Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Great Friday In the West Bottoms: Inland Sea Wines + R Bar

Last week, I got the weekly "things to do" email from Present Magazine. In their listings for Friday night was a tasting at Inland Sea Wines, located in the old Livestock Exchange Building at 1600 Gennessee.

It took a second to click, but then I realized I had read about the operation in this story that appeared in the Star Magazine several months ago. I was intrigued at the time--a guy wants to grow Chardonnay and the Midwest?-- but had forgotten about it. Once I was reminded, I knew I had to give it a try.

As is usually the case, my idea grew legs and started to run. Back in January, I went to see a friend's band (the excellent Red Lefty) at the R Bar. The food was very good, so I figured we could eat dinner there.

I made a reservation, and found out KC's hardest working band The Grand Marquis was playing (and who happen to be playing with the aforementioned Red Lefty Saturday March 27 at the Jackpot in Lawrence).

The night was set!

My fiancee didn't know where we were going, so when we walked into the Livestock Exchange building she looked at me a little funny. If you walk in from the street entrance, you'll understand why--it's an old office building with most of the original architecture intact.

We found Inland Sea's space. There were about 5 people sitting at one table, and a fellow standing behind a small bar. He (the owner, Michael Amigoni) greeted us and started us with a Chardonnay.

You know how most Kansas and Missouri wines are...well, they're pleasant enough, but they don't use the same grapes that they use in California (or France, for that matter)?

Throw those preconceived notions out the window. This wine is fabulous.

This was my favorite Chardonnay I've tasted. As in, out of all of them I've tasted. From everywhere. It wasn't overwhelmingly oaky; Michael explained that it was aged in older barrels that had lost some of their oakiness. It added character without overwhelming it. Great start.

We moved on to a Viognier, a Malbec, a Cabernet Franc, and an Urban Red blend.

All of them were lovely, the Malbec in particular. It was heavier on the fruit notes (Michael described it as "plummy", which is apt) than your average Argentinean bottle.

If you like wine even a little, go check them out. Their tasting room is open from 4pm-7pm on Friday evenings. Michael is passionate about his wine, he is a local producer, and he has great stories about all the work he has put into the vineyard (including the 60,000 prunings he recently hand).

We walked back across the street, dropped off our wine in the car, and stepped into the R Bar. It's in the old Sutera's space across from the Golden Ox.

It's a gorgeous space. They have created a great chef-driven food menu and mixologist-driven drink menu.

They start by bringing you a savory thyme-and-honey doughnut instead of bread service. We had bratwurst with maple-onion chutney to start. For entrees, she ordered diver scallops with bacon and a sweet potato fritter, and I had braised pork with smoked collard greens (!) and polenta. We finished with pecan pie and smoked vanilla ice cream.

Everything was delicious.

Then the Grand Marquis started, and we listened to them while watching a girl in a retro-pin-up-style red dress tear up the dance floor with her partner. Quite impressive, which basically describes our entire evening.

If you care to replicate our Friday, I know that wonderfully offbeat folk duo Drakkar Sauna is playing this week. I would caution you to call for reservations at the R Bar; they tend to be busy on Friday nights.

West Bottoms FTW!

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nothing Not New

I was in Phoenix a few weeks ago, and I picked up a copy of their alternative weekly to read on the plane ride home.

I came across an article that completely engrossed me.

Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old copy editor, is currently conducting an experiment. As a self-proclaimed aficionado of popular music, he is devoting each day of 2010 to listening to a new album. Further, he is not allowing himself to listen to any of his previous collection.

This fascinates me, mostly because of the reason he is doing this:

Music editor Martin Cizmar called it "aesthetic atrophy" in this space a month or two ago, defining it as "a wasting away of the ability to appreciate new, different, or avant-garde music . . . An unavoidable consequence of aging, though the process can be slowed through therapeutic episodes of forced exposure to various stimuli."

That's me.

Up until my mid-to-late-twenties, I actively searched for new music. I bought and borrowed CDs constantly. I had my favorites, sure, but I still got excited for new releases. I loved putting down the windows and sliding a new CD into the dash, driving around just to listen. I loved being one of the people others asked when they wanted an opinion on an album, because they knew I had likely heard it.

Now? Not so much. How about you? Do you meet any of the following criteria?

How many of you have had the same damn 10 CDs in your car for the past month? How many of you have an iPod playlist of your favorite 200 songs that rarely gets updated? How many of you have a friend who has burned for you a CD by a new or lesser-known artist and said, "I think you'd really like this," (because your friends are supposed to understand you, right?) only for you to listen to three songs before you go back to that beat-up copy of your favorite CD from your senior year in college? How many of you pretty much stopped remaining current when you became immersed in your career or got married or had kids or simply found yourself with less time to devote to music?

Don't feel bad. It happens to everyone, and it will happen to you — if it already hasn't.

Check out the status of his experiments at Nothing Not New.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dodge City Beef

Everyone loves a good find.

So when we drove through downtown Shawnee and noticed this sign, we knew we had to stop:

Behind this narrow storefront on Johnson Drive is the first retail outpost for Dodge City Beef. They happened to be celebrating their grand opening this past weekend.

As we walked in the door, the ranch owner Don extended his hand and introduced himself. He described his products in detail for us. They sell dry aged beef with no hormones or antibiotics directly from their own ranch.

He mentioned they had sold beef via mail order for some time, but they decided to try something different. His daughter lives in the area, so she is going to manage the retail store.

They sell everything from ground beef (93% lean is available) to filet mignon, from beef jerky to summer sausage.

We splurged and got several pounds of ground beef, some summer sausage, and two packages of filets.

Sunday night, we grilled up two of the filets. They were outstanding. Delicious, fork-tender, excellent beef.

If you happen to be in northern Johnson County some time, stop in and give their beef a try. You won't be disappointed. They're on Johnson Drive just a half-block west of Nieman. They haven't finalized their hours yet, so give them a call at 913-221-1022 to make sure they're open.

UPDATE: See comments for a generous offer from the store manager!

Friday, March 12, 2010

OK Go Makes Good Videos: Legal Follow-up

In a previous post, I presented two videos OK Go made for their song This Too Shall Pass.

I was able to embed one version, but not the other. It turns out this is due to restrictions imposed by their (incredibly short-sighted) label.

And the numbers show it: The first video they released, which is a one-take film featuring the Notre Dame marching band, was released January 8, or just over two months ago.

Total views? 1.2 million.

The next was the Rube Goldberg version, released March 1 (less than two WEEKS ago).

Total views? 7.4 million.

In other words, the ability to embed the 2nd version on everyone's website is what accounts for the extra views.

Look, OK Go is known for their music videos. Their choreographed treadmill video for Here It Goes Again is possibly, depending on the source you believe, the most-streamed music video ever.

But Capitol/EMI did not allow embedding of the first version. Why? Lead singer Damian Kulash explains here.

Yet another symptom of how out of touch the dinosaurs known as record labels truly are. It's a quick read, and quite enlightening.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Some Things Don't Mix

I needed an afternoon snack yesterday. It was time to comb the area to see if anyone had brought in an extra bag of chips or some leftover Valentine’s Day candy.

As I wandered into the break room, I remembered that last Friday the company brought in box lunches from Planet Sub for our meeting. I checked, and sure enough, there were a couple of them left in the community fridge near the training room. They consisted of a sandwich, chips, cookie, and pickle.

Needing only a snack, I opened one of the boxes. A-ha! Peanut butter cookie. All mine. No breach of etiquette; this was all leftover stuff that anyone was welcome to take.

I opened the plastic wrap and broke off one edge of the cookie.

It was friggin’ GOOD. We’re talking a top-notch PB cookie. Soft and chewy, sweet and heavy on the peanut butter flavor.

It didn’t take long to work my way toward the center of the cookie. I was typing an email when I broke off another bite…

…and I had to spit it out.

My face contorted as an odd yet familiar flavor…damn it, NOOOOO!

The cookie was not 100% sealed on the bottom.

Neither was the pickle spear that was also in the box lunch.

You may guess that pickle juice + PB cookie = FAIL. You would be correct.

Add the fact that I hate pickles to begin with, and I was pert near angry at that point.

The cookie was nothing but a tasty Trojan Horse for that nasty, acidic pickle.

Those diabolical cucumbers…this isn’t over.

Friday, March 5, 2010

OK Go Makes Good Videos

So these have made the rounds on the interwebs the last couple of weeks, but if you haven't seen them it's totally worth a few minutes out of your day.

They made two excellent versions of a video for the same song, "This Too Shall Pass". I really like the song itself, but the'll just have to watch.

The first is the "RGM" version (Rube Goldberg Machine). I have no idea how many takes this required, but judging from the amount of paint on their coats it was quite a few. That comment will make sense at the end of the video.

The second is a one-take video with the Notre Dame marching band. I can't decide which one I like more. Embedding was disabled, so click on the photo...

...or follow this link.

We bought their album, and it's a really enjoyable blend of pop and funk. Some of it sounds very Prince-like. Check it out some time.