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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Adam Schlesinger + Mike Viola + The Corner Laughers = Positively Power Pop Pleasure

If most of these names don't ring a bell for you it is because they seldom make headlines themselves but are behind some of the best movie music ever. I admit to being a sucker for anything distantly related to the 1996 Tom Hanks directed film, That Thing You Do!. So it was a complete no brainer for me when I saw that Adam Schlesinger was performing this rare show with Mike Viola. After all, Adam wrote the infectiously catchy title tune, Mike sang the lead vocal and added his production talents all over the soundtrack of this favorite flick of mine.

With only two west coast appearances and the one in San Francisco being at the tiny Café Du Nord on Market Street we made sure to arrive plenty early for this very special performance. We took advantage of their priority seating for diners and had a great meal as well.

The warm up act was just a perfect way to kick off this evening. Featuring Karla Kane on vocals and an electric ukuele, The Corner Laughers treated us to a dose of cheery pop. They included a couple of festive Christmas songs including a great version of The Kinks holiday classic, "Father Christmas".

Adam Schlesinger's most notable work as a band member is his bass playing for the group, Fountains of Wayne who are a Grammy-nominated power pop band from New Jersey. So we also enjoyed a few FOW tunes and Adam's kicking bass lines.

In addition to Mike Viola's work on the "That Thing You Do!" soundtrack he also was a major contributor to the music for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and most recently, "Get Him To The Greek".
When not playing lead guitar he took turns with Adam at the keyboards.

The band consisted of just Adam, Mike and their drummer. They joked about the night before at their Los Angeles show when they somehow neglected to introduce the guy pounding out all those beats. This oversight was especially funny with only a total of three of them on the stage performing. So they more than made up for it by constantly propping the guy behind them, Brian Wolfe. So here's a shot of Brian whose drums kept this performance stinging.

So we were delighted by The Corner Laughers and dazzled by two of the best pop songwriters around. This rare live collaboration of talent was a dream billing for any fan of power pop music.

And as the old expression goes..."That's The Ticket"!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Aperture Academy: Paradise For Photo Fans

In nearly the center of Santa Clara County at the Campbell Pruneyard Shopping Center is a gem of a place for photography enthusiasts. Aperture Academy is the brainchild of Stephen W. Oachs whose work has been featured in many A-List publications like National Geographic, Popular Photography, and Outdoor Photographer. Aperture Academy opened in 2009 and hits so many bases with exhibits, workshops, classes, events and a truly amazing schedule of on-location photography field trips.

It was one of their recent events that got me to make the trip from Santa Cruz. Stephen held a holiday party for many of this students, family, friends and associates. I had been to Aperture Academy once this summer for an industry event and walked away raving about the facility. It's like the motto there is "Go Big or Go Home." Every inch of their 4,000 square feet leaves a positive impression. Their new Mac workstations, brochures, furnishings, their website and every tiniest detail is a lesson in image and branding. You just can't help but feel like you're dealing with experts here.

So what do the big boys give away at their holiday party raffle? The list went on forever and included lots of really cool gear and prints from one of their favorite partners, Canon. So I dragged my dear friend and photobug-in-her-own-rite, Stacie Tamaki along for the fun and to take a shot at the grand prize seven day Alaskan Photography Cruise.

As we schmoozed and noshed we were soon approached by an old friend with one incredible memory. Stacie and I go back about ten years to the early days of wedding industry networking. Our group would meet at the studios of renown wedding photographer,George Delgado. Working closely with George at the time was Francois Clement. To say that Francois has a photographic memory is an understatement. He pulled both Stacie and I out of the crowd and remembered our names. Sometimes I can't remember what I had for breakfast. I had to get a shot of Francois and Stacie for old times sake.

But Francois reminded us that he has not lost his sense of humor so we tried the proverbial digital self-portrait here. It reminded me of how much easier it is to do this with a little point & shoot instead of a D-SLR and shoe mounted flash. Francois impressed us with his strength and steady hand.

Enough clowning around. It was time for the raffle and Stephen Oachs did a great job of emceeing and giving away the many fantastic prizes.

I am normally pretty lucky at raffles but neither I nor Stacie came home with any prizes. We did come home with another great experience at Aperture Academy. This place just rocks. I will take one of their workshops whether it's a one day Marin Headlands trip or a week in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge. My photography will improve and no doubt the experience will be priceless. I recommend this place to the novice snap shooter or serious photo geek alike. It is truly a unique combination of services all under one roof.

My parting shot is of one of the many surprises we had in store that evening. Stephen unveiled his latest release called "Rockstar" at the party. It was under wraps until the final raffle drawing. So if you want to get up close and personal with it, you'll have to swing by The Pruneyard and say hello to Stephen and the crew. It will be well worth your time to check out all that's happening at Aperture Academy. Thank you Stephen and keep up the great work.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Road To Martini Madness Via A 16

How much fun was last night? The simple plan was to grab a bite at A 16, a popular Italian restaurant in San Francisco's Marina District on the way to Duncan Reyes' final Martini Madness of 2010. A 16 shares its name with the highway that runs from Naples to Canosa, Puglia. The southern Italy region of Campania is where most of A 16 dishes get their inspiration.

Our departure time was 4:30 from Campbell so we figured a 5:30 reservation at A 16 was doable. Think again and factor in major rainstorm and holiday traffic. The folks at A 16 were kind enough to hold our spot until we arrived at 6:00ish and by these smiles it is obvious that we were glad they did. Our entourage to The City included Stacie Tamaki, Lisa Whalen, Andy Mark, and Luke Goodman.

The A 16 Gospel according to my foodie friend, Andy Mark (itscookin.com) is to order lots of apps, sides and pizza. I'd love to tell you which dish was my favorite but I simply can't pick one. These two pizzas were a great intermezzo between the freshly made Burrata/olive oil/sea salt and crostini starter and the Pumpkin/Ricotta Gnocchi with braised kale, onions and panchetta.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get photographers to pose for pictures? Here Lisa is seriously composing her thoughts for tasting notes on this red.

When actually this shot is much more in character for her as she composes a shot of Andy's red.

We were having so much fun at dinner that the only thing we didn't notice was the clock. When we realized it was already 8:00 we quickly slipped out of our culinary bliss and into panic mode to get to Martini Madness before closing time. In an exit that almost rivaled a dine & dash departure followed by a quick trip across The Streets Of San Francisco we got to the Union Square hotspot called Infusion Lounge for the Holiday edition of Martini Madness.

When we arrived at Martini Madness hardly anyone noticed we were fashionably late. Duncan, of course, greeted us with open arms and Lisa had plenty of evidence of our frolicking at A 16 on her cell phone photos. We learned our lesson to allow more than one hour to get to S.F. especially in the rain at holiday time.

It was another successful Martini Madness at one of the hippest clubs in The City. My parting shot is of host Duncan and DJ Jason Mitchell of Music Solutions who did a fantastic job of keeping the energy up and sound pressure at a volume where we could all chat. Thanks again to Duncan for another memorable Martini Madness and to the A 16 crew (Stacie, Luke, Andy and Lisa) for an evening that was truly Dolce Vita!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Carl Cooks: No Tears French Onion Soup

When it dips to 33 degrees overnight here in Northern California it is definitely time to dip into comfort food. And one of my personal favorites in French Onion Soup adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Tyler's Ultimate. F.O.S. is another one of those foods where every recipe boasts the same ingredients but no two soups come out tasting alike. My first photo is what you need to bring home from the grocery store.


6 large yellow onions
3 cloves of garlic
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bunch of fresh chives
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
2 Bay Leaves
All Purpose Flour (3 tablespoons)
Red Wine (1 cup)
Vegetable or Beef Broth (3 quarts)
French Bread or Baguette
Gruyere Cheese (1/2 pound)
Unsalted Butter (1 stick)

The most effort in making this soup is deconstructing the onions. I always begin with halving them first which makes for easier peeling.

To get lots of consistently thin slices I use one of my favorite kitchen tools, the mandoline, for slicing. Mine is made by RÖSLE and is a very simplistic design. The black plastic guard is a great idea if you are a novice at slicing with a mandoline because the blades are extremely sharp.

And here's where the fun comes in. I have no problem working with one onion in a typical recipe, however, when it comes to slicing six large ones my eyes just can't handle it. One simple solution is a pair of onion goggles. Although I am not big on uni-tasking kitchen tools this one is a must when handling lots of onions. They may sit in my drawer for awhile but quickly become instantly indispensable. The most popular brand is made by RSVP and they are available at any kitchen store.

As funny as I may look in these goggles the chance of slicing my finger is greatly reduced without tears in my eyes. One other trick they teach you in culinary school is to chill your onions in the refrigerator which will reduce the gases that cause tearing but it's still not as much fun as suiting up with the protective gear like one of the HAZMAT team. :-)

So a great big bowl of thinly sliced onions is a good start for your soup.


Peel & Slice Onions per my pictures
Peel and finely mince garlic cloves
Slice bread and toast lightly
Grate Gruyere Cheese
Finely mince chives


Melt Butter in large pot
Add Onions, Garlic, Bay Leaves, Thyme Sprigs, S & P
Stir often until soft and fully sweated. (About 25 minutes)
Add Wine and Bring to Boil the Reduce to Simmer
Discard Bay Leaves and Thyme Sprigs
Dust with Flour, Stirring well and cook 10 minutes
Add Broth and continue cooking 10 minutes

The best bowl for French Onion Soup is a ramekin that can take the heat of your oven broiler. Since I like to make this soup so often I invested in bowls made especially for this dish by Revol.


Place toasted bread slices in bowls
Ladle soup into bowls
Top with shredded cheese
Place in bowls into oven and broil until cheese is completely melted
Top with chopped chive garnish

And Voila...Soup's On...Tears Off!