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.

Be sure to get on the email list for 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.