For Friday: Obsessed with Murder (mysteries that is)

August 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

BBC America - Luther

Image Source: bbc.co.uk, Idris Elba in “Luther”

Are you obsessed with intelligent, well-thought-out, character-driven murder mysteries?  I have come to realize that I am.  Here are the signs:

  • Police procedurals, psychological crime dramas, murder mysteries – you have the lingo down.
  • When a friend Gchats asking if you’re watching Des about to get the boot on “The Bachelorette,” you reply, no, you’re catching up on last night’s episode of “The Killing” OnDemand.
  • You know that some of the best “police procedurals” are produced by the Brits and the Danes.
  • You know that some of the best American “police procedurals” actually have their origins in Britain and Denmark: “Elementary” (Sherlock Holmes played by Jonny Lee Miller, though not a direct descendent, certainly inspired by the latest British go at the classic character), “The Killing,” “The Bridge.”
  • Though not a murder mystery, though certainly full of crime and drama, you’re aware that “Homeland” also began life in another country, in this case Israel. Can it please be September 29th already?
  • Sunday night’s PBS Masterpiece Mystery cannot be missed, starting with the Alan Cummings’ introduction of: “Inspector Lewis,” “Endeavour” (the prequel to “Inspector Morse”), “Sherlock” (Sherlock Holmes played by Benedict Cumberbatch and produced by the BBC), and “Foyle’s War.”
  • Over on BBC America, you are thrilled to see that “Luther” is coming back, loved “Ripper Street” and are watching “Copper.”
  • Having already heard great things about the new British series “Broadchurch,” you check and see that, although the first episode is not airing on BBC America until August 7th, it appears to already be available OnDemand.  You stop what you’re doing and watch – and by Jove, it’s as good as they say.  (It’s available to view online as well.)

No matter what you call them, I just can’t seem to get enough of them.  Perhaps you recognize the signs and you too are obsessed.  Welcome to the dark side.

For Friday: Five Entertaining Bits You May Have Missed

July 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

Eating breakfast every day.

Image Source: OnlineColleges.net via Fast Co.Exist

It’s potluck this week.  In particular, five (actually, six) stories that caught my attention.  More specifically, stories on topics that The Epicurean loves to cover, including food, photos, music and television.  Enjoy.

First up, something near and dear to my heart – food – specifically, breakfast. Morgan Clendaniel, editor of Fast Company’s Co.Exist channel, published an attention-getting piece, “People Who Eat Breakfast Are Smarter And Skinnier,” laying out the rationale, with a colorful infographic to accompany it.

Eat Breakfast 2

Second, the one-minute ad for Google’s just-announced Chromecast video streaming device.  Priced at $35 (plus tax), it’s a game-changer when it comes to entertainment.  How hot is the Chromecast dongle?  Well, when it launched Google was throwing in three months of free Netflix service, but that offer was removed after all of 24 hours, due to demand.  The ad, Chromecast: For Bigger Fun, shows off the device’s many uses and the fun to be had, all to music from the movie “Zorba the Greek,” which as you know, starts slowly and picks up speed, until it ends in a frenzied whirl.  Creating excitement?  You bet.  Sign me up.

Third, one of Buzzfeed’s always entertaining and often insightful lists.  In this case “24 Ways We Should All Be More Like Scandinavians: They have so much to teach us,” prepared by @TabathaLeggett, which includes common sense suggestions such as: 6. We really should stop giggling about nudity;  11. We should stop working so hard; 12. And sort out our schools; and 22. Let’s get inventive with our jams.

Buzzfeed - Scandinavia better schools

Fourth, music, specifically, ex.fm, the self-proclaimed “best way to find and share new music.”  I consider it streaming on steroids, 25 millions songs!  Netted by the Webbys reports, “Now Exfm is really, really smart. It taps into your favorite sites where music is being shared freely and legally – think Youtube, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp – and organizes all the music into one huge, free library with playlists, favorites, trending albums, and more.”  I love listening to what’s trending overall, but you can select genre –  blues, jazz, indie, classical, rock, and more – and combine with your own collection.  There’s even an iPhone app.  Trust me.  Try it.  You’ll like it.

Exfm

Fifth, a blog I discovered via Twitter, “Highlighted Life,” by New Yorker @JamesNord.  Why this particular site?  Well, it’s a Tumblelog and, thus, highly visual.  And James Nord happens to capture pretty much all of the people, places and things that The Epicurean loves: Florence, the Tuscan countryside, London, Scotland, New York Paris, really good food (see below), nature at its best.  Need I go on?

James Nord Highlighted Life: Pizzas made in a wood fire oven

Image Source: James Nord “Highlighted LIfe”

And, a bonus for this fabulous Friday.  In case you missed it, on Thursday, there was possibly the best Today Show  (formerly Friday) “Ambush Makeovers” and fan reaction, ever.  The KLG and Hoda makeover team of Louis Licari and Jill Martin outdid themselves.  Fan Denise Williams did not recognize herself.  Check out the before-and-after here.

Today Show, KLG & Hoda Ambush Makeover, Denise Williams

Image Source: Today Show, KLG & Hoda

For Friday: It’s National Doughnut Day

June 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

A rack of yeast doughnuts

Doughnut Plant: A rack of yeast doughnuts

In case you weren’t aware, today, Friday, June 7, 2013, there is cause to celebrate. The reason?  It’s National Doughnut Day.  Really.

According to Wikipedia:

National Doughnut Day is on the first Friday of June each year, succeeding the Doughnut Day event created by The Salvation Army in 1938 to honor the women who served doughnuts to soldiers during World War I. The holiday celebrates the doughnut (a.k.a. “donut”) – an edible, torus-shaped piece of dough which is deep-fried and sweetened. Many American doughnut stores offer free doughnuts on National Doughnut Day.

So, it seems that there is even a charitable origin to this national day (and where there’s food, there’s the French).  Indulge and feel good about it.

I live in the Lower East Side, a mere few blocks from one of the best doughnut spots in town, the Doughnut Plant.  They make doughnut-making an art.  My favorites, and no, it’s not easy to choose, are Coconut Cream and Creme Brulee (both filled, both beyond delicious).  I first wrote about the Doughnut Plant in 2010.  Back then, cupcakes were still the rage and doughnuts were not considered an artisinal treat.  Today, you’ll find Dough each weekend at the Brooklyn Flea, and at the Doughnut Plant there are still lines out the door most weekends, but they’ve expanded, taking over the space next door to make room for some actual seating, and they’ve also gone “cash only.”

In a fascinating culinary twist, less than a month ago, the doughnut category expanded here in New York: there is now such a thing as a “Cronut” and the associated “Cronut Mania.” Eater has gone as far as declaring this the “Summer of the Cronut.”  For those not yet attune to the latest craze, a Cronut is a hybrid croissant-donut, and it was created by Dominique Ansel of the Domenique Ansel Bakery in Soho.  All of this hype and success was not due to lack of effort; Dominique Ansel spent over two months testing out 10 recipes before deciding on the magic mix.  And, it turns out that Cronut creation a slow process; hence the long lines and customers pay $5 per Cronut and being limited to an order of six.  Buzzfeed details the exacting process using Vine videos.  On “Live With Kelly and Michael,” Kelly Ripa opined, “It’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten,” and on “TODAY with Kathie Lee and Hoda,” Kathie Lee Gifford, in between bites, said, “Let’s just live here for a moment,” which will no doubt further feed the frenzy among a certain audience.  This craze has grown so rapidly, so quickly, that it has already spawned knock-offs.  Our passion for the perfect sweet-treat is seemingly endless.

So, on this day, National Donut Day, pick your poison, whether it be a Doughnut Plant Doughnut of the Day, a Cronut (you can always pay someone to stand in line for you), a Dunkin’ Donuts Maple Frosted, a Krispy Kreme Classic Glazed or half-a-dozen Tim Hortons Timbits (my nieces love them and I’ve got to plug this Canadian brand slowing invading the U.S., even as Canadians are apparently slightly jealous that they’ve not yet adopted this day as the ode to the donut).

American, Canadian, French … eat and enjoy!

Buzzfeed: Domenique Ansel's Cronuts

Image Source: Image by Macey J. Foronda/Buzzfeed, Cronuts

For Friday: Summer and Sandy – Watch, Read and Listen

May 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

Seaside Heights, NJ Boardwalk Reopening

Image Source: Today Show

It’s Memorial Day Friday.  The start of the first long weekend and unofficial start of summer.  Time to head off to see family and have barbeques and have some good weather (hopefully), so we can catch some rays at the beach.

To kick things off, the “Today Show” moved to the Jersey Shore for this morning’s broadcast.  Their location was the boardwalk of Seaside Heights, a beach community pummeled by Hurricane Sandy (think back to the images of the seaside roller coaster actually in the sea and the boardwalk that was no longer).

Over the last seven months, this community has fought back and recovery efforts have yielded results – the reason for this morning’s beachside broadcast was the official reopening of the boardwalk, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Governor Chris Christie.  During an interview, Governor Christie gave the recovery on the boardwalk an “8,” on the one-to-ten scale, which, as Matt Lauer noted, is a positive thing for local businesses and the state’s coffers (visit!).  However, the governor pointed out that other areas are only at a “4,”  and many of these areas are neighborhoods where homeowners are still struggling to rebuild.

So, as we head off for the long weekend…

WATCH:  Nonprofit organization Waves for Water is doing great work and partnering with like-minded organizations to keep the relief effort in all affected areas front-of-mind and to raise money, because really, we all know that’s what’s needed.

READ:  Carmen Petaccio’s moving New York Times Op-Ed piece about her Jersey Shore hometown, “Seaside’s Last Summer?“.

Sonny's & Rickey's Arcade - Seaside Heights, NJ

And LISTEN:

For Friday: Songs About New York

May 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

New York City - Statue of Liberty

Image Source: Flickr, Kali Koldwater

This Friday, it’s music.  Specifically, songs about New York.  Or at least those referencing New York in a heartfelt way.

It was “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” that got me started.  I must have listened to Elton John’s ode to the Big Apple – a lot – as it appeared, somewhat unexpectedly, on my Top 25 Most Played playlist this past week.  I began to think of the other songs that I love and went in search of those that I had possibly forgotten about. Little did I know, at least according to Wikipedia, there are hundreds.  So, down I went, into the YouTube rabbit hole.  And I could have stayed there a very, very long time.  Alas, life ad work called.

Thus, here is the extremely edited list of my favs.  What are yours?

1. The aforementioned “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” by Elton John.  The song was originally released in 1972 on Sir Elton’s album Honky Chateau.  You can watch the YouTube video of his performance of “Mona Lisas” during the debut concert for the album held in London in 1972.  Or you can leap forward 35 years – to 2007 – and to New York.  Elton John’s voice is a little raspier and doesn’t have the range it once did, but his singing it at Madison Square Garden with images of New York City scenes projected on the screen behind him, more than makes up for it, as does his obvious affection for the city about which he is singing.  And, I love the mandolin.  Gets me every time.

2. “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel.  Billy Joel performed “New York State of Mind” at the Tokyo Dome in 2006 – fantastic.  And the saxophone sings.

3. “Empire State of Mind” by Jay Z, featuring Alicia Keys.  The duo performed at the American Music Awards (AMA) in 2009.  Our new anthem.

4. “New York Minute” by Don Henley.  Performed live at the Fair Park Music Hall in Dallas, Texas.  Now here’s a man whose voice, if ravaged by time, has only been made better.

5. “Angel of Harlem” by U2.  Live from Slane Castle in Ireland, 2008.  Classic Bono performance.

6. “8th Avenue Shuffle” by The Doobie Brothers.  No video of this one – just a montage of images referencing the band themselves and the city about which they are singing.

For Friday: Three Movies You May Have Missed

May 10, 2013 § 1 Comment

It’s movies this week.  In particular, comedies.  Even more specifically, smart comedies.  Those you very well may have missed, because they’re small and smart.  One British, two American.

Each is mixed with just a touch of pathos.  Humor needs a backstory, needs some drama against which it can play.  It’s what makes the best comedies work.  If you’re looking for a good laugh this weekend, check out one or all of them.  I’ve linked to Rotten Tomatoes (online rental information included).  Get those kernels popped and enjoy.

First up, “The Trip” – Two friends make their way through the English countryside – eating, drinking, and driving – when one is hired to review restaurants for major British paper and invites the other along for company.  Watch it for the “imitation” scene, if nothing else.

The Trip

Second, “Win Win” – “A beleaguered attorney and part-time wrestling coach who schemes to keep his practice from going under by acting as the legal caretaker of an elderly client.”  Paul Giamatti at his humorous best.  Bobby Cannavale, amazing.

Win Win

Third, “The Savages” (not to be confused with Oliver Stone’s “Savages”, an entirely different film and not nearly as funny) – Adult siblings are forced together when it comes time to care for their ailing father.  Scathingly funny.

The Savages

Friday’s Cultural Pickings

May 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" 2

Image Source: NPR Music

It’s Friday.  It’s sunny.  It’s relatively warm.  Time to lighten things up a bit.  To that end, here are 5 items from this week’s cultural onslaught to help you while away the weekend.  Enjoy.

1. Andy Kulakov’s cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist“.  One seriously talented dude.

2.  The Target ad “Acceptance” created by Deutsch, Inc.  Originally released in 2012, it is airing once again.  I dare you not to tear up.

3.  Vulture.com announced that the music from Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby has been released.  You can listen to a stream of the songs on NPR.  Because … Florence + The Machine, 100$ Bill – Jay Z, Bryan Ferry, Beyonce & Andre 3000, and more.  The soundtrack is available in the usual places (iTunes and Amazon) on May 7th.  Next up, the movie on May 10th.

4.  Steven Soderbergh –  A double punch.  First, The San Francisco Film Society released the video and transcript of retired filmmaker Steven Soderbergh’s speech on the State of Cinema presented at the San Francisco International Film Festival.  As you an imagine, he is not optimistic.  One brilliant passage quoted in The New York Times reads:

Cinema is a specificity of vision,” he said. “It’s an approach in which everything matters. It’s the polar opposite of generic or arbitrary and the result is as unique as a signature or a fingerprint. It isn’t made by a committee, and it isn’t made by a company, and it isn’t made by the audience. It means that if this filmmaker didn’t do it, it either wouldn’t exist at all, or it wouldn’t exist in anything like this form.

Second, earlier this week, Mr. Soderbergh began publishing a suspense novella titled “Glue,” tweet-by-tweet, @Bitchuation.  At last look, he was up to the conclusion of Chapter 11, all 140 characters and the occasional twitpic.  Epic.

5.  Sophia Grace and Rosie perform “Thrift Shop” on Ellen.  Just because.

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