Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

Duke lacrosse players, scary people from "Lord of the Rings," the Alternative Champs dressed as flowers and playing "Ghostbusters" and those are only the few of the happenings at Halloween parties on Saturday. I spent most of the night at the Carnevil party and despite the outdoor-only location, I had a great time.

Organizers put up a huge tent with loungy furniture and a cage. That area served as the main dancefloor where electronic music blasted. Behind that was an area called Morture, where I watched a ballerina get spanked. Outside that tent, a woman twirled sticks of fire. Inside a smaller tent, a woman read tarot cards and people danced to house music inside giant teepee. Around the corner, live bands performed on stage (the loading area of the warehouse where Carnevil is located.)

The Halloween festivities end tonight. There's a party at Boardwalk Billy's in the University area, Phil and Tony's at the Arboretum and Buckhead Saloon. For a complete list of tonight's parties www.charlotte.com/entertainment.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Shrooms anyone?

Every now and then I need a break from beer and chicken wings so I tried the much heralded Matsutake mushrooms. I only know about them because I recently read a gushy review of the Matsutake mushroom menu at Restaurant i. I figured any restaurant that devoted an entire menu to shrooms means I needed to try the mushrooms. Afterall, I've eat shitake mushrooms and portabella. I like a mushroom and swiss burger every now and then. On Saturday, my girl and I stopped by Restaurant i to see what all the fuss was about.

I'm still wondering.

Restaurant i's menu included grilled Matsutake, Matsutake mushrooms over Kobe steak and Matsutake soup. I wanted the full Matsutake effect, so we ordered grilled Matsutake. The waiter presented our shroom with flair. He removing the top covering our bowl with chop sticks.

I was more impressed by the presentation than the actual mushrooms. They tasted like mushrooms. They weren't any more tasty than portabella or the cheapo sliced ones I get at Food Lion. Considering that one Matsutake mushroom cost me $27 because they're so rare to say I was disappointed is only the tip of the iceberg. Plus, I was still hungry. The two sushi rolls we ordered were good, but not filling.

We thanked the staff, who tried to help us figure out something more hearty and headed to Fuel pizza. Guess what I got.
A slice of pizza and chicken wings! The wings were soo good. I ate them with my fingers out of paperbowl resting on a cheap plastic tray. They were cooked too perfecrtion, seasoned like my mom's and so saucy I thought I was going to make a mess on my shirt. The next time I'm in the mood for wings, you can best believe, I'll call the Fuel on South to make sure Helen is hooking up the wings and then I'll order a dozen. If I want good presentation and sushi, I'll head to Restaurant i.

I know I'm not the only one who bombed picking an exotic dish. What exotic food experience sent you searching for the nearest McDonalds? Post your replies below.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Arena's impact

In today's print edition of the Charlotte Observer, I wrote a story about the arena's impact on uptown nightlife. For the most part, bar and restaurant owners I interviewed said the arena hasn't been like fruit of the Gods for them, but it's been good for business.

Several people mentioned that the arena doesn't draw many customers to their establishments after events, and I'm wondering what's up with that? I remember after the Rolling Stones concert last year, everybody bounced and uptown felt like a ghost town.

I have a couple of questions. If you party uptown regularly, do you stay away from uptown when there are events at the arena? If so, why?

If you go to events at the arena do you typically hang out uptown? Why or why not? Post your replies below.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Roots concert - whoa Part II

The vibe, the show, the people -- all off the chizain for the Roots.
I know I'm a little late getting this up. I had a crazy weekend, but here it is:

I haven't seen a bad Roots concert yet. When Black Thought started singing "Don't Say Nuthin" at 11:15 p.m. the 500 or so people at Grand Central surged toward the stage Thursday night. The band played a set similar to the one at the Forum earlier this year. I figured they would play more tunes off their new album "Game Theory." The hip-hop band did perform "Here I Come" and "Can't Stop This."

That was enough for the crowd which was much more excited about staples such a "You Got Me," "The Next Movement," and "The Seed." I've got pause for "The Seed" because instead of playing the song like the album, they started with "Black Betty" and then morphed into "The Seed" - blazing.

One of the highlights of a Roots show is their set-ending medley. In past years they've rocked out with heavy metal jamming, but more recently they've stuck with R&B and hip-hop. After giving us a smidgen of "Shake, Rattle & Roll," they went into "Gold Digger," "Get By," "It's Goin' Down" and several other songs. ?uestlove banged out "Smooth Criminal" on the drums and singing the high-pitched "woo! yeah!" a la Michael Jackson. It was hysterical.

Fans cheered and sang with all of it. The free hour-long show was part of Tanqueray gin's effort to expand its brand. They had their pitchman Tony Styles making the rounds posing for pictures with fans and being seen. Other notables in the house included Panther Kris Jenkins (he's such a teddy bear) and Drew Carter; along with singer Calvin Richardson, Power 98's Terri Avery, V101.9 Chirl Girl and most of the Power 98/V101.9 crew and the Dixie's Tavern crew. Before I forget, big thanks to Jean Herreria. He let me use his camera and e-mailed me the photos after my camera died on Thursday. I left my spare battery in the car and there was no way I was leaving the show to go get it. Thanks again Jean!

Did you go on Thursday night? What did you think? Post your replies below?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Stealing our civil liberties

If you haven’t heard, Mecklenburg County Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to ask the state legislature for permission to consider a ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and workplaces.

I enjoy an occasional cigar, but I don’t smoke cigarettes. Going to the smoke-free Tempo nightclub is so refreshing. Peeling off smoky clothes -- like after the night at Dixie’s on Monday -- is just disgusting.

Still, I’m against an outright legislative ban on smoking in bars and restaurants.

Currently, 38 percent of the county’s restaurants voluntarily ban smoking. Restaurant and bar owners not politicians should decide if they want to be smoke-free.

If a customer doesn’t like going to a smoky establishment, then find someplace else to eat or party.

What do you think? Post your replies below. While I appreciate your passion for this topic please remember that this is family newspaper. Chill out with all the cursing on the reply posts.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What can I get you?

Oh yeah, I did it! I bartended at Dixie's Tavern on Monday, and didn't get kicked out for breaking all the bottles, spilling a drink on a customer or ringing that lovely bell a few too many times. Wahoo!

I've always said I want to be a bartender when I retire. The three hours behind the bar at Dixie's convinced me that it's a decision I won't regret. Customers, on the other hand, might have a different opinion!

After all, I did nearly poison some friends of mine. I made the absolute worst Blue Waterfall. It's a Red Bull and vodka bomb that I bombed. If I had a picture of my friends' faces when they drank my concoction, oh my goodness. They looked at me like I was crazy. Sorry guys, really. The whole time I was making their drinks this guy was sitting at the bar sipping a Miller Lite and watching me with a disgusted look. When I offered to get him something, he stuck with Miller Lite. He didn't trust my mixology skills. Neither did my friends. After my failed attempt, they stuck with Miller, too.

The funniest story of the night had to be when my friends Hot Asian Mama, Monie Love and T-Diddy did karaoke. They were on stage singing Donna Summer's "Last Dance" when Carolina Panther Vinny Ciurciu joined them -- uninvited. My friends, being the good sports that they are, let him sing along at first, but then Ciurciu tried to take the mike from Hot Asian Mama. She stiff armed him and kept singing. DeShaun Foster would have been proud of that stiff arm.

Ciurciu and Panther Drew Carter had been invited to Dixie's by fellow guest bartender Elevate's Larken Egleston, who had the bright idea to get me behind the bar. Mad thanks to the Dixie's crew who put up with me: Jules, Jason, and Seth. Although, I do think they were hazing me by putting the tip bucket so high up above the cash register that I had to get on my tippy toes. And thanks to Stefan and Russ, who gave me a little good-natured hazing as well when they stopped through Monday night.

Also, thanks to my boo, the brunch crew, my Observer posse and all of my other friends who came out to support me on Monday. You helped me raise $100 for the Latin American Coalition. I can't wait to do it again, and next time I'll have my own fancy-schmancy bottle-opener thingy like everyone else.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tonya @ Dixie's / Roots update

Don't forget, tonight, tonight tonight, I'm doing it up at Dixie's Tavern. I'll be behind the bar mixing drinks and making a mess. Fall through and holla' @ yo' girl.

Also, from Mike Kitchen, The Roots is at capacity and no more RSVP e-mails are being accepted. It's 21 and private. If you didn't get your RSVP confirmation or don't make it into the show, be sure to check my blog on Friday, you know I'll give you the 411. Heck, if you do get in the show, check my blog anyway and tell me what you think.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Roots info

Alright Roots fans, you've been blowing up my e-mail so here's the dealy. They will perform a free show at Grand Central (1000 Central Ave.) at 9 p.m. Thursday. Oct. 19.

If you want to go, you must RSVP by Wednesday Oct. 18 to tonyslist@tanqueraystylesessions.com.
The RSVP doesn’t guarantee admittance, so arrive early. For more info: www.thesoulmovement.com.

Roots fans - I got you

I'll be posting the show info at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Come drink with me

On Oct. 16, I’ll be a guest bartender at Dixie’s Tavern. This will be my first time behind a bar other than the one at my own house, but I'm up for the challenge. Come out and enjoy, but be warned I make my drinks strong and I like the crowd rowdy. Party starts at 10 p.m. It's free. (All tips - if I get any - will be donated to the Latin American Coalition.)

If it's free they will come

The line to get inside Tempo nightclub wrapped around the building on Tuesday night. Yeah, a Tuesday night. People came out to see a free performance by R&B singer Bobby Valentino.
What my friends and I all wondered was whether it would be a capacity crowd if the show wasn’t free. I mean really, Valentino is adorable. He’s energetic on stage and some of his songs are catchy -- but he can’t sing. He’s one of those artists whom I’d rather hear lip synch. Valentino was in town promoting his new CD "Special Occasion," which is due out on Nov. 14.
He played to his female fans. He handed out roses to women in the audience. He sang to a woman sitting in a chair on stage. Probably because he only has two CDs, he had his DJ play a medley of Top 40 songs during his 45-minute set to get the crowd dancing. He closed with his popular song "Slow Down."
Speaking of free shows, American Idol Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard will perform at Tempo on Oct. 18. Doors open at 8 p.m., but to get in you must win tickets from Power 98 or V101.9, or be a member of the Tempo.
And lastly, the Roots are coming back for a free show as well. They will perform at 9 p.m. Oct. 19. I can’t give you anymore details yet, but be sure to check my blog. I’ll post how to get tickets for the show as soon as I get the greenlight.

College homecoming

I felt like a little kid walking from the car to Bowman-Gray Stadium. With each step, I soaked in the smells of fried fish and barbecue ribs, and the sound of rap.
It was homecoming weekend at Winston-Salem State University, and it was my first time really attending a homecoming. In college, I’d partied in towns for homecomings, but I didn’t start my day before the sun went down. Going to the game wasn’t even an option.
Walking toward Bowman-Gray on Saturday to watch Winston-Salem take on Howard University made me realized what I missed. Vendors sold T-shirts, groups of friends huddled around grills or cars. A DJ blasted music. Once we got inside the stadium, the party continued with more vendors and -- best of all -- the halftime show. The drum majors came out in an ambulance and led the band. The crowd was on its feet.
After the game, we danced at a homecoming-related party. We finished the night at the gay club Odyssey. The hip-hop side was packed tighter than sardines, and the smoke and heat were oppressive. On the house-music side, a group of gay men took over the dance floor, vogueing.
That’s when things got a little crazy.
A heavyset guy strutted with everyone else, but he wasn’t graceful at all. Actually, he looked a hot mess. His shirt was two sizes too small, and he couldn’t dance. The other guys picked on him. The big guy ignored them. Then some jerk pushed the big guy in the face. A brief scuffle broke out. The whole thing was comical. A bunch of guys fighting over vogueing.
To his credit, the big guy straightened up his clothes and kept strutting across the dance floor with everyone else.
Next weekend is North Carolina A&T’s homecoming, which is even bigger than Winston-Salem State's.
After attending Winston-Salem State's homecoming, I’m planning to go to Alabama’s homecoming next year. My boy is sending me a link to the black alumni group for our college, so I'm hype.

Friday, October 06, 2006

How we entertain ourselves

According to Ticketmaster, these were the top requested events of the third quarter:











What's hot in da' clubs

According to Starfleetmusic.com, this is what's playing in area clubs:
2. "DÉJÀ VU" BEYONCE featuring JAY-Z

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ghosts and spooks

A stolen corpse used at a medical college. A fireman pushed down a shaft. A bitter husband who killed his ex-wife.
These are a few of the characters we met on the Queen City Ghost & Graveyard Tour, which started last weekend and runs each weekend until Nov. 11.

On the bus, we met Emily, our ghost tour guide. She gave us all kinds of interesting facts about spooky stuff, such as the origins of Jack-o'-lantern and the graveyard shift. For an hour, we drove to graveyards, parking lots and other areas listening to ghosts tell us their stories. Most were based on real ghost tales from the region.

Tours start at 7 p.m., 8:45 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Last week’s sold out. $15 adults, $8 for kids. 704-248-0922.

Seafood bliss

I have a new favorite seafood restaurant. I’ll never be able to afford to eat there regularly, or even semi-regularly, but I wish I could. Last week, I went to the preview event at the Oceanaire Seafood Room, near SouthPark mall at 4620 Piedmont Row Drive (704-554-8811).

The high-end chain restaurant is themed after a 1930s-style luxury liner. When I walked in, I expected to see Jack and Rose hugged up in a corner.

I was as impressed with the drink menu as I was with the food selection. They had Sidecars (brandy, Cointreau, lemon juice, lime juice and sugar) which my buddy John raves about all the time. They also had Harvey Wallbangers (a fancy name for a Screwdriver). The Sidecar was tasty, but the Tequila Sunrise was way too sweet.

Our waiter, David, wasn’t as knowledgeable about the bar as he was the menu. The menu changes daily depending on the seafood shipment. It’s a la carte. I didn’t know there were so many kinds of oysters. David deftly guided us through the selections. I told him to order for us. My favorites were the Kumamotos, Netarts and Blue Points. I don’t think I can eat oysters at Vinnie’s again.

We also had sashimi-style yellowfin tuna and lump crabcakes with little breading. Don’t make this mistake: Macaroni and cheese and sashimi tuna are not a good combination. We ordered the asparagus, but it was on steroids and flavorless.

For dessert we had the Baked Alaska, which was good and huge. I realized I don’t like creme brulee.

Like I said, I like Oceanaire, but can’t afford it. What are some of your favorite affordable seafood restaurants in Charlotte?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Feast to Famine

Daddy Jameson wasn't as happy with the Culinary Arts Experience this
year. It was a scaled-down event. We noticed the difference when we
approached Gateway Village's promenade for the sold-out preview gala on
Friday. I didn't realize how much smaller the festival would be without
the Blues, Brews & BBQ component. The
festival was contained in the promenade area. Last year, it stretched
down Trade Street, with cooking stations in the streets and a mini
farmer's market, along with a huge wine area near the Doubletree hotel.

The promenade area was pleasantly full. We zipped through short lines
for food samples from restaurants and wine samples from wineries. We
wanted to get a martini, but the line was way too long. The martini area
was the most fun, with people chanting and getting rowdy like they would
at a bar.

My dad lingered around a small cooking demonstration station near Fifth
Street. He tried sashimi tuna for the first time, while my mom and I
sampled more food. Both of them tried Ethiopian food for the first time
and loved it.

My folks, especially my mom, were happy with Friday's event, but Dad was
disappointed Saturday. Last year, he bought tokens to sample food from
local restaurants, but he also ate lots of free food cooked on the main stage. Apparently, last year students cooked
the dishes that the celebrity chefs prepared on the main stage.
Volunteers walked the samples around to the crowd, and handed out recipe
cards. That didn't happen this year.

The VIP after-party was smaller as well. Last year, it was on top of a
parking deck and included a live band. This year, it was indoors and
featured a DJ. I liked the DJ, who spun funky house music. My parents
preferred the live band. We finished the night at Cedar Street Tavern
with chicken wings and burgers.

Daddy Jameson said he's not sure if he's coming back for the Culinary
Arts Experience next year. I told him organizers would probably tweak
the event some more, and I would keep him posted. Mom said she wants to
come back.

What did you think of this year's Culinary Arts Experience? Post your reply below.

Hurray beer

When we hopped off the bus at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, my heart
sank. The line to get inside Charlotte Oktoberfest snaked down the
Seventh Street side of the stadium and around to the Kings Drive side. My
friend Key, who drove down from Maryland, reminded us that the line was
long last year, but moved quickly. We trudged to the back, and about 45
minutes later we were inside.
Me, Big Sexy, Key, Bubbles, Ant and Q grabbed our glasses and
headed to the middle of the field. Last year, we darted through lines and
tasted as many beers as we could as fast as we could, then finished
with a tour of the brew tents. This year, we started with a tour led by
Carolina Brewmasters club president Todd Bowman. Under his tutelage, we
sampled stouts, ales and pilsners. Our favorites were Duck Rabbit's Milk
Stout, Ommegang's Three Philosophers and Pauwel’s Kwak. Bowman explained
how beer is made and the differences in styles, and he reminded us that good
beer should not be drank ice-cold. It freezes your taste buds. He said to
let beer warm to fully experience all of the flavors.
After the tour, we made a dash for the bathroom and then
grabbed some food. Our only choices were sausages, hotdogs, funnel cakes
and pizza. They need more food vendors. After eating, Big Sexy and Key
were done for the day. Me, Bubbles, Ant and Q hit up some more beer
Memorial Stadium is a new location for the beer festival that
quickly outgrew its home in NoDa when it moved there two years ago.
This is the first year the festival has sold out in advance. People walked
through the line on Saturday looking to buy tickets. Along with the
breweries, there was a game area with table tennis, Cornhole, foosball
and more.
We headed to the stage to watch BabyBlack, who performed Outkast’s
"Ms. Jackson," Ohio Player’s "Love Rollercoaster" and Alien Ant Farm's
version of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal." They had people up and
dancing. I’d like to see them again. By the time we decided to make our
last rounds of the tents, the crowd started getting rowdy. One group was
yelling “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!” a soccer chant. (Don’t ask me why.)
Another guy had gotten too playful and threw his beer on his friend.
Another couple of guys shotgunned beers.
I liked that organizers moved to the larger, grassier
Memorial Stadium, and capped attendance at 5,000. It wasn’t too crowded
and there were plenty of areas to sit and rest. But the festival needs
more food vendors and a second entrance.
Did you go to Charlotte Oktoberfest? What did you think about
the new location? About the festival? Post your replies below.

Rakim changed the game

Rakim finally stepped onto the stage at Amos' Southend early Saturday morning wearing a white towel underneath a white doo rag and a baseball cap. He looked small standing on stage, but when he put the microphone to his lips, he looked like a hip-hop giant. The 800 or so fans waved their arms and screamed.

Fans packed the club's stage area and upstairs balcony. Fans were hungry to see the hip-hop legend. He gave them an unforgettable show. Rakim unleashed his signature flows, such as "Don't Sweat the Technique," "Ain't No Joke," "Microphone Fiend" and "Paid in Full." Some eager fans surged forward trying to get closer to the stage. Others chilled in the back. Most everyone sang along to his most popular cuts. The only drawback was that he had too much filler -- throw-your-hands-in-the-air-type stuff -- between cuts. It felt like he didn't have enough material to carry the show. Fans didn't mind. Some had been waiting since 10:30 p.m., so by the time he took the stage at 1 a.m., they were just glad to see him do his thing.

Other highlights from Friday night's show were DJ Kid Capri and Raleigh's DJ Brorabb cutting up the wax, and Minneapolis rapper Brother Ali. His flow is catchy, rugged but still smooth, and his beats are blazing. If you ever get a chance to see him, he's worth checking out. He recently performed on the Atmosphere Tour. www.myspace.com/brotherali.

Be sure to get on the email list for www.thesoulmovement.com. They've got a big show coming up that they can't announce yet. Also, hit up the Paid to Party: For Yo' Ear podcast on Wednesdsay to hear my interview with Rakim.

Did you go to the show? What did you think? Post your replies below.