Thursday, August 27, 2009

Flamenco, BBQ, and Cyclists: Stuff I Learned Between 6:04pm and 7:18pm

1. Bluestem had flamenco night AND dancing. Cool, but ultimately not helpful in my attempt to secure perhaps the best burger in town.

2. Matchstick BBQ is pretty damn good.
Corollary: If I see a barbecue place I've never tried and I can even remotely convince myself it's time to eat, I will stop there.

I remember reading about this place on Fat City but had forgotten about it. I happened to drive by after leaving Bluestem and am happy I did so. I ordered a two meat combo (brisket and pork) on Texas toast with fries and beans. Why Texas toast? Have you tried it? Hint: I've yet to find a dish that the taste of butter didn't improve. Suck it, purists.

Brisket was sliced thin, quite lean, nice smoke ring, a little chewy. Pulled pork melts in your mouth, though it was a little too fatty in spots. Fries were good--not too thick, not too thin. I prefer mine done a little more, but they certainly weren't raw. Beans were excellent--super thick and meaty; they started smoky and ended with a little sweetness. The sauce was solid (I mean, it was liquid, know what I'm saying). There was no one flavor that jumped out at me, but I actually liked that about it. It seems like too many places want to make their sauce so unique they forget to make it GOOD.

They also serve breakfast, and what appear to be really good burgers and lots of other non-BBQ sandwiches too. Check 'em out.

3. Business is not so great at Matchstick for dinner.
It's a tough location for barbecue, to be honest. It's in the old Spitfire (and before that Addis Ababa) space on 39th. Parking is not easy, and I have to think most barbecue joints would go under if not for carryout orders. Case in point: I was there from 6:15pm to 7pm. One other guy (as in one person, not one table) was there the first 15 minutes I sat there, and no one arrived while I was there. I hope things pick up for them (or that they do bang-up breakfast and lunch), but it didn't look good.

Corollary 1: If you don't want a place to close, support it. I know there are a lot of choices, and the principles of natural selection certainly apply to restaurants. But don't you dare whine if a place you "love" closes and you can't remember the last time you went there.

Corollary 2: If you're the only table your server has, tip that server WELL. Especially if she, knowing she's probably not going to make jack that night, is still super-friendly and kind.

4. Cyclists are A-Holes.
I'm not talking people who ride bikes. I'm talking about cyclists. The ones who ride in groups in their full Tour de Jackass jersey and Oakley shades regalia. The ones who ran their stop sign and nearly got plowed by the car in front of me, then had the nerve to flip the driver off. The ones who on Merriam Lane - a two lane road with what amounts to a full shoulder - ride right in the middle of the lane. Single file. At a staggering 12mph. With--not exaggerating--a good 15-feet available to their right. Share the road? I'm trying. How about you do the same?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tantrum - Friday, August 14 with writer Jim Howard

Tantrum is back. Hilarity ensues.

Who: Tantrum Improv Comedy
Where: Westport Coffeehouse Theater, 4010 Pennsylvania
When: August 14th, 8pm
How Much: $10
(May contain adult content)

See below for full details on our special guest!

Improv troupe goes another round with the guy who will say anything

There’s only one place where you can see some of KC’s most interesting personalities live, unscripted and uncensored. At every show, the improv comedians in Tantrum invite a “guest monologist” to tell stories on the spot. In August, they welcome back Jim Howard—“prosodist, screenwriter, hired word gun; father of three, master of none.” To get Jim started, the audience shouts out topics they want to hear about. Jim can respond with anything he wants to—as long as it’s true. Then Tantrum takes over, twisting and turning his tales into a series of scenes. A mild-mannered greeting card writer by day, Jim has written screenplays for Big Bad Love and the Lifetime Channel TV movie Dawn Anna. In his last shows, Jim covered everything from elementary school humiliation to illicit adolescent behavior to houses burning down to frolicking with dolphins—nobody knows where the suggestions will take him this time. In many of his stories, someone is naked. Tantrum features Trish Berrong, Pete Calderone, Nikki DuPont, Rob Grabowski (Pitch's Best Funny Performer 2008), Megan Mercer, Michael Montague Jr., and Josh Steinmetz. Also in this show, Tantrum plays some of the popular improv games they grew up on. Ideas from the audience spark characters, situations and dialogue in short, structured, fast-paced scenes. Don't miss what the Pitch calls "the daring, scene-based improvisation of one of our best local troupes,” every Second Friday at 8pm at the Westport Coffeehouse Theatre, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave., beginning January 9. Tickets are $10. Seating is limited—call (816) 678-8886 for reservations. Visit for the latest news.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Drinking For the Cycle

For the uninitiated, “hitting for the cycle” in baseball involves a batter recording a single, double, triple, and home run in one game. It’s fairly rare; there have been 43 cycles in the nearly ten full seasons starting in 2000.

That’s roughly once every 546 games.

I’ve never really thought much of the accomplishment, to be honest. I think it’s because it’s more of a statistical anomaly than any real measure of skill. Sure, George Brett’s hit for the cycle, but so has Neifi Perez.

The closest I’ve ever come to witnessing one in person was in September of 1999. I was doing a ballpark tour, and I made sure to catch Detroit’s Tiger Stadium and Milwaukee’s County Stadium as they were in their last years of existence.

(As it turned out, the Brewers played another season in County because this tragic crane collapse delayed the opening of their new park, but I digress.)

Steve Finley of the Diamondbacks had a homer, triple, and double in his first three at-bats. A few people I had been talking to started to leave in about the 6th inning, and since I was keeping score I mentioned Finley was a single away from the cycle. They thought it would be cool to witness such a feat, and since he had the three more-difficult hits out of the way it seemed fairly likely it would happen.

Instead, the game dragged on for nearly four hours as the two teams used a combined 15 pitchers (I was listening to the radio broadcast, and you should have heard Bob Uecker trashing the managers for that) and Finley didn’t get his single. Box score here, if you care.

That’s a convoluted way of getting to a much more rewarding cycle experience: the Belgian beer cycle.

Two friends and I happily completed that cycle Tuesday. One friend did not.

As the Brain Trust met at Dish Pizza in Liberty, I was again impressed with the beer selection (click on link for menu).

I realized it was time to achieve. Here’s how it went:

First AB (Absorbed Beer): Dubbel (Grimbergen)

Grimbergen Dubbel was everything a dubbel should be: rich brown color, a little caramelly-sweet, with that nice alcohol warmth at the end.

Second AB: Tripel (Westmalle Trappist)

A true trappist ale, the strength of this style is deceptive: it pours light, almost pilsner-like (the style has its roots there) and comes through with a rich, crisp flavor with that nice funky sweet finish. By this point, my body knew I was in the midst of something special.

Third AB: Quadrupel (St. Bernardus Abt 12)

It was time to power up. Seriously—this is one of the best beers you’ll ever have. Dark brown, yeasty, fruity, great syrupy mouth feel…it’s just luxurious. Do yourself a favor and pony up for a bottle of this next time you see it.

Fourth AB: Single (Caracole Amber Ale)

This was the only beer in the cycle I hadn’t tried before, but it left me quite happy. Don’t be deterred by the non-descript “Amber Ale” label. This is a lovely Belgian, rich in hops but with that distinct finish.

The cycle was complete. By my count, my slugging percentage was 2.500, but my BAC wasn’t far behind. At 6.5%, 9.7%, 10.5%, and 8.0% respectively, Belgians do NOT play around with weak beer.

The best part? This cycle cost $15.

You read that right. All four super-premium beers for $15.

Dish has all their bottled beer on special Tuesday nights, and if you look at the list you’ll see how ridiculous the prices are.

Their pizza’s quite good as well, whether you go deep dish or thin crust.

So, if you happen to be in the NE corner of the metro, stop by Dish and have a beer and some pizza. No, they don’t have individual stemware from each brewery, but they have the beer.

And that’s what's important.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Odell Extra Special Red

I like hops. I'm just not crazy for IPAs. They’re kinda boring, and they tend to have the piney hop flavor that overwhelms anything else that may be going on with the beer. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll gladly drink one. It’s just that there are usually many other styles I’d reach for first.

Then you have Imperial (or “double”) IPAs. All the flavors are more robust (including the hop notes), but they’re typically more balanced. However, the balance comes from all the sweetness (which can be a bit much) produced along with the high alcohol content. What to do?

Have an Odell Extra Special Red! It’s definitely in the rotation as one of my favorite summer beers, and my appreciation for it continues to grow. I guess you could call it an Imperial Red Ale, coming in at about 7.8%. It’s hoppy, but without the pine flavor of IPAs or the √úberdryness that comes from, well, most dry-hopped beers. It's full-flavored, and at about $10 per 6 pack it’s not much more expensive than your average micro. I’ve seen it at Gomer’s, Red X, and Lukas.