Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Things I miss/don't miss about New Jersey

I've lived in Brooklyn now for about three months. It's not the first time I've lived outside New Jersey (I lived in California from 2002-2003), but there are a few things I will probably always miss or not miss about it.

Miss: The Newark Star-Ledger. I love reading newspapers, and this is my newspaper of choice. It strikes the perfect balance between price and quality. It did not take me an entire day to read, but contained all the pertinent local, national, world, entertainment and sports news. Of course, there's the New York Times, which is good, but a bit long-winded, and usually contains sections I care nothing about (most of the Arts and Living stuff is terribly high-brow and boring), the sports section is usually lacking (too many puff pieces), and the daily price is $2 (the Star-Ledger is $0.75). There's also the Post and Daily News (at $0.50 daily), who have a couple positive traits (decent sports and local news coverage), but are generally only a couple steps above the National Enquirer.

Miss: Wawa. The greatest convenience store ever. Good coffee, great sandwiches, great prices, top-notch selection of your standard convenience store products.

Don't Miss: Having to drive everywhere. Kind of goes without saying, but I'm within a five minute walk of: 300 bars, grocery stores, 24-hour delis, pizza, great restaurants of every cuisine imaginable (there's an Australian bar/restaurant on my corner, an Ethiopian joint on the opposite corner, etc.), my band's practice space, thrift stores, coffee shops, hell, there's a Guitar Center and a Target just down the street (although it might be the crappiest Target I've ever been to, it's still Target).

Miss: Grocery store prices. I did brace myself for this, but I'm still not used to it.

Don't miss: Insects.

Miss: Nature.

Don't miss: Gas/tolls.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Milky Manchester's Guide to Nachos

One of my favorite culinary delights are nachos. The basic premise, tortilla chips and cheese, lends itself to an almost infinite amount of combination with various ingredients of Mexican cuisine and otherwise. What I enjoy even more is critiquing the abysmal excuse for nachos many restaurants and eateries try to present me. So it was with great delight when last week I partook of an almost near-perfect plate of nachos. This got me to thinking, what makes a great nacho?

1. Chips. The foundation - this is crucial but often overlooked. The chips must be crispy and warm, a little salty but not overly so. They must be sturdy, able to support the weight of many toppings, and they must not sog easily.

2. Cheese. Most places strike out on nachos by using the generic, chemical-style nacho cheese. I have nothing wrong with this, in fact, I do enjoy it from time to time. But it's something you expect from $3 nachos at 7-11 or Taco Bell and is inexcusable at any sit-down restaurant. All it takes is a proper amount of Monterey Jack or a mild cheddar, and anything more exotic than that is a definite bonus. Of course, there must be enough cheese to go around, but not too much cheese that the nachos are bogged down by it.

3. Quality toppings. Here's where things get tricky: some places try to cram too much onto nachos, others get too skimpy. My preference is for one type of meat, usually chicken, ground beef or steak make for the best nachos. Then you need one, maybe two other layers of warm toppings. Black beans are good, but can end up sogging many of your nacho chips. Refried beans are also good, provided they are properly placed and not just a crushing pile in the middle of your nachos. Chili also makes an excellent topping. Then there's the stuff that is/should be a basic requirement of all nachos: sour cream and guacamole. On the side, preferably. Lettuce and tomatoes also help, and maybe a little salsa or taco sauce, but just a little, again - soggy chips = bad nachos. It is also my experience that 99% of nachos with scallions/green onions on top are quality nachos. More optional ingredients include green/red peppers, jalapenos, and black olives.

4. Presentation. The hardest part - how do you arrange everything just so? Making sure that almost every chip has some sort of nacho goodness? There is no easy way to do this, but some people just have the magic touch.

5. Value. Easy enough - how much bang are you getting for your nacho buck?

A+ = Possibly the greatest nachos ever
A- = Almost perfection
B = Pretty good, missing a key component or two
C = Needs work
D = Barely qualify as nachos... missing most components of nacho-ness

Presenting, Milky Manchester's first ever Official Nacho Rating!

Location: The Central Bar, Union Square, New York City
Menu Name: "Central Bar Nachos"
Options: Chicken or Steak (I chose steak)
Price: $10

Chips: 5/5
Cheese: 4/5
Toppings: 4/5
Presentation: 4/5
Value: 4/5
Milky's Official Nacho Rating: A-

Toppings: steak, black beans, guacamole, sour cream, scallions, tomato
The steak topping was excellent, nice size hunks of steak and plenty to go around. Fresh guacamole for extra points. A few chips were soggy from the black bean juice, probably one of the only factors keeping these nachos from an A+ rating. A perfect distribution of cheese. Crispy, delicious chips. While $10 is a little steep, it is NYC and the plate was big, easily enough for 3 people.

While doing a little research for this article, I came across a blog devoted to rating Nachos. YES!

Yummy Nachos Blog

Monday, January 4, 2010

Top 10 Moments of the 00's

10 through 2: irrelevant

1. http://milkymanchester.blogspot.com/2008/03/from-archives-volume-ii.html

Killing time with classic websites #1

Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music

For a short while back in the 00's, I was the electronic music director at 90.3 FM the Core, my college radio station which I definitely spent way more time at AFTER college (mostly because it was a lot of fun, and because I eventually ended up working back at the same college for a few years). Technically, I was "RPM Director", "RPM" being the College Music Journal's (CMJ) term for electronic music (?).

Anyway, I had to review a lot of music, most of which I was not familiar with. I would constantly have to refer to this slightly out-of-date website (dig the sweet circa-2002 flash intro!) which does an excellent job breaking down genres of electronic music. Since there's a lot of crap out there in electronic music land, even those who have minimal knowledge of electronic music will find Ishkur's reviews entertaining, as he holds nothing back in his critique of each genre - which is very pleasing to those of us who have no use for Happy Hardcore and NRG (the sub-genres most people would associate with the term "techno music", i.e. the terrible club music that you'd hear in terrible clubs.) The kicker is in the layout - it's all mapped out in a nice circular timeline, with genres extending outward, connecting the dots between then and now. A quick click on the genre and you have the info you need, complete with several audio samples that play instantly. Those who do have an appreciation for musical history will find this to be highly informative and a great primer on all types of electronic music and it's (fairly) rich history.