turning dust into diamonds

Tampa was everything I wanted it to be. It was sunny, warm and incredibly eventful. We were a bit delayed getting out of NYC with the snow storm. There’s nothing like waiting for hours on a tarmac, only to have the plane de-iced and taking off a few hours late. We made it though. image-3
It’s where you’re going
Now on to the good stuff, the food, sun, baseball and beer. We arrived in Tampa about 1pm and after checking in at our hotel, it was only natural to head over to Cigar City and have a few beers, scope out the scene for the next day and most importantly, pick up some tokens for the beer lines. It was a fantastic afternoon, we grabbed a few flights of beer, trying just about everything on tap. The obvious favorites were the old standards, Jai Alai and Maduro Brown, as well as the Cubano imperial sweet stout, the Josh Brengle double IPA and the exceptional Dos Costas Oeste, a farmhouse ale aged on grapefruit wood.

From there, it was all about soaking in some sun and making friends. We made friends from the brewery, that hooked us up with some brews. We also made friends with some great folks we spent time with the next day. On the advice of some our new friends, we made our way down to Ybor City to grab dinner at Columbia, the oldest restaurant in Tampa. Really cool, really old school, down to the classic turn of the century architecture, design and staff. It was a treat. We sampled a bunch of tapas style appetizers and got the paella to share for dinner. It was good. We had to roll ourselves out the door.

We strolled around Ybor City for a bit, scoping out all the cool little cigar shops, bars and restaurants. We made stops at two places, Ybor City Wine Bar, a cute spot with a knowledgeable staff, that also had great craft beer in bottles and King Corona, a cigar shop with great beers on tap. Both spots were unexpected but a hell of a treat and a good way to close out the evening. We decided to turn in early to prepare us for the marathon that would be Hunahpu Day and the Yankees game.

Like I know what’s coming
Upon waking up, we grabbed some quick snacks and coffee and started making our way to Cigar City. We met a great guy from Chicago on the ride down. He would share some beers with us later in the day. Upon arriving, we found ourselves on a massive line, that somehow moved pretty quickly. Took about 35 minutes from the time we got online at 8:15 am, until we were in the festival area. They started pouring beers at 9am, but we were sharing with people we met online already. Thank goodness for coffee cups.

If you get to Hunahpu Day early, you know you will spend a good amount of time online and that’s exactly what we did. Basically jumping on the beers lines as soon as we walked in. We sampled a few homebrews and some bottles I had while we waited. Our first spot got us a good amount of beers, two per person. We sampled the fresh Hunahpu, Three Floyds Czech Booty Camp Pils, Intuition Ale Works I-10 IPA and the wholly unexpected, but awesome mead B. Nektar Zombie Killer Cherry Cyser. Oddly, maybe it was the best thing I would try all day. We had lot of other beers from Founders, Three Floyds Zombie Dust and Michiana Power Pale Ale, Bruery Autumn Maple, Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout, Terrapin Moo Hoo and more. All amazing beers.
I follow you, like a stray
We quickly grabbed some food and water and started sobering up so we could head to the Yankee game. Steinbrenner Field is about a 20 minute walk down the highway from Cigar City. So, we made our way over and sadly missed the first two innings and Derek Jeter’s first appearance of the season. No worries. We made it in time to see the highlight of the day, Mariano Rivera’s first spring appearance. This was also the day he announced this would be his last year, with retirement coming at season’s end. The applause while Metallica’s Enter Sandman played was rousing. It was as if it were an October game. The fans truly showed Mo that they were going to miss him. It was beautiful. The Yanks went down to the Braves that day, but seeing Mo was the highlight. The thing I love about Spring Training is the access you get to the players. You are so close to the action, to the players. I was maybe 20 feet away from Mo while he was warming up to go in. That was awesome and maybe the highlight of a day with many.

Listening Pile: Shout Out Louds – W.I.Y.F. (Dust into Diamonds)
Love this band. I have since their debut, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff. They’ve consistently put out great albums, but this one is maybe the best since their debut. This song in particular is just beautiful. Give it a listen, it’s a gem of dreamy, indie pop with Adam Olenius’ Smithesque vocals.


you’re one of a kind, high on my agenda

Go Out And Celebrate An Entire City Of Beer
New York City Beer Week is almost upon us. While details have been a little scattershot up until quite recently. there have been a couple awesome events lined up that aim to be quite exciting for both craft beer fans and foodies.

A couple of the events I’m looking most forward to are listed below. And of course, check out the microsite for even more info and events.

2/27 – Brewers Choice @ City Winery
The 3rd annual event at City Winery. This is an event not to be missed. With 20+ beers paired with artisanal dishes from local NYC chefs and food shops. Make sure to check out food ranging from local faves, Blind Tiger, Mile End, My Friend’s mustard, Coach Farm Cheese and many more. All these will be paired with great craft beer that includes Ommegang, White Birch, Spider Bite, Carton Brewing and many, many more.

2/23-2/26 – 7th Annual Williamsburg Cask Beer Festival @ DBA Brooklyn
They are busting out over a dozen specialty casks over the 4-day festival. They also will have a raffle featuring lots of rare and vintage bottles. All raffle proceeds will benefit the family of the late – great Ray Deter, founding partner of d.b.a.

3/2 – aPORKalypse @ Alewife Queens
Aside from their other beer week events, they are doing one of my favorite recent Get Real Events. I worked at this one last year so I got to sample just about every pork dish served and a lot of the beers. If last year was any indication, this will be one of the standout events. They will be carving up carefully prepared dishes along with all local NY craft beer.

The Best Of The Rest
There are places with events all week long, including 508 Gastro Brewpub, which has Beer and Food pairings all week long. Murray’s Cheese Bar, has a selection of 3 New York cheeses paired with 3 beers from local breweries. Queens Kickshaw has all Queens Tap Takeovers, featuring beers from SingleCut, Rockaway Brewing and Bridge and Tunnel Brewery. Pony Bar Hells Kitchen will pour beers from New York State all week. Rattle N Hum has beer nights from Dogfish, NJ/PA, Colorado and California amongst others. The Gate in Brooklyn presents vintage week, tapping a new vintage from their cellar daily. Luke’s Lobster has food specials paired with beers from Maine.

Those are just a few, but if you check out the full site, you can find something almost every single beer bar and tons of restaurants in your area. That’s what makes this week great. You can go and try our new places in new neighborhoods, or you can stick to your favorite spots. It’s truly a great celebration of great craft beer.

Listening Pile: New Order – I’ll Stay With You
Another great song from one of the greatest. Constantly amazed these guys continue to make great music. My favorite song of theirs since Crystal, oh about a dozen years ago.


You Sing Loud

And Build The Fires
Figure I’ll do a couple posts over the next week talking about my favorite stuff from 2012. This is a quick rundown of 2012 as it mattered, to me. First up, baseball.

High and Inside
Another great season has gone by, highlighted by the San Francisco Giants winning their 2nd title in 3 years. The Yanks abrupt exit from the playoffs when they couldn’t hit for squat certainly was a kicker. I honestly am baffled by that. But I think as I’ve said, many, many times, I feel like age has finally caught up to a very old team. The infusion of youth they were hoping for just didn’t materialize, with Mikey Pineda’s future uncertain, prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances either being injured or unable to throw strikes.

Place that with the other numerous injuries they had to the major league talent and you get a listless team that becomes reliant on the long ball to win balls games. Never a recipe for success, especially in the post season. All Yankee fans can do now is hope that some of those injured guys come back and that young talent in the minors starts moving quickly and is ready for 2014, or otherwise that $189MM budget limit is going to look awfully lopsided with old, broken pieces and quadruple A players that Cashmoney finds on the scrapheap.

As for the rest of baseball, it was a fantastic season. Lets start with one of the most magnificent debuts in the history of the game, the immeasurable talent that is Mike Trout. Wow! He came out of nowhere and captured the rookie of the year award. He probably should have captured the MVP, but that went to a well deserving Miggy Cabrera who took home the first triple crown in some 40 years. RA Dickey, what can you say that hasn’t been said. He put together a fantastic year, capping it off with a Cy Young and then getting traded to Toronto. It’ll make that team a lot more formidable. The Giants were within a couple of strikes away from going home, yet kept fighting and clawing their way back. Love that the team did it with big time pitching and small ball on offense.

I remember saying last year, I think the one thing that we as fans have to look forward to is all the youth that has been infused into baseball the last few years. And this year was more of the same, with young guns like Trout, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Heyward all having tremendous seasons. Like I said last year, it’s truly a golden age in the game. Hopefully in a year or two, we’re talking about some of the Yankees young guns too.

Listening Pile: School of Seven Bells – When You Sing
Another of my favorite albums of 2012. This little diddy sounds a whole lot like it could be a b-side from the seminal, Loveless from My Bloody Valentine. And since Kevin Shields seems to be taking his time putting the finishing touches on a follow up to that, I’ll gladly take this.

Atmospheric and filled to the brim with ethereal soundscapes, whistful harmonies, nugaze galore and Benjamin Curtis’ tight production, the entire album, Ghostory is a pleasure to listen to and the culmination of a lot of work. It’s easily their masterpiece and best work to date, despite losing one of the two Dehaza sisters, with Alejandra remaining and shining on her own.

Couldn’t explain it, I wouldn’t even try

She is so lovely, she makes me feel high
So, the annual Draft Magazine 100 best beer bars in America list hit last week. I’ve seen lots and lots of chatter about the local New York bars. I’m sure there’s been plenty written about all the regions hits and misses. For the most part, they hit the nail right on the head, but I’m honestly dumbfounded by their inclusion of LES beer shop, Top Hops. It’s a nice place, for sure, but it’s not even technically a beer bar. Go figure.

Anyhows, we’re pretty lucky to have so many great beer spots here in NY, including the Blind Tiger, Spuyten Duyvil, Bierkraft and Rattle n Hum, all listed by Draft Mag. However, they leave out the amazing and time honored Gingerman, as well as Jimmy’s No. 43, Pony Bars, DBA and many, many other staples of the NYC craft beer community. See, I told ya. New Yorkers are really, really lucky to have so many great joints to grab a pint at.

Listening Pile: Wild Nothing – Only Heather
It took me a while, maybe even a couple extra weeks in January to decide that the 2nd album from Wild Nothing was my favorite album of 2012. Full of dreamy melodies, touches of synth and oddly sounding like Fleetwood Mac on occasion, this record was the perfect sophomore album for Jack Tatum’s Wild Nothing project. The production, song writing and delicate instrumentation of this album truly shows how this guy has perfected his craft. The song above is my 2nd favorite on the album after the title track, Nocturne. Have a listen, as it easily soundtracks this gloomy day in NYC.


It’s my point of view


It’s Hard To Understand
Exactly one month to go til Spring Training starts. I wonder if GMs view their teams in the same way people reflect on the past year and how they can set resolutions for the upcoming year. You look at the Yankees team and think, there are a lot of holes to fill in these next few weeks. Getting a little older, maybe a little rounder, there’s missing parts, still no DH, or right handed power bat, fifth starter. And we have to start saving some money for the future.

Last year a lot of things came together in these last few weeks before Spring training. I’m curious to see what Cashmoney has rolled up his sleeve this year. I personally don’t see a championship caliber team getting ready for Spring Training. This could be the last run with a lot of vets, including Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and who knows maybe even Robbie Cano, Jobamania, Curtis Granderson, and Phil Hughes. We could be looking at an entirely different squad next year.

Who knows, maybe Cashmoney’s plan all along is to punt this year, sell of as many veterans as he can and get really, really young and cheap for 2014. It’s not unrealistic to think that could happen, though unlikely. Right now, I guess we wait.

Listening Pile: Grimes – Oblivion
Another of my favorite albums from 2012. This one accompanied by the quirky video for Oblivion. The song like the album is a frenetic mix of genres, styles and production techniques. Her high pitched vocals playing off the hip hop beats, synth lines and strange noises.

you know it in the nightime…

Caught A Rising Star
By random chance last night, I got to visit the new Soho beer spot, Houston Hall. It’s a huge 5,000 sq foot space with lots of tables and space for many, many people opened by the same folks that own the Heartland Brewery locations. It’s got the whole looks like an old car garage vibe to it. Lots of exposed brick, concrete floors, exposed metal and brick work. The place looks good.

Now on to the good stuff, the food and beer. Well, seems like they have all their beers hand crafted just for them by the Greenpoint Beer Works. So, at least you know they are making quality stuff. Seems like each beer was named after the specific brewer that designed that style beer for them. I had the Jeffrey IPA, which wasn’t bad. Nice citrus tones and a little bit of bitterness. I did not sample the food, but looks like it had a good amount of bar food. My friends sampled the wings and came back with positive impressions.

Be interesting to see what happens to this space. It looks good and had a good vibe, but it was opening night. There were still a lot of kinks to work out. The crowd and vibe wants to make you think you’re in Williamsburg, but I can see that changing very, very quickly seeing the neighborhood it’s in.

Listening Pile: Diiv – Doused
Another one of my favorite songs of 2012. Great debut album from the Brooklyn four piece. Really well-crafted lo-fi nugaze from the Captured Tracks folks that have unleashed a flurry of great bands recently. I really, really loved this record. Give it a spin.

when they love you, and they will

Meant to post this last night, but wouldn’t you know it, I fell asleep early.

The House That George Built
It’s been 40 years since the Boss bought the New York Yankees. Crazy to think, the spent some $10M, which through inflation turns into roughly $55 million smackers today. Just insane. The other thing was that Steinbrenner bought the Yanks from CBS because he failed to buy his hometown Cleveland Indians the year before. Imagine the futures of the two franchises had the initial deal gone through.

Anyhow, the photo above is of The Boss at their Spring Training complex in Tampa. I visited it last year as well as hitting Cigar City Brewery for Hunahpu Day. An amazing three day trip watching baseball in the sun and sippin amazing beers at the Brewery. Hoping I can do the same this year too.

Listening Pile: Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built
One of my favorite songs from last year. This band rocks. They made a stellar sophomore album. Easily one of my top five of 2012. The full list will come soon. I know you can’t wait to see.


White Christmas in New York

via Rockettes Facebook via Rockettes Facebook

Rockin Around The Christmas Tree
Checking out a New York Christmas time institution tonight, The Rockettes. I saw this show once when I was a little kid, but don’t remember it at all. Last few times I’ve been to Radio City Music Hall has been to see bands too, so that’ll be a treat. I’ll need to remind my mom and brother I was there. My brother got the whole family kicked out of Radio City after some Sesame Street on Ice show before I was born. I bet my Mom in particular gets a hoot.

Listening Pile – Battles – B + T
Just read this the other night about it being the ten year anniversary of their first show. Crazy, I remember seeing this band close to ten years ago with Ratatat at a hot and sweaty show at the long gone Tonic on the Lower East Side. I didn’t know anything about them, other than the fact that John Stanier from Helmet was the drummer. The only other thing I remember is the show being filled with all dudes. Like 3 girls and a hundred dudes. Weird, guess chicks didn’t dig math rock the way they did the long ball. Haven’t seen Battles in years and wasn’t impressed with their last record Mirrored all that much. They did however inspire one of my favorite t-shirts ever.


all the way back home, to my town

complaining, when some people ain’t got shit to eat
Morning commutes in New York City. Love them or hate them, they are vital to millions of people getting to and from work every day. My commute this morning was delayed by a) just missing the train and waiting 10 minutes for the next train b) absolutely no idea, the train literally just stopped and waited, and waited, and waited.

Taking an extra minute to look at Christmas trees this morning made me late to work by 20 minutes. That is life in the big city.

Listening Pile: Cat Power – Ruin
First of all, I gotta say it’s been amazing to see poor little Chan Marshall grow into the artist she is now. I remember seeing her fall apart and turn her back on concert audiences, reading newspapers or just sitting there crying. It was something seeing her get better at performing, to the point that she got so big she played arenas and huge festivals. Crazy stuff, from a crazy gal. Which makes her doing this funny or die video just completely priceless. She’s gotten to the point where she can totally make fun of herself.

She put out a fantastic album this year in Sun. I think it’s her best work since You Are Free, which was also the first album of hers I worked on back in my record biz days. In a couple months, it’ll have been ten years since that record came out.


You park the car out in the open, you can walk inside

Now, if you want to hear some music like the boys are playing
This is great news indeed. The guys that run the Amsterdam Ale house on the UWS have just opened up The 3rd Avenue Ale House. Located at the old Brother Jimmy spot on 92nd and 3rd Ave, this is prime real estate and delivers yet another quality craft beer spot in the Upper East Side. If you know of the reputation that the Amsterdam Ale has, then you know to expect quality craft beer and some tasty bar food.

I believe I counted 32 draft taps the other day and a hand-pumped cask tap too. They were soft launched and will still not be fully operational for a bit, but as of Sunday night, it looked like the front room was open for business with some sort of food being served, plenty of beers flowing and football on the TV’s. I’m sure this will turn into a local hangout for me, seeing as I live a block and a half away.

Listening Pile: Rolling Stones – Carol
Just read this awesome excerpt from Stanley Booth’s book, True Adventures of the Rolling Stones. Wow, great stuff. Makes me want to go pick up the rest of the book. Here’s the account of them playing at MSG. Crazy to think some 50 years later they are gonna play the Garden, again. Think about that for a second. What band from today could you possibly see still playing 50 years from now?