Bomba Estereo

War, some say, is God’s way of teaching Americans geography. And while for many, sadly, that may still hold true, today’s digital technology readily issues passports to foreign landscapes for anyone with a Galilean sense of curiosity and a good wifi connection – particularly in the musical sphere. Indeed, fusions of Western sound as filtered through the experience of foreign cultures – and vice versa – make for some of today’s freshest, most exciting music, and the Internet offers an improbably diverse world of rhythms and melodies for those willing to listen.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

Among my favorite acts of recent years is Bomba Estereo, a Colombian band at the forefront of a style some have dubbed “electrocumbia”, a seamless blend of indigenous rhythms, Latin, reggae, rock, and electronic music. I had longed to experience this monstrously heady fusion in person for the last several years, but the space/time continuum remained steadfastly averse to it; Bomba Estereo never played Baltimore, and driving 45 minutes to Washington, D.C., on a Monday night usually proved problematic.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

That Davida and I finally leapt at the opportunity to instead drive twice as far on a Monday night, to World Café Live in Philadelphia, probably reflects our feelings for D.C. as much as any affinity for Philly. Leaving work an hour early meant our only significant challenge would be the Rush Hour of Brotherly Love.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

Having arrived at our destination about an hour before the doors opened, we enjoyed a delicious Indian buffet dinner at the nearby Sitar India. (Being a buffet, it allowed us to not only eat our fill, but also be as fast or slow in the process as we wished.) Afterward, we enjoyed the mild evening air of mid-September as we wandered back to the venue.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

It was our second trip to World Café Live, the first having taken place a year earlier, when we took our 7-year-old son to his first concert, a Halloween-themed triple bill of the Fleshtones, Southern Culture on the Skids, and Los Straitjackets called “Mondo Zombie Boogaloo” (after a collaborative album of the same name). We’d found both sound and stage favorable, the staff to be most accommodating, and the restrooms quite clean. We bought drinks at the bar, then wandered out to the still-empty floor.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

With their own blend of Latin, jazz, funk, and psychedelia, opening act Los Crema Paraiso proved well-suited to the task. I particularly dug the Venezuelan band’s seven-minute trance-epic called “Shine On You (Crazy Diablo)”, as well as the bouncy jangle of “Petrocumbia”. The next day, in fact, we bought their album, El Debut, online. (Curiously, neither band had a merch table that night.). When their set concluded, Davida and I staked out our places at the foot of the stage.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

Upon taking the stage, Bomba Estereo unleashed a sonic juggernaut, an irresistible melting pot of jungle noise and urban nightlife. I found the lighting – which more often than not cast the band in silhouette (and sometimes total darkness) while at times, in fact, spotlighting the audience instead – to be especially interesting.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

Though diminutive in stature (despite her platform sneakers), vocalist/MC Liliana Saumet commanded the audience with a powerful feminine presence that, amazingly, never detours into either pixie-princess or androgyny. Backed by band-founder Simon Mejia (bass), Julian Salazar (guitar/synthesizer), and Kike Eggurola (drums), Saumet – with her impeccable ability to rile the audience at just the right moments – led the band through dance-inducing numbers like “Fuego” as deftly as more atmospheric tunes, such as “Lo Que Tengo Que Decir”.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

For 90-odd minutes, Bomba Estereo awed concertgoers not with blood and fire, but rather a distinctively reshuffled deck of human experience, demonstrating the notion that, often, travel is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder…

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

And you could dance to it.

BOMBA ESTEREO
Website: http://bombaestereo.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BombaEstereo

LOS CREMA PARAISO
Website
http://loscremaparaiso.bandcamp.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/loscremaparaiso

WORLD CAFÉ LIVE
3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Phone: (215) 222-1400
Website: http://philly.worldcafelive.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wclive

SITAR INDIA
60 South 38th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Phone: (215) 662-0818
Email: sitarindiapa@yahoo.com
Website: http://www.sitarindiacuisine.net/
(DGB comment: they note on the buffet which items are vegan and gluten-free.)

 

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

Russian Samovar

Russian Samovar
Russian Samovar

Each May, I pilgrimage to NYC for BEA (along with the rest of the book industry). Last year a friend introduced me to Russian Samovar. I made a newbie mistake that first year – I dove headfirst into the delicious savory vodkas (and on an empty stomach no less). Worst hangover of my life. And I had to work the next day.

Russian Samovar, savory vodka
Russian Samovar, savory vodka
Russian Samovar, vodka menu
Russian Samovar, vodka menu

This past BEA, my friend and I arrived at Russian Samovar about 7-8pm on a Friday night and stayed until after midnight. We left a party with free top-shelf drinks to pay for our own. The place is that good. The vodkas were just as delicious as I remembered, but the ambiance was even better. There was dramatic live music and by midnight there were also a few vodka-fueled personal micro-dramas and the music provided a perfect soundtrack to imagined conversations. Also, you haven’t really lived until you’ve heard Russian-accented Kenny Rogers.

Russian Samovar, live music
Russian Samovar, live music
Russian Samovar, live music
Russian Samovar, live music
Russian Samovar, live music
Russian Samovar, live music

I introduced WPT to the place when we traveled to NYC in August and despite it being a bit early in the evening, he suddenly understood what I had been raving about.

Russian Samovar, potatoes in all forms
Russian Samovar, I love potatoes in all forms

My recommendations: try the horseradish and garlic vodkas. When they start getting on top of you, order the dill french fries. Try a few more flavors – coriander, basil, and ginger are all good. Then repeat the fry trick. About 4-5 shots in, they transcend their mere potatohood and become something akin to perfection. When you’ve decided you’ve had just about enough, order the cherry vodka as a nightcap. Then stumble outside, stare up at the sky, and think for a moment just how fantastic NYC can be.

Russian Samovar
Russian Samovar
Russian Samovar, greatest bartender ever
Russian Samovar, greatest bartender ever (seriously)

There is something almost addictive about the horseradish and garlic flavors, so a week or so after we returned from NYC, WPT decided to try and infuse some at home. We don’t have any live music at home and we attempt to keep the personal micro-dramas to a minimum, but we have discovered the next best thing to Russian Samovar. We are experimenting with a few different vodkas, but Sloop Betty, featured in our last post, is by far the best. Recipes below…

Little Water (vodka)
Little Water (vodka)

INFUSED VODKAS (INSPIRED BY RUSSIAN SAMOVAR)

HORSERADISH VODKA
1 bottle (750 ml) Sloop Betty or other good-quality vodka
6 half-inch slices of horseradish root
1 clean quart-size Mason jar w/lid

Place horseradish root in Mason jar and fill with vodka (saving the original bottle). Tightly screw lid on jar and give vodka a few good shakes. Store in a cool, dry place for at least four days, thereafter testing vodka until desired level of flavor is reached (I prefer a minimum of one week). Can be shaken and smelled during the infusing process. Using funnel, strain vodka back into original bottle for ease of serving. Enjoy cold or at room temperature.

GARLIC VODKA
1 bottle (750 ml) Sloop Betty or other good-quality vodka
1 medium-large bulb of garlic
1 clean quart-size Mason jar w/lid

Peel garlic and place individual cloves in Mason jar and fill with vodka (saving the original bottle). Tightly screw lid on jar and give vodka a few good shakes. Store in a cool, dry place for at least four days, thereafter testing vodka until desired level of flavor is reached (I prefer a minimum of one week). Can be shaken and smelled during the infusing process. Using funnel, strain vodka back into original bottle for ease of serving. Enjoy cold or at room temperature.

Russian Samovar
Russian Samovar

Russian Samovar
256 W.52nd Street, New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-757-0168
Website: http://www.russiansamovar.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Russian-Samovar/106942739345111?fref=ts

Daytrips From Baltimore: Cross Island Trail / Blackwater Distillery

Cross Island Trail
Cross Island Trail

Many bicyclists thrive on adrenaline-fueled treks across rocky or wooded terrain, or long-distance hauls of a hundred miles or more. Not me. While I do not shun physical exertion or breaking a sweat, I’m a walker, not a runner; my workaday life offers enough white-knuckle adventure for my taste. Come the weekend, I prefer pedaling through nature at a more leisurely pace. Maryland’s Kent Island – just east of the Bay Bridge (Route 50), about an hour’s drive south of Baltimore – provides just that. (En route, Wawa store #569, off Route 50 Exit 29A, makes an ideal pit stop, offering clean restrooms, reasonably priced fuel, food ranging from prepared sandwiches to fresh fruit to every kind of processed junk, and, of course, top-notch coffee.)

Cross Island Trail
Cross Island Trail
Lunch from Wawa
Lunch from Wawa

Unlike some of the state’s more congested bike trails, Kent Island’s Cross Island Trail, an east-west route running between Stevensville and Kent Narrows, is never crowded. The paved six-mile asphalt trail is open to skating, walking, running, and biking. Its consistently flat terrain makes it ideal for families with young children, older users looking to avoid high-traffic areas, and anyone simply out to enjoy the scent of salt air and the island’s towering pines.

Cross Island Trail
Cross Island Trail

We favor setting out from Terrapin Nature Park, at the Trail’s western terminus, as the Chesapeake Exploration Center, at the eastern end, makes for an excellent mid-ride break (more on that later). A playground near Kent Island High School, about a mile out, is a welcome pit stop for small children. Farther along, the Trail wends its way through alternating patches of forest and wetlands. Use caution at the handful of highway crossings; while many drivers will stop to allow trail-users to pass, some do not.

Cross Island Trail, crab spider hard at work
Cross Island Trail, crab spider hard at work
Panorama view from the top of Chesapeake Exploration Center
Panorama view from the top of Chesapeake Exploration Center

Upon reaching Kent Narrows, grab your water and snacks and climb the spiral stairs of the three-story outdoor observation platform at the aforementioned Exploration Center for a marvelous view of the Narrows, the Chester River, and their attendant varieties of marine traffic. Downstairs, visit the indoor interpretive center, offering all manner of island life and history ranging from the ice age to recent work by local artisans (not to mention very clean restrooms). The friendly staff will be happy to chat and answer any questions.

Chesapeake Exploration Center
Chesapeake Exploration Center
Chesapeake Exploration Center
Chesapeake Exploration Center
Chesapeake Exploration Center
Chesapeake Exploration Center

Of approximately equal length, the nearby South Island Trail, running from Matapeake Park to Romancoke Pier, provides a north-south alternative to the Cross Island Trail. However, but for the fishing pier at its southern end, this trail features little else of interest, especially for children.

Trail near Chesapeake Exploration Center
Trail near Chesapeake Exploration Center
Trail near Chesapeake Exploration Center
Trail near Chesapeake Exploration Center

While there is no charge for using either trail, it should be noted that, in 2014, Queen Anne’s County instituted paid permit parking for public spots like Matapeake Beach and Terrapin Nature Park. Seasonal ($35) and daily ($5) permits are available, however, they must be purchased from certain local businesses, which may or may not be open during park hours. While I have no problem paying a fee, especially if it benefits trail maintenance and patrols, having onsite purchase points would be infinitely more convenient and practical.

Baby Horseshoe Crab, Chesapeake Exploration Center
Baby Horseshoe Crab, Chesapeake Exploration Center

***

Situated in the unassuming office park just across the street from the entrance to Terrapin Nature Park is Blackwater Distilling, makers of the fabulously smooth Sloop Betty vodka. Maryland’s first fully-licensed distillery in more than 40 years, Blackwater offers free tours and tastings Friday through Sunday. Staples like Sloop Betty Honey utilize local, organic ingredients, while the distillery also produces various seasonal infusions throughout the year.

No bathtub hooch, Sloop Betty has won three Gold Medals, including the Gold Medal and “Best in Show” distinction at the New York World Wine & Spirit Competition, while The Tasting Panel magazine awarded the vodka a 94-point rating in its July 2011 issue. So take a bottle home, and keep your drinking money local!

WAWA STORE #569
321 Buschs Frontage Road, Annapolis, MD 21401
Hours: Open 24 hours
Phone: (410) 757-2328

CHESAPEAKE EXPLORATION CENTER
425 Piney Narrows Road, Chester, MD 21619
Hours: Open year-round 7 days/week (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and Easter); Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., weekends 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Phone: (410) 604-2100
Admission: Free
Web: http://www.baygateways.net/general.cfm?id=74

BLACKWATER DISTILLING
184 Log Canoe Circle, Stevensville, MD 21666
Hours: Free tours offered Friday – Sunday, 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Phone: (443) 249-3123
Email: akeller@blackwaterdistilling.com
Web: http://www.blackwaterdistilling.com/
F
acebookhttps://www.facebook.com/BlackwaterDistilling