My Cheesy Holiday

20131223-162542.jpgTop Row: apple, pear, Touvelle cheese, Somerdale Red Dragon cheese. Second Row: Smoked Gouda, Havarti with Horseradish, Wensleydale Abbot’s Gold Cheddar with Carmelized onions, Somerdale Harlech (cheddar with horseradish and parsley)Third Row: Cheddar, Havarti with dill, Extra Sharp Cheddar.
I really like cheese. More times than not there is cheese in my refrigerator. Recently though, I have had a cheese explosion.

It all started when I was shopping to take something to my son’s house in Ohio for Thanksgiving. I thought cheese would be a good afternoon snack while waiting for the turkey. While I was walking through a local store, I noticed some cheese samples and crackers. I tasted one of the cheeses and it was ok. Then, I tasted another cheese and my immediate though was that this was the best cheese I have ever had. The cheesemonger suggested another one and it was almost as good. I got the Red Dragon and the Wensleydale with carmelized onions. The Red Dragon is cheddar combined with ale and mustard seed. It is a wonderful creamy cheddar with a bite at the end with the mustard seed. The cheddar with the carmelized onions has such a depth of flavor, it is amazing. I took both of them on my visit. And they were eaten in short order. When I got home, I got some more. They are so rich that one or two crackers are enough. The smell is so strong that when I open one, my dog Bonnie makes an appearance at the kitchen door. Her nose knows.
It is overwhelmingly wonderful.
I already had the Havarti with dill and extra sharp cheddar on hand. Then, I got a Christmas package from my aunt and brother and more cheese with the apples and pears. I’m just so glad cheese lasts a long time if it is wrapped carefully.

The View from the Deck

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last week at this time, this was the view from the back deck of my home. I had shoveled a path to the yard for my very small dog and it had been snowed over a couple of times. Only an inch or so each time so it was not time to shovel again. I noticed the reflection from the snow with illumination from my deck light was making it easier for Bonnie to see in the dark. When this picture was taken, Bonnie wasn’t shivering immediately when stepping outside.

20131221-180901.jpgThe weather has changed. Tonight we are expecting rain and as the temperatures go down, freezing rain turning to ice. Bonnie is standing in the rain surveying her kingdom. She especially likes how squirrels show up more easily in the snow. Maybe tomorrow it will be one of those days where the top of the snow on the ground will turn to ice and Bonnie will walk on top of the snow until the sun turns the ice to slush.

Dinner at Cliff Bells 12/19/13

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Leaded glass window at top of women’s stall at Cliff Bells

I went for some music and planned to have dinner at Cliff Bells. When I had dinner there a few months ago, it wasn’t the meal I was expecting. So, I gave it another try. I sat in my favorite place which is by a large column in the middle front of the room. The sound is good in that spot.

I sat down and a waitress took care of the couple that came in after me at a nearby table. She then checked on another table. She did not speak to me or notice me. When she came back to the first table, I tried to catch her attention and she didn’t hear me. A couple of moments later another server stopped by another table and I was able to get his attention. He seemed shocked when I ordered dinner. (About five minutes later another server stopped by the table and asked if anyone had helped me.) So, the beginning of the service was rocky.

I ordered the grilled bistro fillet with buttermilk whipped potatoes, roasted asparagus and a juniper and wine sauce for $26. I also had my club soda and lime. The drink came within minutes. Since the meal was cooked to order (or the meat was), I knew it would take a little time. The young couple at the table slightly behind me were talking. The young woman had not stopped talking since I had been sitting at the table even when the musicians were playing a few feet from us. She got louder when the music got louder. I figured I could eat my dinner during the break so I could listen to the music when the musicians started playing.

My dinner was delivered.

20131220-185028.jpgand I apologized for the dreadful picture. It had the bistro fillet done medium rare in three pieces leaning against the whipped potatoes. There were two spears of asparagus. I will say all the pieces worked well together and the flavor was great. I felt shorted with only two spears of asparagus though. The steak was juicy with a well seasoned marinade. It is not as tender as most steaks but the flavor was great. The whipped potatoes had the tang of the buttermilk but were not warm. As far as the juniper wine juice, I couldn’t taste the juniper. If I order this again, I may ask for another asparagus spear and warm mashed potatoes.

They took my plate away just as the set started. The woman at the next table was still talking and talked for the rest of the evening. I adjusted my chair to block the loud sound of her voice competing with the music.

PD9 Township Jazz Project at Motor City Wine

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Last Sunday night, December 15, 2013, I went to Motor City Wine to see the PD9 Township Jazz Project and have dinner in a pop-up restaurant featuring the food of Chef Jesse Knott. I has heard the music before and really liked the program. The menu looked great and I especially wanted the seared lamb chop and maybe the Jameson barley mushroom soup. The pop-up restaurant started at 5p.m. And the music started at 7p.m. I decided to get there about 6:30p.m. to take advantage of both.

All I had to do was look outside to know that even though it was a Sunday evening I would need a lot more time to get to to Motor City Wine than usual. I got there about 7p.m. and there were no parking spots left in the in the parking lot or on the same side of the street. I drove through again and saw a spot where I could park and slid my car into a small space and went in the back door. The place was absolutely jammed. There was no place to sit. I talked to the owner David A-P and he said the chef was in the weeds from the beginning. So, the menu was wildly popular and they were out of food. So, no dinner. I found later that they were waiting over a hour for food. The bar was out of my favorite drink so I had the San Pelligrino grapefruit drink.

The second wave of customer were for the music. I knew the music would be the kind I like and I knew some people would leave after they finished their dinner. So, I listened and kept my eye out for people leaving. With the snow deep and the temperature frigid, it is sometime hard to decide if people are leaving or going for a smoke since smoking is not allowed inside in public places. I finally got a seat at a table with a lady and her husband. And it was a short wait. I could finally just sit down and enjoy.

I have been listening to South African jazz and pop for over thirty years. A lot of the music is joyful and just make me happy when I listen to it. I really like the complex rhythms that usually are a part of the music. And some of this music makes me want to dance and at home I dance around the house to some of the music they would be playing this evening.

One of the numbers they did was an Abdullah Ibrahim( formerly Dollar Brand) called “Cape Town Fringe”. I like the melody on this number and it could go through my mind for hours very happily and I have enjoyed it for years. This evening, the band brought it back to mind and did a great job with the arrangement. Musically, tonight the number was more complex than my usual version but it was possibly more enjoyable since it was live and kept the ‘feeling’ of the original.

They did a few Brotherhood of Breath songs. As I listen again to Brotherhood of Breath, it has a sound of jazz that is “more jazzy than Abdullah Ibrahim but still retains the South African feel of memorable melody and complex rhythms. I’m not sure if they played “Country Cooking”. I forgot to take notes since the music was so good. What I can say is ” Country Cooking” is a favorite of mine and I think it was played.

One of the songs was a number commemorating Steve Biko. I remember hearing of his death and the song brought back the memories of that era. The song was haunting as are my thoughts about his death. The band did bring it back around to a more cheerful ending to the program.

The Damon Warmack Quartet at Motor City Wine and a little Bert’s

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Left to right: Marcus Elliot, Damon Warmack and Alex White

On December 13, 2013 also Friday the Thirteenth, I went to Motor City Wine for some music. The drive to Motor City Wine in the Corktown section of Detroit is usually an easy ride. This time though, some of street lights were out on the freeway which made part of the drive a bit spooky. The freeway was not crowded so it wasn’t bad enough to cause me to white knuckle the trip.

The place was full, warm and inviting when I arrived. I stopped by the bar and got my San Pelligrino Blood Orange drink. I joined a table and sat done to listen. The keys were played by three different keyboard players: John Dixon, Ian Finkelstein and Charles Greene. Each one brought a different flavor to the mix.

20131216-120655.jpgIan Finkelstein on keys

The first song I really listened to was “Bedtime Story” and they did a nice job on that one. Although I had seen all these musicians before, this was the first time I had seen them play together. I always find new configurations interesting. A lot of times it boosts the performance of all. I first saw Ian Finkelstein when he was still in high school and he has just graduated from college. Each time I hear him I can hear his development. Damon generally performs standards, his own compositions and pop all with his own jazz imprint. This was an enjoyable, fresh look at “Bedtime Story”.

20131216-123411.jpgCharles Greene on keys

Charles Greene and the group played “Oh, Christmas Tree”. Since this is the time of year we all heard a lot of Christmas songs, I just sort of grin and bear it. This’s is one of my favorites. I found myself singing along to the music and my mood lifting. I am one of those people that can find the season somewhat depressing. This year it has been better and I’m at ease with the season for the first time in years. Going out has been more fun this year. Anyway, this song lifted my mood and I felt good. It was a good reminder of the season.

20131216-124505.jpgJohn Dixon on keys

The group did “I Can’t Help It” with John Dixon on keys. Stevie Wonder just keeps on giving and this is one. It was a good rendition and I can say that this group of musicians is all about the music. This was an easy evening of music. It was a good evening since I got to hear some music I hadn’t heard for a while and it was good.

But, I wasn’t finished and decided to go over to Bert’s for the John Douglas Quartet. As I walked in the door, I remembered I had a dental appointment Saturday morning. There is nothing like remembering a dental appointment to creep into the mind and render it preoccupied. It was supposed too snow all night and so I knew the roads would be tough traveling the next morning.

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So although I went, I listened a bit and left so I could get up early for the dentist. Maybe next week

A Cold Winter Day

20131212-172434.jpgPhoto by Dane Gussin at a site near where I live

I got up early this morning and the temperature was 10 degrees F or -12 C. The sun was shining and there was not much of a wind but I must say my dog took care of her morning business outside with tremendous speed. When she came back in, she ran around the house for a few minutes to get warm.

With early errands, I left the house early. I just got a new battery for my car and had the radiator flushed so my trusty car started up without any hesitation. I went to four different places and I noticed how the cold was not bothering me today as much as it had a few weeks ago. It is so interesting to see how both my dog and I adapt to changes in the weather. And we always do.

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The Mike Jellick Trio Conflated with a little Funhouse

MJT set ip at NNL

<The Mike Jellick Trio is conflated since it is covering two weeks. Every Wednesday night, unless there are substitutions, the Mike Jellick Trio plays for the evening, They play alone for the first set and have other musicians substitute or join in on other sets. I feely admit that I like the first set and much more often than not give the other sets a miss. I admire that the members of the trio do a lot towards mentoring many young musicians. The music is usually so good for me that I go home after the first set even though I may start the evening with other intentions. It may be also that I have something to eat at Northern Lights Lounge so I am also somewhat relaxed after the first set with a little food and a glass of club soda garnished with a slice of lime on the table.

The weeks I am talking about were November 20, 2013 and December 4, 2013. The trio had the same musicians with Mike Jellick on keys, Jesse Kramer on drums and Miles Brown on Bass. The two evenings had a completely different feel or maybe I did. Something I will never know. The factual difference is that on the first evening, Mike Jellick announced all the songs and on the second, one was announced. I did arrive after the set started on both evenings so all I can say absolutely is the only song I heard Mike announce on the second evening was “Swinging at the Haven”. The first week had Autumn Leaves, “Swinging at the Haven”, “Caravan” and “Benny’s Tune” and more.The difference may have been the crowd. The first week, the crowd was loud, attentive and appreciative. The second night was much quieter.DSCN0085/p> Left to right: Mike Jellick on keys, Miles Brown on bass and Jesse Kramer on drums.

I found that I really like hearing “Autumn Leaves”, “Caravan”, and “Swinging at the Haven”. Although some songs get tired and some are done too much, when I hear a group that can make these songs sound so fresh and new it is exciting and that is precisely what the Mike Jellick Trio does to the music. Of the three, my favorite is “Caravan” (not played the second week) and I have heard the song so many times it has its own groove in my brain. When the trio plays the song my groove has to rearrange itself to accommodate the fresh perspective offered. And it is exciting and makes me excited by music all over again. So, the key to why I like the group as I have said before in different words, the innovation I hear at this venue is beyond compare.

MJT

After the Mike Jellick Trio on December 4, 2013, I headed to Motor City wine for The Funhouse since I had the energy and had not been there in a while. The server at the bar remembered that I like the San Pelligrino blood Orange soda and got me a glass as soon as she was free. I walked in on the last song of the set. I refer to this as my impeccable timing.

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Left to right: Kris Kurzawa on guitar, Skeeto Valdez on Drums, James Simonson on bass and Philip Whitfield on keys.

I was sitting by myself when the servers from Northern Lights Lounge came in and we sat together. Skeeto had wished me a happy birthday and the refrain was repeated several times to my embarrassment. Of well, once a year is not all that tough. The Funhouse is another unique style of funky, happy jazz that is a real pick me up for me. This is a place where I can settle into a groove and go with it. It is another place where the musicians have played enough with each other that it is a group rather that a battle of egos. The music is tight and cohesive and is always solid entertainment. I left toward the end if the set since I had an early morning appointment. It is always hard to leave when you want more.

Finally, Marcus Elliot Quartet at Cliff Bells

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Left to right: Michael Malis, Marcus Elliot! and Ben Rolston (Stephen Boegehold, not pictured)

Last Tuesday night, I finally got down to cliff Bells to see the Marcus Elliot quartet with Marcus Elliot actually playing. The last time I went there, Marcus Elliot was not there. I got a good parking spot after a little search. I felt comfortable since I was walking by the place where cops have dinner breaks and I has seen a cop car parked nearby. The smokers were hanging outside the door shivering.

The quartet was Marcus Elliot ( sax) , Michael Malis (piano), Ben Rolston ( bass) and Stephen Boegehold (drums). The service was good and I got my club soda and lime quickly. I sat right up in the front where there would be no distractions since I was not planning on staying for more than one set. As usual, none of the songs were introduced so I just was able to take in the music and not have any expectations about what I was hearing. This Is usually good since I know that asking some musicians to play a request can be problematic. If they want to play the song, all is good. But, if it isn’t their thing that night, it sometimes goes poorly. So, I like to hear what they want to play even if it does not particularly fit my mood. If I can get into the music, it doesn’t matter.

So what I can say is that the group plays cohesively. I have heard Marcus Elliot for several years now and he is constantly improving. What is especially like about the way he plays the sax is the tone. It is more like voice than an instrument. He plays with a certain character that is definitely his voice. It is so great when I can hear the voice of the musician in the music. The group is a tight group and I hear them acting as a group and not a competing set of egos. The group blends the music so when there is a solo it is part of a natural progression. The solos in this group seem to be meaningful and not so long that you forget there is a group present. All in all it was an enjoyable set.