It has already been a busy week in the editorial office, but we still had time to tout a handful of cool items, such as a cool way to make pesto (pictured), a local-flavored concert DVD from Spinal Tap, a still-hip music magazine and men's clothing line and a CD of new music complete with catchy tracks and pleasing cover art. We also dish up a tasty appetizer from a local restaurant and wash it down with a tasty, if uncool, macrobrew.
These are a few of our favorite things this week:
Pesto with almonds -- Every year, I harvest my basil plants and blend the result with Parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts to make out-of-this-world pesto. This year, I almost fell out when I saw the price of pine nuts: $8 for an 8 oz. bag. I can't remember what I paid last year, but I know it was quite a bit less. Some recipes suggest walnuts instead of pine nuts to keep the batch more affordable, but personally, I don't find walnut pesto to be anywhere as rich and flavorful as pine nut pesto. My friend found a recipe that called for almonds, which turned out to be delicious. Actually, we mixed a blend of almonds and pine nuts and the result was arguably even better than straight pine nuts and less expensive. I can't wait to slather this pesto on pizza, sandwiches, noodles, soups and garlic bread. My Italian grandparents would be so proud. Mangia! --Molly Snyder Edler
Fried green tomatoes at Maxie's Southern Comfort -- There are several items to rave about at Maxie's, 6732 W. Fairview Ave. But, I love their fried green tomatoes. Sure, they could be pan fried and be a bit more healthy. But, the light batter, thin slices and wonderful blend of tart and chewy tastes and textures make them a favorite. Mmmmm. --Jeff Sherman
Spinal Tap -- "Unwigged & Unplugged: Live Concert DVD" (Courgette Records) -- Billed as "An Evening with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer Performing Songs from 'This Is Spinal Tap' and 'A Mighty Wind,'" this low-key concert video was filmed at Milwaukee's Riverside Theater. There are lots of crowd shots, so if you were there (yes, Kevin Kennedy, I spotted you here!) you just may catch a glimpse of yourself. But even if not, this costume-free and no-frills film (juiced up with things like clips of Spinal Tap's first-ever appearance, lots of anecdotes and a reading of a TV exec's suggested edits for the Spinal Tap film) is fun for fans of these guys and their brilliant films. It reminds us that beyond being smart, biting comedians, they are also fine musicians and that the songs they wrote for the two above-named films were more than filler. They were well-written songs laced with rock and roll (and folk) satire and are often as good -- or better -- than the genres they lampoon. Says McKean -- aka Lenny from "Laverne & Shirley" at the start of the show: "It doesn't matter what you call it -- Milwaukee, Brew City, Cream City, Gateway to Racine -- we're only in your town for one night, but we always have a great time in this city." The fans would like say the same thing. --Bobby Tanzilo
Paste Magazine -- Paste has undergone some changes, as many print publications have in recent months. Yet, it's stayed true to its mission: "Signs of life in music, film and culture." It's a good read and unlike many music rags and sites, not too hip for its own good. --J.S.
Figuring out your Halloween costume this weekend -- Much like those term papers that haunted my school days, I always wait too long to think about a costume for our mandatory dress-up day. This year, I'm going to try to remember to give it some thought early -- particularly with no Packers game to watch. And then, I'll forget and wait until the last minute, when all the good costumes / ideas are taken. --Drew Olson
Gant -- Gant's clothing line for men has really become nice in the past four or five years. Colorful, wearable and trendy -- but not too trendy -- it mixes youth and tradition very well. Under the watchful eye of President and CEO Ari Hoffman, Gant is still making waves in men's fashion. Hoffman is in town tonight (Thursday) for Aala Reed's anniversary party. Stop by, say hello and check out the cool new styles. --J.S.
The Yellowhammers -- A new CD showed up on my desk this week and while I didn't immediately recognize the band's name -- The Yellowhammers -- I did think the cover art looked rather familiar. I opened the digipak to discover I was right: Cover art by Jon Langford , the sleeve read. And as it turns out, the self-titled record (Up Records) was produced by the Chicago-based musical legend, who is perhaps best known for his punk band The Mekons or, later, his The Waco Brothers. Langford also makes a musical appearance on this very twangy, heartfelt record by contributing mandolin on a few tracks. The result is Americana at its finest: Harmonica, grit and poetry. The accompanying press release alerted me to the band's record release show (Nov. 21 Berwyn, Ill. at Fitzgeralds Nightclub), but, sadly, little else. It left me with the promise that this very good band would be touring through Chicago, Wisconsin and Minnesota later this year. --Julie Lawrence
"Thirteen" -- Heard this awesome Big Star song playing on a sitcom recently. It might have been "That ‘70s Show," but I'm not sure. It's just an awesome track that will make you want to download "#1 Record," if you haven't already. --D.O.
The drinkability of Coors Light -- Call me crazy, but my current "macro" brew of choice is Coors Light. A few weekends ago I was at a party and it was my only beer option. So, I dove in. The "turn blue if they're cold" cans are kinda cool and since it's owned by MillerCoors I can feel OK about supporting a "local" brewery. It's drinkable, slightly sweet and only a bit skunky. But the high carbonation makes it go down like ginger ale and, not that I condone this, but you can easily drink five or six of these and be none the wiser. Real beer fans may shun Coors Light, but it's an easy drinking alternative. --J.S.