Saturday, February 14, 2015

The best Mai Tai on Kauai

I recently returned from a trip to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Populated with far more chickens that humans, this is definitely the most authentic look at Hawaii I have seen and truly the most laid back of the islands I have visited. In our time on the island of Kauai, we managed to sample a wide variety of Mai Tai cocktails and throughout our travels on the island came up with the list below chronicling the tastiness, price and location of some of the Mai Tais we threw down our drink holes. Use this guide as you plan for your vacation to Kauai as this is the definitive guide to the best Mai Tain on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

9th Island
Fruity but definitely not watered down. Two of these will sneak up on you and remind you that you are, in fact, drinking a tropical cocktail that is laden with alcohol. The 9th Island Bar and Grill is located in a strip mall adjacent to the Safeway grocery store in Kapa’a. If you ever get a hankering for a slice of the mainland while on the island of Kauai, this is the bar and grill for you. It doesn’t hurt that it’s owned by a guy with Minnesota roots who is originally from White Bear Lake, MN.

Smith's Family Luau
Free with admission
The food was the best of the three luaus I have attended in Hawaii and the Mai Tais were the second best of my entire trip to Kauai. You can grab two at a time from the open bar during dinner and it’s entirely possible to drink a dozen cocktails while you eat. While they may be a bit weaker than those which you pay for out of your own pocket at other bars and restaurants, the sheer quantity you can consume in a short amount of time will make up for the somewhat weak mix. They definitely do not lack in the flavor department, though. The show at the Smith Family Luau isn’t bad but not stellar either. I got a hearty laugh out of one of the cultures portrayed whose supposed claim to fame was being able to stroke a chicken to sleep.

Outrigger restaurant/bar - Oasis on the Beach
Tall and tasty. Mixed with a different blend of tropical juices than I had come to expect, possibly a bit heavy on pineapple. The setting is nice as the Outrigger Waipouli in Kapa’a sits just feet from the beach on the Pacific Ocean. This just so happens to be the very hotel/condo which we stayed at and I would definitely go back again as the Outrigger properties are definitely top notch (we honeymooned at Outrigger Reef on the Beach in Waikiki).

Rob’s Good Times Grill
Definitely tops as far as Mai Tai drinking is concerned on Kauai. A little sports bar tucked away next to a bowling alley in Lihue, an ad for Rob’s Good Times Grill ironically played on the radio as we pulled into the parking lot. A buddy of mine boasted about how these were the best Mai Tais he had had during his vacation and he should know as he was rarely seen without a Mai Tai in his hand.

Tiki Iniki
Strong Mai Tais. Little if any juice. Good if you want to get rip-roaring drunk in paradise but not flavorful at all. A bit lacking in atmosphere as well as this bar, owned by Todd Rundgren, is located towards the back of a cute little shopping center in the north shore enclave of Princeville. The service was a bit slow at Tiki Iniki and a friend of mine discovered a little paper umbrella smashed in the bottom of one of his green ceramic Mai Tai glasses. That leads even the slowest person to believe that the glass had not been washed. A bit of a disgusting vision to be sure but, like I said, the Mai Tai from Tiki Iniki in Princeville on the island of Kauai was strong and full of alcohol. One short swig and I knew that this outing would be interesting.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Current fires Barb Abney

Broadcast media is a fickle animal — particularly radio. On-air DJ firings and format flips happen regularly. It’s practically expected because it’s just another business chasing a larger profit. When an on-air DJ is fired from a public radio station, though, that’s shocking. When Barb Abney, now-former mid-day on-air host at 89.3 The Current tweeted last night that “I Loved My Job” it was immediately apparent what that meant. It’s a rarity when a public radio DJ is fired. I believe that it has only happened once before at 89.3 The Current in its ten year run and that happened to be Thorn whom Abney replaced.

Barb Abney was definitely an outsider when she came to Minnesota after her former on-air home 97X WOXY in Oxford, Ohio was sold and flipped to a cookie-cutter ass-rock format. She has always had the chops for modern rock and alternative radio. I used to listen to the 97X WOXY stream and remember Abney and instantly recognized the name when she landed in the Twin Cities. I emailed her a short pronunciation guide for some of our hard-to-pronounce-for-outsiders sit names on what must have been her first day on the air at The Current. A few days later she emailed me back and thanked me for listening to her show.

I routinely listened to at least half of her show on The Current and her cover to cover segment was a breath of fresh air and tonal real was like stepping back in time to simpler days. She knows how to connect to the community and even if her style wasn’t for everyone you’d be hard pressed to find a Minnesota music fan who hadn’t seen Abney at a local show at least once. She is passionate about what she does and it has always showed in the way she is the biggest fan of the music she has played. The fact that Barb Abney said that “I Loved My Job” was the best statement she could have ever made. It was obvious, given her passion, that the biggest fan of The Current very well may have been Barb Abney.

Her mid-day on-air replacement, Jade Tittle, will need a lot of patience from MPR management because while she has been on the air doing overnights and fill-ins, her style seems custom-tailored for late nights and overnights. Her mellow tone, to me anyway, seems to be the complete opposite of what is needed for the heart of the 9-5 workday. Her age, too, is exactly what The Current is after as far as listener and member demographics. MPR wants and needs younger listeners as The Current is a feeder for their classical music and news services as those Current listeners age.

I’m not saying that Abney was fired due to her age and a perceived disconnect with the younger listeners the station wants as members but it sure seems possible.

But Barb Abney will survive. The great DJs always do. Maybe the Pohlad family hasn’t completely finalized their on-air line-up for Go96.3. It sure would be a welcome treat to hear a knowledgeable female voice who has shown that she can connect with the Minnesota music scene show up on a locally-owned station which seems to cater to the exact same audience as The Current.

Good luck Babney.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Craig Ferguson will be missed

I will admit that when Craig Ferguson first took the reins of ‘The Late Late Show’ on CBS, I missed
Craig Kilborn. That feeling, though, would be short lived. Craig Ferguson had a bit of a bumpy start as a talk show host but soon found his footing and developed a quirky, off-beat sense of comedic art that will not be replicated any time soon.

The low budget of the show paired with the fact that it was owned by David Letterman’s production company — Worldwide Pants — meant that the show wasn’t going anywhere even if ratings fell to ‘Mulaney’-like levels. Low expectations often mean creative freedom and that is exactly what the quirky Scottish-born Ferguson took advantage of.

With a cast of oddball characters including a foul-mouthed assortment of puppets, the horse Secretariat, Geoff the skeleton robot, lip-synced songs and plenty of random dancing in what he referred to as a “dimly lit studio” gave the show the flavor it needed to be a success at 11:30 PM (CT).

Craig Ferguson could have easily been another talk show host with a band, a mildly edgy joke-filled monologue followed by two showbiz guests and a band to round out the hour but he took things a step further. Sometimes he had only one guest. There weren’t always bands on the show. And his interview style was one where it was conversational and he held nothing back. He made guests feel comfortable and made his producer feel uncomfortable by often times swearing which made Ferguson come across as more genuine than any late night talk show host before him.

Ferguson got the job because he had stand-up comedy chops and had already proven himself during his tenure on ‘The Drew Carey Show’. He was a dark horse and that made him even more likable and real.

It will be quite some time before another show is as uniquely different and genuine as ‘The Late Late Show’ with Craig Ferguson was. His ten year run, which ended Friday, will stand out as the pinnacle of 11:30 CT late night talk shows for quite some time as others strive to be lesser-known carbon copies of their 10:30 PM CT siblings.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

7 essential Thanksgiving foods

America is truly a melting pot but there are some dishes -- especially for a day set aside to celebrate
the one time when the pilgrims got along with the native Americans before killing them with weapons and disease -- that are essential to your Thanksgiving Day feast.

1.) Pumpkin Pie.
This is a necessity. Without having at least one (preferably more) Pumpkin Pie at your Thanksgiving Day feast, you obviously hate America and all of the awesomeness which it stands for.

2.) Mashed Potatoes.
Forget adding shit like cheese and bacon bits to them. Thanksgiving is about celebrating with the most basic foods in the largest quantities available. Cheese has no fucking place on your mashed potatoes and if you are having Au Grautin Potatoes, then you're obviously a terrorist. Heap that pile of mashed potatoes high and be sure to go back for seconds because on Thanksgiving, your belt gets the day off.

3.) Cranberry Sauce.
The Pilgrims probably had the luxury of fresh cranberries picked by the hands of the native Americans whom they would later conquer and kill so as modern Americans we shall at least have the same food. Of course we should do so with a modern twist. Take that can opener out of the kitchen drawer and crank open a couple cans of Jellied Cranberry Sauce. Brand has no place, I prefer the cheapest I can find, and slice off discs of jellied Cranberry goodness. If your relatives don't like the Jellied Cranberry Sauce that simply leaves more for you. If they begin to taunt you for liking something so weird, tell them how you truly feel about them. Don't hold anything back. They are now DEAD to you.

4.) Stuffing.
Don't call it "dressing" because what the fuck is it actually dressing. This stuffing comes out of your turkey's ass like it ought to. And it needs to have plump, juicy raisins in it. Not giant chunks of onions but raisins because that's just the way it is. If your spouse says this is gross, it is grounds for divorce. Seriously, consult a lawyer.

5.) Gravy.
This is the only accessory which is acceptable for your mountain of mashed potatoes. Put a healthy drizzle of gravy -- hopefully from a can, jar or a bag which came stuffed up the turkey's ass -- on those potatoes. Then put more on. Dump it on your stuffing and turkey. They lick the rest out of the gravy boat. Laugh maniacally at the person who would have received the gravy next, pound your fist on the table and proclaim yourself "king of the gravy" as you leave no gravy for anyone else. Maybe they'll think twice about making only three gallons of gravy next year.

6.) Candied Sweet Potatoes.
They are healthy because they're orange. They're delicious because they are glazed with butter, brown sugar and milk. Notice how I didn't mention marshmallows. That's because marshmallows have one purpose -- s'mores. Marshmallows are NOT a Thanksgiving food. Leave my house, hippie.

7.) Turkey.
Cook it breast down after seasoning it. DOn't just throw the headless bird in a pan and shove it in the oven. Take some pride in this genetically modified turkey and at least make an attempt at seasoning the poor bird. Use some Kosher salt, Paprika, hell, maybe ever some freshly ground pepper. Shoved a few sticks of butter under its skin. A few more up its cavernous ass. Rub butter on the outside, too. Eat half a stick of butter then, and only then, can you shove it in the oven and routinely baste it.

There you have it. The seven essential Thanksgiving foods necessary for a proper Thanksgiving feast complete with the best way to prepare each one. Eat until you feel sick because that's the American way!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The best pop music song this century?

In the late 1990s there was a Swedish pop star who crossed the Atlantic Ocean and had a big hit or two. Her stage name was Robyn and after trying to replicate the success of her initial couple hits here in the states she faded into relative obscurity.

It took over a decade for her to regain a sort of foothold in the UnitedStates music scene and her small bit of success should shave been much larger with hits like Dancing on My Own and the even better Call Your Girlfriend. She performed both of those hits on the venerable SNL but that never translated to radio airplay.

No matter what happened, those two songs -- especially Call Your Girlfriend -- are pop music gems. They are high energy, ultra danceable and have an infectious beat. The video for Call Your Girlfriend is a classic continuous-shot video but as fascinating and odd as Robyn's dancing is, the making of the video is even better. I, for one, love seeing the work it takes behind the scenes to produce a perfect four minute music video.

Here is the finished music video...

Here is the making of the video feature...