What creative forms would you expect at the near-ends of the earth? My recent trip to Stockholm, Sweden was weird in the way that travel usually is, more just-like-home moments than alien fears realized of winding up cold and frozen because I forget to transcribe the 17th letter in the name of the street I was staying on.
Honestly, I went for the close-to-the-North-Pole party (did you know you can swim just about anywhere in Stockholm? Sunrise after-afterparty dips abound), but surprise! I ran into artistic inspiration. That's really having your herring burger and eating it too. Here's four people and projects that really did it for me, Swedishly speaking.
Despite chilly breezes and outrageously high ticket prices ($500 was cheap), PBF&W, April 12-15, was a bustling, fun-filled weekend, with celebrity chefs, after (and after-after) parties, copious amounts of caviar, champagne and white Burgundy sipped overlooking the waves from the Inn at Spanish Bay fire pits, and a helicopter ride with sommeliers(!) to Carmel Road's vineyards.
Tequila Avión has gained a sort of cult status from a (unsolicited) mention in the show Entourage, but I’m glad to say this tequila holds enough quality to stand on its own. Produced in the Jalisco highlands, in the town of Jesus Maria at the highest elevation of any tequila producer (7000 feet), brings a naturally higher sugar content to the agave plants. Their process is to roast the agave plants at very low temperatures and let them cool naturally which retains more juices and makes the plants less fibrous when crushed.
Call it dessert wine if you will, icewine (eiswein in German) is definitely sweet. But winemakers prefer to call it “rich and concentrated,” an apt icewine description, which, when produced well, retains enough acidity to keep it from being cloying.
Icewine’s intensity comes from frozen grapes, allowing greater flavor concentration. Unlike in Sauternes, Bordeaux, icewine is not sweet from botrytis (noble rot), rather from frozen, concentrated juice. Canada and Germany are the largest icewine producers in the world, with most of Canada’s icewine vineyards in Ontario, which I recently visited. Besides attending the annual Niagara Icewine Festival, I spent time with three wineries and tasted winning salumi and cheeses made locally.
After years of hunting, the day finally came when I could find proper cocktails in LA, even if the scene itselfwas years behind NYC or SF. I’ve covered LA cocktail bars in recent years as the quality has rapidly grown, with my latest visit yielding the most consistent drinks yet. The LA cocktail renaissance is indeed coming into its own.
There have still been a few hyped-up letdowns, like Next Door Lounge in Hollywood, which is a fantastic space: roomy, mellow, old world, with comfy leather couches, friendly service, and classic Powell and Loy movies playing on a big screen. I absolutely loved the environment which it made it even more disappointing in sampling four expensive drinks ($12-14) to find them unbalanced and generally unappetizing.
Perhaps Next Door's execution will improve to match the interior. In the meantime, here are some spots worth checking out down south.
MUSIC To be at SXSW is to know you're missing out on a lot of good music. Fortunately the music you do see makes up for the difference, and very often it's the unexpected showcases, the things that weren't on your radar until that very moment, that end up being the highlights of your experience. That said, here are some of my impressions from this year's slate:
Due to health problems, Big Freedia had to cancel her and Rusty Lazer's Noise Pop gig at Public Works Sat/25. The event been transmutated into a big gay dance party with Double Duchess, DJ Bus Station John, and more. You should still read this interview, though.
With all its technicolor thrift flair, Mardi Gras costumes in state of midway-preparedness, and sleepy passels of breakfast-cooking houseguests, Jay Pennington's New Orleans clapboard house is pretty hallucinatory on the Saturday afternoon of Carnaval weekend. Staring out the window waiting for the bounce DJ to call me up for our interview, I was to be excused for imagining that the shed in the side lot was producing actual chords while the New Orleans monsoon that raged outside hit it. Read more »
No film at this year's festival encountered as much controversy as Craig Zobel's Compliance. At the first public screening, an all-out shouting match erupted, with an audience member yelling "Sundance can do better!" You can't buy that kind of publicity. Every screening (public and press) that followed was jam-packed with people hoping to experience the most shocking film at Sundance, and the film does not disappoint. (Beware: every review I have happened upon has unnecessarily spoiled major plots in the film, which is based on true events.)
What is so impressive about Zobel's film is how it builds up a sense of ever-impending terror. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the film steps into Psycho (1960) terrain, specifically in the final act of the film. Compliance aims to confront a society filled with people who are trained to follow rules without questioning them. Magnolia Pictures, which previously collaborated with Zobel on his debut film Great World of Sound (which premiered at Sundance in 2007), picked up the film for theatrical release; if you dare to check it out, prepare to be traumatized. You'll be screaming about one of the most audacious movies of 2012 — and that's exactly why the film is so brilliant.