Gluttony In Seattle part II
A Bistro in Ballard
After our first day-excursion in Seattle, we piled into a car and headed to our dinner spot: Cafe’ Presse. Dinner tonight would be with the parents of the bride and groom, bridesmaids and best men, close family and friends. Cafe’ Presse was a French style bistro that had a menu screaming some delicious ubiquitous-French delicacies at me - making my stomach ravenous.
We started with the always-necessary French bread and butter and the Assiette De Fromages. All the cheeses here came from the neighboring cities and states - delivering some amazing farm-to-table French-style gooeyness with a North-West twist. The Olives Aux Herbes De Provence (olives mixed with herbs, dried lemon and olive oil) delivered some seriously meaty olives cured in a delicious oil-film. I am a big fan of olives - and these olives were done right. The Rillettes De Porc (confit pork spread) was French-country-rustic, meaty, fantastic. Anything pork - I am sold. The accompaniment of mustard, pickles and it’s spreadability made it a potential meal in itself.
The cocktail of choice was very un-French, but fantastic nevertheless: Le Diable - Cazadores Reposado, Creme De Cassis, Ginger Beer, Cayenne, Lime - more of a Mexican-cocktail with a French name. Seattle is one of those places that does a cocktail right. Perfect balance of flavors - not the standard Flavored-Vodka “cocktail” here, my friends - something unique instead.
Next, it was on to French Rouge Vin and mains. Ashley had the Steak Frites, Sauce Cremeuse Au Mais, A La Estragon Et Au Lard Fume (NW grass-fed beef: Petit New York Strip), with fried potatoes, white wine cream with sweet corn, bacon and tarragon). A real treat if you dig a Bistro-style Steak Frites. The spin that Cafe’ Presse took with the staple of this European-style favorite definitely had some pleasing surprises. The use of sweet corn in the white wine cream was something unexpected… almost hinting at a Southern U.S. sort of thing. Crispy, perfect frites.
My main was the Steak Tartare - Raw, hand chopped and seasoned NW grass-fed sirloin and hanger steak, fried potatoes, watercress salad. I think Presse fries their Frites in some kind of animal fat. Anything deep-fried in animal fat delivers flavor unlike your run-of-the-mill fry-oil (sorry my herbivore Brontosaurus-friends… you’re missing out). My god were those greasy, salty, crispy frites something to kill for. The Tartare? Freaking phenomenal. A tartare is not the simplest of preps - there are far more ingredients carefully tucked away in that French-classic than you’d expect - and each one had it’s place and purpose in Presse’s tartare. I recall the capers specifically being so well-balanced with the steak and raw egg that it was magical-meat-frenzy-time.
Two of Evan and Megan’s closest friends, ??? and ??? insisted that we all share their roast chicken - that it would be the best damned thing we’d eat there. I typically never order chicken at restaurants unless I know it’s going to be something special - chicken just doesn’t do it for me nowadays when I can have something like foie or pork or sausage or sweet breads instead - ya know what I’m saying?
Poulet Roti Selon Votre Commande, Pommes Frites. Washington natural chicken roasted to order, fried potatoes, dijon mustard. My freaking god was this good. Probably one of the top 3 greatest chicken mains I’ve consumed world-wide. And that extra bucket of frites? Man… bring on those duck-fat fried little sticks of heart-clogging amazingness. The chicken basically has to be order before you even sit down… so that explained it’s late show-up time - but wow was it worth the wait. So simple, but saying so much with so little. Crisp on the outside, watery-juicy on the inside - simple, charred just right. It was what I imagine chicken should be like every time… but that is not gonna happen randomly.
Before the Poulet even came out - we were all full… but naturally- you see some food that attractive, calling you ever-so-seductively - you eat more. Everyone leaned back in the chairs and booths looking like they’d just run a marathon, moaning primordial-grunt-conversation like bed-room-grunts; we were full.
We all swapped seats around to chat with those we didn’t sit close to, drank loads more delicious French wine and then it was time for toasts and speeches.
Here again was proof of the magic of good food and drink and friends and family. Evan and Megan’s wedding, for me, was something really beautiful in the sense I was able to see how these two have affected so many related and un-related lives around the country. Long time childhood friends and parents and siblings all made heart-felt recollections of the past; threw in some awesome comedic moments of awkward childhood romance (Meg and Evan have known each other a long time); and then instinctually I decided to even chime in (me being the newest friend of the couple) - it was just such a great, laid back moment shared with people who all were able to experience that same, once-in-a-lifetime occurrence of people brought together due to a couple’s uniting.
My notes here say “Some kind of llmon cake… drunk!"
Notes of a fantastic time with friends, family, food, and booze.
Gluttony In Seattle part I
The idea of traveling while not having to travel seems like a painful notion for me (being someone who is typically away anywhere from 4-10 months out of the year), and couple that with a massive-emergency-wisdom-tooth surgery-recovery - the flight to Seattle was a long one.
Apparently, the roots of my wisdom teeth had grown so long, so entangled with the nerves in my lower-jaw, that I was a very high risk for permanent nerve damage. Before going under, at the consult - I ask “So… Doc… there’s a risk of permanent mouth damage with the surgery… what about without?” Doc replies: “Permanent mouth damage.” Damned if I did, damned if I didn’t.
I opted for the surgery, and this was my first surgery and first anesthesia experience. It’s a pretty weird process and setup - I hardly got to counting down from 10 to 8 when the next thing I knew it was like a drunken/drugged daze waking up in the drugstore parking lot where Ashley was getting my meds. All my friends all said: “Ah dude… it’s like 3 to 4 days tops for recovery, brah.” 3-4 days my ass. It was around 4 weeks before the pain stopped, 6 before I was able to finally stop cleaning my mouth-holes with an irrigator (MacGuyver-ed by the way, it was a Neil Med Sinus Irrigator… didn’t have time to find the real deal).
It was very difficult for me to not be eating the way I normally get to - drinking everything through a straw was torturous, I couldn’t even look at a smoothie for months later without gagging a little inside. I can still picture how gross it was the very first time I saw what the damage looked like. I was a shell of my former self on this liquid diet… I opted out of the pain killers too (they made me a useless glob of shite) - so there may have been some of the extra pain right there.
So towards the 3rd or so week of recovery, it was about time to fly across the country to Seattle to go to two dear friends of my wife and I’s wedding. Megan was Ashley’s college-roommate and costume-designer for In Waves; the first time Ash and I met Evan was at our wedding - and we all hit it off from there.
On the flight over, we watched Lost In Translation and I swore that I was never eating solid food again (I had just irrigated and saw some nasty gunk… I was bummed) - when we landed, everything was closed for food, but Meg and Evan promised some mind-blowing stuff would be coming up in the next few days.
We flew in early so we could hang a few days before, be at the wedding, and then head home (the same thing we did around our wedding time with our nearest and dearest). We checked in - zonked out.
I always swear by the fact that food is the common-uniting factor in life; it’s what brings people together and helps us realize who are closest friends are going to be… judging by the places we were about to hit - I shoulda known we’d all become closest of pals.
I was done moping about my mouth-holes and I was ready to eat - even if it was going to hurt like hell….
The first of the many amazing places we gorged at in the Seattle/Ballard area was Senor Moose. From the outside and from the initial walk-in area, it looks like your average greasy-spoon breakfast-diner; a further investigation and walk inside shows you that it’s setup more like your Mexican-Grandma’s dining room. Mexican knickknacks, table clothes, wall-ornaments, curtains and decor alike set the stage for the authentic home-made amazingness that was about to come.
It was 9am on a weekday, so I thought I’d ease my way in: a Bloody Maria (Sauza silver, lime, tomato juice and secret spices). Probably the best bloody Mary I’ve ever had… just the right amount of spice, salt - probably an extra amount of tequila. This drink was meaty… the kind of meaty you’d expect from a protein shake. Every one else at the table soon felt inspired and ordered their adult-breakfast-beverages once I broke the booze-ice.
We started with Corn and epazote with cream. Each corn niblet had the right amount of pop - moist and smokey-tasting. The epazote cheese was such a simple but such a bold flavored-topping. The crispy tortilla-almost-things that we gobbled along with the corn and cheese was a fantastic crunch that went just right with it all.
My main was me: Chorizo Con Papas Y Nopales Toda La Republica Mexicana: Chorizo, potatoes, fresh cactus; cooked together and topped with two runny eggs, served with tortillas. Anything sausage is something I need. Especially when you’re talking house-made. The cactus had a texture like okra - but more pleasant… somewhere between okra and a green bell pepper - earthy and delicious. I’ve recently become a massive fan of anything with a runny egg over it… I think it’s a combo of being an Asian (all the trendy little Asian food trucks and food stands always throw the obligatory runny egg on top) and being a mini-Bourdain-wannabe.
Ashley, Evan, and Meg all got something different that we each got to pick off of in my favorite of sharing-traditions.
The next stop was a super local-gourmet tea and coffee house/bakery, Fresh Flours. I went for the Green Tea Latte and the Green Tea Macaron - both were intensely delicious and amazing.
We all popped into Evan’s car and went to his parents place (where the wedding would be held in a few days from then). I initially wanted to help out with the setup that day… but oops… Trivium conference call. It lasted 2 hours.
Evan’s parents, (Mr. and Mrs. Christie as I call ‘em) are two truly incredible people. They quickly embraced me and Ash as if we were their own - we got to chatting about things like Architecture (Evan’s mom designed their guest house… it made me want to work very hard in life to achieve something like it. Picture a modern Swedish style/Bento box on the inside, Italian-esque on the outside, and a bedroom/bed designed like a sake cup). It was so organized… clean geo-metric lines - all locally sourced woods on the inside, assembled by a family member - it was everything I want (I am very about super organized, clean lines - modern-looking living spaces).
Most of Evan’s parents and grandparents are creatives. Most of them paint or build something amazing (Evan and his Grandpa hand-build Ukeleles from responsibly sourced woods), and the home was decorated with art from all the family members who paint or photograph - it was really inspiring.
We had a great lunch, hung a bit, went to a nature walk to see the very Washington hills and woods and nature… then prepped to hit dinner.
(Shin Sushi, Orlando, FL)
In life, I feel that an open-mindedness to trying all sorts of cuisine, from all cultures around the globe allows us to learn more about where other cultures have come from, while instilling an open-minded attitude to all things in life - branching into music, lifestyles, culture, and art. It’s very important for all of us to learn where we come from - everyone comes from something, from somewhere - our histories and roots are all traceable back to significant story-lines in ethnicity, culture, and family. Food plays a huge role in all of those back-stories of who we are today.
Being raised on Japanese food from my Mom, and being half-Japanese - I’ve always delved head-first into the culture: food, art, history - I felt it massively important to be aware of where half of me comes from. Thanks to my incredible job, I am able to try food from everywhere on the planet - but my favorite has always been Japan.
One day in Orlando, my Mom told me about a place all her Japanese friends love: Shin. It was a new place at the time (this was years back), and the first time I went to Shin was with Mark from Atreyu - we had it, and were blown away.
This was legit. This tasted like Japan. You could see the care the chefs and owners were putting into the food simply by the way it looked; I was hooked. On our way out, I spoke the very small amount of restaurant-Japanese that I know - said that the food was amazing and left.
From there, I kept revisiting the place - and quickly befriended the staff and chefs, and one of the main Chef/Owners: Ken Sakurada. We both quickly learned that we were both very much into metal. We talked of Maiden, Japan, food, Metal - we both had a lot of similarities going for us. Years down the line for our friendship, Ken’s wife, Urara helped design the kanji for Trivium’s “Shogun” album cover. My wife and I have our spot reserved right in front of Ken’s workstation at least once a week while I’m home, and Ken usually hits any killer shows we’re going to (or performing at) in the area.
Since I consider myself a huge fan of what Ken does, he recently agreed to let me sit down with him and interview him about his day-to-day and maybe give me a lesson in how to do what he does:
Ken: “The fish markets in Japan and America are so different; at the markets, if you received fish every morning - those fish came out… maybe a tops of a day before. I wanted to work part time at the fish market, and it was great because every day I was able to try everything at sashimi-grade quality; I was able to try so many different kinds of fish.”
“There was this guy in my local town who owned several businesses, and he met my father and said he was planning to open a sushi restaurant in the United States - in Florida - and that they were looking for one more staff person to go with them. So one day, I went in for an interview, got the job, quit school and my job at the market and would soon leave for America. Before leaving, I had worked at the fish market over a year, and instead of doing the two years of school that was standard - I only went for a year.”
“23 years ago I went to Melbourne and started working in a sushi restaurant. Think about that… who in Melbourne was going to eat sushi 23 years ago? Hahah. We had the new kinds of sushi, like california rolls and stuff - and it did well. That’s how it all started.”
Me: “What was your first memory of food being something special? That moment where you realized it was beyond just eating?”
Ken: “In the US - you can’t find sushi/sashimi quality fish at the grocery store. In Japan, even at the to-go places, they have sushi and sashimi slices already prepared. At the fish market, you see the entire fish - you see that squid are still moving; and at the fish market, if you wanted to eat something like tiny sardines - you can. You can try all kinds of fish - so I was eating everything, I learned about the many different flavors of fish there.”
“Japan has four different seasons of fish - and has many different kinds you can have at each season; So every season I was able to have a different array of fish.”
Me: “What were your other jobs before Shin?”
Ken: “Before Shin… I worked at a few different places: I started at the one in Melbourne, and at that point I lived in Florida for about 10 years. Next, I received an offer at Atlantis in the Bahamas…”
“I was in charge of all Sushi operations in Atlantis, and it was a busy job - I received a lot of pressure for my boss and co-workers.”
“I was in Orlando right after Melbourne - a place called Hana-mizuki on I-drive. This is probably the most authentic Japanese restaurant in Orlando. I was the main sushi chef for a few years there; at the time, I was a green card holder, so I could only work in the Bahamas briefly; that’s why I eventually came back to the USA after 2 years or so.”
“In Hunstville, Alabama, Toyota opened up a new plant and wanted to open a restaurant there for sushi specifically; I was employed there and lived there for a few years. Living there - they called me "the Japanese redneck” Hahahah (Ken is really into outdoors-y things, and fishes a lot).“
"Alabama was great; just their winter time was far too icy. Japanese people like to keep their cars really clean… and Alabama had that "red soil.” So it was killing me - sticking on my shoes, getting in my car.“
"Southern hospitality was a really great thing though.”
Me: “What’s your comfort food? Your favorite thing to eat?”
Ken: “Oh, sushi is still my favorite.
Me: "Really? That’s pretty awesome.”
Ken: “It’s not oily… it’s really fresh - I never get tired of it. Teppan-yaki chefs never want to have Teppan-yaki on a day off…
Chinese chefs don’t want to have Chinese on their days off… but I will have sushi even on my days off.”
“The hardest thing though… people ask me, "Ken, where do you go to get sushi?” And the truth is - it’s hard because there aren’t places I trust to eat at for sushi. I have my favorite place back home in my old hometown… and when the economy was good, he had many chefs… nowadays it’s him, his wife and his son in more of a house-hold business.“
Me: "Traditional or modern sushi?”
Ken: “I don’t do the modern day stuff… I stick to the traditionals. Nigiri.”
Me: “What is the traditional way to eat sushi? I’m even a little unsure of the right way.”
Ken: “I do soy sauce and wasabi. You know… the proper way to eat soy sauce and wasabi: you put a little bit of wasabi on your chop sticks, then on top of the fish. The reason we don’t mix the wasabi into the soy sauce is that the wasabi spices vaporize when it’s mixed into the soy sauce - and then the spiciness goes away.”
“With the nigiri, I put the fish-side into the soy sauce bowl.”
Me: “In the States, I always see people dunking and soaking their sushi in a bath of soy sauce… it kills the flavor.”
Ken: “In Japan, with sushi - we use 3 fingers, stand it up sideways, and the soy sauce goes on the fish side - one bite.”
“The proper way is eating with fingers; nowadays in Japan, people use chopsticks - but the traditional way still with rolls and nigiri alike, is to eat it with the fingers.”
“For the rolls, everything is seaweed on the outside in Japan, there aren’t any "inside-out” rolls like we have here.“
Me: "What is a normal day for you like at Shin?”
Ken: “In the morning, I turn on the showcase, and then start setting up the fish. We have other guys doing the rice in the back kitchen, and since I’m working the front - I need to check the on the fish from the night. With some of the fish we carry, we have an ice-water-bath with a 3 percent-salt-content. If you taste it - it’s almost like salt water; it helps with the flavor of the fish that needs it.”
“Of course, we filet the fish; the tuna is in big loins - so we cut it, we wrap it, keep it in ice, in a cooler box, in the walk in’s. There isn’t too much else to do in comparison to the sushi bars in Japan.”
Me: “What is the most essential thing to you in the biz?”
Ken: “Like I said, unlike in Japan - in the States, we don’t have too much of a choice where we get the fish from. The biggest thing is your relationship with the vendors. Even when I left Florida for a little bit - I still kept my relationships with my fish vendors in the USA.”
“You know, even though there’s a place that sells 1000’s of pounds of even just tuna - some places get the best cuts, some get the worst… it’s all in your relationships.”
“Our customers always keep coming back for our high quality of tuna and sea urchin roe.”
Me: “What go you into metal?”
Ken: “When I was in elementary school, Japanese pop was very very popular - it’s what all my friends were listening to. So in the morning, I’d wake up early and try to listen to the radio to hear what’s popular in the foreign-music scene.”
“Queen was popular, so was Abba.”
“Then - when I got into high school, it was basically two elementary schools combined from this local section and that local section; so it combined into one big junior high. There were several people that I met who were really into foreign music - and at that point, I started getting into hard rock - bands like Journey.”
“The first concert I ever saw in my life was Rainbow - and it was like a week before I graduated junior high - so i was like 15 or so.”
Me: “What are your 5 favorite metal albums of all time?”
Ken: “Definitely the album that got me into the metal-life was "Piece Of Mind” by Iron Maiden. I also really liked “Pyromania” by Def Leppard. “Hysteria” was really popular at that time… but for me, I was really into the Def Leppard before that. I really like “Pyromania.”
“The others would have to be: "Thunder In The East” by Loudness; “Ride The Lightning” by Metallica; and “Defenders Of The Faith” by Judas Priest.“
Me: "Killer! So what are we going to make today for my first experience attempting to make sushi… ever?”
Ken: “Let’s try the Philadelphia roll.”
The movement to end all online piracy for the music and movie worlds and restore order?
SOPA is an explosive-device tucked between the legs of a smiling, waving buisness-man in a teddy-bear costume, asking if you want a Popsicle out of his cellar.
In legal terms - SOPA is textbook overboard. It’s stated aim is to curb online piracy & restore and protect the rights of content creators. That’s a noble goal. But it gives it’s wielders oh so much more power than that. It’s like giving a Tomahawk missile to an exterminator to take out a bee hive from your front porch. Sure, the bees are dead but so is everything else in a hundred yard radius.
Yeah - maybe it would cut piracy back and get bands more money from cd-purchases (because lets face it - pirating music does stifle bands’ existences, hurt income and all that for everyone involved = label, label’s employees, producers, studios etc.) however that’s just what SOPA wants you to think its entire cause is.
What business or school isn’t changed by our ever amorphously-evolving technological times? Paper goods and books in universities are being phased into digital-tablet-read collections; the days of paying for 100’s of crap channels of TV can now be selected through Internet streaming-subscription sites instead; our music collection can now be stored and streamed or rented and constantly swapped in and out.
This is the technological golden age and all businesses are having to adapt or die. In this day and age business is chaos as things change so fast. That’s why a band like us realizes that - yes - in a perfect world, more people would stop illegally downloading (would you forfeit what you do for a living for free because I said its not fair?) and purchase physical CDs or iTunes bundles or get their music from other “authorized” sources. But the fact is the CD-aisle in Best Buys are shrinking and the old record stores are up closing shop. Bookstores are going away. Video rental stores? Dead. That’s the thing - adapt with the times… You have to. Physical has given away to digital for the most part.
We recognize being a band nowadays that things are changing. For us musicians, it is better for us to support programs pushing authorized digital purchasing or streaming of music, selling merchandise on tour and being on the road constantly to turn a profit. This is the life we chose. But the way we all approach the issue of supporting digital rights is a very important issue of our time in that we need to respect the rights of content creators but we also need to support the free flow of information and ideas online. SOPA is not the solution of that balance.
It was cute that my recent “royalty check” caused such passionate backing and distaste. The truth is is that I said no side that I was taking. That picture had no information of a political-stance of “anti” or “pro” piracy; did I say in the oh-so-arrogant tone: “Listen here you fucks! Screw your parents - download my shit for freeeeeeahhhh!” Did I say: “hey um… It’s totally not sweet that you bros aren’t buying my totally awesome new album from your local record store”?
Hell - did anyone even take the time to try to think what it was actually for? It was a royalty check from an authorized streaming website that shouldn’t have even sent it to me. They were supposed to send it to the publishing company to accumulate, then send.
I allowed everyone to decide. But I do appreciate that they actually took the time to legally license the stream and send me the check. Thanks for that.
I appreciate the people that love and back our band backing me… And those who, even though can’t stand anything I ever say - who still take the time to read every word? Thanks for putting your knee-jerk reactions online and getting me more Twitter followers. Maybe next time your brash jab of whose-holier-and-culter-than-though can be slightly more intelligent than “look how much more I have than you.”
This bill, if passed - would set our forward-thinking country back into the informational-dark ages. This country was founded on escaping from persecution of what we were “supposed” to live like - to be free to do what we want to do in the pursuit of happiness and longevity in life. SOPA would fling the USA into a digital online backwater overlorded style-controlled society, potentially creating a situation where regulations tell us what we can say and do. Controlling what we learn and say.
Where are all our backers of “constitutional amendment rights” when our first amendment is at stake? America is the informational and technological super power in our time. Look at Apple - always 10 steps ahead of what all the other technological-superpower companies are always bringing to the table. They brought iTunes to us because they knew people wanted their music quicker; the got rid of the cd-drive because people wouldn’t be using CDs; they developed easily-useable cloud-style file-storage. That company was founded in this country where so many flock to start up their dreams - not unlike being in a band.
My stance: should people take groceries because their hungry? Should you give me a car because I need it? Should I be granted free manicures and pedicures and meat and tuxedo rentals simply because I think it’s not fair that I pay? No tips at restaurants, no fees at bars, free drinks on you just because? No. I’m not a religious person at all - but thou shalt not steal… Or some shit like that, right?
The times of the blacksmith and butcher and hunter have changed to the car-maker, the deli-owner (with online deliveries over $20), and the farmers’ market chef who hunts with a precision laser sighted cross-bow.
We all still need to make “a living” to stay living. But a movement like SOPA? That will cripple and kill a big part off of this free country we all live and love in.
What needs to happen?
The head honchos of the music and movie businesses who are backing this SOPA need to go meet up with and make friends with tech guys in Silicon Valley instead of fighting. They should go out for drinks and figure it out together one night. Surely there is a better solution out there that supports and protects the rights of us content creators online but one that doesn’t potentially cripple the free flow of innovation and thought online.
Of all the bountiful feasts laid before me in my many travels around this blue marble - there are 3 chefs who surpass all others in my book: Yoshiko Heafy (my Okasan), the duo of Tammy and Ross Davis (my in-laws who can top any Southern cook as far as I’m concerned), and my partner-in-culinary-crime, my wife Ashley Heafy.
As it is with the case with most food-adventurers, their family members (who can cook) usually have the skills to top even the best restaurants said adventurer has eaten at. I’ve mentioned previously how Japanese food is something I require on a cellular-level - so - every time I am home, I beg my mom to make some of her Japanese-delicacies.
Since I am in a constant state-of-motion, my eating experiences “at home” are always in-between tours. I believe this trip to my mom’s was in between Mayhem and the Dream Theater support tour; I asked my okasan (mom in Japanese) to make “anything Japanese.” Now - side note - there is a massive misconception in America that Japanese cuisine is limited to: Sushi and that flaming-onion-flinging, stomach-wrecking, pseudo-Japanese chain that people so lovingly mispronounce as “Coh Beez.” When attempting to relay the vastness of the Japanese-culinary-spectrum… I usually compare it to having as many different styles of food as Italian dishes… something like that.
My family get-togethers at my parents’ house (the house I spent from 11 years old and up till the time I moved out) usually consist of: mom (“Mama”), dad (“Bubba”), my sister Michelle and her boyfriend Hunter, Ashley and myself. I find that food is the best way if not the only proper way for a family to really be together, to share the same experience as everyone else at the table with them, and catch up and be happy; so these always work out nicely.
I was blown away when I saw that my mom had made hand-made steamed pork-dumplings (not unlike the ones you see at shiny-carted Dim Sum restaurants) - which, were amazing (I also imagine quite difficult and time consuming to make). Tonight’s main feature would be Yakiniku - a Japanese style in it’s own; just as Sushi is one - Yakiniku is another.
Yakiniku translates to “grilled meat,” and that’s exactly what it is. Yakiniku restaurants in Japan usually have a table with an individual grill for each table - Korean BBQ is very similar to Yakiniku. There are many a drunken-night I can recall from Japan, loudly singing Bon Jovi, drinking cold Japanese Suntory Premium Malts and grilling chicken hearts and beef-livers at the meat-smoked-out Yakiniku places with friends… this is the family-friendly version of Yakinuku here: filet, chicken breast, potatoes, carrots, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, sausage. All amazing.
The sauce that Yakinuku is usually gobbled down with ranges from restaurant to restaurant in Japan - my mom makes her own version of the sweet/tangy/salty-meat-bath. You can quickly dip the meat, or let it hang out for a bit in it - marinating it post-grill. Ebi-chili is chili shrimp that was also a feature - delicious. Miso soup by my mother is something that makes you realize that restaurants can’t touch home-made.
There was seared tuna and rice, then an assortment of deserts as always. In addition to being able to pull off Japanese dishes like Okonamiyaki to Yakinuku and Soba and Yakisoba… my mom can pull off baking like a true pastry-chef. I’ve eaten an entire half of a cake once by my mom and ended up comatose for half a day…
So all in all, like always - it was an absolute pleasure to be able to share this feast together. I say it all the time, and I will again - my favorite things in life, in order: family and friends, food, music; and when it’s some of my favorite people on earth, coupled with some of the best food on the planet - I am a happy Kiichi-kun.
(All photos by Jon Paul Douglass)
Oktoberfest In OKC
After the fateful travels from Raleigh to Hamburg to London to Kansas City to OKC - we found ourselves having another day off before the USA release-date show of In Waves. It was Little Nicky’s birthday and I felt like it was high time to celebrate. After a little researching online, I found a German place in Oklahoma City that sounded really promising - I tried to round up who I could (only could wrangle JP and Nick and myself) and we headed to Ingrid’s Kitchen at dinner-time.
Although not German, but at least in a German glass, I ordered everyone a round of 1L Hoegaardens. There really is something special about a beer glass the size of a newborn. Nick by this point had been in Trivium for around a year and a half - and I imagine being in a band that has been around for 10 plus years before becoming a member is odd… maybe a little difficult when you’re in a band with someone as regimented, borderline-OCD, timely, and hungry as myself - so I do try to ease ol’ Nicky-poo into the band. Sometimes I may be a little hard to deal with having only known me for a few years… but I do mean well - so I figured a shit-ton of beer would be another one of those nice bonding moments.
(all photos again, thankfully, by Jon Paul Douglass)
In our group dinners, our business dinners, date-nights, and anything involving food - I handle the ordering. I feel I have a good sense on what people will like, how much of it we will need, and how to host and do all that fun stuff. I also am the resident food-uber-fanatic, so it’s only natural that I take the duties of table-hosting.
We started with the Blood and tongue served open face on a brotchen (hand-crusted French roll), dry with tomato slices. I knew this would get some faces - but I selfishly needed some of the “good stuff.” It was more like a lunch meat than anything, prepared similar to a head cheese - it was sliced from a giant lump of the offal-mixture. The mustard and the intense salami-tasting meat went great - I found myself eating more of it than my cohorts.
Our mains included: Jagerschnitzel, Weiner Schnitzel (pork loin cutlet, hand breaded and grilled with sauerkraut, red cabbage, German potato salad and bread), The Grobe bratwurst (coarsely ground pork and veal), The Knackwurst (lightly smoked fine pork and veal), Smoked bratwurst (lightly smoked pork and beef).
All the mains were delicious. Having just been in Germany and having just eaten so much pork-product incased-into-tube-form, going off memory - Ingrid’s is a real solid representation of German food. I certainly would describe the food as German-American though - but hey, that’s what it is - that’s where we are. So yeah - really German-American in the sense that Italian food in the USA isn’t really like the Italian food in Italy - but more so certainly Italian, but Italian-American - if you get what I’m saying.
There’s no better way to hang with your male buddies than mowing down on sausage and beer and meat - it was the best birthday I could have put together for Nick in that short time.
The birthday cake came in the form of a house-made Napoleon - a concentrated hunk of cake so sweet, so injected with super-charged-sugar-goodness that I think I had a mild diabetic coma afterwards. Amazing, but holy-sweetness…. just a few bites for me.
Good times with meat and beer.
(all photos by Jon Paul Douglass)
You Get What You Pay For
(Hamburg Airport, Newark Airport, Kansas City)
On Mayhem, we pulled off an impossibility. We played 3 of our In Waves-release dates simultaneously world-wide (well - semi-simultaneously). We knew it’d be hard (and goddamn, lemme tell ya it was), but it had to be done: finishing the Raleigh, NC show, we piled into the bus and flew to Hamburg, De to play an 80,000 person festival (the most metal festival in the world to boot: Wacken Open Air) on our German release date, then to London to open for Iron Maiden in front of 20-plus thousand on our UK-release date, then to what was supposed to be Oklahoma City.
After the hellaciously long lack of sleep and flight back into the US of A, our tour manager Brian Griffin softly mutters “Fuck” (He is typically a reserved dude; all emotions are usually around the same volume-range (even for being a sound guy)). We find out that our moronic driver of our discount-bus company in the US (let’s call them Hoe Jal with the driver Fid) left a simple voice-mail, then turned his phone off: “The bus is broke down. I ain’t gun’ be gitten ya’ll at the aeroport."
A week before this (and one before that) the bus started leaking from the outside-in, to which - Brian calls the company, receiving the response: "Drive it off a cliff fer all I care! I’m loosin’ my ass on this comp'nee anywho!” and hangs up. Another classic was something along the lines of: “Light it on fire fer all I cayer!” Customer is always right my ass.
So basically, it had been a downward spiral for the whole scorching summer-tour. We had days where the A.C. stopped working, a bus so unsanitary I found myself cleaning it twice a day just to keep the body fluid and Jaeger-spills at bay (and off my shoes). Drivers typically get a daily cleaning fee too - so Fid was getting paid for my nasty-house-keeping-work.
Back to the airport.
So I call Fid myself (I knew he wouldn’t recognize my number) and said “Dude. What the fuck is going on? Why are you evading Brian’s calls? Here’s Brian.” I put Brian on - we sort it out (sort of) and piled into the plane.
For some odd reason, Fid, instead of driving from Raleigh to the airport he was supposed to get us from - he hung out in Nashville or something - then must have driven a lot, then the bus “gitted dun messed up” somehow.
So now we had a bonus day off in Kansas City, and hopefully the new bus (yes, with Fid) would come get us the next day to drive us to OKC for the USA In Waves-release show. Once checking in, I jumped on my computer - researching the best local restaurant to drink and eat my troubles and worries away… and what’d I find? The Westside Local. Amazing reviews on yelp, online, etc.
My good friend, Jon Paul Douglass (quoted by me as being my “plutonic muse” as far as In Waves inspiration goes, also a man so damned talented at photography it’ll make your knees and heart buckle) was with us and was down to get out and eat. Everyone else in the band and crew stayed at the hotel that night due to “tiredness” (justifiably so due to the 4-6 hours of combined sleep from the last 3-4 days).
JP and I grabbed a cab and headed to Westside.
(All photography (thankfully) by JPD)
Westside was tucked away in a city/neighborhood. Away from the noise of the busier downtown, bordering suburban neighborhoods. The outside was beautiful - obviously an old building, purchased and renovated and rebuilt into the idea of what WsL wanted to make; something visually sound - humble, yet modern and artistic. When you enter, to the right is the dining area, the left - the bar. Large windows allowed the days-ends’ sunlight to flood in at the perfect level; a tattoo-ed and bearded bar-tender greeted us at our high-top for two.
Super friendly and knowledgable in all things Westside Local, the bar-tender gets me a Pimm’s Cup with Pimm’s gin, cucumber, lime, mint; JP gets the 17th St. Mojito with Cane rum, garden mint and fresh lime juice. Our bar-tender’s mixology skills are at artisan level - a doctor if you will. We mention a few key words of what we’re looking for, and he crafts it all just so to know exactly what’ll cure our jet-lag and whiplash. Without a doubt in my mind, My Pimm’s was the best Cup I’ve had to date. Something so simple can be destroyed by the wrong ratios - mine was exactly as it should have been. JP’s mojito? It was liquid crack. Anything in cocktail form with basil or mint, lime or lemon - I am sold. This elixir instantly drowned away all sorrows and tribulations of recent… then gave a nice buzz after that.
Our beautiful starter (the specific picks were assisted by our new best pal, our bar tender) were the Westside Localties, featuring: peaches, gruyere, braunschweiger, Spanish chorizo, prosciutto, castellavetrano olives, deviled eggs (orange vinaigrette, basil aioli, local microgreens). My thing with eating - is to be able to try as many things as possible; to be able to share the same tastes and experiences with the ones I am eating with. This was it. This was a celebration of all things good, of all things local KC - each little bite of each separate starter was as exciting as a meal in itself. Everything was just as fantastic as the last - i seem to remember the deviled eggs as being some of the best damn deviled eggs I’ve ever consumed. This starter was something special - something you talk about life over with loved ones, where you truly enjoy where you are at that moment in life.
I moved (or maybe it was JP… we were pretty buzzed by this point off euphoria, lack of sleep, and alcohol) to the Blanton’s Manhattan: Blanton’s bourbon, carpano vermouth, bitters, Westside local brandied-cherry. Ah wait - it was me - picture reference.
We ordered two mains - and hilariously, in my notes it says to “(look on site)” for the description… unfortunately. I am currently in a train from Edinburgh to Newcastle with no internet - good job, Me.
We had the Westside Local Burger and the Tenderloin. The burger was juicy, meaty - not comically large - it was gastro-pub sized and done right. All local ingredients, crispy fries, perfect pickle. Outstanding burger. The tenderloin was another magical cut of meat - when you’re in an area like KC, you know that the meat will be good. It it’s a place that prides itself on being totally local and sustainable - it’ll top even that. The mac and cheese and greens were a perfect compliment to the meat - mac and cheese and fries definitely kept WsL into the familiar, but gourmet gastro-territory.
Meat is always a good choice, and a place that does meat right - that really takes the time to consider the cut, the breed, the treatment of the animal - you see it in the cut, you taste it in the bite. Perfection.
I asked the mixologist for a beer recommendation - to which I received the Sixth glass quadruple ale. Strong, delicious ale. Our desert was the French toast bread pudding. Bread pudding is a beautiful thing, French toast is a beautiful thing. In both separately, the most fatteningly-delicious of suspects are crammed together into a sweet - but what happens at the combination of the two? This thing. This delectably devious hunk of compressed bread topped with (most likely) house-made ice cream was the closer to a perfect meal.
My final note from Westside Local was “Some kind of port (drunk!)”. The bar-tender, having obviously been pretty stoked on our genuine interest and excited-ness over everything we were collectively experiencing, brought us some amazing port. I wish I got the name of it - but it was a delightful closer to a long travel into a perfect meal. I find that when you truly show some appreciation and politeness to the people helping bring you your food and drink - sometimes they show their gratitude in you not being a complete wanker with something fantastic. Let’s all always be kind to the people we meet at all points in our lives (especially the people involved in your food and drinks.)
Westside Local goes down in history with Parlor Market in Jackson as one of the best food experiences in the USA on tour for me.
My band mates and myself typically prefer to opt out of “top tens.” The “top ten albums list” is usually a subject of heavy criticism (justifiably so) from all angles. One argument of the creation of “a list” is that all contents contained will be objectified to intense scrutiny from multiple parties from multiple stances who will be reading the top ten list.
Colorful, classic reactions from the punters will include commentary like: “This list isn’t metal enough! I fuckin’ hate this dude and his band and his stupid-guts now! Their next album is going to be (insert current year’s most-hated-genre) bull-shit!” Or the ever popular, “This dude doesn’t deserve to like (insert culty-illegible-obscure band name here)! That’s my favorite band."
On the other hand, with the authors - it can be all about who can "out-weird” everyone else’s list in an almost ill-spirited, elitism-off of who can reference bands that will earn brownie-points from the most jaded of magazine and webzine journalists.
I say, when it comes to things in life: music, art, movies, fashion, food - don’t succumb to being stuck into one thing, one mindset, one genre; don’t be afraid to admit to liking things that you’re “not supposed to” like due to what kind of band you’re in. Instead, be open of the fact that… hey - maybe you are in a Satanic black metal band, but maybe you really dug Bieber’s Christmas album - I think that would show some color in your character. (Alright - maybe that was a terrible example, but you get the point).
So I guess there are some things that “have to be done,” like a list containing 10 albums of a year - when you’re in a band. So for me - these are not in any specific order, these aren’t using numerals (instead, 10 lower-case letters), these aren’t subscribing to what I need to list in the adherence of genre or consistency, nor does this tiny list encapsulate all the amazing music that has come out this year. Nowadays, with tools like Spotify, I feel people have music incredible music spanning all genres at their finger tips. Dare to try something random and new - get outside of your comfort zone and allow yourself to be immersed in all the great musical-goo that is out there.
Here it is. My random selection of my preferred “a-h’s of this year” that I feel were worth jamming out to.
c. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Deluxe Edition)
Although The Suburbs was released in 2010, the Deluxe came out this year. The Suburbs (and Mumford And Sons’ Sigh No More) were the albums I listened to each day on the drive to the studio while tracking In Waves. The song writing is impeccable, the lyrics are heartfelt and gripping. I didn’t “get” this band until I saw an international live performance of theirs - to put it in the terms I described it exactly to a friend after seeing it: “It was like the energy of Slipknot… and the amount of people (roughly)… but of a completely different musical universe.” The band members are all multi-instrumentalists, trading off on specific-instrumental duties, but utilize instrumentation differently than the typical musical sense. They’ll use violin “noise” as textures - it feels like they just do what they feel like doing, when they feel like it. It doesn’t stick to rules or genres or anything - it’s uniquely a sound of their own.
h. Machine Head - Unto The Locust
The world was definitely anxiously holding their breaths in anticipation for what would follow The Blackening. I’ve had a long musical-listening history with Machine Head (and a long-time friendship): MH was the first Metal band I ever saw live; the third band I’ve ever toured with; a band, with whom we toured together - drawing upwards of 6-8,000 people in the U.K. The Burning Red and Through The Ashes Of Empires are without a doubt, two albums that helped make me the musician I am today, and with Unto The Locust - Machine Head has again changed the game.
With the new album, MH does things that I didn’t expect would happen: a whole new melodic sensibility and level of catchiness I haven’t heard yet, utilizing different playing approaches (like Black Metal/tremolo-picking), and the song “Darkness Within” in general. The first time Robb played that song for me, my jaw actually dropped. Locust still feels incredibly Machine Head, but delves into uncharted territory previously unheard in their music.
a. Times Of Grace - The Hymn Of A Broken Man
f. Rise To Remain - City Of Vultures
It is still hard to grasp the fact that there are bands out there that are influenced by the band I am in. I’ve known the Rise guys for years - and have had the honor to be able to watch them grow as people, musicians, a band - they’re truly coming into their own. Austin’s voice live gives me chills - his vocals have come such a long way since his early demo days that it’s an insane rate of growth. Their new album isn’t quite out yet in the USA (it is in Europe), but let me tell you - it is an amazing preview as to what this band will become in the years to come.
The musicality is fantastic, Ben should of existed in an 80’s-shred band like Racer X (Hell - he can keep up with those dudes easy, I’m sure), Pat is a drummer capable of anything technically - but hearing him lay back into simplicity when it calls for it, really creates an impact. The songs are really something special - heavy, catchy; very now.
These guys are the future of metal - and City is a fantastic promise of great things to come.
g. Rammstein - Made In Germany (Special Edition)
Rammstein is one of my top favorite bands in the world. This band is the entire package. Their creativity does not stop at music; it delves into heavy visual art: intense, performance-art style live shows; music videos that break all boundaries of what a music video is supposed to look like; the only massively internationally popular band that sings almost completely in German. Rammstein does it the way they want. They are creativity defined.
I feel bad using a greatest hits… but hey - if you haven’t gotten into this masterpiece of a band, this may be the perfect start. Their songs and style are uniquely their own; unmistakably - when you hear a Rammstein track - you know it’s them. Just get into ‘em.
b. Mercenary - Metamorphosis
f. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
If I had to describe this album in one word, it would be: beautiful. Musically, its it’s own thing. Instruments are used musically and texturally alike; at times, the song structure is its own style of structure - not traditional at all; I judge a good album on whether or not it makes me see a visual setting while listening to it - this is like an auditory soundtrack to a nature-scene. A mixture of all sorts of genres and instruments and textures - this album is breath-taking. It feels heavy, sad and uplifting all at once. It can feel hopeful and woeful simultaneously. Truly beautiful.
d. In Flames - Sounds Of A Playground Fading
In Flames is a band, without whom - I would not exist in Trivium. In Flames has always been an impossibly vital band to the inspiration to be creative for me. Throughout their existence, they have created different sounds and genres within themselves - with Sounds, they’ve again paved way for something new for them. The catchiness of the songs, the feeling you get from the lyrics, the utilization of a mixture of their old Gothenburg roots and their layered-electronic-dimensional soundscapes really make something unique on this album. Watching 8,000-plus people in Gothenburg, Sweden singing their hearts out to every song from this album gave me goosebumps.
e. Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn Of Events
Dream Theater is the only band in the world like itself. They’ve created their legacy by consisting of some of the greatest musicians in the world, who all can actually write incredible songs. When one strives to hit the level of playing that DT is capable of, typically - song-writing takes a distant back-seat. Dream Theater does not settle for this fate: from their inception, they’ve been not only capable of some of the most mind-blowing musical ability seen in an actual band, but they do it tastefully and within some really amazing songs.
With their new album, Dream Theater has captured (and topped) the magic of Images, with a spin of what they’ve been doing in the later albums. I spent my school years coming home and watching Metropolis Pt.2 daily; I have John Petrucci’s Rock Discipline memorized and use it every single show as my warm up before performing with Trivium. I was privileged enough to be able to tour with the band, and I learned more musically on that tour than any tour I’ve done in my almost 13 years of being in Trivium.
The new album has everything anyone who has ever loved Dream Theater could ever want. It is one of their finest works with some of the greatest songs they’ve ever composed (and the musicality… well - it’s so damn good, it makes you wanna quit guitar/keys/singing/drums/bass).
h. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes has opened my brain and heart up to a new love for a new sound of music. Before Fleet Foxes, I never really knew this style of music (I’ll spare them from me trying to “label” the style), but lemme tell you - it’s something really uniquely their own. It pulls from things of the past, present and future. The song are incredible, the music really puts you somewhere nature-y.
Every album by this band is fantastic - their musicality and ability in their instruments is intense. This style of playing isn’t easy - this level of harmonic-intelligence of how to blend so many vocals, so many instruments into the fantastic arrangements that they do is something special.
This album makes me feel good, it’s an album worth living and loving during.