Tonight, the multi-component wonderfulness of bibimbap. This one featured that same old great spinach, a tofu teriyaki, a tamago-y egg, a fusion-y risotto, sesame carrots, scallions, peppers, and the following steak.

Which! Is also a recipe for KFC, or Korean Fried Chicken. Basically instead of using the below as a marinade, you puree it and use it as a sauce in which you toss your properly baked or fried chicken wings. Fascinating stuff, I know.


ginger-marinated steak with gochujang.

4 scallions, chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves with tender stems
3 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tbsp gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
1 tbsp grated peeled ginger
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp roasted sesame oil
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp raw sugar
2 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
400g steak



friet to be, you and me.

It seems like whenever we have an out-of-town guest, one of the first things they ask for is a friet (or frites, depending on who they are). And it seems like it's usually in the middle of the afternoon, which is a weird time to eat at Amsterdam restaurants anyway b/c of lunch/dinner changeover. Add to that the fact frites are not usually orderable separately on restaurant menus (they usually come with main dishes)...and it's always a puzzle as to where the nearest place is that we can have a beer and some frites, ideally while sitting outside on a canal..

For our future reference: the answer is literally just around the corner at Cafe Nassau.

Also, we often wonder what the best way to do Indonesian is, and the answer is obviously still Terang Boelan. The rijsttafel is €21 (get it with white rice not fried rice because everything's quite salty enough already), and if you add two lemper and a side of bami, €27 feeds three people quite handily. And why the fuck am I italicizing every non-English word. Anyway if you get the whole thing cold (iow, not warmed up), you can then go to a bar for a drink or three before you take your grub home. Grub.



road trip.

Eighteen miles away there's a beach that not too many people know about. If a friend of yours goes away to Greece for a week for work, maybe he leaves his car behind in Amsterdam. Maybe he gives you the keys. Maybe your roommate uses this car to pick you up after your own work and then drive you to this eighteen-mile-away beach. Even if you're only there for a couple hours, it's a couple hours that really rearranges your mental furniture, in that way where your same old stuff looks remarkably fresh and renewed. I am recommend.



season opener.

Tonight's first fish tacos of the summer confirmed that, yes: prepared correctly, these are one of the absolute best things you can be assembling on/in your plate/mouth on a warm sunny day. The lineup for this evening was two regulars (chipotle slaw, pico de gallo) and two variations of familiar themes (papaya/pineapple-madame jeanette salsa and a sweet cucumber relish with a touch of Indian lime pickle). And Bridgetown black beans.

At a certain point we realized that, if I've ever written down the very boring but critically important "fish taco" spice, I can't find it. So here it is.


fish tacos.


black pepper (lots)
onion powder
garlic powder
ground cumin
oregano (a little)
cayenne pepper (a little)

oil fer fryn


tour diary: italy, day 3.


tour diary: italy, day 2.

Our hotel and the theater we were playing at were supposedly in "a bad neighborhood". We didn't really see any evidence of this other than the above street sign.

Meanwhile, in the hotel, I was flying solo b/c J-Kim had stayed at Barbara's the night before and we'd been too pulverized by food bloat after dinner to remember to make plans for this morning. I bounced/crawled out of bed and had a quick and standard Italian breakfast in the "breakfast room":

I took the tram into the center to take a gander at the Duomo, which I've always had a soft spot for because 1) it's fucking Gothic (literally), 2) it took 600 years to build (literally), and 3) inside there's a statue of a guy who's been flayed (literally) and is now wearing his skin draped over his shoulders like a fancy mink stole.

But I didn't go in this time because it was beautiful outside and there was a pretty awesome line. So I just kind of wandered, but with purpose, my purpose being trying to find that magical/mythical street/piazza that's like 3 blocks away from all of the soulcrushing tourism, full of only lunching Italians being Italian, and there's one remaining free table in the sun for me and an icy cold something in the fridge just waiting to be ordered in my bad Italian.

That didn't happen this time. Sometimes it does, but this time I just kept running into one yuck-magnet after another: first EXPO 2015, then something else gross, then I finally ended up at this expensive touristy market next to Castello Sforzesco:

At which point I could take it no longer and decided to have a sit-down whilst dabbing some wonderfully frigid Ichnusa on my sorrows.

This happened a couple more times (the Ichnusa part), then my leisure time was up and I trammed it back to the 'hood to meet J-Kim and the Barbara, who were hanging out in a park near the hotel drinking beer and gesticulating Italianately at each other.


From the park we took a tram to the theater, or, if not directly to the venue, somewhere near the venue. As mentioned previously, on-board navigational information is not a specialty of Italian public transport. The tram we were on did not provide us with any information about what stops were coming up, or what stop we were stopping at, nor was there any real visible signage at the stops. Maybe we were in a bad neighborhood after all.

Eventually we found the place and it looked like this inside.

Above: sound check. Not pictured: the gig. It was an odd one, for many reasons including the fact that the beloved person who set up the gig for us is no longer allowed on the premises due to an ongoing semi-legal dispute. There was a also distinct absence of anything like normal bar conditions or bar patrons, etc. It was not our audience or our kind of room, and our playing never stopped reflecting/illustrating our extreme discomfort. Easily our least successful performance on the 2014 Reunion Tour.

Afterwards, we did what you do after an Italian gig and that is to fill out the SIAE form telling the national copyright enforcement agency what songs you played and who the composers were. Who knows what happens with this information.



Before we continue with Italy I have to jot this down, because we agreed it was the least disappointing dinner in many moons. We've both been craving Jamaican food, which we used to dig on quite a bit back in the Salad Days, but we'd been speculatin' over a hypothesis about whether our jerk chops were still up to snuff or not.

Short answer is: yes, in fact, this was pretty fkn impressive, not a hair out of place. From top: black beans, a different recipe than usual, more neutral, this one; jerked steak, perfect; plantanos maduros, perfect; rice, totally serviceable; peach + cucumber pickle. In the center a raspberry-vinegar coulis thing for the plantains, not Jamaican at all but that's the way they used to do it at the now-defunct Bridgetown Grill back in the ATL and that's the specific meal we were jonesing for.

The platanos maduros tips came from Slate, unexpectedly, and here's the jerk marinade, adapted from Dunstan Harris' Island Barbecue.


jerk marinade.

1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (I used freshly ground)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I maybe used a tad less)
1 bunch of scallions, green and white parts (roots removed)
2 Scotch Bonnet or habanero peppers, stems removed and cut in half, seeds retained
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
pinch of garlic powder

Combine everything in a food processor and process for a minute or two. Pour into a jar until ready for use. We marinated our steaks overnight, then finger-squeegeed off the excess and cooked them for 2-3 minutes per side in a blistering hot skillet, then let rest for 6 minutes.


tour diary: italy, night 1.

Above: the view from Barbara's terrace.

Yes OK, I'm new to tour blogging, a fact which I will make painfully obvious when it comes time to talk about the "highlights" from the trip, because I pretty much managed to have zero photos of those moments, hopefully because I was just kickin' it old-school and "enjoying myself".

So, I must say, I'd forgotten how not close to everything the Milano Malpensa airport is. Why, then, was it our entry/exit point back when we lived in Italy? No idea at all. It's one of those airports where you land (ideally), then taxi for five or ten minutes, then deplane directly onto a bus, which takes you 5km away to baggage claim, after which you take a ten-minute shuttle to the Malpensa train station, where you then take an hour train to Milan Central Station (I'm not kidding), at which point you flail around for ten minutes until a lovely woman you met on the train named Alma from Padova re-teaches you how the metro works, then you get on the metro/subway to go to the hotel's side of town.

ALL OF WHICH WE ARE NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT. We were so extremely lucky to get anywhere at all, because of lo sciopero, which is one of the first vocabulary words they teach you in Italian class, it means: strike. It's kind of an accepted thing, and happens several times a year. They're announced in advance, and generally only last anywhere from a half day to a couple of days. They can be regional or national, and can affect one or all service sectors.

For example, on Thursday the national rail service was on strike and mostly nobody in Italy went anywhere, and then on Friday the rail service was still on strike but also the Malpensa airport ground crews were on strike and all flights were cancelled from 9am-5pm. More about all this on Day 2.

Back to Night One. After Alma from Padova got us on the metro pointed in the right direction, we headed down to meet our benefactor/host Barbara and her daughter Frida for dinner.

I've always traveled with an overly-researched list of eating/drinking options in an attempt to avoid The Death Mope, which is what happens when you end up in a foreign city hungry and/or thirsty without a plan and you set off in a random direction thinking you'll find somewhere non-touristy or inviting or just generally non-shitty enough to park yourself, and (this is the Death Mope part) you don't. So you keep walking and getting hungrier/thirstier, etc.

For dinner, Barbara asked what we wanted to eat and we said "Italian", and gave us the silent supplicating Italian gesture that means "umm, right, but please elaborate". We said "good Italian", Jeroen said something like "Mark normally knows a good place to go", but this time I didn't b/c I didn't have an Internet connection, a concept that Barbara waved away anyway, saying "This is Italy. If you want to eat well, you don't look on the Internet: you ask an Italian where to go." She left the room for five minutes, came back and said, "I called my friend Paolo, we have reservations in an hour." Go Barbara.

So yes, then the normal driving, honking, swearing, death-defying moving violations, sidewalk parking, etc until we ended up at Trattoria Bolognese da Mauro. Which was perfect in terms of authentic food and relaxed left-wing attitude and tour-friendly prices. The food and atmosphere was indeed very Bolognese, as was the compulsion to eat beyond rational/physical limits. Two or three hours later we waddled and moaned our way back to the car and headed back to sleeping quarters for something like sleep.

tour diary: italy, day 1.

Above: Amsterdam the day before leaving, not a black and white photo.

First of all let it be acknowledged by me that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary's definition of the word "tour" reads something like "a journey made by performers or a sports team, in which they perform or play in several different places."

This was initially really supposed to be one of those things, starting out in Milano (Lombardia) and gradually winding our way south to Lecce (Puglia) over the course of two weeks or so with a gig every other day or so. A little more than a month ago, Jeroen ended up getting a new job offer with a professional ensemble that, how you say, he could not refuse, so we ended up looking for a convenient place to snip/crop/trim the tour down a little shorter, and due to either intractable physical logistics or our coarsely-tuned cutting skills, we ended up turning a "tour" into more of a "visit": two gigs, four days.

Which ended up working out totally fine: SG has previously never been a predictably robust live performance outfit, and this was going to be our first real international experiment playing together: why push our luck, is what we maybe should have been asking ourselves. Or, maybe we should've been acknowledging that this whole "touring" thing is maybe the best way to become a predictably robust live performance outfit if you're ever going to be one at all etc. Hard to say.

In either case, veni vidi vici and all that shit: we went, we played, we had fun. Here's what happened.


Jeroen and I have both spent a lot of time in Italy: I lived there for half a year 15 years ago, and have traveled around the country quite a bit, and Jeroen essentially lived there on and off for several years. So, very little about Italian culture surprises us at this point, except maybe to the degree that some of it either succumbs or remains so resistant to the homogenization that seems to be an inescapable side effect of technology and "the global village".

I mean, some things have totally been diluted in a negative, Body Snatchers kind of direction, beginning at the most superficial level: Italians no longer look as externally "Italian" as they did 15 years ago, now they're wearing the same idiotic Sissy-Boy shit that you can't avoid seeing everywhere here in Amsterdam, and I imagine most of Europe. You used to be able to recognize Italians at an international airport, it's much tougher now.

Also it's tragically much much easier to find crappy mass-produced tasteless corporate food in, say, train stations than it used to be (one of the most unexpected, kick-ass informal meals I had while traveling around Tuscany back in 2001 was an octopus salad at the Pisa train station, no really); and yes, now instead of reading newspapers or Vogue and ignoring strangers while on the train, Italians have their faces buried in their smartphones thumbing away at who the fuck knows what like everyone else on Earth. Ultimately I guess this is not so so weird, since 15 years ago a train full of Italians would've also been gesturing and/or yelling into their non-smart cellphones constantly while reading the paper or Vogue (they were kind of ahead of the curve mobile-phone-wise) but the silence of the smartphoned Italian train is a bit unnerving.


But it was a welcome surprise that so many of the most distinctive and endearing clichés persist, or maybe they're even more endearing because they persist. For example, Italians still refuse to stand in a straight, single-file line when waiting for something. This is from Milano Centrale during our Day 3 travel in the middle of a national railway strike, the sign says "reserve your turn", basically "take a number", but what you can't really see is that the "line" is about four people wide, and every thirty seconds or so someone cuts in from the side, ignoring the fact that 40 people are "already standing there". It can be pretty exasperating until you try experimenting with it yourself, as we did on our EasyJet flight home when attempting to guarantee that we could carry on our guitars as hand luggage. And I must say, a) it works, and b) as long as you're cutting in front of Italians and not, say, English or American people, it feels pretty primally satisfying.

What other massive cultural generalizations can I make. Right: Italians still spend 95% of their energy behind the wheel of a car paying attention to something other than driving and will park anywhere that their vehicle will fit, and sometimes even where it won't. This is our lovely host Barbara's first and totally serious parking job when we went to dinner the first night in Milan (she's the red car on the sidewalk). The car is turned off, she's done parking. We talked her into maybe trying again since, you know, no one else was parked on the sidewalk and a parking ticket or towing event would've ruined her mood.

One more charming one, unless you're late and are trying to get somewhere via public transportation: they've really adopted a lot of new technology (touch screens, automated ticket machines, in-train monitors that show you what stations are coming up, etc) without, mmm, reaaalllly making it very helpful. The train from Milan's Malpensa airport to Milan Central Station was 50 minutes or something, and for the entirety of the trip, the in-train monitor unchangingly displayed the following, a line and two points representing our departure and arrival stations, no progress indicator, no detectable change at all.

More true and charming stereotypes: Italians still talk with their hands in a way that I'd imagine would require a completely different set of emoticons than the one I use, may it please never be created if it hasn't already. The men hug a lot. Everyone thinks about food a lot, but in a healthy-seeming, social way. And they still maintain a more relaxed sense of "schedule" than the cultures I live among. All of which, in the brief, concentrated, non-lethal dose we were given, was just about perfect.