December 23-24, 2014

After work I decided to check out Bar Virgile; you may have seen a photo of a small portion of it yesterday.

Some observations:

  • The decor and the overall vibe are kind of not-Durham, but not in a bad way. I felt like I was in, well, Atlanta, or at least the small part of Atlanta that feels relatively cosmopolitan. Someone has paid a lot of attention to details in a way that hasn’t always been the case around here.
  • Juju has a similar vibe. 2015 is apparently going to be the year in which Durham steps up its game, ambience-wise. 
  • Carrie from G2B is the chef at Bar Virgile, which is emphatically a bar, but which also has a pretty substantial menu of cheeses, charcuterie & bar food (sausages, sandwiches, fried stuff). And frog legs and escargots. I always liked the food at G2B & hated everything else about it, so I’m 100% OK with this change.
  • It was packed at 6:45 on the Tuesday night before Christmas Eve. This doesn’t necessarily bode well for anyone actually hoping to get in & get a seat & get served at any point in the future.

Tuesday evening we watched Tusk, the 2014 Kevin Smith movie. I wish that I had known more about the back-story before we bothered to rent it – apparently Smith wrote the whole thing in an hour while stoned on a podcast with a friend of his? It shows. A lot.

M has been sick with a heavy-duty chest cold for 3-4 days now, and I have been zincing up a storm trying to keep it out of me. I may be slowly losing that battle. At least I’m off work until next Monday, although I had sincere plans involving node.js and a new WXDU music database.

I felt OK this morning but the day has been kind of touch-and-go.

Tonight we saw Wild, the new Reese Witherspoon movie based on Cheryl Strayed’s book about hiking the 1000-mile Pacific Crest Trail from the California/Mexico border to Oregon. Witherspoon is OK – I had a hard time sympathizing with her character, but I don’t know that that’s her fault. Laura Dern is outstanding as Strayed’s mom, but then I think she’s outstanding in literally everything she does.

Overall, while I’m glad it was made – lord knows we need more movies with strong women as primary characters – it was a little too heavy on the pop-psych and over-obvious poetry quotes for my tastes.

Just got home from dinner at Piedmont. I have eaten at Piedmont on a fairly regular basis since it opened, through good times and not-so-good times, and I can say with a fair degree of confidence that the food now is better than it has ever been. 

This is a fairly recent development – as little as 3-4 months ago, the current chef & FOH manager were clearly trying really hard, but hadn’t quite worked out all the kinks. But this fall it seems like everything really locked into place.

December 23-24, 2014

November 19-20, 2014

I have three vastly different books going at once:

And if that was all you knew about me, I’d be an egregious White Male Tech Nerd. Ouch. 

Still, they’re all pretty solid. The Javascript book is actually outstanding – if you’re a software developer with an object-oriented background, this book is only 95 pages & it does a better job at telling you what you need to know than anything else I have read. Really well-written.

I’m liking the Gibson so far. Better than the most recent trilogy.

The cocktail book is ludicrous, which is why I bought it.

Ate dinner Wednesday at Piedmont, for the first time in a couple of months. Marked improvement in the entree – it was probably the best thing I’ve had there since the turnover. It was flounder with some fingerling potatoes, some fennel, and some kind of foam. In the old days it would’ve been aggressively salty or sweet or something, but this time it was subtle and delicious. No wonder they’ve been a lot busier lately.

Late Tuesday night, Hiss Golden Messenger were on Letterman. I haven’t watched late-night TV in ages & ages, and even my next-day internet watching has waned. I got kind of teary when I saw Dave Letterman, because I watched him [a little too] religiously in high school, and high school was a long time ago. 

Hiss Golden Messenger were great, as good as I have ever seen them. Glad they busted out the big guns for their national TV debut (whatever that means nowadays), and glad to see folks like Amelia Meath up there singing backup, taking a break from being Way More Famous than Mike is.

I have opinions about current events on various fronts, but they’re fairly predictable and I’m pretty sure I have covered them adequately, here and elsewhere.

November 19-20, 2014

October 27, 2014

This morning I thought that I might start this entry with an insightful commentary about Jian Ghomeshi, but I don’t think there’s all that much to say, other than that he would appear to be utterly full of shit. This is a good primer on the story as of this morning.

Except for ugghhghgh don’t read the comments unless you also want a primer on how Ghomeshi’s fan/apologists are defending him.

Had a 3-hour block of time this morning at work and actually managed to make use of most of it. I definitely can’t get anything done without at least 2 contiguous hours; need to do better about blocking my calendar to enable such things.

Today was the release date for the new Dawnbringer, so I listened to it three or four times. It’s different from the past couple – sadder, slower, more death-focused. I don’t have a clear view yet of where it will rest on my year-end list, but I’m fairly confident it will be there somewhere.

Night Of The Hammer by DAWNBRINGER

Wound up having dinner at Piedmont, in part because (a) they’re open on Mondays and (b) I had Dos Perros tacos yesterday. Cocktail was good. Sweetbreads & gnocchi appetizer was good. Pork loin was a giant slab of porkchop rather than the slices of loin I was expecting. I don’t like giant slabby porkchops, but it wasn’t bad. I think I let myself have dessert to make up for letting myself order an entree that I was skeptical of, but all I can say about that is that if your fried apple pie isn’t as good as the fried apple pies at Char Grill, then you might just want to stay out of the fried apple pie business.

I mean, I like Piedmont OK. They are very nice people and they are trying really hard, and the food has gotten much better and much more consistent than it was during its most hit-and-miss period. Most things are still too salty-sweet-saucy-intense, though. Being a farm-to-fork joint where the basic ingredients are overpowered by the sauces & seasonings is kind of a shame.

A friend asked me about our trip to LA this past spring, and I was reminded of how great the food was. Everything we had was so much more about the simpler flavors of the ingredients. Obviously they have a bounty of produce out there, year-round, but even in the heart of summer here, it’s rare to find a restaurant that will just let the vegetables do their magical thing.

This reminds me that I need to make Gocciolina reservations. I love/hate the fact that our go-to Friday night drop-in supper spot is so amazingly delicious and so absurdly cheap that it has gotten perma-mobbed & requires reservations just about any night – and more than a day in advance for the weekend.

I hope to hell that the endless hotel & condo development happening in Durham over the next 18 months brings with it more than the tiny handful of restaurants that have been mentioned so far, because otherwise every joint in town will be multi-hour waits on Tuesdays & whatnot.

October 27, 2014