The Best Mussels in Town Might be at a Pizza Place

There is little that Robert Masullo can do wrong. His eponymous restaurant turns out some of the most delectable pizzas, pastas, salads, and desserts in the greater 916. His lone pizza oven is the engine that drives the kitchen. And I’m a big believer that creativity comes from limitations and restrictions much more than from limitless resources.

Think Steven Wright and Mitch Helberg and their stedfast refusal to tell much more than a 10 second one-liner. Think of Picasso in his blue period. Think of that guy from work whose diet consists, apparently, of nothing more than leftover fish that he insists on warming in the microwave. Creativity blooms when resources are slim.

So when you, as a chef, are forced to prepare your bivalves in a 3 million degree oven, this is what you come up with. A gorgeous bowl of mussels in an all too moppable, luscious sitting sauce that permeates the shells and is  a perfect trough of goodness through which to run your rosemary bread.

I ate the whole bowl before I remembered to snap a pic. Trust me, they serve a whole bowl.

Go eat it. Now.

Advertisements

Bywater on Broadway- Po Boys Done Good

I’ve claimed for many years that one of America’s great cuisines, the gorgeous Creole/Cajun mashup that is New Orleans cooking, doesn’t travel well. Trying to reproduce its flavors outside the swampy lowlands of Louisiana just doesn’t work. It’s like traveling with a $3000 suitcase. It’s looks beautiful at first, but one long flight and it’s beat to hell and looks like hobo luggage. You really should have left it where it belonged.

I’ve never had gumbo outside of Louisiana that stood up to the NOLA original. Never had jambalaya that tasted quite so good. Never had barbecue shrimp encased in quite the same slick, salty, delicious slurry.

Part of it is ingredients. That particular Louisiana rice is unmistakable. That light-as-helium French bread that shatters into 5 bajillion crumbs when you touch it is irreplaceable. That sweaty, swamp-ass, half-drunk semi-coma that most people in NOLA live in permanently is impossible to reproduce outside the greater 504.

17211997_1331699836895117_1764987234804652247_o
I can’t find a “two.” Maybe they’re just optimistic

Nevertheless, plenty of cooks and restaurateurs try their hand at recreating the Crescent City in their own home towns, and rarely do they come as close as French Po-Boys One here in Sacramento.

First of all let’s talk about where the name “Po’ Boy” comes from. HAHAHAHAHA. Seriously, you thought I was going to tell some dusty shit-story that’s been trampled on a thousand times by bad tour guides? Let’s get to the food.

French Po Boys does the traditional NOLA sandwich right. Fried shrimp or oysters or catfish or soft shell crab, “dressed” with mayo-lettuce-tomoato is what you should get. It you’ve a seafood allergy, I’ll allow you a more pedestrian cold cut affair, but really the fried seafood is unmatchable. The cornmeal crust on the seafood replicates perfectly that New Orleans corner-store micro-kitchen texture.

12375995_10208234789456112_5659833325690666997_n
The tornado, snuggling with an oyster po’ boy

To really bring home the classic NOLA po’ boy shop feel, that greatest of all hot sauces, Crystal, is on every table in the modest dining room. The silverware is made of plastic and the plates of paper. The family that runs the joint, is, I’m guessing, Vietnamese. The only reason I say so is that I doubt anyone other than a Vietnamese baker could get quite so close to that shattering French bread. It’s not 100% the same as New Orleans French, but it’s as close as I’ve ever had on the West Coast.

You’re also welcome to try the “Potato Tornado,” a spiral cut potato on a stick that is about as state-fair as you’re gonna get in April.

Trust me, just go and get some grub there. You’ll love it.

French Po-Boys One- 6498 Broadway (at 65th Street), Sacramento

Food **** Atmosphere (doesn’t matter)* Service ** (perfect)

 

 

Jimmer named Chinese NBA MVP

jimmer_fredette_kingsI’m sure other down-on-their-luck NBA markets have their “ones that got away,” but it’s pretty hard to watch perennial All-Star Isaiah Thomas get mentioned in the MVP discussion for his play with the Celtics. But now there’s another source of woe, as Jimmer Fredette, our lottery pick in 2011 famously chosen ahead of Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard (long pause here in writing the post as, like many Sacramentans, I become legally dead for a short period every time I realize that) has been named MVP of the Chinese NBA. He is averaging 36 points per game and recently scored 73 (!) for the Shanghai Sharks.

Local standup JR De Guzman wins NBC comedy search, talent deal

Portrait+1.jpgAccording to Deadline, local standup JR De Guzman, frequent performer at beloved Midtown improv joint Comedy Spot, has won StandUp NBC, a nationwide talent search for “comedians of diverse backgrounds.”

De Guzman was chosen from among eight other finalists out of more than 600 stand-up comedians who auditioned at open calls last year in New York City, San Diego, Nashville and Austin.

Born in the Philippines and raised in California, De Guzman began performing stand-up comedy while working as a music teacher. He has performed for Stand-Up Tokyo and ROR Comedy in Japan, the Jokers Ball in Indonesia, the Badaboom Comedy Series in Amsterdam and the Edmonton Comedy Festival. He has shared the stage with Tim Allen, Margaret Cho, Daniel Tosh, Jerrod Carmichael and Iliza Shlesinger.

The prize includes a 1-year talent deal with NBC. In addition to his national and cable/streaming appearances, JR is performing at the ‘Spot later this month.

Interview: Electro Group

Electro Group, a shoegazer mainstay of the local music scene in the late ’90s, have managed to stay together and put out several albums in the 2000’s. The latest, Ranger, was out on 1/27. I got in touch with the band–Matt Hull (drums), Tim Jacobson (guitar & vocals), and Ian Hernandez (bass)–to talk about the new album, their history with Sacramento and their plans for a spring tour.

See my review of the new LP “Ranger”

How long have you all been working on this album?

Tim: At least the beginning of 2014 if we include planning. It’s funny; the whole reason we went to a studio and worked with a producer this time was to get it done quicker than we can on our own. We did get it done quickly but it still came out in 2017.

Continue reading “Interview: Electro Group”

Electro Group, “Ranger” LP

Electro Group, Ranger (2017, Research Sound Recordings)

Back in the late ’90s, Electro Group had one of the most defined musical styles in town and blew out many eardrums as the noise pop vanguard of the local scene. Though it has been a full 10 years since their last LP Good Technology in 2007, the band has managed to eke out recordings on vinyl and even put out a cassingle (!) in 2015. Last month they released a new LP, Ranger, on their longtime label Research Sound Recordings.

The album is strong out of the box with “Like Pelicans,” introducing you immediately to the elements that make up such a consistent sound for a band that has been together for 20 years: falsetto vocals over deeply crunchy guitars, heavy bass, and inventive drum lines. Characteristic atonal riffs and hard-driving fuzz make “Undone” another standout, and “Mandobo” is a sweeping, My Bloody Valentine-inspired anthem. The epic Built to Spill inspired outro of “Monotron” is a standout of the latter half of the album. Electro Group may wear its influences on its sleeve, but this is no mere copycat band. They’ve got the chops to back it up.

The sound is mature, pulling in strings on “Unwind” and a synth-and-keys vibe on “Gong.” Electro Group are still interested in moving their sound forward rather than just covering old ground. Ranger is a solid album from a band confident in its sound, one that should gather lots of “where has this been all my life?” reactions on their upcoming tour.

Tomorrow: An interview with the band.

Electro Group on Bandcamp.com

Spectators Razzle, Makers Dazzle on Art Street

In this nuclear winter of our national discontent, it’s local moments like this that warm the bivalve mollusks of my heart. The Sacramento art community is experiencing a renaissance, and for the next three weeks, you can see its most engaging exhibit for FREE. It’s called Art Street, and you owe it to your soul and psyche to check it out. Seriously, if you don’t go, you’re dead inside and no one can help you.

But to really appreciate what’s going on here, take my hand and let’s walk back ten or so years. Sacramento’s “art scene” was set on languid autopilot. It essentially amounted to Second Saturday, a monthly ritual in which midtown scenesters would wander from gallery to gallery swilling Two Buck Chuck from plastic cups and not actually buying anything. But a lot has happened since then. To wit:

  • The Crocker Art Museum opened a 125,000-square-foot pavilion to expand from its dusty, rustic Victorian origins.
  • The Verge Center for the Arts opened, creating new artist studios, alliances and exhibitions.
  • The Capitol Box Art Project turned traffic utility boxes into canvases (vinyl wraps actually) for public art display.
  • Warehouse Artist Lofts, a mixed-use/mixed-income community for artists opened in Sacramento’s Historic R Street District. It is not only a vibrant center of art and commerce but also quite fire safe.
  • Art Hotel happened. (More on that below.)
  • The Sacramento Mural Fest became a thing, adding tons of public art to the grid.
  • Just last month, the new mayor and city council passed a $500,000 appropriation to help arts programs, beginning with a $25,000 grant for the Art Street show.

The momentum that has pushed the Sacramento art scene to this point is potent. It’s exciting. It makes our aspirations to destinationhood appear manifestly legit.

OK, so what’s Art Street? It started last year with Art Hotel when the Hotel Marshall, long Sacramento’s derelict residence of last resort, was finally closing its doors for good. Seumas Coutts, cofounder of M5Arts, saw the dilapidated space as an opportunity. He organized an effort to turn it into a temporary art installation and invited over 100 local artists to transform its interior spaces. Part of the allure was its impermanence. It was open for ten days only, and visitors were only able to go inside for 15 minutes at a time. Unless you returned for multiple viewings, you missed a lot. Despite the restrictions, Art Hotel was a huge success. This year, a similar effort has resulted in an experience that’s just as stunning but more accommodating.

Art Street is located near the west end of Broadway in a sprawling 65,000 square foot warehouse space. With a ten dollar online donation, you can procure a reservation, but it’s free just to show up and wait your turn. And to keep you happy while you’re waiting to enter the main space, there’s also a very large outdoor area full of murals, art installations, a friendly bar, and a food vendor making savory stews and roasting whole pigs.

<more story below this freakin’ mind-blowing mosiac>

 

Once you get inside, a maze of corridors and alcoves lead visitors to technicolor delights, dystopian visions, social ruminations, urban archaeological sites, cultural retrospectives, and yes, another couple bars including a saloon playing black and white videos.

Your time inside goes pretty fast, and you won’t want to feel hurried. I suggest planning two trips to Art Street: one during the day and one during the night. You’ll notice different things on each trip.

Art Street’s last day open is Saturday, February 25. Go. Just go.