Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cat Power, SUN, September 5th 2012

I didn't have high expectations for a new Cat Power album. Not even when I read NPR's review, touting it as her best album to date. It's no surprise to me that the NPR reviewer doesn't deeply love her early albums such as Myra Lee and What Would the Community Think? That kind of young female angst is not something that everyone understands, and especially if they don't have an appreciation for dark music.

There is so much raw, creative talent in Cat Power's earlier albums, words can hardly describe it. None of her albums since have come close to making an impact on me the way that those first ones did. Her sound has become increasingly happier, which is nice because we have grown out of our angst together. However, the creative edge has not been as strong, perhaps no longer freed by the booze.

I listened to SUN apprehensively. The first song "Cherokee" was disappointing. Trite rhymes, "Cherokee, kiss me" are not only heard in this track, but also on other tracks such as "3,6,9." The eagle call on "Cherokee" is just, well, trendy.

The rest of the album is quite good. "Manhattan" is a great tune. "Nothin' But Time" is a long, beautiful song, written for her ex-partner's daughter. It also features the deep voice of Iggy Pop - deep voices make for complimentary backgrounds with Chan's dreamsicle voice, as heard on You Are Free in 2003 with Eddie Vedder. "Human Being" is another good track, with a nice message.

While not my favorite Cat Power album, SUN is still a good one, that I enjoyed washing dishes to and in the office. I am glad Chan Marshall is finally back in my good graces, although hopefully she can redeem herself more on her next album.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Band of Horses, Mirage Rock, Sept 18th 2012

Mirage Rock's first song kicks in with a rockin' beat, as not yet heard by Band of Horses. While their last album Infinite Arms (2010) was their most upbeat at the time of its release, Mirage Rock has it, well, beat. However, Mirage Rock has a more natural feel to it, and comes off as the better, and happier album. It would seem that indie rock is catching up with the happy times of its counter part - indie pop.

While the influence may have been there on previous albums, it is on Mirage Rock that I notice lead singer Benjamin Bridwell channeling Neil Young the way Christian Slater channeled Nicholas Cage; on some songs I caught myself wondering if I was indeed actually was listening to Neil Young, circa Harvest Moon. This is a good thing, in my opinion. Song "Dumpster World" particularly conjurs up images of Harvest Moon crooner, until it breaks out into a Band of Horses-esque rock out chorus.

Other notable songs:
"Electric Music" has a great American rock feel, both with twang and lyrical imagery about the open road. 
"Heartbreak on the 101" has an altogether different musical feel, distinctly different from all other Band of Horses tracks, yet still fits in with the tone and theme of the album.
"Ego Nightmare" sounds like a quintessential upbeat Band of Horses song, with a slight Beach Boys influence.

Overall, a good album I think I'll be listening to more. Definitely worth checking it out.

Grizzly Bear, Shields, Sept. 18th 2012

This is a very mature album, playing off their previous signature sounds and remaining edgy while losing the hipster whine.

I'd listened to their 2006 album Yellow House and put a song or two from there onto playlists. But the album as a whole didn't capture my interest the way Shields has.

Shields is an excellent album overall, with no song particularly standing out, it's the kind of album where you actually listen to the whole thing as one piece of art work. The music seems more technically and artistically interesting than their previous work.

There are aspects of this album that remind me of Band of Horses. These bands are chummy, having played shows together and Band of Horses did cover a Grizzly Bear song Plans. Or maybe I just like this album more because as another review said, they got "rockier."

A very evolved album for Grizzly Bear - highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pacific Catch, Campbell, California

Pacific Catch is one of the restaurants I found on the Gluten Intolerance Group's Gluten-Free Food Service training.  On Friday, September 14th, I visited their location in Campbell, CA.

The place was packed, hostesses were friendly. We waited at the bar. When we finally were offered a drink and menu, the bar tender was very professional and happily went to get me a gluten-free menu as well. This menu was very short.

The drinks sounded amazing but fell a little flat. My favorite of the three we had was a lemongrass Mojito, which was mostly good because it was super sweet.

When we were finally seated after about 30 minutes, the waiter was very friendly. However, he was not able to answer most of my questions about their food. I was curious as to why the tacos were not on the gluten-free menu, as most tortillas are gluten-free. He explained that he didn't know much about gluten, which was a major disappointment for me (remember, this place has a gluten-free service training). He said something about how the tortillas have white corn, and then pointed out that they made the gluten-free menu for a reason. Point taken. I ordered something off of there.

I do acknowledge that the GIG's website about their Gluten-Free Food Service training only describes their training as having to do with aspects in the kitchen. Yet, as a Celiac customer, I will only feel comfortable with a waiter who is knowledgeable about gluten and the kitchen policies. How am I supposed to be assured of my food's safety if my point of contact, the waiter, is not knowledgeable? And really, what is the point spending effort, energy and money on training in the kitchen, if your waitstaff can't communicate that to customers? Is the GIG supposed to be a substitution for good communication with customers? Not in my opinion!

In the end, my item from the gluten-free menu was pretty good. I got the Salmon Thai curry, with half rice and half lettuce. It had a very pleasant sweet and tangy flavor.

Before going back here, or to any Pacific Catch location, I would talk to the manager first and clarify what gluten-free practices they actually use. I would definitely recommend it for non-Celiac gluten-free people.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Happy Celiac Awareness Day!

September 13th is Celiac Awareness Day.

You might have heard this statistic already: that 1 in 133 people have Celiac disease. That might not sound like very many to you, but if you think of how many restaurants are Celiac friendly, it's more like 1 in a waaaaaaaay too many!

How to celebrate Celiac Awareness Day?

1. Take your favorite Celiac Diva (that would be me for most of my readers!) out to one of the few Celiac friendly restaurants. If you don't know which restaurants can be trusted, you can check out:The Gluten Intolerance Group's list of restaurants that have their gluten-free food service accredidation.
My personal favorite restaurant right now is Asquew Grill.

Or just ask said Celiac Diva and s/he will be happy to tell you.

2. If there aren't any great choices, a home cooked meal is a good way to go. Just make sure all utensils, dishes and surfaces are cleaned well (no bread crumbs). Gluten-contamination is a huge issue even in food items labeled "gluten-free."  To be safe, only cook with raw ingredients or items that are Certified Gluten Free. Items that you might never think twice about, like ketchup, are things that this Celiac diva makes sure to get certified gluten -free. One of my favorite brands is Organicville.

How to continue to support your Celiac friends?

Besides celebrating, let's create more awareness about gluten-free issues! The mainstream knowledge of gluten-free is tainted with an imagine of fad dieters. Often, when I tell people I don't eat gluten, they think I'm doing it for weight loss. The reality is, that Celiac disease is a very serious health condition that requires much stricter adherence to a truly 100% gluten-free diet. Unfortunately, the mainstream idea of gluten-free is more aligned with Trader Joe's (not a Celiac friendly place) clever phrase "no gluten ingredients used." Just because there are no gluten ingredients used, does not make it gluten-free! My new term that I will be using now, rather than "gluten free," is "Celiac friendly." Spread the word!

Stay tuned for future blogs:
  • Three Stone Hearth
  • Asquew Grill
  • Pacific Catch
  • Ristorante Bacco
  • Mariposa Baking Company
  • Pica Pica Maize
  • The Northwest Public House (in Portland)

 Thanks for reading and happy Celiac Awareness Day!