Explaining My Hiatus

Since my friend Courtney rightfully chastised me for not updating this in awhile, I decided that I should check back in.

The time I would normally spend sharing my thoughts on policy items (and posting mixtapes) has been spent writing for the LA news site LAist. For now, I am only a guest writer, but my plan is to contribute frequently and become a regular contributor fairly soon.  I’m currently trying to find my niche as a news and political contributor, but will soon be branching out to features such as a series on coffee roasters and little-known LA museums. You can check out my first LAist articles here:

Walmart Veg-ing Out With Healthier, More Affordable Food Plan
New Initiative Could ‘Clean Up, Green Up’ LA’s Toxic Hotspots
Bruins and Trojans Both Say ‘It Gets Better’
Budget Troubles Point to More Tough Times in Higher Ed

LA Street Art

I’ve also been slow to update this blog because I’ve been spending quite a bit of energy planning a new LA-centric blog. The idea is to encourage Angelenos to explore every inch of this city and all that it has to offer. I will cover hidden gems as well as do restaurant reviews and discuss upcoming events. The only reason it hasn’t launched yet is that I haven’t come up with a name yet! Most sites have names that either incorporate the writers name (Diana Takes a Bite, theMintyMattatouille, etc…) or is more descriptive (Happy Hour Tour, Midtown Lunch, Thirsty in LA).

I’d love any suggestions you may have for a name!

Names in my rejected pile include:
LA for Locals
Explore LA
Nick’s Hidden Los Angeles
LA According to Nick

You get the idea.

Music Monday: Top Albums of 2010

It’s finally time for me to unveil my list for the Top 20 albums of the year. Mumford and Sons just blew me away this year. How was the best Americana album of the year made by 23-year-old Brits? I was tempted to write in-depth about each of these albums, but instead I opted to make a mix so you can experience each artist for yourself.

Download the Mix

Policy Potluck Top Albums of 2010

1. Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More
2. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
3. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
4. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
5. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
6. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
7. Chemical Brothers – Further
8. Anais Mitchell – Hadestown
9. Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt
10. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
11. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
12. Jonsi – Go
13. Kid Cudi – Man On the Moon, Vol. II; The Legend of Mr. Rager
14. Beach House – Teen Dream
15. Angus and Julia Stone – Down the Way
16. She & Him – Volume Two
17. Vampire Weekend – Contra
18. Los Campesinos – Romance is Boring
19. Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
20. Hot Chip – One Life Stand

Best EPs:
1. Cold War Kids – Behave Yourself
2. Girls – Broken Dreams Club

Best Non-Album Single:
Japandroids – “Younger Us”

Best Mixtape:
Das Racist – Sit Down, Man

Best Cover:
Crystal Castles – “Not in Love” (featuring Robert Smith of The Cure)

Best Compilation:
Pavement – Quarantine the Past

Album Honorable Mentions:
Avi Buffalo – Avi Buffalo
Crystal Castles – II
David Dondero – # Zero with a Bullet
Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do
The Drums – Drums
Frightened Rabbit – The Winter Of Mixed Drinks
Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
Robyn – Body Talk I
Sleigh Bells – Treats
Warpaint – The Fool
Yeasayer – Odd Blood

Top TV Shows of 2010

For someone without cable, I watch quite a bit of television. I don’t watch reality television (except for Top Chef Masters & Top Chef All-Stars) and I don’t waste my time with cable news channels (such an inefficient & poor way to get news).

There is something I find comforting about  scripted television, returning each week to familiar characters and learning more about them. I will truly miss the three shows in my top ten that will not be returning. Most of these shows I watched on Hulu, but a few I watched on Netflix so I may be a season behind.

Top Ten TV Shows of 2010 (in alpha order)
Bored to Death
Breaking Bad
Californication
Community
Dexter
Lone Star (RIP, only two episodes, but they were among the best two hours of TV this year)
Mad Men
Modern Family
Party Down (RIP)
Terriers (RIP)

Lone Star

Watched Every Episode But Didn’t Make the Cut:

30 Rock
Better Off Ted
Chuck
Eastbound and Down
Glee
How I Met Your Mother
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Lost
Louie
The Office
Parks and Recreation
Rescue Me

Bored to Death

Still Need to Watch:

Boardwalk Empire
Caprica
Children’s Hospital
Friday Night Lights (I’m four episodes in)
Fringe
The Good Wife
Treme
Walking Dead

Pitchfork Top 2010 Tracks: 100-49

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I have compiled the rest of Pitchfork’s top tracks from 2010.  Below you will find links to songs 100-49. These are a little more obscure than the last group, but you’ll still have your Lady GaGa, Rihanna, Drake, Usher, and Alicia Keys.  You’ll also find a few bands that you can expect to see on next week’s mix featuring my favorite albums of the year (Surfer Blood, Vampire Weekend, etc…)


Part I
Part II

Pitchfork Top 50 Tracks

Ten more days until Christmas. Sixteen days until New Year’s Eve. 2010 is approaching the end of its run, which means it must be list season.  If you are a fan of year-end lists, here are great lists of lists for the best music and books of the year.

Pitchfork recently released a list of the staff’s favorite tracks of 2010. I’ve taken the liberty to assemble the top 50 tracks into three convenient downloads.  If there is interest, I’ll do the same for tracks 100-51.

Download links:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


Drinks with Alie & Georgia

The Los Angeles dining scene has never gotten the respect it deserves. From inexpensive and authentic ethnic cuisine to innovative fine dining, a great meal is only a few freeway exits away. Only recently has Los Angeles finally started receiving recognition as one of the great American food cities (Chicago and New York, watch your back).

While I see the rise of the LA dining scene as a slow and overdue, it feels like the cocktail scene in LA has only emerged in the past 5 or 6 years. Now, you can find sophisticated and well-crafted $14 cocktails all over town at places like the Tar Pit , Varnish, Edison, and my personal favorite, Copa D’Oro. While a masterfully crafted cocktail using unique ingredients can be as titillating as any amuse bouche, it is inevitable that one night you will catch yourself rolling your eyes at the whole self-important bowtie mixology scene. Enter Alie and Georgia…

Alie and Georgia met at Silverlake’s Cha Cha Lounge and realized that in addition to sharing a penchant for adorable outfits and colorful humor, they both saw that LA needed an injection of fun into their boozing habits. This prompted them to post a video of the now infamous, “McNuggetini,” an unholy alliance of Vanilla Vodka, McDonald’s Chocolate Shake, Chicken McNuggets, and BBQ sauce.  Food2.com took notice, and starting this past September, they began posting videos to “shake up the cocktail scene.”

I first heard about Alie & Georgia when I stumbled upon their presentation at the LA Times Celebration of Food and Wine event on September 5, 2010. Whether it was their spirited rapport or the promise of taking a break from wine to taste some interesting cocktails, their demonstration was actually the only one that sustained my attention that day. At the end of the demonstration, I got to try the Umami Elixir (Garlic-infused vodka, vermouth, truffle oil, anchovies for garnish), Chocolate Cherry Bomb (Chocolate Liqueur, Pepper-Infused Vodka, Hot Sauce, Grenadine, Chocolate Syrup, Peppers & Cherries), and the Peanut Butter and Jealous. Later in the event, I bumped into Alie & Georgia and they were even more delightful and fun than their videos can hope to convey. Stories were shared and promises were made to become “online friends.”

Fast forward to this past weekend. I hosted a housewarming party on Saturday and wanted to do something exciting for the drinks. My first thought was making a few historically-accurate and interesting punches from Professor David Wondrich’s new book. Fancy punches are starting to creep their way onto restaurant menus and at cocktail bars. But I quickly reconsidered. I wanted something fun and grounded to go with some of my more unique appetizers (Goat Cheese Log with Cyprus Black Lava Salt and Organic Cacao Nibs anyone?). I turned to Alie and Georgia’s inventive, fun, and guaranteed crowd-pleasing recipes.


I ended up making three of their concoctions. The first was Drunken Donuts (my writer/comedian roommate Josh provided the illustrated cards). Drunken Donuts made a great first drink: excellent taste, provides a caffeine boost, and will get you buzzed without even knowing it. It is made of espresso vodka, chocolate liqueur, coffee liqueur, chilled coffee, and hazelnut coffee creamer. And don’t you dare forget the donut hole garnish!

Booze, Coffee, and Dessert all in one glass

The second drink I attempted was the Peanut Butter and Jealous. It involved muddled raspberries, raspberry vodka, cranberry juice, and raspberry liqueur. It is supposed to include a rim of honey and peanut butter, but I gave up after awhile because I mistakenly used creamy peanut butter and the glass became an ugly mess.  Most of my friends were skeptical when the saw this fruity looking drink with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich garnish, but people LOVED it.

The third drink I made was Zombie Gut Punch. It included vodka, triple sec, bitters, blood orange juice, black cherry soda, and grenadine. I served it in a beautiful punch bowl with a ladle, but by the time I brought it out, I was too distracted (and tipsy) to remember to take pictures. This drink was definitely popular with people that wanted to get drunk quickly (pretty much all of my friends) with something that is still fun and tastes great.

I suggest everyone check out Alie & Georgia’s short videos, and consider doing something different than just setting out some bottles of Jack and Vodka with sodas and juices as mixers at your next party. A little extra effort can yield some tasty and boozy results.

Music Mondays: Mixtape #6

To say that I’ve been listening to a lot of folk-influenced music lately would be accurate, but would give you an incomplete picture. While I devour a wide-variety of genres and enjoy the music immensely, the only music that I find myself CRAVING falls under the clunky term “Americana.” There is something I find so authentic, honest, and emotionally powerful about folk/alt.country music that just feeds my soul. I’ve put together a mix of artists that I’ve been enjoying recently, with another batch of artists to come in a few weeks.

Click here to download

The included photographs are some snapshots I took during a hike over Thanksgiving near Sacramento.

Tracklist:

1. Blitzen Trapper – Furr
2. Megafaun – Heretofore
3. M. Ward – Vincent O’Brien
4. Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal
5. Wilco – Wilco (The Song)
6. The Avett Brothers – Matrimony
7. Son Volt – Drown
8. Drive by Truckers – Carl Perkins’ Cadillac
9. The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt
10. Bon Iver – Blood Bank
11. Mountain Man – Animal
12. Ray LaMontagne – Let it Be Me
13. Uncle Tupelo – No Depression
14. Avi Buffalo – What’s In It For?
15. Colour Revolt – Mattresses  Underwater
16. David Dondero – Rothko Chapel
17. Good Old War – Coney Island
18. Carolina Chocolate Drops – Cornbread and Butterbeans
19. The Mountain Goats – This Year