Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Freezer Case: Open Nature Uncured Pepperoni Pizza

Wednesdays are a rough day for me. I go to work, put in a hard day's labor, and, when I return to the homefront, I am handed a kid and Spicy sets off to gallivanting about town (actually, it's just a pilates class). Since I am inept in the culinary department, this means that I do not get to eat until at least 8 p.m. Factor in the time for a Saucy Jr. bath if the need happens to fall on one of these days, and by the time I am set to dine on Hump Day, I can eat just about anything.

However, if given the option, I would prefer that I not be asked to eat an "Open Nature" frozen pizza. 50 Words or Less: Captain Morgan Spiced Rum

Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
A bit of a relic from Aruba trip: Dawned on me. Forgot to talk about the Captain! Not a hard liquor fan but bought a bottle of this stuff in the duty-free shop on our way into the town. This + fruit juice + balcony with ocean view = awesome nighttime buzz. 50 Words or Less: Coppola Rosso

Coppola Rosso
I will be the first to admit I know nothing about wine. Still, this is my favorite bottle. Why? It's probably because the guy who owns the winery also released such classics as The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, and Jack (OK, forget that last one).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 50 Words or Less: Tsingtao

I used to drink this and think that it was tasty. Of course, at that time, I was in the throes of a sizable Yao Ming man crush. Tsingtao isn't good. But drinking it in a Chinese restaurant in the middle of New York City's Chinatown gives you street cred!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Better Late Than Never Reviews: Hurry Up, We're Dreaming - M83

Anthony Gonzalez, the man behind electropop outfit M83, has a flair for the dramatic, one that he shows off to stirring effect on the band's sixth studio album, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. Over the course of two discs, his latest creation is often captivating, sometimes head-scratching, yet always indicative of a supremely talented sonic architect at the peak of his powers.

Highlights abound on this two-disc monster. Lead single "Midnight City" opens with an absolutely filthy, addictive beat built on decadent synth, thumping drums, and deliciously sexy moaning vocals. It's a song basically made for pumping out of your car's rolled-down windows, even if it is freezing as balls like it should be in December. I will be honest: I even bought the sax solo on this one. Splashy guitar, congo-esque percussion, and vaguely Carribean-sounding vocals drive the intensely layered "Reunion," while pounding kick drums, cooing vocals, and swirling keys make the awesomely titled "Steve McQueen" hum.

Perhaps the album's best songs are the two that nakedly pay homage to that most harangued of musical decades. Yes, the '80s. "Claudia Lewis" is simply incredible with flute-like synth, whipping 808 cracks, scatting vocals, and nimble bass that would probably sound cheesy as hell on any other album. However, as applied by Justin Meldal-Johnson, who has worked with everyone from Beck to Trent Reznor, it simply rules, as does the unhinged synth solo that peeks out toward the song's crescendo. Serving as a mirror image to this track is "OK Pal," which features another tremendous vocal arrangement, more up-tempo keys, more crush-your-woofer drum beats, and, of course, more bass that can only be played the way Paul Rudd wielded the instrument in I Love You, Man. Slappin' the bass? Indeed!

As stated previously, Gonzalez definitely has love for heavy, operatic tracks, and nowhere is that indicated more effectively than on the appropriately titled "Intro" and "Outro." The former opens with synth notes seemingly stacked on top of each other for miles, moving to a drumbeat reminiscent of early U2, and climaxing in a chorus expertly applied by a buzzing hive of warm falsettos. "Outro" meanwhile wraps up the second disc with stirring strings that descend into a space-like rumble only to surface anew with more mammoth drums, light jangly guitar, and a gentle piano departure. Put simply its dramatic as your average Terrence Malick flick and it's an extremely effective (and affecting) way to close down the show.

Of course, with an album this ambitious, there is bound to be flubs, and Hurry Up, We're Dreaming has a few. The second half of the album is nowhere near as complete as the first and it leaves the listener appreciative of the work, but still left with an impression that the piece could have been sheared into one album. The presumptuously titled "Splendor" sounds like the obligatory track on a "serious" album that has to recorded in a barn or whatever. With its spare, echoey piano and Simon and Garfunkel-esque crooning, it's not what Gonzalez does best and it is about two times longer than it needs to be (and that is at five minutes). "Year One, One UFO" takes what would have been a good section of a song, and turns it into a three-minute guitar/fill-heavy drum ditty. Interesting. Not essential. Meanwhile, "Echoes of Mine" is, at best, the closest the album comes to silly pretension and, at worst, simply hideous. It features an intermittently rising synth assault repetitively juxtaposed with a lady speaking French after about 50 years of sucking on Virginia Slims. Maybe I would have liked this track better if my name was Jacques and I lived in Versailles (or if I smoked), but I doubt it.

There are also four short pieces on the album that serve as interludes between tracks. Some ("Klaus I Love You," "Fountains") are better than others ("Train to Pluton," "When Will You Come Home?"). Still, the tricky thing about these is even the ones that sound kind of cool leave you with the impression that they should have been developed more. Otherwise, why not just leave them off the album, cut it down to one disc, and save a lot of...whatever they use to make CDs and vinyl and stuff. I should also say that, although Gonzalez does an excellent job handling the vocals on a majority of the songs, I was a little disappointed by the lack of substantive duties for singer/keyboardist Morgan Kibby, who, while she was responsible for great tracks such as "Skin of the Night" and "Up!" off of M83's previous album, Saturday = Youth, here is responsible for primarily spoken-word duties. In other words, give her something to do or leave her off the album.

Even with these flaws (and the Kibby thing is completely subjective and, frankly, nit-picky), however, I would still describe Hurry Up, We're Dreaming as essential listening for any true audiophile. If you only buy it for the immensely satisfying oddity that is "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire," you will have probably gotten your money's worth. Featuring deep, distorted, repetitive synth notes, staccato drum notes, swelling strings, and an awe-worthy choral arrangement, it is probably the best song ever to feature a voice manipulated to sound like a five-year-old girl holding court on the pleasures of turning herself and all of her friends into frogs. It is also the kind of sonic adventure that makes this album not the best of the year, but certainly one of the most worthy of frequent exploration, chain-smoking mademoiselle be damned.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


This Thanksgiving weekend, be grateful that America can provide you with freedom and your Jesus fix 24/7/365, mes amours. And yet I am compelled for just a long weekend in Mexico. Taken from Albert Frost's Facebook >>


The Pizza Project
Just a nibble:
Single slice:
The full pie:

Friday, November 25, 2011 50 Words or Less: Flying Fish Belgian Style Dubbel

Flying Fish Belgian Style Dubbel
After three of these wonders straight from the bottle, poured one into glass. Noticed all sorts of specks floating in the beer. From the biting yet punchy Belgian spice it exudes, I have to assume it is just unfiltered for extra effectiveness. But at first, thought we needed new dishwasher.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

King of the Case: Saranac Beers

Wherein I will buy a variety case and decide what the best beer in it is.

Saranac Beers (Matt Brewing Company)

Big Moose Ale
A fairly refreshing amber. The hops jump out to a decent extent, but so does the malt. The two elements come off almost equally, resulting in a character that falls short of distinction. There is a little bit of a harsh aftertaste. In the end, it is enjoyable, but not outstanding.

India Style Copper Ale
Doesn't have the feel you would expect from an IPA, but then again I think its recipe looks to fall a little heavier on the malty side. I believe they are going for an IPA/brown mixture. As a result, the mostly aroma-free beer falls more into the hoppiness of a pale ale than an IPA.

Vanilla Stout
I'm not a big stout person at all, but this one had an immediate coffee kick and hints of vanilla bubbling up from beneath. It's neither overly hefty nor undersized, and features a very agreeable scent to go along with a surprisingly smooth finish. It is extremely layered and rewards slow, focused sipping.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Valley Forge Beer Festival Bus Trip & Discount Tickets

We just learned that Chap's Taproom (a Pizza Project favorite!) is organizing a trip to the Valley Forge Beer Festival. The festival takes place on December 10th and features more than 50 breweries and over 100 beers.

Here's the deal.
For $35 you will receive:
-Voucher* for admission to the afternoon session 12:30-4:00pm
(a $7.75 savings off the online price!)
-Transportation from Chap's to and from the Greater Phila Expo Center in Oaks (bus departs from Chap's at 12:00pm and returns at 4pm)
-Complimentary light snack reception after the festival at Chap's

*Voucher is only valid for admission for Chap's Beer Fest Bus riders

Tickets go on sale today at Chap's! Call and ask for Kathy for more info 610-539-8722 or email

For more info on the Beer Festival:

Aruba Edition: A Slightly Aimless Rant about...the Family Who Made Our Trip Home from Aruba a Living Hell

On the way back from Aruba, Saucy Jr. was an absolute terror. He never stopped jumping on us. He screamed at top volume about his desire for Animal Crackers or lollipops or toys or the potty. He constantly tried to kick the seat of the people in front of us. He slapped us in the face for daring to not allow him to do whatever the hell it was that he wanted to do at any particular moment in time. Overall, he was a horrific nuisance. But that was OK. Because he wasn't even the most annoying person (or group of people) in our general vicinity.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Horribly Written Run-On Paragraph about Audubon's Everything Bagel

You know, I want to blog tonight, but I also want to maybe catch the episode of Boardwalk Empire that I am behind on so I am going to try and keep it as quick and dirty as possible with what I am going to say about Audubon bagel shop Everything Bagel.

Ate there the other day. I went a bunch of times before we started this blog because we had gotten sick of constantly going to our usual weekend breakfast haunt, Einstein Bagels. The thing with Einstein is that their "schmears" are really good, but their eggs are really fake and huge and every once in a while you just feel like you want a real egg. But I digress: Back to Everything Bagel. When we had gone there previously, I tried really hard to like it. However, after giving it a bunch of tries, I couldn't really shake the suspicion that they weren't giving you enough egg or bacon for the width of the bagel. It's like you have this really large bagel and then this sliver of egg that it was hard to believe was even one egg. It was like half an egg. Maybe 5/8? When you factor in that the bagel was often way too crunchy for an ideal piece of bread, it just didn't seem like it was a good deal. So we stopped going there and went to Panera for a while, but then we decided that their sandwiches were really bland and they didn't have much of a selection, and then we started going to Chick-Fil-A because they were giving the breakfast away for free if you came in wearing your pajamas, and then we went to McDonald's a couple times before we realized that we didn't want to have simultaneous coronaries, and then we ended up going back to Einstein because even though their eggs are really fake and it is usually pretty dirty in there and the service is spotty to be kind - there is one dizzy old broad who hasn't got my sandwich right the entire time I have been going; that's like five years - the schmears are like SO F*CKING GOOD!!! Anyway, back to the beginning of this disorganized diatribe. Everything Bagel. Went there the other day. Had a coupon and wanted to see if it wasn't as bad as I remembered. Found out that I had a really good memory (seriously, I am the SHEET in Quizzo for realz). The sandwich was mediocre. The bagel was huge and crunchy. It seemed like you got even less egg then I recalled. 3/8 of a huevo, maybe! They even seemed to skimp on the ketchup and hot sauce that I requested (then again, maybe the taste simply got enveloped by the INCREDIBLY LARGE CRUNCHY bagel, which was about as large as a lady's ass if said lady had an ass the size of Rhode Island). And then the kicker: the service even seems to have gone downhill. I don't know if it is the same owner as before or what, but the dude was always working the register and he was always very friendly. Didn't see him when I went. In his place was a fairly robotic lady who handed over to two other folks who went about their egg-frying business in a detached fashion that left me off-put. Man, I don't need a breakfast joint to be like Disney World or anything, but the place seemed to have the atmosphere of a movie audience walking out of a Schindler's List/Sophie's Choice double bill, nahm'sayin'? In closing, I will not be returning to Everything Bagel. The bagels are large and crunchy. The egg distribution thrifty. And the atmosphere not conducive to forgiving the culinary wrongs. With this screed completed, I can now go see if Jimmy Darmody decides to blow anybody's head off this week.

Everything Bagel
2642 Egypt Road
Audubon, PA 19403

The Pizza Project
Just a nibble:
Single slice:
The full pie: 50 Words or Less: Abita Restoration Pale Ale

Abita Restoration Pale Ale
Bought this beer because I really liked the six-pack art and buying into anything New Orleans makes me feel cooler. Jazz. Mardi Gras. The television show Treme. Ragging on George W. Bush. I love it all. However, this beer was a major letdown. Hops were weak. Flavor was nonexistent.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Pessimist in Paradise: Ten Things I Hated about My Trip to Aruba

1. People Causing Suspicion in the Airport - On the morning of our flight to Charlotte (we had a connector to Aruba), there was a dude in the waiting area. Guy is rocking a blanket on his head, wearing odd-looking wristbands on his arms, reading a "religious" looking document, all while moving his head forward and backward in the manner of a crazed lunatic. He looked like a mutha-flippin' ancient Mayan witch doctor or something. I was literally five seconds away from either having the guy arrested by Homeland Security or canceling the trip due to premonitions of fiery death. The wife later told me that she believed that we were taking our trip on a Jewish high-holiday. But really, I don't care. We are ten years removed from 9/11 and there has yet to be a major terrorist reoccurence on American soil. That's awesome. That doesn't mean we should all feel free to get our head-covered solitary mosh pit on in the waiting area before take-off in a fully fueled 747. I should respect your religion, but you might want to respect my paranoia. I won't bust your chops if you can simply get your chant on in your bedroom before leaving for Philly International. Too much to ask? Don't think so.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Time for a Random List: The Ten Best Films by Woody Allen

In tribute to Woody Allen: A Documentary, a two-part special from PBS's American Masters television series.

Booze ... in 50 Words or Less: Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Bier Ale

Looks like a stout or porter, but the taste is a bit lighter. Could definitely knock back more than one without that "full" feeling that I get from multiple stouts. Smoky malt flavor with a slightly sweet coffee finish. Hoppier than I expected. An excellent winter beer.

The Pizza Project
Just a nibble:
Single slice:
The full pie:

Booze in 50 Words or Less - Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve

At $9 a growler at Whole Foods Plymouth Meeting (while supplies last) this American rendition of a strong golden Belgian hits the mark. It's clovey and yeasty taste is subtle enough for the Belgian noob and he/she that ran the 1/2 marathon who will drink the entire growler tonight. Read more >>


The Pizza Project
Just a nibble:
Single slice:
The full pie:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Aruba Edition: Tale of the Pie - Casa Tua Pizzeria

On our last night in Aruba, Spicy and I decided to take Saucy Jr. and our friend Veggie Barcelona (she has not approved this name, but we want to protect her identity so I am taking a bit of a liberty here) over to Casa Tua Pizzeria for a bite to eat. Hilariously enough, this was the same day that we ate at Tomato Charlie's. So we had two meals consisting of pizza in one day.

But in case you have not noticed, we really like pizza. This was not a problem. Only thing is, we almost did not make it to our meal. 50 Words or Less: River Horse Brewing Company Hop-a-lot-amus

River Horse Brewing Company Hop-a-lot-amus
Something about this double IPA from the Lambertville, New Jersey, brewing establishment keeps it from entering the upper tier of hop-filled beers. There's tons of hops, but the mixture doesn't result in a distinctive pop. It's a little murky and static. Needs a flavor to offset the ample hops.

Friday, November 18, 2011 50 Words or Less: Rogue Santa's Private Reserve Ale

Rogue Santa's Private Reserve Ale
Little disappointed by this one. Maybe due to high regard I have for the Oregon brewer's concoctions. First swig left me feeling off-put. Features spruce as an ingredient, but they didn't make the odd spice work in the manner that Yards Tavern Spruce did. Not easy to drink multiple. 50 Words or Less: North Coast Brewing Company Le Merle

North Coast Brewing Company Le Merle
Definitely one of the more intriguing (if not completely satisfying) beers I've had in a while. Was expecting a straight-ahead Saison, but what I got was a little bit of a sour beer. There's earthy, fruity flavor too, but not your traditional citrus. Thinking it might have been beet? 50 Words or Less: Smuttynose Winter Ale

Smuttynose Winter Ale
For my first beverage back on American soil, I chose this seasonal beer by the Portsmouth, N.H., brewers. On a night where three intriguing beers were consumed, this was the clear winner. It was heavy on malt while subtly flavored with hints of cherry. Tremendous from first sip.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Aruba Edition - 50 Words or Less: Amstel Bright

Amstel Bright
Getting desperate for a distinctive beer in Aruba, I decided to try this product by the Amsterdam brewery. Tasted like Balashi Chill. Which I have already said tasted like Corona. So basically, it tasted like Corona. Not sure they sell it in states. They should. Many Americans love crappy beer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Better Late Than Never Reviews: Audio, Video, Disco - Justice

When I took on Philadelphia's Broad Street Run some three years ago, I chose to listen to one CD and one CD only when traversing the city in search of a successful ten-mile run: Cross by French electro-crunk magnates Justice. The album's infectious dance groovesand brutal break beats kept me running and I survived to tell the tale (even if I usually pretend that I ran it around 10 minutes faster than I actually did). I also survived to purchase Audi0, Video, Disco, the band's second album, one that seesthem moving away from pop-influenced mega-hits like the appropriately titled "D.A.N.C.E.," and toward a more rock-influenced sound that may not move as many units, but sure does make for a consistently thrilling sophomore effort.

Aruba Edition - 50 Words or Less: Balashi Chill

Balashi Chill
That's right! Loved Balashi so much, I decided to try their summer beer. Garnished with lime, it tastes almost exactly like Corona. That may not sound like much, but when your skin is burnt like a Thanksgiving turkey left in the oven two hours too long, it works.

Deal Alert: $10 off Bertucci's Takeout

Today only: Get $10 off $25 when you order takeout from Bertucci's online. Enter code 953 at checkout. And you can even place your order in advance and schedule a pickup time during your way home from work.

Bertucci's Online Ordering >>


The Pizza Project
Just a nibble:
Single slice:
The full pie:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Aruba Edition - 50 Words or Less: Balashi Pilsner

Balashi Pilsner
. Not known for microbrews. Still, had to try this beer. Tastes like Heineken. Only not as good. And Heineken's bad. Fine in sweltering heat, but leaves a horrible taste in your mouth. And not just because I paid five bucks a can for it in a hotel gift shop.

Booze in 50 Words or Less - Saranac Big Moose Ale

Smooth. Light touches of spice to this seemingly brown ale. One and you're done.


The Pizza Project
Just a nibble:
Single slice:
The full pie:

Tale of the Pie Aruba Edition: Tomato Charlie's

If you've been concerned about the lack of new posts during the past week, don't despair. We have not abandoned the blog; it's just that several of us have been in Aruba celebrating Emmental's wedding. Now that we're back, we've got two pizza reviews and any number of random posts (how to survive air travel with a rambunctious nearly-two-year-old, slightly aimless rant about the Marriott beach bar waiter who tried to overcharge us for the $8.50 drink special of the day because they "forgot" to update the specials board from the previous day, Balashi beer in 50 words or less, etc.) coming your way.

Naturally, we had to give Aruba's pizza a try. Our first stop was Tomato Charlie's, located along the Blvd/Prominade at the Brickell Bay Beach Club (Palm/Eagle beach area). Saucy and I started with the Bruschetta while our friend had a Tomato Charlie's Italian Salad. We then shared a medium pie, half pepperoni and half plain. The bruschetta was pretty good, nothing that would knock your socks off, but a tasty little nibble. It was topped with shredded mozzarella, which was definitely a bruschetta first for me. The salad seemed to be lacking in toppings, a bit of a disappointment when considering the over $10 price tag.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 50 Words or Less: Philadelphia Brewing Company Harvest from the Hood

Philadelphia Brewing Company Harvest from the Hood
There's definitely floral flavor emanating from this wet hop ale by the underdog of Philly-based breweries. Unfortunately, unlike their stellar Fleur de Lehigh, this exotic-tasting beverage results in an aftertaste that affects the enjoyment slightly. It's intriguing, with definite potential. Still, slight disappointment. 50 Words or Less: Ithaca Cold Front Belgian-Style Amber Ale

Ithaca Cold Front Belgian-Style Amber Ale
For a beer I bought simply to make sure the wife had something to drink (she sure likes Belgians), I sure was impressed by this. What a combination of interesting flavors! Not only does it have that classic Belgian feel, it also features the smoky bitterness of a stellar brown.

Monday, November 7, 2011 50 Words or Less: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
While I've had Celebration before, it's been a while. I was expecting a winter beer. Imagine my shock when I realized that it was not only an American IPA, but one of the hoppiest, most vibrant-tasting versions I've had in months. Extremely satisfying. Will purchase again before holidays conclude.

Sunday, November 6, 2011 50 Words or Less: Lancaster Brewing Company Hop Hog IPA

Lancaster Brewing Company Hop Hog IPA
First thing I do upon taking a sip of delicious IPA? Check the label for its ABV. Want to gauge the buzz. First thing I checked for here? Expiration date. Awful. Can't taste hops. Seems like skunked beer. Bought it at Capone's, so probably just sucks. Avoid this garbage.

Saturday, November 5, 2011 50 Words or Less: Dogfish Head My Antonia Imperial Pils

Dogfish Head My Antonia Imperial Pilsner
The wife bought this 25.4-ouncer at Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting. I had no idea what an imperial pilsner would taste like. I do know that the label said "continually hopped," and sure enough the thing was extremely hoppy, close to the level of an IPA. Tremendous label art.

Better Late Than Never Reviews: Metals - Feist

In 2007, Leslie Feist, indie hottie extraordinaire and sometime-member of Broken Social Scene, became a solo sensation due to the impact of her single "1234," which was plastered all over TV and the Internet due to its video's Busby Berkeley-meets-American Apparel choreography. With her new album, Metals, it would seem as if she is retreating from her former "It Girl" status. However, while you probably won't hear any of the song's on her newest album gracing any iPod commercials any time soon, it should not be assumed that her latest is a dud. On the contrary, it is full of songs whose melodies will be taking up long-term residence in the listener's cranium. It just takes a little more digging and patience.

Friday, November 4, 2011 50 Words or Less: Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve

Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve
When you consider that I spent many years as a resident of Cinnaminson, New Jersey, it's probably a bit surprising that I have never visited Cherry Hill's Flying Fish Brewery. Gotta get it on the itinerary. It's a classic Belgian with citrusy notes. Lighter than legends Chimay or Ommegang.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 50 Words or Less: Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale

Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale
Bought a six-pack of these cans after playing basketball on Tuesday night. Truthfully, it pales in comparison to excellent pale ales I've had recently, like Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale and Lagunitas Pale. Still, it soothed my aching ankles. And I drank three in 30 minutes. Good enough for me. 50 Words or Less: Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning

Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning
This pilsner from Baltimore, Maryland's Clipper City Brewing Company was underwhelming on first sip. The second didn't reveal much either! Basically, this was just a watery beer. Advertised "big malt flavor" and "crisp hop finish," but was really just wack! I'm glad I didn't buy a full six-pack!