Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Happy Birthday

Today is is the birthday of Jaleel White, who turns 31. Both a comic genius and a master thespian, Mr. White is best known for his groundbreaking role as the autistic character Urkel on the T.V. show "Family Matters". Through his harrowing portrayal of a mentally disabled teenager, Mr. White paved the way for future depictions of idiots, geeks, and simpletons in the popular media. Here's a brief clip of his work on YouTube. Urkel became so popular in the mid-90's that he inspired the creation of a strawberry-and-banana-flavored breakfast cereal called "Urkel-O's"; to this day it holds the distinction of being the only cereal ever to feature a retarded child as its mascot.
Although his acting days are mostly behind him, Mr. White continues to stay in the public eye via his website, a brilliant example of artistic restraint and minimalism in its own right. He also writes a blog about the NBA. Happy birthday, Jaleel!

Monday, November 19, 2007

B is for Bacon

Hey there! I hope you had a nice weekend. I thought I'd include a photo of myself, since a lot of you folks out there in blog-land keep writing me and asking what I look like. And you wouldn't believe the number of times that people come up to me in airports, grocery stores, fancy restaurants, etc., and want to know if I'm "that guy who blogs about grapes". Yes, it's me, and no, you can't have my autograph. I wear about twenty pounds of gold chains around my neck; do I look like I have time to chit-chat with internet geeks? Sorry...I didn't mean to sound like an ungrateful jerk. I love each and every one of you. But seriously, get a life, okay?

Anyway, if you've been reading the comments section of this blog, you may have read about something called BaconSalt. I was planning on writing a lengthy post on this subject in the near future. Thank you, El, for stealing my thunder and tipping everyone off to this new discovery of mine. I might as well tell you about it anyway, so here goes: BaconSalt. Let me say it again: BaconSalt. Have you ever heard such a beautiful word in your life? Trust me, folks, if you ask for just one thing this Christmas, make it a bottle of BaconSalt. And I'm not the only one who is in love with this stuff; I spoke with a supermarket clerk recently, and he explained that the store sold out of three cases the previous day. I was lucky enough to grab one of the last two bottles on the shelf.

BaconSalt comes in three flavors: Original, Hickory, and Peppered. I've only tried the Hickory version, but I'm already a fan. It's basically bacon-flavored seasoning salt which can be used on meat, pasta, cooked vegetables...hell, put it on just about anything and it'll probably make it taste better. As the logo on the label says, "Everything should taste like bacon". Damn straight. I'm putting a bottle of this stuff on the table for Thanksgiving; I'll be surprised if it isn't empty by the end of the day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Get On The Bus

Hola amigos, and welcome to another edition of Concords Are Better. Today we're going to learn about taco trucks. That's right, I'm talking about those four-wheeled cookeries of Hispanic heaven that are scattered throughout the parking lots of this great nation. Even a pasty-faced gringo like me can appreciate the charms of eating Mexican food served from a vehicle; it's a culinary experience that crosses all racial bounderies. And since this blog is all about busting stereotypes and increasing cultural awareness, it's an appropriate topic for this week's post. So dust off that sombrero, hop into your lowrider, and let's roll!

Although Seattle is not exactly a bastion of Mexican food, the situation here seems to have gotten a little better in the past few years. There's a new torta shop on 78th and Aurora, there's El Chupacabra on Greenwood for Mission-style burritos, and there's La Carta de Oaxaca in Ballard, to name a few. But for a cheap, authentic Mexican meal, it's hard to beat the taco trucks. One blog post isn't big enough to do justice to the various trucks in the greater Seattle area, so I must direct you to another blog that is strictly devoted to that topic. The cool thing about that particular blog is that it provides a link to the health inspection report for each truck, which is great if you're looking for an authentic dining experience without the authentic gastrointestinal experience, if you know what I mean. With that in mind, let's focus on one specific taco truck in Seattle, which isn't really a truck at all. Rather, it's an old yellow schoolbus that has been gutted and converted into a mini-restaurant. The name of the place is El Carreton, and it's located in a strip mall on Aurora, near 150th. Here's the set-up: the front third of the bus houses the kitchen, and the rest of the bus has counters and stools on each side for dining. Like all good Mexican restaurants, there's Spanish-language television blaring in the background, and the whole operation is about as unpretentious as you can find in this yuppie-infested city. Ironically, the bus is parked across the street from a Taco Bell.

The food at El Carreton is typical taco truck fare, which means that it's simple yet satisfying. I've tried the carne asada tacos and the spicy pork burrito, and both were delicious. It's miles better than a place like Gordito's, where the burrito is about as tasty as a used diaper. And it somehow seems appropriate for a city like Seattle to have a taco truck with indoor seating, given the often-crappy weather. Do yourself a favor and check it out; you'll be living "la vida loca" if you do.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Greetings from DC

Hey kids, it's me again. I know you've been waiting patiently for another mind-blowing blog post, and I realize that I haven't written anything in awhile, so I just want to say thanks for checking back in with me. Mr. Sunshine is here to brighten your day. I know, it's been a rough two weeks without me. If you learn just one thing from this blog, it's that no matter how badly life shits all over you, you'll always have a friend here at Concords Are Better. Now turn that frown upside-down and prepare to be dazzled!

Here's something that will make everyone happy: design-your-own donuts. During a recent trip to Washington, DC, I learned about a donut shop in Maryland that lets you create your own deep-fried masterpieces, complete with the toppings of your choice. What could be more perfect than that? And get this- the name of the shop is The Fractured Prune. Seriously, I could not have come up with a better name. The folks at Top Pot (a so-called gourmet donut store in my hometown of Seattle) ought to be hanging their heads in shame right now. Sadly, I was unable to visit The Fractured Prune during my trip, so I can only dream of the wondrous tastes and smells that fill that magical shop. Here's a link to their website. I dare anyone to look at it without drooling.

Another great thing I discovered in DC was the Hirshhorn Museum. Although not nearly as big as the National Gallery (and less comprehensive, as it only focuses on contemporary art), it nevertheless has a ton of cool art that shouldn't be missed during a visit to the city. One of the pieces in the museum that stuck in my mind was a 30-minute film called "The Way Things Go". If you were ever fascinated by those goofy Rube Goldberg contraptions when you were a kid, you'll appreciate the mad genius of this movie, which is basically one long chain reaction of rolling tires, catapults, and fireballs. Here's a short clip of it on YouTube.

Donuts and fireballs aside, the highlight of my trip was exploring the various neighborhoods with my girlfriend (who used to live in DC) and meeting her old friends. I'm not going to go into too much detail here, but I do want to give a shout-out to Sarah and Michael for being such gracious hosts. And a special thanks to Michael for giving me his hemp shoes. Few things in life are as comforting as the knowledge that if times get rough, I can always smoke my shoes.