Category: Miscellaneous

My Favorite American Cities

I recently went to Miami for the first time. It was only my second time in a state I have tried arduously to avoid. A 2000 vacation to Spring Training when my high school buddy was with the Braves in Orlando had permanently and adversely affected my opinion of the state. This opinion that has only been emboldened in the recent decade by “Florida man” and other such anecdotal material. Enough people have opined breathlessly on how amazing and wonderful Miami is, so I obviously wasn’t expecting a clone of Orlando, but was nonetheless unimpressed.
A colleague, who makes no secret about Miami being one of his favorite cities – “I’ve been there 300 times!” –  brought up the excellent observation that  I neither spent the prerequisite $5000 for bottle service in South Beach nor spent the majority of my time on the beach. Fair enough. Regardless, The quote that sparked this email thread was, “Miami is not even in my top 15 American cities.”  We toyed around with a little bit of discussion and then he said that that would be a perfect conversation to memorialize, so let’s get to it.
#1 – Los Angeles. Here is the latest paean to the city that I wrote for Quora a few months back: in short, I find it hard to believe that any city – at least that I’ve seen – has the breadth of activities, food, cultureS, quirks, people, ideas, space and creativity. Super glad that my birth lottery dictated I was born here, and no matter how fun a vacation may be, I am always excited to come back.

#2 –  New York. Every time I go, the first three days are amazing and then I think about living there and become claustrophobic and suffocated. It’s amazing, and I truly believe the adage “if you make it there…” Absolutely wonderful city in every regard, but just “too much city” or my L.A. ass to challenge for the top spot.

#3 – Las Vegas.  I mean, it’s the best of the best and the worst of the worst but all the rules are laid out carefully before you go. You know *exactly* what you’re getting into. However you pursue your day (and night) is up to you and therein lies the pleasure (or pain, if that’s your vice).

#4 – San Diego. I used to think the city was too casual, too said, to Republican, too white. Then I realize the diversity the city and the stupendous nature of the cuisine. It is also a city that I could very much see myself living in, and the proximity to Mexico is a huge plus for me/my family.
#5 – Seattle. Kind of a “home-field advantage” for me, if you will, as I was a resident from 2002-2003. The secluded nature of the city and the fact that it’s a city in the middle of a  rain forest make it unique and extremely interesting. I also find it’s a city that revels in its overlooked nature and the arts and technology that come out of there are unparalleled for the city of that size. The food, specifically the seafood, is amazing – and the proximity to Canada is a plus in this case.
#6 –  San Francisco. Although the rise of Silicon Valley (and Silicon Beach) has detracted from the level of tech innovation and overall excitement in the city, it is truly a World City of Renown, and frankly reminds me more of a European city than anywhere in the United States. The food is good, though not as great as it once was, and the weather, especially during the summer, is the pits. But I have fun there and I get genuinely excited when the work schedule brings me that direction.
#7 –  Washington D.C. I initially thought I ranked the city too high but I’m sticking with it.The summers are ghastly with humidity, the winters are frigid with snow but around every corner, literally, is United States history in its most literal sense. There is also a different energy here than any other city I’ve visited, directly attributed to the cast of characters plugged in to the city’s main industry – politics.  It has the best, most efficient mass transit for my money in the United States, good food and a fine collection of old-school bars give it some much-needed flavor. Strictly based on gravitas it also holds extra points in my mind.
#8 – New Orleans. For sheer fun, and I’m not talking about Bourbon Street, this city literally can’t be beat. Grown-up fun of all kinds or you don’t feel the need to be in your 20s to party balls off. The music scene is incredible, the selection and variety and uniqueness of its culinary scene is stupendous,  and it’s deceptively walkable, even on the outskirts. That said, I wouldn’t want to spend more than five days here consecutively and don’t feel the need to go back every year.
#9 – Savannah.  I kind of can’t believe how enchanting, mystical and whimsical this city is. The vision of southern hospitality is alive and well here. The people are probably the most generous and kind that I’ve met in the states. The food is great, everywhere you walk feels like a novel, and drinking is highly encouraged when it’s not Sunday. Really cool place that I’m willing to bet it’s similar to Charleston (where I have not been but is high on my list).
#10 – Austin. Kind of like New Orleans, but clean and with a different cuisine. Also literally too hot during the summer and I say this as somebody who spent my youth on the streets of the San Fernando Valley where 110° wasn’t abnormal. It just *really* feels like the sun is hotter during the summer there. That said, Congress and Sixth are two of the coolest, most fun boulevards I’ve experienced domestically where the music is awesome and the drinks are dirt cheap. I’m not a huge fan of TexMex so it gets derogatory points for it’s overrated food scene, but the outstanding barbecue is worth having time and time again. Some funky, great hotels and I’m always a fan of universities so to have UT in the middle of the city is a huge plus.
Honorable Mentions:
Atlanta –  Cool, fun, probably didn’t see enough Flavor to give it a real ranking.
Philadelphia – Believe it or not, just misses this list. Amazing and underrated food scene, tough but approachable people, really cool history.
Hawaii –  I mean if I can include the whole state this definitely makes the list. Top five, in fact.
Palm Springs – Really, really fun if you’re in the right places. And great for a romantic getaway.
Portland – I know it’s supposed to be hipster central so if I love Seattle and Austin why doesn’t Portland get much love? Basically because I feel that it’s trying a little too hard even though it really is a great city. It’s also smaller than I would have imagined for it outsized reputation.
Denver – I went during the Spring and I loved it but I have a feeling that it would’ve been better if I was there during winter. Didn’t amaze me but it was definitely a cool city.
Miami – see intro.
Chapel Hill –  The University of North Carolina campus alone is worth a mention.
Charlotte, St. Louis, but both pale in comparison of “worst”ness to Orlando.
Bucket List:
Charleston, Dallas, Boston, Detroit, Phoenix, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Providence, Minneapolis, Nashville, Madison

Modern Retro TV: An Absolutely Classic Iron Chef (America)

So last night, the smoke was thick in the back room and I decided to pop on an absolutely CLASSIC Iron Chef America. Up there with the legendary Batali Parmesan Wheel & Morimoto Ice Smoker battles, this one is one of the all-time greatest:

Iron Chef Bobby Flay vs. Rick Bayless, Battle Buffalo.

This is the first episode in the “new” Kitchen Stadium set, now filmed in New York.

This is the first episode of the show after the “Battle of the Masters” miniseries.

This is the season where The Chairman has a sleek, bald head.

One of the judges was Jeffrey Steingarten. Yes, the curmudgeonly, slovenly, culinary wordsmith that does not withhold thoughts to spare feelings, even in the face of legends.

Worth noting: Flay was a relative neophyte with an (at the time) lifetime 3-1 record in Kitchen Stadium.

The ingredient, Buffalo (nee, Bison), represents the most significant mammal in North American history; appropriate for two chefs that are unabashedly NorteAmericano in style, presentation & usage ofingredients (chile peppers, anyone?).

The wacky professor Alton Brown‘s always informative narration was highlit by a sidebar on the differences between chile peppers (a chipotle is a smoked, dried jalapeno & an ancho is a smoked, dried Poblano, radically altering texture & flavor of both chiles).

Kevin Brauch
was even notable, mostly for his gross mispronunciation of the names of the chile peppers (pasillo? rell-eno?), but his Canadian charm and shameless mid-chefery interviewing were in full bloom, and his role is minimized enough to keep his value high.

Mostly, though,what ensued was a culinary how-to on preparation of the most American of all ingredients, with the most excitingly authentic regional preparations. The chefs used nearly identical base ingredients (chile peppers, tons of ’em; heads upon heads of garlic; cilantro), but the differentiation was with Bayless’s use of the native-to-Mexico huitlacoche & epazote, while Flay focused on his forte; grilling & sauces. The end result was drastically differing dishes, but a high-level competitive battle that pleased all judges. . .including Steingarten
The result was a one point victory (the sole difference being in the Plating category), but you’ll have to pull it up to see who wins. Here’s Part I of the episode; watch and enjoy:

Jim Mora Rips Doug Gottlieb ON-AIR (with Audio)

(thank you Jose Bernstein of Bel-Air for the tip)

With the lackluster & overrated Doug Gottlieb subbing in for the woebegone and past-his-prime-because-he-went-Hollywood Colin Cowherd on ESPNRadio this morning, Jim Mora completely disrespects the fill-in host ON-AIR with such gems as “Is this your first interview? Jesus Christ, what kind of questions are these?” Mora closes with: “You were a real joy, thanks.”

This is incredibly good – here’s the video:

The Kid has Left the Building: Griffey Jr. Retires

There was not much to celebrate in the baseball element of Ken Griffey Jr.’s 40th year in life – and 22nd in the Major Leagues – as his .184 batting average, zero homeruns and spotty/erratic playing time have left The Kid with time to snooze and reflect on his Hall of Fame career.

Far superior career eulogies will be written than what you’ll read in the space/time allotted here, so permit YKI to reflect fondly on the impending finality of the chapter entitled My Generation’s Baseball Heroes. Along with Frank Thomas, the sport has lost perhaps the only two offensive juggernauts of the 90’s who escaped the stigma of The Steroid Era.

Griffey’s career spanned four decades, providing copious highlights, gems, lasers and bombs to fans throughout the world, who marveled at the growth & maturation of June-Bug. A list of Griffey’s greatest moments as a Mariner is presented here, apt insomuch as despite productive stops in Cincinnati & (south side) Chicago, Jr. will always be remembered as a Mariner. The back-to-back homeruns with his father, the dash home versus the Yankees, his countless Gold Glove catches. . .defined baseball to a generation further sidetracked by the more action-laden basketball & football, always reminding us that the Summer belonged to the Kids.

And without further adieu, YKI’s rememberences of Griffey Jr:

Again – Lebron Sucks

Actual quote from everybody’s-hero-yet-owner-of-zero-rings Lebron James, after last night’s debacle:

“I spoil a lot of people with my play. When you have three bad games in seven years, it’s easy to point them out.”

Also note that James proclaimed July 1, 2010, as the biggest day in the history of basketball, ramping up suspense of his ultimate decision: Do I stay or do I go?

Are you serious, Lebron?

Look – everybody knows that in overall physical talent & ability, you really are the greatest player to walk the court. The difference – and why YKI will continue to harangue you – is that you’d rather be a billionaire, a ‘Brand,’ a ‘Global Empire’, rather than win rings.

You keep the entire basketball world hanging on your decision of whether forsaking your childhood home, your friends that love you and your foundational support base is a good idea, as opposed to conquering Madison Avenue or South Beach.

In short, Lebron – Grow Up. You really do have the world at your fingertips, now own up to it and start acting like a Man.

Setting the Record Straight on Duke vs. Butler

Duke vs. Butler last night: a Championship game of historical proportions.

That proportion being, of course, “most white guys on the court in a Championship Game since the Peach Baskets were removed.” This was a phenomenal ‘matchup,’ precisely the type of game that would form an intriguing Sweet 16 matchup in the years prior to ‘One and Done.’ Both teams have nice stories (wow – an underrated, gritty Duke team that Mike Krzyzewski deemed one of his lesser-talented squads vs. the ‘Hoosiers’ Butler squad), but the caliber of talent was not nearly what should be expected in a title game.

Those expecting Showtime or something similar were severely disappointed: Last’s night’s game, while certainly thrilling, was clumsy, awkward, graceless, and at times downright painful to watch. Butler’s offense seemed to revolve around one guy: 20-year old Gordon Hayward who lunged his rickety frame gamely into the paint over and over again only to be rebuffed by someone taller, more athletic, and more avidly-recruited.

And Duke? All I’m saying is when a guy named Kyle Singler is a runaway force on offense (also lunging his rickety frame into the paint over and over again, but with more success) it’s not Showtime.

It’s. . . . . . . . . . Slowtime.

The game itself was great, and I appreciate the ‘purity’ of College Hoops, but seriously – I yearn for the days of serious Final Fours with superstars galore, or at least a Carmelo Anthony. But this year? We’ll be lucky if Singler, Hawyard or even Jon Scheyer grow into the status of say a Kirk Hinrich.

The McGwires and Ari Fleischer

Following up on the McGwire steroids admission, Jay McGwire sat down with ESPN in attempts to confess (?) on behalf of big brother (and USC alumnus) Mark that he, in fact, is the reason Mark used performance enhancing drugs.

Mike Fish of ESPN Outside the Lines has the rest of the story here.  To be honest, nothing about this was shocking – in fact, prior to Mark’s confession I recall there being an ‘in-house’ controversy between brothers about Jay going public. Speaking of brothers, what happened to quarterback Dan McGwire?

Back to the story, though – my favorite element was actually this:

Mark McGwire did not return phone requests left with his spokesman, Ari Fleischer, on Wednesday. Efforts also were made to reach McGwire through the Cardinals.’

Yes, THAT Ari Fleischer, he of the ‘GOP Dream/Nightmare Team’ of Rummy, Cheney, et al.