Stupid good

Late as this is, it’s well worth it. Weekend before last, I had two, count ’em two, spectacular meals.

Friday night, MF Buckhead. Big brother (sister?) to MF Sushi on Ponce (never been, want to go), this recently opened joint is probably the sexiest restaurant I’ve ever encountered. In a sort of restaurant ghetto in the new Terminus building, where the other tenants (Aquaknox, Bricktops, Lola) all have grand entrances with gigantic, brightly lit signs, MF Buckhead’s entrance is a pair of doors wrapped around a corner, with the restaurant’s logo simply, quietly etched in glass. Greetings come by way of three ridiculously hot (Asian, fittingly) hostesses, and we pass by a beautiful black bar staffed by an even more ridiculously hot bartender as we’re shown to our table.

The bar

Heralded recently in two reviews from Atlanta critics that I pay attention to, and already crowned the king of Atlanta sushi, the place is stunningly gorgeous. I can’t even remember it all, but there were great, modern (but comfortable) chairs, dope art, and a larger space overlooking the main room that was sheathed by some sort of blue beaded waterfall curtain. But I digress…..the food. Jesus Christ, the food.

First off, edamame. I certainly never thought that there was much to edamame. Every time I’ve had it, it tastes the exact same. It’s always good, but always the same. This, however, was the best edamame I’ve ever had. I’m not even sure how this stuff is harvested, or if it was from some different place (Japan?) than where run-of-the-mill edamame comes from (Wisconsin?), but it tasted leaps and bounds fresher and lighter than any I’ve ever had. And with edamame like that, you can’t just toss Morton’s on there; our waitress grated fresh Himalayan rock salt over the whole bowl. I don’t put salt on anything, but it was welcomed with open arms (mouth? PAUSE) in this instance.

After that, a roll, but without the rice and seaweed. Is that still a roll? Snow crab and asparagus wrapped in smoked salmon, barely seared and drizzled with a creamy aioli. I dare say it was a little much, if only because the salmon was so rich. But that’s probably a good thing. Then, Kobe beef nigiri. At the risk of sounding cliché, it really did taste like butter. Thinly sliced, momentarily thrown on the robata grill, and laid over a pillow of rice with a slice of jalapeno and cilantro, it literally melted in my mouth. I managed to turn those two pieces into about six bites, just so I could experience it that many more times. Then some real rolls, among them a fatty tuna with cucumber, and two others I can’t remember — not because they were in any way deficient, but because I’m not quite at the level of sushi connoisseurship to appreciate the nuances of it all. I do, however, recall that they were all as fine as the first.

My entree (is that what they’re called at a sushi place?) was a piece of Chilean sea bass, again from the robata, wrapped in what I think was bamboo, with seasoned purple onions and a squeeze of lemon. This stuff fell to pieces as soon my chopsticks touched it; this is a good thing though. It was flaky, tender, and kind of perfect.

Dessert was a raspberry coulis topped with a layer of meringue, and a pair of sorbets — one a white peach, the other the house special, a banana, something, something, and something mix (I know it was 4, all fruits), sauced with sweet red beans, a taste I’d learned to appreciate from the Chinese woman I shared an office with in New York, who consistently and kindly brought me Chinatown treats, like red bean popsicles. Neither was outstanding, but both were still pretty damn good.

Luckily, I have a friend with a generous expense account — for three, the bill was upwards of $300. Nice.

On to Saturday night. I have a dear friend who, while I lived in New York, I went out to dinner with once a week. Or at least almost once a week. A fellow food nerd, we always tried something new and different, and went back and forth picking up the check. She was in town for New Year’s, and lucky for me, it was her turn to ante up (next time I’m up top, it’s on me). JCT Kitchen interiorAfter weeks of e-mailing suggestions back and forth, we decided on JCT Kitchen, off of Howell Mill on the Westside. I used to live over there, and have a great appreciation for the area, although in those days my culinary options usually ran closer to Wendy’s and Taco Bell. I’ve grown.

Anyhow, this spot has been on my radar for some time now, as I have a great appreciation for Southern/country/soul food, and I love seeing people doing new, interesting things with it. I’d read about JCT and it’s chef in quite a few places, and Esquire even named it one of the best bars in the country. In what seemed to be a theme for the weekend, JCT is located in another sort of restaurant ghetto. It’s in the same complex as Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Quinones at Bacchanalia, and Floataway Cafe, all found here, and all of which I desperately want to try. The decor was cool; woodplank floors, and lots of muted lighting and neutral color on the walls. Nothing special and even a little bland, but still extremely pleasant and relaxed.

Started off with tomato soup with a Georgia got cheese crouton. Not exactly a bold choice, but I knew what I wanted, and I go for pretty much anything with cheese. It was delicious, as suspected, but my only complaint was that the goat cheese crouton was precisely that: a big-ass crouton, about the size of a RAZR, with some cheese on it. It made it a little hard to get a nice piece of it with every slurp of soup. Spoons aren’t generally the best cutting utensils, and bowls, particularly when filled with hot liquid, don’t make for very good cutting surfaces. Nonetheless, it was indeed delicious. They do not, however, get any extra special points; I mean really, how hard is it to fuck up tomato soup?

For the main platter, I made an excellent choice, if I don’t say so myself. Which I do. I ordered the bacon-wrapped rainbow trout, served over a bed of sweet corn puree, with a wood grilled onion salad, lemon, and EVOO (shout-outs to Rachel Ray). I realize the ridiculousness with which most restaurants describe their food, but I give them the benefit of the doubt; they do a better job of telling me what it is than I’d probably do on my own. Anyhow, it was good. Really good. And all of the frou-frou that accompanied it was good too. I don’t think I’ve had trout before (I just started eating fish about 3 years ago, slowly but surely, after a 10+ year lay-off, with my previous experience pretty much limited to fish sticks), but it was distinctly not very fishy. Not necessarily a bad thing, but as I’ve learned to appreciate fish, I now kind of like it. Was it just here, or is all trout like that? It’ll definitely get it a shot elsewhere though.

My homie is a real meat-and-potatoes kind of girl (gotta love that), so she appropriately had meat and potatoes. Her steak, which usually doesn’t really get me going, was perfectly seasoned, and she had potatoes two ways — smashed (does mashing no longer do the trick?), and a basket of truffle-parmesan fries. I’m not entirely convinced of the magic and wonder of truffles, despite hearing them praised and fawned over on the Food Network and in fancy-pants restaurants and recipes, and not really being able to taste much more than the parmesan on the fries certainly didn’t convert me. But they were some damn good parmesan fries. I’m not a huge french fry fan, but when done right, they’re pretty hard to beat.

Dessert was crazy good. We shared the gingerbread pudding with lemon curd, although the name is a bit misleading. As you can see, a more apt description would be a gingerbread bread pudding; get the difference? JCT Kitchen gingerbread bread pudding w/ lemon curdThis was an intensely dense pudding/cake hybrid, that was rich and creamy and thick and all of the above. I’m not entirely sure what a curd is, so I’ll run with what they called it. Not a pudding, not a sauce, but whatever it was, its citrus-y zest perfectly accompanied, and balanced, the richness of the cake (that’s what I’m calling it: a gingerbread pudding cake).

 

Both of these spots get hearty recommendations. Here’s hoping I can finagle my way into another weekend of fee-free gourmet sometime again soon.

Picture credits: MF Sushi – Creative Loafing (James Camp); JCT Kitchen – Off The Broiler; Gingerbread bread pudding w/ lemon curd, Access Atlanta

Sleevefaces

Coltrane sleeveface

Jay-Z sleeveface

More here, which I discovered via the newsletter I get from them everyday.  And from the looks of a quick Google, this is a thriving genre.

DTP continues tradition of rap album covers that look like R&B album covers

Chingy - Hate It Or Love It

Ludacris - Release Therapy

Cobra Commander No Match For Steve Jobs; Also, LeBron James For President of The World

G.I. Joe & an apple

Apples For The Army

Interesting news, decent article, but jesus christ, could you possibly find a better example of an overbearing, overwhelming, visually loud clusterfuck of a website? Has nobody at Forbes heard of ‘less is more’?

While we’re checking out websites of financial journalism titans, here’s an article that’s a bit easier on the eyes. From Fortune, it’s more really good than decent, and it covers King James’ (or rather, his brand’s) march to worldwide ubiquity:

Bron Bron Seeks Membership In Billionaire Boys Club

Do work

Here I find myself, nearly a year away from the last post. That’s too bad. Wish I would’ve kept up, but there’s really nothing to do now but to do it again (‘it’ being writing, not not writing). Who knows what may come of it? Rap, sneakers, good ideas, things I notice, good design, stuff I like, people who inspire me, social commentary, commerce, publicity, fashion, food worth writing about….I don’t know. May turn into any number of things. No need for any proclamations or promises, simply another start and hopefully a more consistent run. Here goes.

But before I do, here’s a quote from a book I’ve just finished (a year or two after I got it from my Mom) that is written in a language that nearly unconditionally amazed me from beginning to end:

“I don’t like work — no man does — but I like what is in the work — the chance to find yourself. Your own reality — for yourself, not for others — what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and can never tell what it really means.”

– Marlow, from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The 14 Best Albums and 44 Best Songs of 2006

Because 10 wouldn’t do it.

14 BEST ALBUMS OF 2006

– Clipse/We Got It For Cheap Vol. 2 – Believe the hype.
– Diddy/Press Play – Futuristic. Shimmering. Passionate. Brilliant. Crazy, huh? But that’s the kind of album a couple of million dollars will buy you.
– Young Dro/Best Thang Smokin’ – An absolute joy to listen to. This dude turns nouns into adjectives, cars into fruit, and colors into whirlwinds. Plus, on the album, he follows ‘Gangsta’ with ‘High Five.’
– Fat Joe/Me, Myself, & I – Judged solely on number of songs skipped per album (minus singles that I’m simply tired of hearing), this would be album of the year. While it’s got much more to do with the quality of the beats than the dimes Joey Crack drops (which he does), there is simply nothing to fast forward through here.
– Young Jeezy/The Inspiration – Awesome.
– The Game – Doctor’s Advocate – Also awesome. Could have been album of the year if not for the overabundance of West Coast, plink-plunk, Kurupt and Daz, Rick Rock-type bullshit.
– T.I./KING – …of the South? Yes.
– DJ Khaled/Listennnn… – The first major label ‘DJ’ album really worth a damn (with a small nod to Clue’s ‘The Professional’).
– Justin Timberlake/LoveSex/FutureSounds – Timbaland officially lost his mind this year. Besides this album, please see Nelly Furtado’s album, ‘3AM’ on Jeezy’s, and the ‘Get To Poppin’ (Get Down)’ remix with Rich Boy on Pitbull’s album.
– Mary J. Blige/The Breakthrough – This came out in late 2005, but I didn’t really start listening to it until 2006, so it’s on here. And it’s great. And I don’t even like R&B.
– Mobb Deep/Blood Money – Call them what you will, say they sold out, say the G-Unit tats are completely OC (I agree), say it ain’t like the old M-O-B-B, but this was a tough, tough album — if you can count on anything, you can count on G-Unit albums to have solid, expensive beatwork. I rock hard with this album. Plus it’s got ‘Pearly Gates’ on it.
– Clipse/Hell Hath No Fury – Sounds of crackness.
– Jay-Z/Kingdome Come – Not great, but its Jay-Z, so actually it is pretty great.
– Nas/Hip-Hop Is Dead – Kinda underwhelming and pessimistic (surprise, surprise!), but as above, it’s Nas, so it turns out to be pretty damn good.

45 BEST SONGS OF 2006

– Jody Breeze/24 Hours – Sublime. Quite possibly my favorite song this year. Find it on the Boyz N Da Hood Gangsta Grillz tape, ‘Welcome To My Block,’ or on a downstealing service near you.
– Prodigy/Mac 10 Handles – So awesome to see this dude back at it. Plus the video kinda scares me.
– Nelly Furtado f. Lil’ Wayne/Maneater (remix) – Holy shit.
– Christina Aggylarry/Ain’t No Other – What is going on in the world when the hottest Premier track in a given year is for a former Mouseketeer? Whatever, it’s hot.
– Lloyd f. Andre 3000 & Nas/You (remix) – With all due respect to the original featuring Lil’ Wayne, Mr. 3000 spits one of the only verses that most dudes can actually imagine happening in their own lives. I will definitely be leaving my credit card with a cute cashier at some point in the near future. Nas is also a pretty good rapper.
– Young Dro/Shoulder Lean – Really though, can you not smile when this comes on?
– Big Homey/Kingdom Come – Using a beat that languished on Just Blaze’s MySpace page for 6 months, Jay shut down the block. He’s still got it, always will.
– Swizz Beats/It’s Me, Bitches – The One-Man Band Man announces his return with this banger. This means a lot coming from me, a guy who used to detest his shit, way back when Ruff Ryders and two-note keyboard beats ruled the world.
– Jim Jones f. Cam’ron, Juelz Santana, & Max B./Pin The Tail On The Donkey – Dipset is still my favorite rap crew. Free Max B.
– Boyz N Da Hood f. Jim Jones & Max B./Superstar – Tough, real tough, probably gotta find it on a mixtape. Can’t figure out why this didn’t catch on more.
– Gwen Stefani/Wind It Up – I really like this song. Like, really, really like it.
– Mobb Deep f. 50 Cent/Pearly Gates – What more is there to say after a verse like the one Prodigy spit on the original version of this joint?
– Rashad Morgan f. T.I. & Young Dro/Tell ‘Em What They Wanna Hear – Again, can’t figure out why this didn’t pop. I like this kid Rashad Morgan.
– T.I. – What You Know/I’m Talking To You/Ride Wit’ Me/Get It/Pretty much his entire album
– Young Dro/Man In The Trunk (Jackie Chan Shit) – His IHOP blue Cutlass sound like it got a band in it.
– Clipse/Hello New World – Haunting.
– Clipse f. Young Jeezy/Pushin’ Weight
– Killer Mike/That’s Life – By far the trillest song of the year.
– Musiq/Buddy – Hot shit from the man with the crazy eye.
– Young Jeezy/3 AM – Literally out of this world. What rap probably sounds like on Mars.
– Tum Tum/Caprice Muzik – The latest in a long line of ‘The Whisper Song’ rip-offs, but highly entertaining nonetheless.
– UNK f. Outkast & Jim Jones/Walk It Out (remix) – Although I get geeked about any 3000 verse I can get these days, Big Boi undeniably murdered it.
– Rich Boy f. Polow Da Don/Throw Some D’s – Do I really need to explain why this is one of the greatest songs of the year? Or even one of the greatest songs ever?
– Pitbull f. Rich Boy/Get To Poppin’ (Get Down) (remix) – Make this the second Rich Boy song you get hooked on.
– Lil’ Wayne f. A Bunch Of Other Dudes Who Nobody Pays Attention To/Cannon (remix) – “Listen close, I got duct tape and rope/I’ll leave you missing like the fucking O’Bannons/One hand on my money, one hand on my buddy, that’s the AK-47, make his neighborhood love me/Bullets like birds, you can hear them bitches hummin’/Don’t let that bird shit, he got a weak stomach/I am sick/I don’t spit/I vomit/got it/One egg short of the omelet…”
– Nas AND Jay-Z/Black Republicans – I know it should really read ‘Nas f. Jay-Z’, but come on, this is a meeting of the minds.
– Beyonce f. Ghostface Killah/Irreplaceable (remix) – Yeah, I said it. It’s one of my favorite songs of the year. But, umm, only the version with Ghostface on it.
– Clipse/Stuntin’ Y’all – Not on the album, but realllllly should’ve been.
– Clipse f. Rosco P. Coldchain/Chinese New Year – So tough.
– Cam’ron/Weekend Girl – Vastly underheard and underrated. Should’ve been the song of the summer.
– Fergie/London Bridge – And I’ll throw in ‘Fergalicious’ while I’m at it.
– Young Dro f. Pharrell & T.I./Trap or Kill Ya’ Self – On Pharrell’s Gangsta Grillz. But I really just like the title.

– Dre f. Rick Ross/Chevy Ridin’ High
– Clipse/Mr. Me Too
– Jay-Z /44 Fours
– Obie Trice f. Kuniva, Cashis, Stat Quo, & Bobby Creekwater/Cry Now (remix)
– Outkast/Morris Brown
– Lil’ Wayne f. Robin Thicke/Shooter
– Yung Joc/Do Ya Bad
– DJ Khaled f. Paul Wall, Lil’ Wayne, & Rick Ross/Holla At Me Baby
– 50 Cent/Puppy Love
– Jay-Z/Dig A Hole
– Lloyd Banks/Make A Move
– Clipse/Keys Open Doors

Keys open doors

I guess I should stay away from the ‘I’m gonna write tommorrow’ proclamations from now on, huh?

Got the BET Hip-Hop Awards on in the background while I get started:

– Rick Ross performs ‘Push It’ and ‘Hustlin’.’ He sucks hard. Live, at least. I like him though.

– Jay wins the Hip-Hop Hustler Award, given to rapper who, uhhh, hustles the best(?). Fittingly. Would it really have made sense to give it to anybody else? He brings Ludacris (who was also nominated) to the stage, promises that he’ll make sure help him win next year. Kinda cool, but kinda patronizing. Closes with “Men lie, women lie, number’s don’t.” The man doesn’t know how not to be the man.

– They give T.I. the Hip-Hop CD (not Album?) of The Year Award…..while they go to commercial break. Damn, if the CD of The Year Award ain’t getting a proper presentation, which one does?

– I love Nelly. For no particular reason.

– While opening the envelope to present the Rookie of The Year Award to Crapmillionaire, his highlight reel is playing on the TV behind the podium — a good 6 or 7 seconds before they actually announce that he won. Now, I know that the BET Hip-Hop Awards Rookie of The Year isn’t necessarily the topic of mass anticipation, or looked forward to with great trepidation, but come onnnnn…….coordinate your shit, BET. Fuckin’ BET. But, man, he is just rambling on about people who hit him up on his two-way. He really doesn’t have much in the way of public speaking skills.

– Katt Williams has a Dipset chain on. Awesome.

– Jeezy has on another shirt with the crazy Bedazzler steez going on. Kinda like this one.

2for10_1924_97792665.jpeg

– Remy Ma — love her too. Again, for no particular reason. Well, maybe it’s hair. Yeah, probably the hair.

– The Game and Junior Reid perform ‘One Blood.’ Junior Reid is hot, just for wearing that head wrap and waving a little flag. Ooooh, and I just saw the giant Black Wall Street flags….nice touch. Jay nods diplomatically when The Game says the “I ain’t got beef with 50, peace to Jay….” line acapella at the end of the song.

– Why the FUCK does Chamillionaire keep winning awards? Probably the same reasons why he went platinum off of one single. A single that featured Krazy Bone.

– Wow. Another incredible Melo commercial from Jordan. I can’t find it online yet, but remember this one?

Call me what you will, but really good advertising does it for me. And Nike, and Jordan in particular, consistently make really good advertising. Like really, really good, evocative, passionate, make-you-wanna-buy-some-shit advertising. Damn, they do it. Alright, so that’s enough of the BET Awards, Laguna Beach is on.

– So……..rap. Lots to discuss.

– Alright, first, Lil’ Wayne on ‘Show Me What You Got.’ Jay, I hate to say it, but he pretty much “murdered you on your own shit.” Not to worry, though. This only further proves my original point about the song: the track is murder, it’s just that Jay wasn’t talking about nothing. Wayne just happened to come along, and, well, talk about something. In no particular order: “The only down south cat that coulda been in The Firm…..I hit cats in the head like Vonage…..Tell the world take six, Young Dictionary, make words make sense, then make cents make dollars, make the skinny girls holler, make the fat girls hungry, make ugly girls want me, but the pretty girls on me, make the shy girls horny, make the fly girls corny…..” He’s nice.  Like really, really nice.

– Nas’ new song ‘Blood Diamonds’ is good. He says “This thing has to change, feeling half ashamed, as I rap with my platinum chain…..” I wonder if he, and all the other rappers out there weighed down by big ice, really take that shit to heart. Like, is anybody really going to their neighborhood Jacob dealership (FREE JACOB!!!) and trading their shit in for some certified non-conflict diamonds? I hope so. I also hear that Nas is “scoring” the ‘Blood Diamond’ movie. I put “scoring” in quotations because I’m not really sure what it means to have Nas score your movie. Like, is he gonna get in there with the 100-piece orchestra and get his John Williams on? Or is he just gonna make a bunch of rap songs to put on the soundtrack? Either way, I’m in. While the song works, the movie (from the trailer), conversely, looks pretty crappy. Leonardo has an entirely unconvincing and even kind of annoying South African accent. Actually, the movie might be good. It’s just Leonardo that looks pretty crappy.

– Alright, I gotta go to bed, I gotta real job now. But I still have a lot I want to be snarky about. Less a preview of the next post than a reminder for myself:

  • – The Game’s album (obviously)
  • – The Game’s mental problems
  • – Fat Joe’s album (obviously, but less so)
  • – a few Clipse songs I’ve heard recently, one of which literally gave me goosebumps
  • Jim Jones’ album (it’s good, but I’m not sure there’s much more to say about it — I’ll go listen to it again)
  • – how good Nas’ album is gonna be
  • – and of course, Hov, Hov, and more Hov – exciting Just Blaze tracks, coming at Cam, getting all introspective, crappy Dr. Dre tracks, all of that….
  • some sneakers
  • what am I forgetting?

Yoooo, SportsCenter just came on, Hov is on the Hot Seat! I’m staying up for this. I’m out though.