Unida Cantina...this is not the Refreshments your mamma served you

Newly released from Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Unida Cantina.  This is the latest collection of thirteen songs from the former front man of the Refreshments. When suggested that I review this new CD, how could I resist to review a work from a guy and band that had the most obvious lyric “the world is full of stupid people” from Bandidos.  I had to give them a boost.  OK.  I was under pressure from a relative who knows these guys and is helping pedal their tequila brand, Roger Clyne’s Mexican Moonshine. (Click Link For Website) Ed Note:  We originally called this Rocky Point….my apologies, going too fast here and I did not have the Moonshine to slow me down. Nope. I have not had any, but maybe Jason can hook me up in exchange for this stunning review.  Thing is, I listened to the tracks carefull to get a solid dose of the band

Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Thing is, I really liked this CD. The sound is solid, crisp and not overly complicated. It delivers a most listen-able record on nearly every track. In some cases, you would swear the main influence of this band is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  I have no idea if this is the case, but you hear glimpses of this throughout the music.  In one particular cut, Empty Highway, the opening riff sounds like your are diving straight into Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane”.  The rest of the song varies enough to keep them out of court, and is decent, but you get the point.

Clyne’s voice is prominent and strong.  I do not capture him as one of the greatest voices, but it is strong and featured throughout.  Vocal complexity is largely missing from this CD.  There are few harmonies, and when done, the harmonies, though mixed well, are fairly soft compared to the lead vocal.  Guitar work in this effort is functional. Again, nothing overly fancy.  Leads tend to be resolved to the music at hand, not laced with ugly egos, they fit well into the structure of the song.

The sound is very consistent throughout.  Their music is considered rock, but I consider them a bit alternative.  You cannot escape the obvious Latin influence as well. The title track is an instrumental we could have done without, Spanish flamico style. Other cuts like the listen-able “Dinero” lend to the theme. Again, this is a crisp clean sound that is driven by a well played bass part on most cuts. The structures of the songs are fairly rigid, verse, chorus with hook, and bridge, but there is nothing wrong with this.  Several songs have great commercial appeal. Now in this market of fragmented music styles and over difficulty getting mass airplay unless you are hip hop or some other equally related genre, I am not certain how one gets good airplay except true work of mouth.  Such will need to be the case for Clyne and his band mates. They tour often.  And considering what I heard and reviewed herein, I am considering seeing them in a small club in Dallas on July 9. The stronger songs on this CD is “All Over the Radio” and “Go with the Flow”.  Add these to your iPod.  But for God’s sake, do not miss adding “Just Got High”. The best cut on the CD.  No I do not care about the title, it is just a great song, well crafted and extremely good. Weaker efforts are “Maria”, the previously mentioned title track instrumental and “Love is the Road”       You Can Click the Bold Title to the right to hear “Just Got High”.  It will download to your computer in MP4 format, then click to play. Everyone needs a toke now and then. 10 Just Got High

On a scale of 10 I give this 8.5. This is a great effort that unfortunately will not get a wide appeal, but really deserves to be heard

iPod Do’s:  If you are too cheap to buy the entire CD

  • Just Got High
  • All Over the Radio
  • Heaven on a Paper Plate
  • Go With the Flow
  • Small World

iPod Don’ts

  • Maria
  • Unida Cantina
  • Love Is The Road

The rest?  You decide

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When Will The BBQ Monsoon Stop?

On April 21, 2011, in Low Budget Review, by admin

 

We truly hope never. Wow, our man about Texas continues with the BBQ….he is literally giving you his waistline so you may enjoy these great reviews.  OK.  First a note to Google:  Dear Google, please do not cancel my adsense account. Some of the recipes in adds that you have posted as a result of your excellent search engine has literally made me click on my own ads.  Please forgive me, if you search engine was not so great, I would not have pulled off several cool recipes for one of my favorite foods…….on the BBQ Road.

Now to the review.  This place had no photo I could find, so it better be good, but read on……

My last experience on this trip was the next afternoon for a late lunch.  Mike’s Barbecue House in Nacogdoches.   Opened in 1986, the family had worked in another BBQ place across town before going out on their own.  The small parking lot was actually encouraging, but the electric sign out front worried me.  Once we walked in, though, the smell of BBQ and a little smoke was very promising.  The décor was standard Texas BBQ—wooden tables, pictures of country landscapes.  The semi-antique items hung on the walls were at a minimum, thankfully.  Really, people.  We know we are in the country, at a BBQ joint/place.  We don’t need washboards, and old rusty plows and farm implements and pictures of a Marketing Major’s version of Ma and Pa and Uncle Ernie nailed to the walls to remind us.  We know.  Now the food?  Our party ordered several different items, Pork Ribs, tasty and smoky even if not falling-off-the-bone.  The brisket had a very nice smoke ring, tender, the sausage was perhaps underdone.  The sauce was added without asking and it appeared and tasted as if a rub was placed on the meats before the sauce was added. This was similar to another BBQ place we had tried in the same city.  The result was a medium-spicy mixture, quite tasty but unusual.  We had seen that only in this town.   Some in our party did not care for the mixture, I found it different and quite good, even though I am not a spicy-foods person.  The potato salad was outstanding, in the top 3 of what we had tried in all our travels, the Cole slaw was unfortunate. Soggy, vinegar based, not encouraging.  The stuffed jalapeno’s were very spicy. The baked-bean style beans were good with chunks of beef and sauce cooked in.   The staff was pleasant and focused.  The tea was sweet and refreshing.  The blackberry cobbler was also very good.  Mike’s gets a solid B from me, although the rest of the party may not have graded so generously.  But after all, I am writing this, not them, so my grade goes….

 

The Barbecue Road goes ever on….

 

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Follow Up To Dickey’s

On April 20, 2011, in Uncategorized, by admin

It was brought to my attention that Dickey’s in the early days, used to put out slabs o cheese for patrons to cut of pieces, at their discretion, as much as they could eat. Now this does not have a lot of place in a BBQ joint, but maybe Dickey’s would sell more franchises if they resorted back to this policy, make up for only mediocre BBQ

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We do not normally review chains here.  However, if you are part of the Texas landscape, you cannot avoid Dickey’s BBQ.  Hell, if you are paying attention to the Google ads that appear to the right of this post, you will likely see an ad to buy a Dickey’s franchise. Now anyone who sells franchises starting at $59K, well, one wonders about the BBQ quality. Read on.

I am happy that our BBQ expert, (and Rum expert, and Low Budget Review, everything cheap expert) was willing to try Dickeys BBQ Pit.  But make no bones about it, this is not a “BBQ Pit”  OK. With that, we let the true expert lead on with his review.

In Nacogdoches that night, we tried a BBQ place that semi-broke the rules for The Barbecue Road—a chain BBQ restaurant.  Historically, the chains do not match up with the joints, shacks, mom-n-pop, and family-run places we love to try.  But, it was close to our hotel, so, we gave it a try—Dickey’s Barbecue.  Dickey’s is a chain with approx 120 outlets, mostly in the Great Plaines states. With a number of them in Texas.  I believe it may have started in Dallas.  Many years ago, “Back in the day”, a local Dickey’s in Plano was one of our favorite dinner spots.  It had been over 20 years since our last visit.  This Dickey’s was similar to a lot of BBQ places, wood tables, checkerboard plastic tablecloths, bric-a-brac on the walls.  The young staff seemed more interested in quickly getting us served than making sure the order was correct.  Perhaps paying more attention to the customer may be in order, not just paying attention to the plate that is being filled.  Smoke hung heavy in the air—too heavy, they need better ventilation.  We literally had to shower that night to get the smoke smell out of our hair and clothes.  But the food—not bad.  The brisket was good, had a small smoke ring, the sauce was tomato-molasses based, sweet but rich, and melded with the meat very well.  The sauce was poured on the meat entre without asking if we even wanted sauce.  The traditional pickles, onion, and white bread accompanied.  The sausage was OK, smoky with a mild aftertaste of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, jalapeno, maybe, or red pepper.  The potato salad was bland, pureed to a texture like vanilla ice cream.  Potato Salad should be chunky and funky with mustard.  I want to taste that I am eating actual potatoes, not rehydrated potato flakes.  The Cole Slaw was OK, vinegar based, and chopped very fine.  The tea was commercial brand bland.  Dickey’s gets some extra points for having some unusual items on the menu—pulled pork, not that frequent in the Beef-Universe that is Texas, loaded Baked Potatoes that looked awesome, Virginia-Style Ham, Polish Sausages… They also had a Smokehouse Salad that was the best bargain on the menu. The plate was very  large, with lots of chopped brisket, fresh greens, cheese and fixins.  Very impressive and a great price.  So here is the dilemma, I give them bonus points for some unusual sides (okra) and the salad and taters, for being a great bargain and well presented and prepared. Delicious.  But then I have to penalize them points—for offering a salad in a BBQ place.  Really, a salad?  In a BBQ place?  No matter how good it is… there’s a saying in Texas, “That boy just ain’t right”……Dickey’s gets a C+.

 

 

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In our travels over the great state of Texas seldom do we get a chance to revisit some of our previous BBQ joints and restaurants.  Sometimes, you look at that with trepidation.  Will it be as good as you remember? Did you catch the cooks on a good day or a bad one? Did the cook hate his wife that day or did he get some? All of this counts in Texas, land of the big, best BBQ and triple wide mobile homes. Yes,  consistency is extremely important with good ‘Cue, but there are so many places to try, and so little time….and with the lack of time, it is sometimes difficult to return and check on consistency

Last week, however, we were traveling to East Texas for business and made a point to stop in Centerville, a town of about 900 at the intersection of State Hwy 7 and I-45.  Back in late January we had stopped mid-morning on a cold, rainy day on the way home and shared a sliced beef brisket sandwich, from a semi-permanent trailer/shack called “Country Cousins”.  The sandwich was wonderful and we had promised ourselves that if we ever came back that way we would try more of the menu.  So now the pressure was on.  It was after lunchtime and we were hungry travelers hoping our previous stop was not a mirage.  The place was busy when we pulled up, always a good sign.  We tried the two meat plate, with sliced brisket and sausage, with two sides and tea.  The first mouthful soothed our anxiety. The brisket was melting in our mouth, the sauce, dark, thick and smoky.  It was tomato based with some molasses perhaps, with a touch of kick.  The meat had a good smoke ring and was outstanding.  The sausage was thin sliced and mild, just OK.  The sides were very good, tasty, crunchy potato salad with good texture and flavor, not bland at all.  The beans were pork n beans style with some beef and thick with a sweet cooking sauce, hot, just off the stove delicious.   My companion declared “Country Cousins” the best BBQ found so far on The Barbecue Road.  It was very close to that.  It rates an “A”.  The only reason it didn’t get an A+ was the sausage needs more character, something to make it stand out and not just seem it was Elgin Sausage thrown on the grill for a few minutes.  We may be going back that way in June and will make a point to stop again.  Well Done, “Cousins”, well done!

 

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The Goose Is Loose

On April 13, 2011, in Other Interests, by admin

Today we look at Grey Goose.  This is a French made vodka fashioned from grain. No doubt the French will state it is the water that makes the taste. Many vodkas are fashioned from grain, so this is no problem.  Easily one of the most recognizable brands out there, the Goose has flown all over the world. Virtually any bar in the world you can call the Goose, but you will pay.  All that marketing comes with a price.

Grey Goose (click on the name for the website) starts really smooth. So smooth, the temptation is to dive in too deep at first. The smoothness rides through the palate for most of the experience, then finishes a little more roughly. The ending of the Grey Goose experience to me introduces a bit of pure chemical taste.  An unpleasant one. The hint of wheat in the initial taste run is subtle and enjoyable. Initially, you are quite unaware that you are drinking a 80 proof drink.  But when the chemical tastes kicks, you feel like it is falsely flavored ever clear, and the proof is 150.  Not what I look for in a vodka. This finish singularly has me shying away from consistently ordering it. And further, the finish begins to lob it in with the tastes of many nasty, less expensive vodkas.

The Goose took a little while, but it jumped on the band wagon of flavored vodkas as well. The flavoring somewhat seals the bad chemical finish, leaving a decent drinking experience, whether straight or mixed with your energy drink so you can amp up for a rave. But in my opinion, this merely masks the taste. I am not certain why you would want to pay the Grey Goose prices to go this route.  Get flavored Stoli or some other rot gut instead…..it costs so much less, and lets face it, if you are drinking flavored vodka and/or mixing them with Red Bull or the like, face it, you are there to get hammered and quantity becomes much more important than quality.

And in this case, quantity comes at much less a cost. Speaking of cost, be prepared to separate $55-65 of a 1.75 litre bottle.  This is the same pricing as my beloved Belvedere.  Problem is, I just do not think it is worth the cost. And when a eatery has only Grey Goose and no Belvedere, I am pissed…..but there you go, marketing and branding is everything.  I give Grey Goose 5 out of 10 bottles

 

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Like a dog that reaches back to sniff himself, like a pigeon who delivers its message yet inexplicably returns to where it began, like a Phoenix rising from some sort of ashes, one must return to the homeland once in a while. This weekend , I flew like the Canadian geese to the north country. A goal of a quarterly trip in which I fail once again rather miserably, but when we return, the good times are always waiting in the shadows. Only this time, I did not want to just return to the same ole haunts, the same eateries, drinkeries,  the same routine.  Hell, I am old as hell, time to break out a bit and drag everyone with me.

Twisted Cuisine, Kenosha, Wisconsin

So, with a full family in hand, we headed to a differen eatery in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Lets be clear.  In this town of 10,000 bars, one on every corner…..the great, great Italian and Greek food, we branched out to something totally different. I had thought this was a new eatery, but,  enter Twisted Cuisine (And for you morons, click the name for the website.) This eatery has a vibe that is just not Kenosha. It is small and quaint, with a menu that tops over 25 items…..most really interesting. I was floored to find out from my local family that this had been open since late nineties.  Where the hell have I been beside under my Greek and Italian rock? The dinner started out with a round of drinks from the lively bar area where it was a mixture of those waiting for a table and those just doing the drinking thing. Good God.  No Belvedere.  First mistake.  OK.  I ordered Grey Goose, and will just have to put the review up on Vodkafacts.com, (again morons, you get the picture…good on ya!) The extensive menu of over 25 items ranges from Bloody Mary Salmon, Apple Reisling Port, to Roasted Duck Gnocchi. Truly interesting menu.

The place was crowded.  In fact, it was over run by patrons, leaving the management scrambling to get it all right. I had to use my sales thinking out of the box to get them to seat us and honor our reservations for 8p (truly late for Kenosha eating, by then, normally,  you have settled into your first bar stop). Afterall, we had a 88 year old family member celebrating a birthday with us, standing around was not in the cards.  The beginning drink was served in a unique, branded glass.  Not my martini shaker, but I liked it. Would have to go for two…..

For dinner I tried the Roasted Duck Pinocchio.  So I lied, every trip here I do order Gnocchi, since the rest of the world (sans Italy and Italian sectors of cities), and especially Texas with the exception of the trendy eateries that serve Gnocchi as a fru fru dish, from where I am from, no one seems to know Gnocchi. (By the way, the spell checker on this most popular blog program, knows not what Gnocchi is either, It tells me I am spelling it wrong, but offers no suggestions.  Silly, silly narrow software developers). The meal started with a choice of salad or Portobello Mushroom Soup with Italian sausage.  The small serving of the soup was excellent.  They served it with Oyster Crackers, the kind you find in the old supper club when you are trying to wake up your soup’s taste.  Save it T.C. The soup was excellent and it seemed a crime to put the crackers in the tasty concoction.  The Gnocchi was very good.  The main criticism is that the combination of foods tasted a bit too salty.  Instead of the obligatory cream sauce as most Gnocchi dishes dish, they put it in a broth…based on chicken broth.  This is what made it a bit too salty.  The Gnocchi texture was perfect. Chewy, tasty (these are basically potato dumplings).  Large tasty mushrooms accompanied the plate, topped with mozzarella cheese.  Overall, very, very good. Even with the over extended salt content.

Others at the table had: Fried Snapper Turtle in a Amaretto Sauce. Say good bye to Timmy the Turtle, and your four year old cries for three days missing his beloved pet that he never took care of in the first place.  A taste resulted in a really good  entrée…. despite skepticism that this was a novelty plate.  Others had Halibut stuffed with shrimp, Fettucini Alfredo with Udon Noodles, among others.  One plate, the Ribeye with Paremesian crust was just OK. The bone in Ribeye came cooked medium when the order was for medium rare. Eateries such as this often offer steak choices, but really, leave the truly great steaks to places like Capital Grille (morons…what does this mean?) and the like.  The other plate that was great was the Asian Sea Bass served on Cedar Plank. My god, a bevy of taste as the beautifully prepared fish was topped with an Asian Orange Sauce, but not overwhelmed with it. It truly was great, even though the plank looked more like a piece of hickory wood than cedar.

Desert was a sharing on their version of Bananas Foster. I cannot remember their ‘sound bite’ name, but OMG, this was to die for…..I think I rolled some Texan in an alley today screaming for my Twisted Cuisine Bananas Foster.  And I am not normally a desert guy.  By 9:30, the place was half full and it was time to close the tab and move on to the 10K bar scene. But I have no doubt that their night take exceeded $7K in revenue, and for a place this size with their expected decent rents, this makes for a very profitable business assuming your normal 30-35% food costs, which I expect was the case.  For those of you who never have been to this area, you may be confused on my light hearted comments on the bar scene.  Those who have been here, well, you know what I speak of…chances are you have stumbled out of one of these gems.

The menu pricing ranges from a low of around $12 to a high of $27. The $27 is for the rib eye and fillet.  Stay away from those, as mentioned before. Leave this for the great steak places or my patio grill.  Do embrace the interesting, wicked menu offerings that are offered for mainly around $17-19.  This seems to be a sweet spot for the K-town people.  Personally, since I am from larger city Texas area, I am used to paying for the same type of entrées a rate of $25-40. So for me, these prices were spot on and representing a great value to what I am used to.

Over all, I give Twisted Cuisine (Root, Lean, whatever) an 8 out of 10. If you are in the K-town area, you cannot go wrong, but I do recommend reservations. 7546 Sheridan Rd, Kenosha, Wisconsin.  Check the website above for the tele…..

Peace bro’s

An oh, we will be featuring some excellent travel logs on this site from Jason Hockney, a traveling salesman who uses his work to capture the unusual.  Look for a travel log on Kenosha shortly that features this restaurant and other fine qualities of this area….all with a twist and a fine eye guiding the camera.  Send me the links Jason……..

 

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