Sunday, February 27, 2011

Show Review: Public Enemy/ Karl Denson's Tiny Universe/ Chali 2na

Public Enemy Live at The Depot

Photo by David Berg
     Public Enemy are an anachronism. They call back to an an era when hip-hop music was political. Long before sex euphemisms about lollipops and candy shops filled the airwaves, Public Enemy tackled social and political problems with anthems such as "Fight The Power" and "911 is a Joke". On February 18th, they returned to The Depot to bring back their message and return hip-hop to its glory days. Or maybe it was just a victory lap after celebrating their 23 year anniversary?

     Opening up the show was Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 fame, along with the backing band, The House of Vibe All-Stars, which included Philip "Fish" Fischer of Fishbone fame on drums wearing a Dead Kennedys shirt. "We came to celebrate hip-hop," Chali said. "We want this to be more of a backyard party, not a show." It's something he took serious as he asked the crowd to introduce themselves to the person next to them, like a peace offering at a church. The song "Don't Stop" off his solo release "Fish Outta Water" had the crowd taking a few steps to the right and then back to the left like an hip-hop version of the electric slide. Chali then broke into the more well-known songs from his Jurassic 5 days. "Hold on to this feelin', Freedom," Chali sang as he launched into "Freedom" from 2002's "Power In Numbers" and then went into "Quality Control", complete with a Michael Jackson interlude, sung by House of Vibe leader Anthony Brewster. Switching gears, Chali led back into his solo work for "Graff Time", a song that explains how he got into hip-hop, not through music but graff writing. Chali had the crowd moving, shaking and waving their hands and the crowd responded with a several minute applause that seemed to humble Chali.

    Having never heard of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, I wasn't sure what to expect. Chali introduced the group and then the six piece group went into "Freedom" from 2002's "The Bridge". Denson's universe is a funkied one filled with trumpets and saxophones taking center stage. Unfamiliar with the material, I couldn't tell if he was playing extended versions of the songs, but most of the songs broke into the 10 minute range. During the song, Denson would sometimes switch out the saxophone to sing a verse, play the flute or a hand percussion instrument. He was an interesting spectacle. Whatever he was doing he got the crowd dancing and moving. It was a constant assault with just a few brief pauses that lasted for almost an hour and a half.

     As Karl Denson left the stage, anticipation was building for the hip-hop legends. At 11:40 an announcement was made that Public Enemy was in the building. The show should start in 15 minutes. It took about 50 more minutes before Public Enemy took the stage. In between, a weak hype man kept hocking the Public Enemy comic books and shirts in the back with an annoying refrain of "aight" after almost everything he said. I'm not sure if he was buying time or if this was a case of legends becoming divas since not much was said for the late start time. The crowds anticpation seemed not only to wither away but the crowd seemed to thin out considerably.

     The S1W came out in army fatigues and did a choreographed routine and then stayed relatively still the rest of the show. Chuck D and Flava Flav followed the S1W and the crowd seemed to forget the wait. After just one song, Flava Flav broke into a monologue thanking the Public Enemy fans as well as supporting his second job reality television, which he boasted that he was "the reality star of the decade". It seemed odd and out of place. Something that plagued the show. Despite having a shorter set since of the late start time, Public Enemy went along with more of these long monologues, band introductions, Flava Flav drum and bass solo. Hell, they even brought a local rapper on stage for a song. Oh and a kid to say, "Don't Believe The Hype" because he has a Public Enemy cassette tape. It seemed like it would be a great show, if only they had more time or didn't have any openers. In the end they played most of their hits, but about an hour in they had to resort to what Chuck D called the two-minute drill or the greatest hits medley. The crowd seemed to thin out as the night wore on and was about a third full by the time Public Enemy left the stage or rather stopped playing music. Flava Flav took the stage to give a speech condemning racism and separatism. Urging people to make the peace sign if they really meant it. It was a refreshing way to end the night, but I can't help feeling that this was a victory lap. The crown is still waiting to be passed or reclaimed.

Chali 2na's "International"

 Karl Denson's Tiny Universe "The Rebel"

Public Enemy's "Fight The Power"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Equator Action

Mango Slaw Over Broiled Tofu Fillets And Pineapple Fried Rice
     Unlike most people, I have no problem with winter. I guess it's my love for snow, but I decided to bring the Equator closer to my kitchen anyway. I bought a used copy of this cookbook, The Tropical Vegan, months ago from amazon. I recently realized it was just collecting dust so I started to flip through it. I've always wanted to make fried rice. The grilled tofu with mango slaw seemed like a perfect match, except that I don't have a grill. Doh!
 Pineapple Fried Rice
      Wow. I never realized how much work something as seemingly simple as fried rice is. Not to mention the rice, which I made the night before. The recipe has three different times where bunches of stuff are added, just a few minutes apart. I took all the separate ingredients and combined them in three different bowls so I could pay more attention to the cooking. This is when a prep chef would come in handy. What really makes this recipe is the pineapple (of course) and the raisins. The first time I had this I thought it was great, but not so much the second day. Still, a decent way to make rice more interesting and more time consuming to make. Oh and since white rice makes me feel naughty I used brown basmati.
Broiled Tofu 
      Not exactly the most appealing name, but since I live in an apartment and can't have a grill this will suffice. This was a relatively easy way to make tofu. The marinade just requires toasted sesame oil, soy sauce and black pepper. I left it on overnight. The results were pretty good, but the texture isn't what most people think of tofu. It was more buttery than firm. For a more familiar version, maybe try freezing the tofu. I happened to like the texture. It reminded me of the Spice Roasted Tofu Fillets from my favorite restaurant, Horizons. Follow the first link for the recipe.
Mango Slaw
     What really made the tofu dish shine was the mango slaw. I wanted to use fresh mango, but they didn't seem to be cooperating with me when I buy them. Does anyone know any secrets to mango buying? This was the star of the entree. I would make this again to top tempeh, tofu, and seitan with it. The chili sauce even gives a nice heat to it. The slaw isn't really thick so on the second day so I tried adding some cornstarch. It coated the tofu nicely, but I think I like it as is. I even had some leftover that I just poured over some leftover brown rice and it was excellent.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Vegan Brunch: A Love Affair

Banana Rabanada (Brazilian French Toast)

     I love the idea of brunch. Laying in bed with someone special, and saying, "Opps. We missed breakfast. How about we combine breakfast and lunch together?" And thus brunch was born. I can't think of a better guide to understanding and mastering the two meals in one than Isa's Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For. It's simply one of the easiest and tastiest cookbooks out there. Everything in this post was made from her cookbook. Since I love French Toast, I decided to head south to Brazil to tackle the Bananna Rabanada. That's Brazilian French Toast for you gringos out there. I also paired it with tofu scramble and roasted garlic potatoes, but since I don't like the taste of maple syrup on my scramble, I used two plates. Don't worry, I have a dishwasher.
Banana Rabanada
     As long as I've been vegan, I've been making the French Toast from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook. I've made it for so long I've memorized the recipe and it's about the only recipe I don't measure for. It's my specialty. Well, it was. This recipe might take the crown. Not to mention it's so easy with blended soymilk and bananas. The hardest part of this recipe is letting a baguette go stale to use in the recipe. But fret not Isa gives a suggestion if you've just come from the bakery. A trick for this recipe is something my mom taught me for making banana bread. Let the bananas get brown/black on the outside before you use them. If your friends come over and they give you the eyes because your bananas look disgusting, chances are they are ready. Thanks for the tip, mom! The recipe really comes together with the mix of cocoa powder and cinnamon that is sprinkled on top.  (Try to use fair trade certified, the farmers will thank you.) 
Tofu Scramble
     Remember those tofu scramble packets Fanatistic Foods used to sell? I used to think that was the only way to make it. Luckily, I got wiser. I've tried lots of tofu scramble recipes and even prepared versions from restaurants, but this is hands down the best tofu scramble I've had. Again, it's simple. Basically, tofu, spices and the magical pixie dust aka nutritional yeast. Isa really killed it with this recipe. She also includes tons of variations that I swear I'll try one day.
Roasted Garlic Potatoes
     What brunch would be complete without potatoes? Ever since I made this recipe, you can look in my fridge and I always have some on hand. I've taken them to work and eaten them as a snack. Delicious. Not to mention pretty cheap. I usually find organic potatoes for about a dollar per pound. Sometimes, puts russets on sale for about 50 cents a pound, which sucks because this recipe is stellar with Yukon Gold potatoes. I like to soak the potatoes, then scrub them. Let them dry a bit and then coat them up. Then, I let them dry a bit. I think this helps make them not stick to the pan (even though the picture shows me using parchment paper). I've even let them sit in the refrigerator overnight and then roasted them. This time though, I left them in the oven too long and they dried out. Don't do that. Again, Isa has numerous variations for this from fresh herb, lemon pepper to curry. In fact, the garlic is one of her variations. Now get to eating...