August 13, 2008
Pictured above, it's the new new thing, according to Michelle Locke's August 8, 2008 Associated Press story, which follows.
- Bacon makes everything better — even chocolate?
Here are three little words that might give the staunchest snacker pause: Chocolate-covered bacon.
It sounds so wrong. But it tastes just right, says Joseph Marini III, a fourth-generation candy maker who is selling the bacon bonbons (above) at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk seaside amusement park.
"It's not just for breakfast any more," he says with a grin.
And this isn't just a wacky West Coast thing.
dark chocolate-covered bacon pieces sprinkled with sea salt.
"It's just like the most bizarre combination," says fair spokeswoman Brienna Schuette. "I actually really liked it. It was a good combination of sweet and salty."
The urge to create new flavor profiles is a natural for a field driven by creativity, says Karen Page, co-author with Andrew Dornenburg of the forthcoming "The Flavor Bible," a sort of field guide to flavor pairings.
Chefs have two basic agents of change: using a different cooking method or mixing up flavors. So a classic such as tomatoes and basil might get turned into tomato sorbet with a basil sauce. Or you might find unorthodox couplings, such as salads of watermelon and feta or cotton candy with foie gras.
"There's a whole trend toward chefs pushing the boundaries," says Page. "Chefs are trying to be more playful and incorporate new kinds of whimsy."
It's hard to tell exactly where the dream of candy-coated breakfast meats started, but for Marini, the inspiration was a trip with some ski buddies a while back.
"One guy came up with, 'Who doesn't love bacon? Who doesn't love chocolate? Let's marry them together.'"
So Marini gave it a shot and after some trial and error — crispness is key, he says, noting that chewy bacon plus chocolate is undelicious — he came up with a product.
"It was kind of a joke to begin with," he says. "We brought it down to the boardwalk and put it in a case just to see if people would react, and they reacted."
Take boardwalk visitor Nathan Lopez, who on a recent foggy morning had a quizzical look on his face as he began eating a sample at Marini's at the Beach. But he finished with a smile.
"Interesting combination," was the verdict. "I didn't think it would be very good but once I tried it; it was good."
Of course, chocolate-coated bacon is just the latest incarnation of the wackier-the-better fair food philosophy.
Fair food has been shaking up the snack scene for some time, says Ron Whiting, of Whiting's Foods, whose family has been selling food at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk for decades.
"Years ago, I think food tended to be more traditional and less fun," he says. Then came the corn dog and the era of quick and on-a-stick. "We all talk about the next corn dog," he says.
Fry, fry again is a persistent theme. Current popular snacks include deep-fried Twinkies and Oreos.
Page, who admits to eating "more than my fair share of fried dough," notes that gourmet chefs have taken to putting food — just about any food — on a stick, coming up with some posh Popsicles. Meanwhile, there's the foie gras-cotton candy matchup, not a stretch flavor-wise since foie gras usually is paired with something sweet, but certainly visually arresting.
"It's the melding of both these worlds, the high end and the low end," said Page.
Never underestimate the appeal of battered-is-better.
I can't tell you how frustrating it is to repeatedly have to stop on my progress through airports to reposition my tote full of newspapers and magazines when it falls to the side of my rolling bag and unbalances the whole shebang.
This should put paid to that.
From the website:
- LUGBuddy™ — Secure items together, get to the gate faster
Attach the durable, stretchy bungee cords to the handle of your rolling carry-on, then pull the bungee over the bag, briefcase or coat you want to ride "piggy back" and tighten with the cord lock.
Voila — items are secured together, so no more toppling luggage as you run for your connection.
Small, lightweight, easy to stow.
This device intrigued me the moment I saw it but it took me a while to figure out exactly how it works.
They don't call me TechnoDolt™ for nothing.
See, the way it works is you put the elastic part over the extended rolling bag handle, with the long hard tubular piece over the rolling bag itself.
Then you put the second bag on top of the first, then pull the handle over the top of the second bag and extended handle, then tighten with the bungee cord lock.
Sure, it's obvious once you know how — but so are most things.
'Elgar without vibrato is the musical equivalent of dead roses' — Stephen Pollard
Them's fightin' words, what?
Pollard, a Times of London columnist and blogger for The Spectator, was quoted thus in today's New York Times Arts section front page story by Daniel J. Wakin about British conductor Roger Norrington's insistence on playing classical music in the style of its day, which in Elgar's case means sans vibrato.
Above, Elgar conducts his most well-known composition, "Pomp and Circumstance," at the opening of EMI's Abbey Road studios in London on November 12, 1931.
Here's the New York Times piece.
- Elgar Without Vibrato? Fiddlesticks
The Great Vibrato Controversy is sending tremors through, well, a small corner of British cultural life.
The conductor Roger Norrington, a champion of playing classical music in the style of its day, says he may play Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” March No. 1 on the last night of Britain’s premier music festival, the Proms, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, without vibrato. Oh, the horror!
True, it is not the stuff to tear down an empire. But traditionalists in England are in a huff, sending rockets of outrage into the blogosphere and newspaper columns.
“Elgar without vibrato is the musical equivalent of dead roses,” Stephen Pollard, a columnist, harrumphed in The Times of London last week.
As a rule, Elgar’s music has been played with the lusher, fuller sound produced by that slight oscillation of pitch called vibrato, which is typical of modern playing. But Mr. Norrington argues that orchestras in Elgar’s day played with much less vibrato, and that an unadulterated sound better suits the music.
The dispute sits atop the intersection of deeper issues, like British national pride and how to bring art of the past back to life. At the heart of the kerfuffle lies the reputation of Edward Elgar, the quintessentially British composer in a country that can be sensitive about its relative dearth of great masters. Elgar, who wrote works including the “Enigma” Variations and a popular cello concerto, is best known for the “Pomp and Circumstance” March, which is a staple at high school graduation ceremonies even in America.
The piece is called “Land of Hope and Glory” in the version traditionally sung at the vaunted Last Night of the Proms, when the buttoned-down British public goes a little nutty, wearing costumes, waving Union Jacks and singing along. That night (Sept. 13 this year) draws the most attention, but two months’ worth of concerts precede it. One of those last month featured Mr. Norrington and his Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra playing Elgar’s Symphony No. 1. That prompted a letter to The Times of London, which seems to have set off the debate.
“Sir, as a professional violinist, I was appalled by the quality of sound,” Raymond Cohen wrote in the letter, published on July 29. “To anyone with a musical ear, it sounded bizarre.” Columnists and other musicians soon weighed in, some aquiver with rage. Mr. Norrington’s performances were “screeching” and “unmusical,” Mr. Pollard wrote, and someone identified as R. G. James of Brasschaat, Belgium, commented on The Times’s Web site (timesonline.co.uk), “I am fed up with these politically correct liberals in the establishment doing all they can to denigrate and undermine British and English cultural icons.”
Mr. Norrington has “gone too far,” the composer Anthony Payne was quoted as saying in an article in The Guardian. That article also quoted Mark Elder, the music director of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester and the conductor of the Last Night of the Proms in 2007, as calling Mr. Norrington a wonderful but obsessed musician.
The debate blossomed into a discussion of a burning issue in the classical music world: How much should performers try to reproduce the musical conditions that existed when a piece was written? It is no small matter. We experience old paintings with an unmediated eye, but works of classical music require interpreters to bring black marks on a page to life.
The early-music movement of the second half of the 20th century sought to return to music’s performing roots, and Mr. Norrington played a major part in that movement in the 1980s and ’90s. He and other period-performance evangelists moved from the Baroque through Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven to the Romantics, and some now lap at the early 20th century, when Elgar was composing.
The movement calls for the use of instruments of the day, but also different techniques: cleaner articulation, sometimes swifter tempos, clarity of texture and, of course, less vibrato. And it has permeated contemporary orchestral playing. Even the most traditional conductors give a bow toward some aspects of the style. Some commentators have suggested that the movement is, in fact, a reflection of our modernist age.
“We value clarity, transparency, precision, sharpness, rather than what some people consider the excessive lyricism and indulgence and big sound of previous eras,” said Nicholas Kenyon, the former Proms director who engaged Mr. Norrington.
As for vibrato, it has been used throughout music history to varying degrees, often applied in small dollops to intensify expression, before becoming part of the basic string sound in the first decades of the last century. String players create it by moving fingers slightly back and forth on the fingerboard, wind players most often by oscillating the air flow.
Mr. Norrington has taken vibratoless playing farther than most, issuing recordings of works by Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Mahler and Wagner with his Stuttgart orchestra using what he prefers to call “pure tone” rather than vibrato-free. He wrote an article on the subject for The New York Times in 2003.
Byron Adams, a musicologist at the University of California, Riverside, and a leading Elgar scholar, said Mr. Norrington was somewhat extreme in stripping away vibrato from Elgar’s music. But he lauded the effort to tone down a “hyperintense expressionistic quality” that came to be the norm in the 1960s.
In an interview last Wednesday, Mr. Norrington was coy about how the BBC Symphony Orchestra will sound when he conducts it at the Proms’ final night. He said he would ask the players in rehearsal what they preferred in matters of vibrato.
But he was unwavering about his own preference. He cited a Schoenberg reference to vibrato as “goat bleating,” called the heavily vibrating French woodwind sections of the 1920s “earthquake zones” and referred to the practice as “acoustic central heating.”
Pure tone, he said, is a beautiful thing that restores a sense of innocence and dignity to Romantic music and makes phrasing more important.
Mr. Norrington acknowledged that hearing Romantic music played with minimal vibrato could be a “bit of a shock” for the first-time listener. He conceded that his opponents have a legitimate point of view: “It’s not a professor saying, ‘Just shut up or we’ll lose India.’ ”
He also acknowledged that early recordings of orchestras playing Elgar’s music under the composer’s own baton revealed a fair bit of vibrato. But he contended that the practice was creeping into orchestras whether composers liked it or not, and that Elgar grew up as a musician listening to music without vibrato.
“In the end it’s an aesthetic question,” he said. “It’s a matter of taste. I love the sound.”
It might not even matter what style the BBC orchestra adopts on the Last Night of the Proms, Mr. Norrington said. “You’re lucky if you can hear how they’re playing at all, with all the singing.” He added, mischievously, that if he does an encore, “I’ll ask the whole of the auditorium to sing with more of a vibrato.”
The New York Times story has a sidebar allowing you to listen to excerpts from Elgar's Symphony No. 1, Adagio played with minimal vibrato and with vibrato more typical of orchestras today.
Finally, to keep Flautist mollified I'll conclude this post with Nimrod
from Elgar's "Enigma Variations," with Daniel Barenboim conducting conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to open the 1997 season at Carnegie Hall.
UGlu — Contact cement on a strip
From the website:
- UGlu™ Strips
Bonds like contact cement without the mess
No more messing with gloppy bottles of half-set contact cement.
UGlu Adhesive gives you an instant and permanent bond without the mess.
Simply place the adhesive strip on the surface, peel off the backing and attach the item to be secured.
Bonds to wood, tile, drywall, carpet, plastic, foam board and more.
We love it for trim board and laminate countertop edging.
No mess, no waiting for set times.
Hold 2 lbs. per square inch.
60" x 1" roll (top): $6.50.
Eight 3" x 1" strips (above): $5.
"The Pastors' Wives Forum is a growing group of, well, pastors' wives. We are the wives of senior pastors, associate pastors, worship pastors, church planters, seminary students who will be pastors ... etc."
'Big Time' LED Watch Table — Episode 2: Gold oligarch version
When it was featured here last month in its hoi polloi stainless steel iteration, I noted that chrome and gold iterations were also available.
Lee J. Rowland, the table's designer, emailed me yesterday as follows:
"Attached is a gold watch table [top] I have secured an order for....
BLOGGING ROCKS !!
I can see how he would feel that way.
As I told him, the best part is I agreed to waive my usual 50% commission.
Same as it ever was.
Milan Kundera on why man cannot be happy
"Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition." — "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," among the vanishingly small number of books whose film versions are equally arresting and so cunningly created that neither is diminished when experienced after the other.
An opinion not shared by Kundera.
Wedge-It — Hold virtually any door open at 90°
From the website:
It’s a deceptively simple 3-oz. chunk of practically indestructible Lexan plastic designed to hold virtually any door open at 90° — interior or exterior, oversize, special-purpose, even pivoting glass doors.
Place Wedge-It at the top of the door, on the floor or over a hinge pin — it fits all jamb-to-door spacings.
Originally designed for emergency services, it’s utterly dependable and just the ticket for contractors and builders.
2-1/2"W x 3-1/2"L x 2-1/8"H.