26 October 2007

Sinead O'Connor and the Strathmore

We saw Sinead O'Connor the other night at the Strathmore in Bethesda, MD. She came out of retirement and released an album (I'm aging myself I suppose by saying "album" instead of "CD") called Theology this year. I don't own it but I'm going to buy it. It's a 2-disc release. The first disc called "The Dublin Sessions" is acoustic and the other disc ("The London Sessions") containes a plugged in multi-piece band version of the same songs. Visit http://www.sineadoconnor.com and Sinead O'Connor's MySpace page for more information and to listen to some clips.

Having never seen her live before, I thought the concert was very good but I was distracted by her constant hand-signal interaction with the sound man. She was having trouble with the drums being over mic'd at the start, once or twice with feedback in her earpiece during the show, her mic not being turned up quite enough, etc.

Her voice while still powerful and simultaneously sweet has a courser quality and lacks range at the high notes. But her delivery is haunting, vibrant, intense and interesting as always. My impression of her from her early career was that she approached music from internal rage and anger and now it seems to flow from inner beauty and peace. Even so she performed the oldies and goodies with verve with especially great renditions of "I Am Stretched on Your Grave" and "Thank You for Hearing Me". One of the highlights of the show was the acapella four-part harmony sung live of "In This Heart". I think she performed three new songs including one that is a movie theme song for a film that will be release around Christmas. All of the new work was gorgeous and soul satisfying. The mix of acoustic and full band songs kept it interesting and there was an obvious mutual appreciation between audience and artist.

Twenty years after the release of her first album, The Lion and the Cobra, Sinead O'Connor still defies definition: rock, pop, alternative, spiritual, rythmic, relevant, current... yes, yes, yes and more.

I suppose I should also say something about the Strathmore. I'd never been to this venue before but will seek it out in the future. In fact, Handel's Messiah is playing there in December and I would love to go to that. The hall is absolutely beautiful inside. The ceiling undulates like a gentle wave stopped in motion and the blond wood interior does everything it should acoustically in that space, not to mention creating a calming, modern and beautiful space. The walls and the shape of the hall made me feel what I imagine it would be like to be inside a grand piano. Go if you get a chance so you can feel for yourself what I mean by that because I can't explain it!

23 October 2007

Something like writer's block

Searching for a job sort of sucks your will to live (mine, I mean), or at least to write. I can't tell you how tired I am of tweaking the resume, writing cover letter after cover letter. It takes so much time and effort and that's a big part of the reason I have not been blogging. It's not exactly writer's block, because I am writing something every day toward my job search. I'd rather be writing the blog honestly - it's a lot more fun that writing cover letters!

Along with being unemployed, one cuts back on extra-curricular activities such as dining out and buying wine. In other words, we're not eating out at nice restaurants very much these days or going crazy at the wine shop. But one must still have nourishment of the body and mind to keep oneself sane. To those ends, what have we been doing lately?

In an effort to help bring on some autumnal weather, I made a really nice stuffed pork roast in late August. For that I used a large center loin portion of pig, opening it up with a knife 'til it laid flat on my board, and then stuffed it with a great combination of flavors. Whenever I make cornbread or biscuits, I save the leftovers in the freezer and then use them for applications like this. Crumble those up, chop up an apple, toss in a good handful of chopped pecans, chopped onion, and a healthy pinch of a spice blend I just discovered this summer, which I'll tell you about in just a sec. Anyway, put all that in a skillet with a little butter and a just a little broth but not so much that the mixture is wet, and cook it to a bread-stuffing consistency. in other words, slightly crumbly but not dry, not packed but not too loose either. Then spread this along the opened loin, roll the meat, tie it with kitchen twine and roast on 350 degrees Farenheit 'til done -- that depends on how thick the meat is, etc so I can't give specific timings. Even without a gravy or sauce, the roast should turn out nice and moist because of the filling if cooked until just done, not overdone.

As for the new spice blend I came across this summer... I was thrilled to find out that the famous spice catalog Penzeys was opening retail stores. We went to the Rockville, MD location which was the closest one to us at the time. The coolest thing about the store is that there is a sample jar of each and every item in the store which you can open and smell. I love that. Needless to say, we bought a lot of stuff that day including... drum roll please... Bavarian Seasoning. So tasty and lends an authentic Bavarian flavor to pork, AND best of all, it is SALT FREE. To tell the truth, I bought this spice mix thinking that I would make my own sausages. I haven't done that yet but still want to do that soon. I even bought casings and put them in freezer so I would having everything I need when I decide to do it. Anyhow, don't save the seasoning just for making sausages -- use it to flavor your pork roasts, turkey breast, chicken, cooked carrots and boiled potatoes and anything else you want to have that Bavarian flavor without salt! If you don't have a Penzeys store near you, order online or from the catalog. They make great gift boxes, too, which are a wonderful idea for newlyweds or a holiday present for anyone you know who loves to cook. Normally, I'm not a fan of spice blends because I tend to make up my own as a I go along, but I couldn't have replicated this particular authentic flavor by myself. Oh, btw, a Penzeys retail location opened in Falls Church, VA recently on Route 7. I was there the other day and noted that a bottle containing 3 Madagascar vanilla beans was less than $7! What a bargain.

Well, for someone who complained about being sick of writing, I sure did manage to write a lot here on the blog today. I urge you to check out Penzeys catalog, website, retail store especially for the finest quality herbs and spices. And definitely try a stuffed pork roast. Note there's no recipe - just throw a bunch of stuff together and stuff it in a piece of pork! You can hardly go wrong!