From their 1979 album, EAT THE BEAT, Debbie Harry & BLONDIE took Brooklyn back in time last night with “Dreaming” at ROUGH TRADE NYC.

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Fantastic No-Frills Fish at ASTORIA SEAFOOD

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Here’s a hot tip on a spectacular hole in the wall that you won’t find in the tour guides.  ASTORIA SEAFOOD is not the sort of spot that beckons you as you walk by.  In fact, if you didn’t know any better, you would probably never even consider going in.  Luckily, I parked my car far away from set one day and happened to poke my head into this place around lunchtime as I walked through the no man’s land where Astoria and Long Island City converge.  Inside, under an anchor shaped HVAC duct painted with sea life, lies a fish market/Greek-style restaurant hybrid where the sky’s the limit when it comes to the fishes of your wishes.

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Don’t expect to get it completely right the first time you walk into this place.  There is definitely a learning curve and a great deal to navigate through the garlicky smoky haze of the grill under the bright flourescent lights.  Upon entry, one might be inclined to get in line and order one of the items from the steam table, offering varieties of prepared fish, along with seafood infused pastas, rice dishes and salads.  While this might be fine if you are in a hurry, you have come here to set sail upon these waters in search of fresh fish prepared the way you want it, so bypass the counter at first and head to the fish market in back, where you can select from a wide variety of reasonably priced whole fish, fillets, shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams clams, and more. 

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At this point, after walking through the restaurant to get to the fish, you may be inspired by what you see others eating, but you are left only to your imagination and inspiration, as there are no menus and very little guidance available.  If you are lucky, a server may notice you, and offer to set you up at a table and help you out, by bagging the fish of your choice, handing it over to the fishmonger to clean, and then delivering it to the cashier with instructions per your request.  It is advisable to meet your fish at the cashier at this point to reiterate the directions for preparation, and make sure that your fish is not getting mixed up with the other orders that are piling up around him.  This is also a good time to grab a canned or bottled beverage from behind the register, or if you ask your server nicely, he or she might bring you one. 

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Most importantly, now is the time to set yourself up with a Greek salad.  There is one guy who just makes the Greek salads all day long.  You can select ingredients to your liking or just tell him to give you everything for some crispy, delicious, lemony greens mixed up in a bowl with crunchy peppers, red onion, black olives, and a heaping handful of crumbled feta.  For $7, this salad can feed up to four people as a precursor to the meal.  This is an essential part of the ASTORIA SEAFOOD experience. If they didn’t have any fish at all, I would consider coming here just for the Greek salads.  Grab that salad and go to your table where plastic utensils and a paper napkin await you.

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These stuffed shrimp looked too good to pass up from the steam table as an accompaniment to the salad while waiting for our turn on the grill, and they were tasty, although a bit cold and overcooked.  It would be highly preferable to throw some raw ones in a bag and ask for them grilled, and they will come to you piping hot and doused in a delicious drizzle of garlic, lemon and olive oil (as pictured below).  You could also get your shrimp breaded and fried in a basket with fries, if you prefer.  Or you can go large and order the giant head-on prawns if that’s your thing.  One think I know is that ASTORIA SEAFOOD knows shrimp.

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Truthfully, as mundane as it has become in our culinary vernacular, the fried calamari here is some of the freshest tasting, lightly breaded, crispy, salty, greasy delicious crustacean we’ve ever had anywhere.  Just ask your server to grab a handful off the ice and have it fried up for you.  Don’t be alarmed if he or she reaches for the inkier, purplish looking stuff rather that the pristine white thawed squid.  Whatever it is, it is delicious and just go with it and don’t ask questions.  The only reason there isn’t photographic evidence of the calamari is that it got devoured before the camera made it out.

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When it comes to fish, you can have the fishmonger cut you a swordfish, salmon or halibut steak to your desired thickness, such as the one pictured above.  There are also various fillets to choose from, such as salmon, grouper, cod, skate or monkfish to be grilled, broiled or steamed, perhaps with a side of rice or potatoes.  And everything comes with garlic bread, so don’t miss out on that.  The grill man is constantly splitting baguettes, slathering them in the same garlic butter that goes on the fish, and toasting them in the oven.  Garlic bread flies around this place to the point that if you stick your hand out, you might just catch some. 

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One of the best things you can do at ASTORIA SEAFOOD is pick out a beautiful whole fish and have it grilled to perfection.  The red snapper above had to weigh nearly three pounds, and it cost $35 and fed three.  There are always plenty of Mediterranean fish to choose from such as branzino and orata as well as sea bass, cod, trout, sardines and more.  There is also always the option of buying the fish raw and taking it home and cooking it yourself.  Regardless, once you’ve had your fill, step up to the counter and ask how much you owe them.  The guy behind the register will thumb through a pad of scrawled receipts and throw a round number at you that could not possibly have been arrived at through conventional mathematical means, and you will even have the option of paying by credit card if you so desire.  Leave a gratuity on the table for the server if you have received any service, and you can also drop a tip in the jar for the fish monger, or the salad guy if you are so inclined.

The real fun of ASTORIA SEAFOOD is that you will inevitably walk away with the feeling that there is so much more to learn on each subsequent visit.  There are some big urns on the counter opposite the grill, and Lord only knows what sort of delicious soups and chowders may be contained within.  It appears that there are some tomato based seafood sauces that can be served over pasta as well, but I wouldn’t know how to order them.  I would be curious to see what happened if you asked for “calamari marinara” for instance.  It seems that they do clams casino, and they will shuck fresh oysters and clams and serve them up raw.

ASTORIA SEAFOOD is by no means the fanciest, or even the cleanest place that you’ve ever eaten a meal at, but it is a great value for very fresh fish, and it is undoubtedly a chaotic, exciting, uniquely New York experience for the adventurous fish lover who knows what he or she wants.  This is not a place for the squeamish, the impatient, the fancy, the needy or those afraid of walking away with some serious garlic breath.  Come at lunch time and squeeze among an international crowd of local workers and families speaking Greek, Spanish, Hindi and English.  This is why we live and dine in New York City!

(ASTORIA SEAFOOD is located at 37-10 33rd Street in Astoria/Long Island City; 718-392-2680) 

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PHOSPHORESCENT prevails over the inattentive crowd at an awkward fundraising event at BROOKLYN BOWL on Monday evening to benefit the OPEN SPACE ALLIANCE, the conservancy that maintains NYC Parks throughout Williamsburg and Greenpoint.  With attendees minimally donating $200 a head for a 3 hour limited open bar, a buffet of BLUE RIBBON snacks, a live auction, and 45 minutes of Matthew Houck’s song stylings, this event went virtually unpublicized, seemingly by design.  Few in the crowd seemed to have any sense of appreciation for the magnitude of what they were witnessing, but Houck forged onward through the chatter with a tender set, culminating in the finale featured here.  After a few tender verses of the lovely “Song for Zula,” off his latest hit album, MUCHACHO, Houck appropriately segued into a cover of “The Party’s Over,” from his 2009 Willie Nelson tribute album, TO WILLIE.  For Houck, the party was arguably over before it started, but for this fan, it was awkward but lovely.

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PARTY WITH PUSSY RIOT AT THE SPOTTED PIG!

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It is fitting that NADYA TOLOKONNIKOVA and MASHA ALEKHINA of PUSSY RIOT are arriving in NYC for Wednesday’s AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL benefit concert at the BARCLAYS CENTER, as the eyes of the world are on Sochi, Russia for Friday’s kickoff of the 2014 Winter Olympics.  Tolokonnikova and Alekhina were released from Russian prisons under Kremlin amnesty days before Christmas, after nearly two years of imprisonment following a punk-rock infused protest against Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church staged inside Christ The Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.  As Putin now stands proudly over his Olympic spectacle on the coast of the Black Sea, it is widely speculated that the recent release of Pussy Riot was not a humanitarian gesture, but merely an effort to mitigate negative attitudes toward Russia throughout the Western world in the weeks leading up to the Olympics.

In 1980, The United States led a formal boycott against the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union invasion in Afghanistan.  However, as we participate in the 2014 Olympics in post-Cold War era Sochi, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that Russia’s president is currently imprisoning its citizens for protest that is deemed “blasphemous,” or “undermining to the moral fabric of Russia,” as Putin claimed in the case of Pussy Riot.  Additionally, Putin has been an outspoken opponent of homosexuality, and while he maintains that gay people are welcome in Sochi, he has implored them to “leave the children alone,” citing recent Kremlin legislation prohibiting “homosexual propaganda.” 

Without a communist bogeyman to rally against, all we can do in the face of homophobia, censorship, and political imprisonment is turn to America’s favorite form of resistance…rock music.  At the Barclays Center on Wednesday, Pussy Riot will be joined by artists such as LAURYN HILL, IMAGINE DRAGONS, CAKE, COLD WAR KIDS, and others to benefit AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, an organization that supports those who are unjustly imprisoned throughout the world, for its first mega-concert since 1988.  This will be big and fun (and expensive for the good seats), and you can rock out to an eclectic musical lineup while supporting a worthwhile cause.

The following evening, Thursday, February 6th, brings the opportunity to join Nadya and Masha of Pussy Riot at another event on a much more intimate scale, as they will be the guests of honor at a cocktail reception fundraiser for THE VOICE PROJECT at THE SPOTTED PIG in the West Village.  This event, for which you can reserve your spot for a $300 donation per person or $500 per couple, will be hosted by SEAN ONO LENNON, KIM GORDON (of Sonic Youth), QUESTLOVE (of The Roots), actors, MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL and PETER SARSGAARD, and Spotted Pig Co-Owner, KEN FRIEDMAN.  The event takes place from 7pm-10pm, and it will feature cocktails, fine hors d’oeuvres from the heralded kitchen of APRIL BLOOMFIELD, and hopefully a music performance or two.  Proceeds from this event benefit THE VOICE PROJECT, a Non-Governmental Organization founded by ANNA GABRIEL (daughter of Peter Gabriel), that uses music to promote social change and human rights advocacy throughout the world.  For the high rollers, $1000 per person or $1500 per couple buys VIP status, which includes a private meeting with Pussy Riot during the first hour of the event…a small price to get in on the ground floor of the future revolution!

(THE SPOTTED PIG is located at 314 W. 11th Street @ Greenwich Street in the West Village.  The fundraiser is on Thursday, Feb. 6th, 2014 from 7pm-10pm.  Tickets available at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-voice-project-reception-with-nadya-and-maria-of-pussy-riot-tickets-10172621585)

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Maria “Masha” Alyokhina and Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot after their release from imprisonment by Kremlin authorities.

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THE DISTRICTS BLOW AWAY BROOKLYN!

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The very young and upwardly mobile alt rock outfit, THE DISTRICTS, played a show on Thursday night at the new Williamsburg venue, BABY’S ALL RIGHT, to celebrate this week’s release of their self-titled EP on FAT POSSUM RECORDS.  This quartet of recent high school graduates hails from Lititz, Pennsylvania, deep in the heart of Lancaster’s Amish country, and they are beginning to making a lot of noise on the scene on a national level.  I caught them accidentally on the penultimate show of 2013 at Brooklyn Bowl when they opened for label mates, THE FELICE BROTHERS, and I found myself immediately engaged by the band’s raw energy and staccato explosiveness.  Apparently, so did most of the sold out crowd, as evidenced by a rare period of attentiveness from an audience for an opening band they didn’t come to see and probably never heard before.

With none of the four band members presumably even old enough to order a drink at the venue, THE DISTRICTS are poised for much success ahead.  Oxford, Mississippi based indie label, FAT POSSUM RECORDS, which signed THE DISTRICTS in November, has been a springboard label for many emerging artists turned industry superstars, most notably THE BLACK KEYS, who released three albums with the label, beginning with their sophomore release, “Thickfreakness,” which arguably identified the band’s sound for the masses.  FAT POSSUM has also been home to many established artists, such as BAND OF HORSES, ANDREW BIRD, and SPIRITUALIZED, as well as newer bands on the rise like CAVEMAN, HEARTLESS BASTARDS and YOUTH LAGOON.

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THE DISTRICTS appeal to me in the same way that I enjoy the recordings of bands like COLD WAR KIDS and DELTA SPIRIT.  These are all bands that feature a certain brand of strangled male lead vocals that evoke a sense of desperation and loss of control, which I happen to find particularly appealing and inspiring in today’s indie rock sound.  It’s like the sound of someone who is singing while on the verge of jumping off a cliff.  While Nathan Willett of Cold War Kids and Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez both consistently pull this off in the studio, particularly on their earlier releases, neither band brings the energy and passion to their live performances to the extent that this young band seems to have already demonstrated.  Lead vocalist/guitarist, ROB GROTE, appears almost to be in a trance while performing, channeling lyrical phrases from the deepest part of his inner soul as the band routinely fluctuates from quiet and melodic to loud and frenetic within the course of a single song.

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The EP takes remastered versions of the three strongest tracks from the band’s self-released 2012 debut album, “Telephone,” and bookends them with two new songs, “Rocking Chair,” a rollicking ode to the (childhood?) days gone by and “Stay Open,” which maintains the band’s signature style while somehow echoing the influence of QUEEN.  The three remastered songs, “Lyla,” “Long Distance,” and “Funeral Beds,” however, will be the radio hit singles that catapult this band into the mainstream.

THE DISTRICTS have a full length album in the works, and they are set to tour in support of Austin, TX pop rock outfit, WHITE DENIM, including a return to NYC with a show at WEBSTER HALL on February 28th.  They are already booked for early slots in great company in May at both the BOSTON CALLING FESTIVAL and THE SHAKY KNEES FESTIVAL in Atlanta, where you can see them alongside Cold War Kids and draw your own conclusions.  Grote and his bandmates have moved from Amish country to a house in Philadelphia that they share.  It’s a small move for a young band, but from the looks of things, it is just a stop on the road to the rest of the world.

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Please take a moment of silence for GRAY’S PAPAYA in Greenwich Village. NYC just lost a piece of it’s soul.
#RIPGrayspapaya #recessionspecial #avenueofthebankofamericas
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CHUKO DOES RAMEN RIGHT

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I don’t usually go out of my way for Ramen, but I like it when it’s good.  Toothsome pulled noodles in a rich broth with hearty protein and greens, and maybe a poached egg make for a very satisfying and comforting meal.  Given the popularity of Japanese Ramen noodles and their relatively low price point, the places that do Ramen well are tend to be packed with enthusiasts at peak hours. 

I love going to Ippudo, but only at off times such as late afternoon or just before closing, as I have never met a bowl of noodles that is worth waiting hours for.  I applied the same principle to my visit to CHUKO in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.  I had no expectations of this place, but passed through one rainy afternoon to find much more than I bargained for. 

My first impression was that the decor was a less successful reappropriation of Momofuku Noodle Bar’s design sensibility. Blonde wood with a mix of tables and bar seating and a sleek, modern look, but less interesting and more ordinary than David Chang’s East Village flagship. Truthfully, as much as I love Momofuku, I rarely order the ramen there in favor of Chang’s creatively crafted small plates that change daily.  Chang’s ramen is very good, albeit a bit salty for my liking, but I’d rather spend my time there devouring roasted rice cakes and pork buns as well as the latest seafood or offal focused creation du jour. 

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Once I got past the Momo-faux-ku decor and made my selections from the concise and appealing menu, I kept my eyes only on the food that was set before me.  Based on my experience with the Shrimp Bun, I would be excited to try any bun that comes out of this kitchen.  If shrimp buns are your thing, look no further than Chuko, as this one blows away both the Momofuku and Ippudo versions.

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But the main event here is the ramen.  While I’m not generally a fan of what we have come to know as Miso soup, I opted for the Miso based Ramen as opposed to the Soy or Kimchi based alternatives. This broth was so rich and delicious that as deep as my bowl was I did not want it to ever end.  With low expectations from my choice to go with the vegetarian option over the undoubtedly heartier pork based version, I was astounded by how deeply flavorful this soup was.  With perfectly cooked noodles and a wide assortment of market vegetables, this bowl of ramen may be the best thing $13 has bought me to eat all year.  Word on the street is that the Pork Bone ramen special is outstanding, and it beckons my return.  I learned after the fact, as I am sharing it, that Chuko is the brainchild of three self proclaimed ramen “geeks” who hail from the kitchen of Morimoto.  These guys mean business.  They recently announced the future opening of BAR CHUKO across the street, which will be an Izakaya featuring yakitori, small plates and cocktails.

So now you know what to do next time you are an hour along on your three hour wait to be seated at Ippudo.  Jump on the subway and head for Prospect Heights.  You can probably get to Chuko, eat, and get back to Ippudo before your name is called.  Although the word is out on Chuko, and the wait time for dinner is beginning to rival its downtown Manhattan counterparts.  Get on the train and pay Chuko a visit anyway.  One could make the argument that the ramen is actually better.


CHUKO is located at 552 Vanderbilt Avenue at Dean Street, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn 718-576-6701 www.barchuko.com/

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BROOKTOBER FEST TOMORROW! Pig Out and Party with J. RODDY WALSTON & THE BUSINESS

For those love to rock out and pig out, you may want to make your way over to the water’s edge at N.11th Street in Williamsburg tomorrow, Saturday, September 21st between the hours of 2pm and 10pm for the first annual BROOKTOBER FEST.  Enjoy views of Manhattan, where no one is having nearly as much fun as you inevitably will be, while guzzling down some craft beers and pigging out on swine at a waterfront pig roast.  If the pig roast isn’t enough of a mouthful, check out Cleveland, Tennessee based roots-rock outfit, J. RODDY WALSTON & THE BUSINESS.  The raw, piano driven rockers will be headlining in support of their new release, ESSENTIAL TREMORS, on ATO Records.  J. Roddy and the boys have been doing their thing for over a decade, and this new release is an exceptionally raucous good time.  If you enjoy bands like The Black Keys and Drive By Truckers, you should not miss this show. There will be other local bands performing throughout the day, and DJ sets between the live music.  Oh yeah, and admission is FREE for a 21 and over crowd.  Just another day in Williamsburg…

J. Roddy Walston & The Business via shareslo.com

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AMERICANARAMA FESTIVAL - HOBOKEN, NJ - July 26, 2013

BOB DYLAN is joined by JEFF TWEEDY of Wilco, JIM JAMES of My Morning Jacket, and PETER WOLF of The J. Geils Band for a rendition of The Band’s legendary anthem, "THE WEIGHT." 

This video is a BROOKLYN GLUTTON original. See and hear lots of great live rock performances through the eyes and ears of THE BROOKLYN GLUTTON on our exclusive YouTube channel, THE BROOKLYN GLUTTON VIDEO TUBE.  There you will find a couple of other great moments from AMERICANARAMA, including the WILCO set finale, "ALL THE YOUNG DUDES" by Mott The Hoople led by their frontman, IAN HUNTER and featuring MY MORNING JACKET, WARREN HAYNES of the Allman Brothers and Govt Mule on guitar, and show opener, RYAN BINGHAM. 

You will also find the historic companion piece to the video featured here, from the 2011 Wilco Solid Sound Festival, featuring another excellent performance of “THE WEIGHT, in which WILCO joins THE LEVON HELM BAND. It is the channel’s most watched video.

As for Americanarama on the Pier in Hoboken, it was a lovely Friday night, the sound was actually very good, and all of the music was great.  Wilco and MMJ sharing a bill would have been enough, but the addition of a rather inspired Bob Dylan set was a huge bonus, particularly when it yields a moment like the one captured here.  As for the venue, as good as the views are of the NYC skyline, the venue suffered from inadequate food supply and a crappy beer selection. 

If you had the forethought to grab a lobster roll from the LUKE’S LOBSTER truck on the way into the show, all would be fine and dandy, and you could even have topped it off with a hand scooped BEN & JERRY’S ICE CREAM cone.  Or you could be like me and wait until the end of the Wilco set when you are starving, and eat the ice cream as an appetizer while waiting in line for an hour (well into the first half of the BOB DYLAN set) for a couple of serviceable pork tacos and some very salty and extremely messy chicken nachos.  At this point, I could not even get a lousy 24 oz can of Coors Light to wash it down because they cut off beer sales at 9pm…and my Diet Coke was warm. 

Good thing I mustered up the energy to make my way closer to the stage so as not to miss this great moment. 

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