The textures of South Florida bathe in the tropical heat with the dexterity of both sea and land. The key with any tasting as with the New Times Pairings is finding a balance of both heartiness, taste and presentation.
A food truck/street food progression especially with the Mexican contingent always begins the proceedings well. El Jefe Luchador shows the angle with a lamb neck barbacoa soft taco with charred corn, salsa fresca and porland cream allowing for a spicy yet comfortable intention.
BBQ has its place and within the essence of Smokey Bones, the pulled pork sliders offer sustenence with thick chunks of meat and a vicarious bread while Rebel House serves up its Cobia Crudo Vera Cruz mixing spicy tomato with lime, avocado and watermelon radish while the crunchy aftertaste of chicharrones gives a lurid and original afterthought.
The Dubliner, as a new Irish Pub destination in Fort Lauderdale, moves towards the more baseline pleasures mixing a hefty mac and cheese with its incandescent shepherd’s piece while the Bimini Boatyard Grill, just around the corner near the 17th Street Bridge at Port Everglades, entices with a grilled pineapple shrimp flat bread which entices its connection with a vivacious bite.
Using a cross-section of radishes and other herbs of sport, Green Spot Kitchen progresses the night with an interesting veggie ceviche piled high accompanied by an organically raised vision of bacon mac and cheese.while Sette Bello satisfies the stomach with a homemade tagliatelle with carmelized sausage and pesto for an excellent finish.
The Los Angeles Film Festival continues to be a focused progression of independent thinking though a good part of the structure contains already distributed product. “Europa Report” (wonderfully realized) had been previously picked up by Magnet and central gala “Fruitvale Station” (very much an independent) had been scooped up by The Weinstein Company from Sundance on a well-deserved pitch for an Oscar base.
The blend however between independent and mainstream sensibilities continue to percolate as filmmakers and their influences continue to shift.
“I.D.” which takes place between the well-to-do section of Mumbai as well as its slums shows a young woman trying to unravel a mystery of a male painter who dropped dead in her kitchen. The use of extreme paradox works well here as it tries to shift the reasoning of poverty and the jarring progression of something as simple as an iPhone in a world different than ours. Ultimately the resolution is expected but the organic quality with which this reluctant woman makes her journey reflects well.
“Drug War”, from international favorite Johnnie To, is a complicated mass of work but really gets into the mind of a cop vs. drug lord in terms of thinking and loyalty. It reflects very solidly with something like Michael Mann’s “Heat” because there is the necessity of becoming something you don’t want to be when coming to an end game. The specific idea of a captain having to do cocaine in order to convince other dealers of his possibilities and then having to utterly destroy his body with ice water in order to bring it back from the high is distinctly visceral. The tension builds up which explains how most of the movie is every bit as energetic as the final shootout which is one of the better gunfights in recent memory.
“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”, even though picked up by IFC Films, definitely retains its independent flavor with a story of love separated, not unlike Terrence Malick’s “Badlands” in many respects. Casey Affleck takes on a more mature grizzled function than we have seen from him before while still resonating his stark turn in “The Assassination Of Jesse James”. Rooney Mara, best known as the title character in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” gives an understated performance as a woman drawn into the violence of her husband’s world and who still pines for him when he goes off to prison. Rooney’s portrayal is interesting since it reflects her both as a person before her titular role but also shows the impact it had on her. Ben Foster plays a local policeman she once shot by accident and his relaxation into the role is unprecedented as he is much more known for jittery characters waiting to explode. The film is a study in stillness where life goes on despite tragedy inherent.
While the LAFF/Inside Reel interaction was brief this year with a couple other indies including “The House That Jack Built” and “Boxing Day” being reserved for TV interviews, the essence of the character base continues to shine on the streets of Downtown Los Angeles.
The cold winds of St. Paul, Minnesota ring true with the essence of the texture spread before the cliffs and the frozen Mississippi straddling its banks. But beneath the tenedency of the ice lurks an energy waiting to pounce though the merth of brews and culinary definitely highlight the structure.
Hovering in on the far side of the river near Harriett Island, the Covington Inn sits like a barrel of old treasure. The heat pumps from the city on the land side of the entrance bubbles with a dexterity of calm. Below in the den quarters where the top of bed to the crux of the fireplace shows a nearly 7 foot drop, the ice angles up to nearly the porthole as the sway of the current keeps the crushing ice at bay.
The main steer of the ship, aptly integrated by its bed and breakfast charm, offers up a light texture, fires blazing, with scrambled eggs, sausage and strawberries galore.
Blocks away lurks the Wabasha Street Caves, once home to the gangster clubs of the 30s. History imbues the place. The morning quiet is enhanced by stories of Dillinger at the Castle Royal Club sweeping ladies off their feet with tales of danger and lust. By interesting irony, Swing Dancing at Wabasha on Thursday night lures an interesting crossection but none so instigating as the impulse of late teen and early college age students sans their smartphones in specific era tennis shoes throwing each other to and fro. Some simply do not get the steps but the essence is that they are trying in an age where hand on skin is becoming more of a rarity.
Energy starts with breakfast and St. Paul is definitely an early community it seems, snow or not. Mickey’s Dining Car, mere blocks away from the Central location of the St. Paul Hotel, just off Kellogg Street, doesn’t skimp on its interaction. The rough stretches of sliced potatoes for hash browns piles high on the griddle jockeying for position with ham, sausages, pancakes and various other early morning items just hoping for a little bit of attention. The “All Day Meal”, as it is called, fries its eggs any way you want in butter with a quarter pound of ground beef and hash browns intermixed so your colon doesn’t know which way is up.
The Downtowner Woodfire Grill, located on the visage way out of town towards the airports, offers a little more creature comfort structure with no less tendency towards the hearty. While the intention of whole milk does help the body adjust, the Mac Cajun Breakfast does little to dispel it. Integrating two eggs over easy with green peppers, onions, cajun sausage, hash browns and a hollandaise sauce, the taste is intensive to say the least keeping you warm for the trip.
A degree of rest sometimes is needed, especially with festivals happening all the time in the city. An easy walk from the St. Paul Hotel to the Science Museum Of Minnesota across from the Xcel Energy Center reveals a long “in-the-making” OmnIMAX movie. Situated on a curved screen, the element of “Tornado Alley” which shows the big screen movie that storm chaser Sean Casey has been trying to make for years truly brings to mind the real life “Twister” with no less than Bill Paxton of that same movie providing the narration.
After a small respite, lunch calls with undeniable balance. A local favorite, Zamboni’s, interesting enough a Southern California transplant, serves up “Rosemary: The Italian Blonde” which aptly enough blends italian sausage, roasted red peppers, garlic and the requisite spice with a white cheese foreboding.
For more particular palette, W.A. Frost offers old school dining structures. The glistening glass gives way to an early 20s demeanor reflected in the porcelain dynamics of the progression, not unusual for a replete of its early 20th Century lore. Intermingling with a vivid mushroom soup, subtly thick enough to ratify its vegetable underpinings, the main interlude of truffle goat cheese risotto serenaded in beet marmalade and radish sprouts proceeded with a tenderness that allowed for a fulfilled stomach.
An in-betweener element, also indicative because of its nearby liquor store component where such local spirits as Prairie Vodka and the requisite Ice Hole (both distilled by the Ed Phillips Company) are found, give way to Casper & Runyon’s Nook, where the discerned vibrancy of the Juicy Lucy comes into view. As an old school bowling alley strikes the pins beneath our feet, the creamy tartness of a Guinness Shake starts the festivities as a Guys Big Bite stuffed with pepperjack cheese and bacon rides the wave as fried cheese curds finish the job.
Before the antecedent of brews overtakes the progression, the old style coolness of Mancini’s Char House speaks from the hip with undeniable presence. While the imbibement of an Indeed IPA began the understanding leading to a classic Manhattan cocktail, the interspaced element of luxurious tomatoes and full-flavored olives gave way to a plate of broiled chicken wings and homemade meatballs which melted in the mouth. The coup de grace rested within the 13 ounce New York Strip steak, crispy to perfection with a tenderness on the inside that raptured which the addition of a loaded baked potato.
The brewing industry in St. Paul has always had its stalwarts with the old school elements of the Schmidt Brewery as well as Hamms still offering their overwhelming gaze, even in the cold of winter.
Two breweries, one established, one moving its way up, continue to show the wares from which they have been dealt. Summit Brewery, built from the ground up in 1984 by a former psychiatrist turned beer maker, has found its way from a smaller set up on University to a large compound with an undeniable tasting room.
As Tiki Tim’s Food Truck lurks outside with its tasty talapia tacos leading the way, the essence of an unfiltered Summit Mai Bock with its 10% intensity perfectly integrates with the stalwart Oatmeal Stout, crisp and thick in its countenace.
Across town within a smaller operation looking to take their next big leap, Flat Earth Brewery is angling to make their jump into the old Hamm’s Brewery site. Renowned for part of its gangster history, the location move is definitely an interesting development which will open up the brewing process in terms of distribution. An interesting progression in the current arena is the graduation of volume from growlers to beyond which takes on a whole new legal structure. Watching the delivery of two new fermenters while drinking the essence of a cold brew in the nearly 10% Winter Warlock, the die is cast with the ideal firmly within the mindset for expansion.
To expand the horizons, during the St. Paul Winter Carnival, the essence of stamina comes in the form of the expansive Beer Dabbler event where both large scale distributors and local micro-breweries show off their wares. Heading down into the dark alley towards the bridge and river, the Minnesota essence of the arena takes on light. Necklaces of Twix, pretzels and sourdough fill the sight as the small taste glasses quickly empty in supreme succession where it be the aptly named Midnight Styker from Third Street Brewhouse or Boom Island with their Hoodoo Dubbel.
St. Paul, in its secret proportions, shows the interesting chicanery waiting just below the surface with its hearty foods, gangster lore and expanding brews galore just waiting for the discovery of a traveler just around the corner.