Archive for June, 2010

Mason Jennings Solo at the Variety Playhouse June 19, 2010

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

The last time I saw Mason Jennings was at the same venue just over two years ago.  That show also happened to be my first date with a  girl who is now my wife, so needless to say it was fun to get to relive the experience from a very different perspective.

The big difference in the show is that this time it was just Mason, solo acoustic.  I honestly didn’t know if I’d get tired of that setup before the end of the show, but I did not – the show was fantastic. The show was entirely seated – even the general admission area up front had plastic tables and chairs set up, so that set the mood for a mellow evening.  It felt a lot like that VH1 show that was on a few years ago called “Storytellers.”  He told a little back story about most of the songs, and it really did a great job of setting them up and giving them new dimensions when he played them.

One of the stories I remembered is when he was describing a girl he used to date, and the two of them had drastically different taste in music.  He said she was into a style of music called “boots and cats,” which is music where the drum part always goes “boots n cats n boots n cats n boots n cats n” (try it out loud, you’ll get it).  She always complained that anything he played didn’t even have drums in it.  He said it’s a tough position to be in ’cause they liked each other but didn’t see eye to eye on most things.  That was the back story to the song “Nothing.”

The other one I remember is the back story to the new version of “The Field.”  He described it as his attempt to make sense of the Iraq war (which had started on his birthday).  He had talked to a lot of people who were either in the armed forces or close to those who were.  Specifically he mentioned a friend’s brother who was a soldier and a poet stationed in Iraq.  He said that through an unconscious prejudice he had previously been unable to think of a soldier and a poet as traits possible in one person.  Somehow reading the poetry of someone who appreciate the beauty of all of the details of Iraq made it that much harder to accept what was going on in the war, especially when he learned this poet/soldier has been killed.  Again this was a powerful setup for the song which he went on to play.

My wife and I snuck up to the front for the encores (and were able to get the fairly close-up picture above).  The show was a little short, probably just under 90 minutes, but it was fantastic – probably even better than the last show we saw.  To top it all off, he encouraged everyone to hang around the merchandise table and he would come say hello to everyone after the show.  A large portion of the crowd did just that (especially the high school & college girls), and he did indeed come out, sign autographs, take pictures and make friendly small talk.  Very cool of him.  I’m sure we’ll see him again whenever he comes back.

Full Set list:

  1. Fighter Girl
  2. Which way your heart will go
  3. Be here now
  4. Your new man
  5. Nothing
  6. Ballad for my one true love
  7. Lonely Road
  8. The Field (old song that he rediscovered)
  9. The Field (off of Blood of Man)
  10. California (Part II)
  11. The Fisherman
  12. Jackson Square
  13. Living in the Moment
  14. Hospitals and Jails
  15. Pittsburgh
  16. I love you and Budda too
  17. Crown


  1. Butterfly
  2. Bullet
  3. Keepin it Real

Low and Slow

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

I’ve had a Big Green Egg for a little over 6 months.  If you don’t know about them, they’re awesome.  A very versatile ceramic cooker, famous for its ability to both grill at very high temperatures, as well as act as a low-temperature smoker for slow cooking meats.  In fact, it’s this “low and slow” capability that really sets the BGE apart from other cookers, and attempting to master this art is really a project more than just preparing a meal.  My wife went out of town for the weekend, so I attempted my first overnight “low and slow” project – a 6.3lb (bone-in) Boston pork butt.  If things went well it would come out as pulled pork barbecue many hours later.  Here’s what we started with:

That’s just the butt coated in a healthy dose of dizzy pig‘s dizzy dust rub.  In the past I had tried slow-cooking ribs and I over-cooked them.  It’s a challenge to keep the temperature really low for a long time.  The ribs were cooked too hot.  From the homework I had done, I thought this sucker should cook for about 13 hours at a little over 200 degrees.  The temperature is controlled by adjusting the vents at the bottom and the top of the egg.  Here’s how I set them:

we put the meat on late at night on Saturday:

And the temp was nice and low at about 205 degrees:

I checked it a couple of times and then I went to bed.  That’s the scary part – worrying that your fire is going to go out over night and your project will be ruined.  Well, then next morning I was very pleased to see the temperature had held steady all night!

And at the 13 hour mark I decided to take a look (the other difficult thing is not peeking the whole time, but I resisted the urge):

It looked OK.  I was actually worried that it might be too dried out.  I also took a temperature reading and it was only about 170 degrees.  The goal is 200 (though its common for the meat to plateau around 170 while cooking).  What’s worse, I realized the temperature in the egg was dropping.  Luckily I was able to drop more charcoal in around the plate-setter and get the temperature back up.  I actually got it up to around 300 degrees in an effort to try to get it to hurry up and cook.  I checked in a few more times, and it finally hit 200 degrees at around the 20 hour mark.

I won’t lie – from looking at it I was afraid it was going to be hard, tough and dry.  I wrapped it in foil and let it sit for like 30-60 minutes, then I tried to “pull” it the only way I though made sense:

(note: those gloves don’t have much insulation, and it is pretty painful when the meat is too hot and you can’t get the gloves off).  Anyway, the good news is that my fears were totally unfounded.  The finished product was soft, tender, and DELICIOUS!

It had a nice pink smoke ring, just the right amount of crust, and a great flavor that really didn’t need much barbecue sauce.  Needless to say, it was way more barbecue than 2 people could eat (even over the course of a week), but it did wonders to build my confidence.  I now think I’m ready to try this again and have around 10 people counting on a tasty finished product.

Quick shout out to The Naked Whiz and This other site which provided me some good education on the process.  I’m looking forward to more ambitious overnight projects in the future.

What’s up with this tomato?

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

We’re trying to grow tomatoes.  We didn’t do too much research, just bought some seedlings and threw them in the ground and figured this year can be a “practice year.”  Anything that does come to fruition will be a bonus.  Still, I don’t know what to make of this mark on the tomato.  Is it a fungus?  An insect?  Totally normal?


I’ve done some lazy Googling, but haven’t found anything.  They’re not all traumatized though, here’s a picture of our first Cherry Tomato.


It was good, but not amazing.  Oh well… practice.