Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Mystery

It's not typical for me to be able to play Where Is Yellojkt Now? two weeks in a row, but I am on the road again. Her are more pictures and clues for where I am this week. To win you need to give the state, city and street where these pictures were taken.

It's not THE Capitol, but this capitol on Capitol Street sure looks familiar.

While not anywhere near the city limits, this street is a center for live music.

The bionic man doesn't live here, but another Steve, Stevie Ray Vaughn is a local hero. Blues is a popular format including J. T. Coldfire pictured here.

Rod Stewart may not play here, but Maggie Mae's is a local landmark. As is the Blind Pig Pub where Joe Vega plays every night except Monday's and alternate Thursdays.

I would be very impressed is somebody can solve this without Googling any of the bars or performers mentioned. Go ahead and leave your guesses in the comments or check out this Flickr set to more clues (as well as the answer).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Factory Tour

I drew the short straw and got named as the company representative for a boring, overly technical factory tour. Fortunately the social part of the trip included a much more interesting factory tour. So it once again time to play "Where Is Yellojkt Now?" Check out the hints and pictures (I apologize for the fuzzy quality of my sad Palm Treo lens) below to see if you can name the state, city, and company that I was at tonight.

This fiberglass horse is overlooking a fine mountain stream running through the woods. If you ford the stream, you'd find plenty of real horses.

We do the mash, the sour mash. Sorry, that was really corny.

That is a fine kettle of, well, not fish you've got me in. In fact, I am really steamed.

I don't know jack about barrels but these are in high spirits. Those aren't concord grapes in those casks.

Roll out the barrel and let's have a barrel of fun. The proof is in the sipping. 90.4 proof that is. Reserve me a bottle.

I just wish that I could fit a fifth or two in my carry-on bag for the flight back.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Separated At Photoshop

Boing Boing recently featured a Ralph Lauren ad that had a scarily photoshopped model. Flirting with the Streisand Effect, Ralph Lauren bullied Blogger into a take down notice on the original Photoshop Disasters post. While the RL PR minions eventually expressed shock, shock that excessive photoshopping was going on, I have a different theory. I think they were letting John Currin do their art direction.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Air Blogging

I am currently at 34,000 feet using my AirTran GoGo WiFi free trial. It would be more useful if the airplane seats were wide enough to touch type instead of hunt and pecking to avoid jabbing the people next to me with my elbows.

We were in Atlanta for the Georgia Tech homecoming. The Yellow Jackets defeated #4 Virginia Tech 28-23 in a game where GT led the entire second half but could never quite put the game away until they caught the desperation onsides kick with less than two minutes to go.

While in Atlanta we ate at two more Top Chef cheftestant restaurants. That is us posing with Chef Eli as he prowls the dining room at the end of the evening. Look for those reviews in future posts. Hint: Don't knock fois gras as a dessert until you try it.

I also took tons of pictures of the Rambling Wreck parade which is always a hoot. Few of the really daring entries really work well, but that they work at all is amazing. In a way that makes them like blogging from the center seat in coach on an airplane. The novelty that it can be done at all is what makes it interesting.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Deconstructing Guy Fieri

There are two types of hosts on cooking shows, chefs and personalities. Anthony Bourdain is a chef. He went to the Culinary Institute of America. He rose through the ranks of the sweaty kitchens, wrote a bestseller and now makes most of him money doing personal appearances. Rachel Ray is a personality. She's cute and perky and has introduced more than one annoying catch phrase into the vernacular. But she has never run a restaurant.

Guy Fieri has some cooking chops but he definitely falls on the personality side of the scale. At the Anthony Bourdain and David Chang "I Call Bullshit" show I saw recently, Chang, who runs the hottest restaurant in New York was quoted in Grub Street as saying cooking is not about “fuckin’ sunglasses and that stupid fuckin’ armband.” He then made Bourdain swear to push him down the stairs if he started dressing that way.

Bourdain as a TV chef himself had some more sympathy. He said that the price of being Guy Fieri is that every day you have to wake up and be Guy Fieri. As fate would have it, as I was returning to my hotel Sunday morning, Guy and his entourage stepped out of the elevator. I followed them out to the front of the hotel and took some pictures. Guy saw my workout clothes and asked me if I had been running. I said I had jogged up from the World Trade Center site and he seemed politely impressed (I later checked, it was two miles away). So if Guy is a jerk, he wasn't one to me.

Still, Fieri was in his full Poochie-becomes-a-Juggalo costume. So like a master chef does to a fine meal, lets deconstruct what it takes to be Guy Fieri.

Frosted tips. It takes more product to keep that bleached Sonic the Hedgehog look going that most guys ever own. The spiked hair must take an hour every day all by itself.

Sunglasses. It's not enough to be wearing wrap-around sunglasses at nine in the morning, they have to be logo-ed in silver.

Earring. Like a goatee (which Guy also sports), I thought the guy-lobe had gone by the wayside, but they live on. I just hope he has the correct ear in case he goes cruising in Chelsea.

Necklace. Only Mr. T wears more metal around his neck than this silver monstrosity that screams Intercontinental Belt Champion. Somewhere a Navajo jeweler is counting his coins.

Embroidered Bowling Shirt. Just how much needlepoint does it take before a Tony Soprano shirt qualifies for its own Pride Day Parade? I'm not sure Dolly Parton owns that many rhinestones.

Armband. The most perplexing signature piece of the ensemble is the wrist band pushed up onto the forearm. While Wikipedia has an explanation, it still seems just a mite ridiculous.

Bracelet. And since the wristband is not in the traditional spot on the wrist, that frees up some space for some more bling.

Watch. Guy has a busy schedule. He's about to go on a 22 city tour so he needs to know what time it is.

Thumb Ring. Just so that the left hand doesn't feel jealous, the sinister digits get some bling as well.

Cargo Shorts. The only celebrity that can carry off the halfway between the knee and the ankle hem line is Kevin Smith and that is because he is going for Cinematic Slob rather than Redneck Restaurateur.

Logo Patch. When it comes to branding, Guy has his logo on him more places than Tiger Woods has swooshes on the 18th hole of Augusta. You're Guy Fieri. We get it. Just how many subliminal Knuckle Sandwich shots do we need?

Black Socks. (not pictured) The bad boy image just doesn't work if you are wearing white anklets. The black crew socks go with the sneakers like mustard on a hot dog.

It IS a full time job being Guy Fieri. Elton John doesn't get this dolled up to make a public appearance. As Anthony Bourdain sighs with resignation, "It's a Food Network world." We just live in it. And Guy Fieri plays the part of the court jester, costume and all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Food Festival Fanaticism

We went up to New York for the second time this October. This time, rather than stalk hunks in Broadway shows, we went to stalk celebrity chefs. The 2nd Annual New York Food and Wine was taking place in and around the Meatpacking District. The events themselves were kinda pricey, particularly if they involved actual food or wine. Instead we just signed up for talks and demos by our favorite TV chefs.

P1040754We like Anthony Bourdain of Kitchen Confidential and No Reservations so much we saw him twice. The first talk was with David Chang, the hyper-popular and rather profane chef of the suspiciously named Momofuku restaurants. The talk was called "I Call Bullshit" and that was probably the most family friendly sentence in the entire hour. Among the things they called bullshit on were cupcakes, pork bellies with foam, Krispy Kreme cheeseburgers, and Guy Fieri.

IMG_8669aThe next night on the other end of town Bourdain was interviewed by Frank Bruni, former restaurant critic of the New York Times, where he laid into some of the same topics. In particular he singled out Alice Waters as an overly militant food zealot. He made a particular point that he didn't disagree with her, he just hated her tone and patronizing manner, calling her Pol Pot in a muumuu. He accused her of burning six cords of wood to cook Leslie Stahl one egg. He was pretty close, as this video proves:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

P1040764Less potty-mouthed but just as entertaining was Alton Brown the food scientist. Rather than give a demonstration, he presented the ten things he was pretty certain he knew about food. Item 2 was that chicken do NOT have fingers.

He gave a lot of practical reasoned advice. For example he said that 'organic' is a meaningless marketing term that has been sapped of any meaning it might have ever had. However, 'local' was a word he could understand. Get a map and draw a circle and you can understand what qualifies as locally grown. He said that if you wanted strawberries out of season, buy a bunch in season and freeze them. That advice gave me bad high school flashbacks of being pressed into the you-pick strawberry fields every March to fill the freezer with the tail end of the Florida strawberry crop.

There were a lot of other chefs and food personalities and the easiest way to catch them was at their book signings. For example, the Giada De Laurentiis signing was entirely full, so we snagged Tyler Florence's book since he was signing right next to her and had a much shorter line. Twofer.

P1040784 P1040786a

Ironically, we were so busy running around to events that we had a hard time slicing out time to actually eat. We just happened to stumble on some great places in the Meatpacking District including Asian seafood place cum nightclub Sea, replica French brasserie Pastis, and BLT Burger, master chef Laurent Tourondel's foray into cheap eats.

IMG_1215 IMG_1434a IMG_1234

And speaking of meatpacking (and I would make some sort of Chelsea joke here but I'm bigger than that), right next to our hotel was one of the last remaining real meatpacking plants left in the increasingly inaccurately named neighborhood. But this was a rather upscale butcher. They receive already slaughter meat and then dry age and trim it for the high end New York steak places like craftsteak up the street. I was tempted to smuggle one out in the butcher coat they made us wear.

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All-in-all we had a blast and would do it again in a heartbeat. You can check out more pictures in the Flickr set which includes the model shoot we stumbled on in the middle of Ninth Avenue.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

If I Were Gay

Today is National Coming Out Day and while I have nothing to announce, I just want to share this video clip which is Bert and Ernie mashed up with my fourth favorite Avenue Q song.

My absolute favorite Avenue Q song is still "The Internet Is For Porn" in its many incarnations. Coming in second and third respectively are "Everybody's A Little Bit Racist" and "You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love)". Now ranking your favorite Avenue Q songs could be considered a little bit gay, but not nearly as gay as Noel Fielding from the Britcom "Mighty Boosh".

Now a good blogfriend insists that Noel is straight and I have no reason to doubt it. After all, I also indulge in activities that make people suspect my orientation. On a recent trip to New York I did all of the following things in a single twelve hour period:
  • Had brunch in Chelsea.
  • Saw Next To Normal, which is not gay in and of itself but hanging around the stage door afterwards for autographs is a little suspicious.
  • Went to a cabaret show at Don't Tell Mama. This could have been a lot gayer since our perform was an ostensibly straight Latina. While waiting at the bar we did see the Judy Garland performer come in sans drag.
  • Ogled Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig in a show with aforementioned post-show stalking.
  • Staked out Jude Law leaving his performance just because we were there.
Throw in my love for Glee and my nearly complete lack of interest in professional sports and the case against me grows. But it's not like I'm Lyle The Effeminate Heterosexual. But then it's not like most of the gay men I know are particularly swishy. There were two gay guys in my wedding party, The Greatest Roommate Ever and The World's Biggest Cher Fan (who saw her 'farewell' tour three times, which even he admits is pretty gay). For those long-time readers of this blog, through the miracle of Facebook, my wife has hunted down WBCF who is living in New York. On the day after my Big Gay Day described above, we met for brunch in the East Village (which is hardly gay at all any more) to catch up.

Since we last saw him twenty years ago, he has bounced around in a few careers and then learned he had leukemia while uninsured. He seems to have licked it but it took three years of his life and all his life savings to do so. He is now couch surfing in Brooklyn while training to become a social worker.

And here is where the Very Special part of this post comes in. There is much more to life than sexual orientation. Health and friends and self-worth are much more important than who you want to sleep with. Someday I hope there is no need for a Coming Out Day. We should all be appreciated for who we are and not who we like.

And just to mellow out, let's have one more YouTube clip. And this time let's all sing it with the kick-steps.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ride Samaritans

Being the masochist that I am, I signed up for the Tour Du Port bike ride this year and decided to do the 50 mile route. I do about one of these charity rides a year. Last year it was the Tour Dem Parks on the hottest day of the year. With the Du Port being in October I expected better weather and I got it. Setting off at 7:30 sharp, the first leg went from the Canton waterfront across upper Fells Point, around the Inner Harbor, through Federal Hill and back to the National Aquarium on the waterfront. There I got my chain lubed {insert Bevis and Butthead snickering here} and grabbed some snackage.

According to the cue sheet, the next rest stop was in another 23 miles which took me through some of the rusty parts of decaying Baltimore, past lots of barking dogs in greater Dundalk (and I haven't lived in Baltimore long enough to make Dundalk and Essex jokes), and finally along long stretches of marshland to North Point Park.

There I carb loaded once again as I reflected on the advantages of bicycling over running. Primarily that stopping for a food break is not frowned upon. North Point Park was quite large and rather scenic as well as being the general area of the Battle of Baltimore where the British were beaten in the under-heralded War of 1812.

It was those last twenty miles that proved to be the test of my mettle. The clips on my biking shoes had gotten rather worn from using them as brakes on the Bike NYC ride earlier this year and now the left foot wasn't clipping in right. And then I started passing a series of people fixing flats. I was counting my blessings until I heard an all too familiar hissing off my bike.

In one of Murphy's corollaries, I only get flats on the rear tire which means having to wrestle with the chain and gears to put it on and off. I waved off several concerned passers-by as I changed the tube, but when it came time to get the wheel back on, I finally accepted the assistance of two guys that asked if I needed help. Which I am glad I did since it took all three of us to figure out the CO2 cartridge.

After an earlier flat I learned the hard way that my frame mounted pump was more decorative than useful. I had bought the cartridge gizmo in hopes that I would never have to use it, but to my surprise, it worked perfectly. The tires ballooned up to a road worthy 65 psi in an instant.

I finished the last ten miles against a strong headwind and a suspicious number hills. I collected my tee shirt and burrito and hoped I had sufficiently thanked the good Samaritans that had helped me in my moment of need. Now when I pass stranded bikers I will make more than a token effort to check if they need help. And I will keep two CO2 cartridges in my bag, one to use and one to share.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Top Chef Brunch-Off

Indulging my new-found celebrity chef stalking obsession, we found ourselves the past couple of weekends near restaurants run by current Top Chef contestants. While brunch is not the ideal meal to judge a restaurant by, these were perhaps our only chances to eat at these places to see how the actual eatery compared to the personality of the contestant.


10 Arts

Trestle On Tenth
New York

Jennifer Carroll
Ash Fulk
Modern American
Swiss Bistro
Top Chef Reputation

She garnered a reputation in the first episode for mispronouncing ceviche. Intense and focused, she is considered one of the front runners.

Skating on the bubble, Ash has a propensity for not quite being able to finish a dish in time.


The restaurant is one side of the lobby of the Ritz Carlton in downtown Philadelphia. The hotel is a repurposed bank with a monstrous lobby full of marble and grandeur. Neon lights have been spread around the lobby to give the place a glowing hipster vibe.

Located on the corner of Tenth Avenue and 24th Street in Chelsea, the brick walls and dark wood gives trestle a warm comfortable feel. A small bar at the entrance gives it neigborhood sense. Doubling the seating area is a garden area out back enclosed by a small fence.


For the novelty of it, I ordered an egg-white spinach omelette with goat cheese. The goat cheese was a perfect match for the lighter taste of the egg-white.

The other dish we got was buttermilk pancakes which were amazingly fluffy and absolutely perfect.

For sides we got both bacon and sausage but either one would have been enough for two people. Of the two, the sausage was much better with a rich maple taste.

The gratinéed pizokel were little schnitzel-like dumplings and the open face pork sandwich had tangy sauerkraut with a thick topping of fontina cheese.

The omelette was billed as goat cheese and herbs. Rather than being in the omelette, the goat cheese was just a light topping on the top. And the definition of herbs included spinach, zucchini, and green beans. The vegetables overpowered the egg.

For dessert, a delicious walnut torte had a thick butter crust was topped with rich ice cream and whipped cream.

Chef Sighting

On a Saturday morning we had no expectations of the chief chef being around. However, there were several signs in the lobby touting Jennifer as a Top Chef 'cheftestant' and promoting their Wednesday viewing parties.

Ash is listed on the show as the restaurants sous chef but none of the owners or chefs are touted anywhere on the menu or the restaurant website.


One of the best breakfasts I have ever had. Everything was cooked to perfection and then some. However, the dining room was nearly empty on a Saturday morning and seemed to be catering to the captive hotel crowd. Unless you are in Philly on business you are unlikely to stumble upon this downtown gem because parking is difficult and expensive.

I imagine the evening scene is much wilder when all the glowing neon plays up the decor.

This neighborhood place has both good food and is located in a great funky New York neigborhood. The people next to us were a professional photographer and his aging hipster friends. By noon the place was full of regulars. If I were a local, I could see myself paying a few bucks more compared to some other brunch places in New York to come back again and again.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Amazing Race Deja Vu

It's hard to believe that it's been four years since we went to Vietnam. I wrote a blog called Asia Trip 2005 about that trip with 63 entries describing different aspects of the country. A few seasons ago on The Amazing Race, they visited Hanoi and Halong Bay which I posted about here. What I didn't talk about on that blog was that on our way back to the United States from Vietnam we spent three days in Japan.

So when the first three episodes of this season's Amazing Race took place in Tokyo and Vietnam, I got an extreme case of deja vu. So here are some of the places we saw that were also spots along the Amazing Race.

Tokyo Tower
One of the major landmarks in Tokyo is the Tokyo Tower, a full size replica of the Eiffel Tower. But in typical Japanese efficiency they made their version more slender and steamlined. It is also in a crowded neighborhood (as most Tokyo neighborhoods are) not an a broad plaza like the Eiffel Tower, so it is not nearly imposing as the original.

Mekong Delta
The racers first stop in Vietnam was to go to the Mekong Delta, about two hours from Saigon (I can't bring myself to call it Ho Chi Minh City). The Mekong is broad muddy river with all sorts of river traffic. The size of the boats on the river ranges from long barges and big ferries to small saipans barely out of the water. We were in a little boat with a skimpy roof when a major rainstorm hit and we spent nearly an hour bobbing on the river waiting for it to pass.

Traditional Music
While the Racers were herding ducks, in the background they had traditional Vietnamese musicians playing the oddly atonal stringed instruments and singing. We had gone to a restaurant in Hue that specializes in this music and the musicians used on The Amazing Race were every bit as good.

Fruit Garden
The Racers went to a fruit garden and had to muck mud to the trees. Tree groves in Vietnam are often on little patches of land only accessible by boat. It was a similar garden in Saigon where I finally got my first taste of durian.

Water Puppets
Water puppets are a native Vietnamese art form and a lot of fun to watch. We saw the original water puppets in Hanoi, but it seems that Saigon has a water puppet theater as well. One of the funniest bits on show was watching the contestants try to grab little ribbons out of the mouths of the furiously circling water puppet dragons.

Saigon Post Office

One of the clues took the teams to the gorgeous colonial era post office in the center of Saigon. While I don't have any pictures of it, it is a grand building full of wrought iron details reminiscent nineteenth century France.

Reunification Plaza
The pitstop for the third leg of the race was at the former presidential palace of South Vietnam. One of the iconic symbols of the war is of a North Vietnamese tank crashing the gate of the palace signaling the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. That particular tank is now in a museum in Hanoi, but other tanks that took part are still on the grounds.

This modernist building now serves as a museum to the corruption and extravagance of the old regime. Some people on the Television Without Pity message boards questioned the tastefulness of using this building and the memories it invokes as a pitstop. I thought the brief introduction Phil Keoghan gave was suitably somber, but history is written by the winners and, trust me, there are far more rub-your-nose-in-it places they could have gone. The building is one of the major landmarks in Saigon and not using it as a location would be shortchanging the viewers of essential experience.

I love The Amazing Race because of the vicarious thrill of visiting faraway remote places I may never get to. But even better is when they do visit places I've been to. Then I get to savor the recognition of familiar sights. In both Vietnam and in Tokyo the show did a fantastic job of capturing the chaos of the urban crowds as well as the simple but hard aspects of contemporary rural life in this country of amazing beauty.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

BooksFirst - September 2009

Books Bought
My Areas of Expertise by John Hodgman
Bonk by Mary Roach

Books Read
How I Became a Famous Novelist by Stephen Hely


I love metathematic books and How I Became A Famous Novelist is a delicious head trip by Steve Hely. In his first solo book, former Letterman writer Hely dissects the publishing world in a way that makes you wonder if he ever wants to publish a second book.

The premise is that the protagonist in a fit of revenge fueled jealousy over his old girlfriend getting married decides to emulate every bad cliche of fiction and write bestseller just to impress her. That he manages to do so, the write the best seller part, not necessarily the exact revenge on his ex- part, is part of the manic comic arc of this book. Along the way he interacts with many of the kitschy authors he is trying to emulate. And while the title of the book foreshadows the eventual outcome, it doesn't quite come about the way you'd expect.

Much of the greatness of the book are the phony excerpts that preface each chapter. Often in the style of thinly veiled best-selling authors, they are brilliant parodies. Part of the awkwardness is realizing that I am just familiar enough with most of these hacks to recognize them. I'm sure they are to, so I hope they all have a sense of humor as they pound out their trashy dreck all the way to the bank.

I only hope there is a sequel and a movie version starring John Cusack and a spin-off TV series.

And just in case you haven't been following my Twitter feed, I am now only 101 other patrons away from getting my own copy of The Lost Symbol from the library.

Hat tip to Sue T. for recommending this book to me.