the smell especially. It being fermented and all, natto has a strong, ammonia type odor that some people despise -- also the stickiness from the initial mixing, results in a spider-web stringness.

My first bonafide natto breakfast was combining the natto with the soy sauce & mustard flavor packets and adding one raw egg. I mixed this with my rice and thoughtfully dug in. The thought of natto's health benefits helped my nose cancel the pungent odor. I found it non-salty and beany. Lots of texture and hearty tasting. I think the egg interfered with my experience, though. I'll have to try it sans egg with the scallions instead. I hear it's great with pasta. Take note!

For those interested, my natto-interest first peaked after reading the "Rotten" issue of Eat magazine, a Japanese/English publication devoted to all things food. Unfortunately this outstanding magazine is dead, but you can order back issues off their site.

Till next time, "Best stinky dishes"

February 02, 2005

Show me your music and I'll show you what you eat

My good friend Santos aka chotda, has made a quick detour from food to tunes on her foodie blog Scent of Green Bananas. Follow the link at the title to dive in. There are several questions posed for the music in you. I was asked to answer a few:

Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you:
Here's the quick & dirty below. This got me thinking about my ever-changing top five. I must lay some words for DJ Shadow's Preemptive Strike, the legendary Al Green, Madlib's Quasimoto alter ego, and bossa nova, as well.

Tortoise (TNT) - In Sarah, Mencken, Christ And Beethoven There Were Women And Men
// Now that's got to be the longest song title in history. Basically I love the entire album, but I tuck this one in my back pocket (I Set My Face to the Hillside is another TNT fave). In 2002, I worked for and made the daily BART commute from the city to Berkeley. I clocked in a lot of commute time and devoted my ears to whatever I could get my hands on. TNT got a lot of airplay at the office, thanks to all the boy musicians that made up customer service. This tune is the industrial Oakland landscape whizzing by, large-scale grafitti burns, my flower-strewn walk to work, waiting on benches, and the optimism of coming out of year long funk.

Tommy Guerrero (Loose Grooves & Bastard Blues) - Introspection Section
// Last February, I was pulling a major all nighter at STRANGEco, printing out handmade catalogs for the NY Toy Fair we were set to attend in a few days. Jim was already in New York, and Greg & I were working the printer to its proverbial "bone", to make deadline. I eventually slept under the desk and woke up periodically to press the start button when the run completed. I finally got a 2nd wind at 6am when an orange sunrise crept through the windows onto my face. SomaFM's Beat Blender was streaming this tune at this perfect, exhaustive moment. I've been in love with Tommy Guerrero ever since.

Stevie Wonder (Innervisions) - Golden Lady
// Stevie Wonder's music sets the backdrop to most of my formative years - it's a vision of green-hued photographs, playing red rover, the taste of sea salt after the beach and family gatherings. I spent a fantastic early childhood growing up on Oahu when my dad was stationed in Hawaii. Every weekend we'd pack up and camp at Bellows Beach with my relatives. Camping at the beach was great, but the drive was even better. I remember riding on the back of my uncle's truck, peering over the edge of a cliffside road and entering a long black tunnel, which was my personal landmark for the start of the weekend. Fast forward to my grown up life on Guam, I'm sitting in Trades, having ritual drinks with co-workers after another night of hard work -- Dave Santos is on guitar singing this tune in his spare, quiet manner. My mind trips back to the Hawaiian sun at my back, the beach, and the taste of imperfect smores.

Bill Evans (Sunday At The Village Vanguard) - Jade Visions (Take 2)
// This entire album chronicles my adventure of the build up of trivial love, a vulnerable spirit and the inevitable heartbreak to follow. I am recovered and strong willed now, and rediscovered my spunky side that stays up late traversing busy city streets. This tune's optimism is a Saturday night art crawl, lively conversation at the corner cafe, a delicious 1am beef pho across town, or a night spent in cuddling my much-loved guinea pigs.

Stereolab (Dots and Loops) - Brakhage
// My best memories on Guam were spent with friends: driving around the island, discovering hidden waterfalls, swimming in them, dancing till my legs gave out and sharing countless meals together. Cooking, eating, cooking, eating. Our whole experiences and culture are inside a lumpia roll and over a pot of rice. We cooked many delicous meals and laughed constantly. Brakhage is the sound of the kitchen, the heavy island heat, the smell of car air conditioning, full moon island jaunts and the tactile feeling of friends.

What is the total amount of music files on your computer? - unknown, but it's bogging down my hard drive dammit!

The CD you last bought?

The Disappointment - my friend Jill's boyfriend Ed's band. Sadly they recently broke up, but I shall not despair.

What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?

"Happy Cycling" by Boards of Canada, from Music Has the Right to Children. Sometimes I love this album -- for the first 20 minutes. Then it grates under my skin. It's a good working tune -- especially if you're coding and your second coffee just kicked in.

January 28, 2005

Street leaves

Street leaves - Valencia @ 20th

There was a gas station on the corner of Valencia & 20th that closed a few months ago. As soon as the business shut down, the city writers came out to throw up some very nice burns on the storefront. I remember Shepard Fairey was in town for his show at The Shooting Gallery, and lo & behold a big-ass OBEY wheatpaste plastered the gas pump pillars. Those street artists were swift on their feet.

The Mission has a high concentration of the best urban art I've seen in SF. The graffiti comes in all manner of wheatpaste, stencils, stickers, tags, etc.... Coupled with the classic Mission murals, street expression is alive and very well. I woke up one morning, took a stroll down Valencia to my local pho joint and found the fence surrounding the closed gas station beautifully decorated with autumn leaves. A natural, creative foreground to the graffiti unseen behind the gate. This piece makes me smile.

January 01, 2005

Stay Alive in 2005

Happy New Year 2005
Some of my friends started a tradition of coming up with a funny slogan for the pending new year. I fondly remember "What about me in '83" -- but the best one was a M.A.D.D. campaign dubbed "Stay Alive in '85." Considering the new year has come in with full tsunami power (losing many lives), I think it only fitting to seriously carry on the same slogan for 2005. May everyone find more joy, more love and more peace this year.