Bourdain Should Not Come To Anchorage

I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on the Travel Channel.  The cinematography is incredible, Bourdain’s commentary is consistently good, and I tend to walk away from every episode wanting to go to the places he visits.  From Livingston, Montana to The Azores or even the Maine episode there is a care and intentional quality to every episode.

In a recent episode he sought to visit U.S. cities that aren’t normally thought of for their culture or food.  On the list were Detroit, Milwaukie, Minneapolis, Denver, Austin (which in my opinion doesn’t fit the lack of culture category) and Columbus, OH.  While eating street food in Denver, Anthony is given an Alaskan Reindeer Sausage hot dog and he makes a snide comment, as he’s prone to do, about it being the only good thing to come out of Alaska.  Despite watching it on my DVR on my time, when he said that I could hear the Anchorage and Alaskan travel industry people firing up their campaigns to get Bourdain to visit Anchorage.  Over the past year we’ve had Man vs. Food and whatever the diner show is come to Alaska.

I know I’ve been accused of being an instigator before, and I’m sure this could be considered instigating, but I don’t think Anthony Bourdain should come to Anchorage.  Anchorage has some great restaurants and, in general, it feels like the city values Moose’s Tooth Pizzeria or Snow City Cafe over national chains.  But there is very little that is unique to Anchorage.

And it’s not our fault.  Afterall with a relatively brief history (Anchorage really didn’t exist as a city until the early 1920s) and a population made up largely of people from other parts of the state, the U.S. and the World, Anchorage is still figuring out what Anchorage food is.  While most restaurants have some sort of reindeer sausage omelet or buffalo or fresh salmon or halibut, largely they are inspired by Pacific Northwest restaurants or even places from the South. Perhaps one of the most damning lines of reasoning is how crazy and excited people get whenever someone refreshes the old rumor that Olive Garden will be opening in Anchorage.

The state as a whole is a different story, and I guess if No Reservations decided to visit rural Alaska and taste whale blubber or other scary foods, but I feel like that’s been done and I think that Bourdain’s show is above the “Alaska Week” thing.

To make up for my criticism, I now will highlight just a few Anchorage restaurants I love:

Spenard Roadhouse, Villa Nova, Glacier Brewhouse, Bear Tooth Grill, Humpys, Orso…there, satisfied?

“It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn. Maybe that’s enlightenment enough – to know that there is no final resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom, at least for me, means realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

– Anthony Bourdain

Remember To Remember Me: Wilco Plays Anchorage’s Moose’s Tooth

There’s something to be said for a band that can make the opening line of a concert “I dreamed of killing you again last night, and it felt alright to me” sound beautiful. That’s the opening line of “Via Chicago”, which Wilco used to open their Anchorage show Saturday night. Anchorage did well filling the parking lot of Moose’s Tooth despite the rain. It rained all day and all night Saturday, but it didn’t stop people from showing up and showing Wilco much deserved love. Jeff Tweedy made several references to the weather and the hardcore Alaskans who refused to let it affect us. The set was flush with popular tunes with a few new songs mixed in. One of the new songs was ironically “Sunny Feeling.” The crowd was into it and stuck it out despite the weather. The mix of beautiful folk based songs overlayed by loud and rowdy bursts from Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche were perfectly executed. Overall, it was pretty surreal to see Wilco playing Anchorage. Local guys The Whipsaws (who’ve gotten plenty of pub on this blog) opened the show with a high quality set any band in the states would be proud of.

Anchorage Daily News Review (set list is in the comments of the ADN article)

Paste Magazine Mentions Anchorage Pizza

There’s a little Anchorage love in the newest issue of Paste Magazine. In the section titled “The Informer” July 26 is owned by a picture of Jeff Tweedy with the copy if you can’t read it “7/26 Wilco plays the 12th-anniversary party of some place called The Moose’s Tooth in Anchorage, Alaska.” I know a handful of people who were hanging around the Moose’s Tooth 12 years ago…probably sitting around talking about Wilco’s Being There enjoying Pipeline Stout or a Fairweather I.P.A. with Alaska’s best pizza. Judging by the response to Son Volt, Third Eye Blind, and even Elton John at least Wilco will walk away from their July 26 show knowing what Anchorage and the Moose’s Tooth are all about.

There’s A Lesson To Be Learned From Elton John

When Elton John announced he was coming to Anchorage, there was a buzz in the city. I can’t tell you how many friends and co-workers asked “Are you going to Elton John?” There was an excitement with people young and old.
Let’s back up a bit. My understanding of what is bringing Sir Elton to Anchorage is there are a handful of states he’s never played in the US, so with his greatest hits tour, he scheduled himself in places like Vermont and Alaska. He scheduled one show in Anchorage and one in Fairbanks.
So, back to Elton.
The tickets went on sale Monday morning at 10am local time. I’m a big fan of old Elton, and can occasionally tolerate new stuff when I don’t have control of the music. I find myself singing along with his songs…even occasionally a Lion King era song. So in light of it being a greatest hits tour and the novelty of him coming to Anchorage, I logged into my lucky account at 9:50am and rested my browser on the Elton John/Sullivan Arena page. At 9:58, I hit refresh and where it previously said “Not Available Until May 5 at 10am” now said select your tickets. Grabbed best available and had the confirmation email by 10:02. I watched Anchorage Twitterers chattering about trying to get tickets and soon after received a breaking news email from that the Elton John show sold out in 58 minutes. He has since added a second night after the Fairbanks show that goes on sale Monday (5/12), but this is where the lesson can be learned.
No it’s not a lesson of how a lucky account can beat people who camp out all night at the brick and mortar box office, no it’s not a lesson in how Twitter can guide you to the least busy Fred Meyer (though, it could’ve), it’s a lesson for musicians and bands that ignore the Anchorage market. Sure there isn’t a great venue, sure it costs a lot of money to bring extravagant sets and 100 piece bands, but what Elton John can teach you is that if you make the effort, Anchorage will show up. I haven’t seen any stats on how fast Wilco, Third Eye Blind or Son Volt tickets are selling for their summer dates, but many more people have heard of Elton John than any of them.
So let this be the summer that re-defines Anchorage as a must stop on any North American tour. We’re hostages of ClearChannel up here so the discovery of new music is a challenge for the average Alaskan, but even when Colin Hay came up last summer the Discovery Theater was packed, not to mention plenty of local talent that would love to say they opened for a big nationally recognized band. So, for the record, when Elton plays Sullivan Arena on May 28th, I’ll be singing along from row 15.

Anchorage Winter Car Care Tip #1

After parking your vehicle for the night, lift your windshield wipers up off of your windshield. This will avoid them getting stuck to your windshield or buried in the snow. Simple and effective way to keep your blades in good shape for when you need them most.

Addendum: This also applies to your arrival at work for the day. Often your defroster has melted snow and ice from your windshield by the time you reach work, but soon after you’re settling in for a full day of work, the melt drips down to your wipers and freezes; not to mention any weather that might happen while you’re inside.

Ducks, Red Sox, Josh Ritter, Viruses, ReckenRoll and Snow

What a great all inclusive title for a summary of my weekend in Seattle.
I got to see the Ducks beat the Huskies on Saturday. We got there early to do a little tailgating and it was just in time to catch the Ducks getting off the buses and heading into the locker room. It’s a mind blowing experience to be reminded not only how big these guys really are, but also how young they are. The game was entertaining to both sides through 3 quarters, but then the Ducks pulled away utilizing their spread running game and no huddle offense to take the Huskies out of the game. It may not hold a candle to an SEC rivalry or Michigan-Ohio State, but the Oregon Washington rivalry is alive and well with pretty much everyone who was out tail gating Saturday. This weekend will be interesting for the Pac-10 as #4 Arizona State (who haven’t faced much of a challenge yet) host a pretty pissed off #21 Cal and #5 Oregon hosts #12 USC. Combine those games with Game 3 of the World Series and it’s pretty easy to avoid snowy roads. Speaking of the World Series…
I had resigned myself to letting the Red Sox blow the series against the Indians but continued passively to pay attention to the games. Going down 3-1 is a pretty big feat to overcome, but they did it and I got to watch most of game 7. The World Series will again have meaning to me. As a Red Sox fan and a Cardinal fan, the last few years have been good.
Josh Ritter’s show at the Showbox in Seattle was amazing. I mentioned watching game 7, it was in a bar across the street from the Showbox. While eating or waiting for food, I saw Josh Ritter walk by. Then a few seconds later he walked up into our section of the bar. He turned around but didn’t get out of earshot before I could get his attention and call him over to our table. He seems like such a nice guy and meeting him, as brief as it was, makes his music seem all the more genuine than it already does. He even mentioned having played in Anchorage at a pretty specific venue and that Alaska (along with Japan) are on his wish list for future shows. The show was special. It was his birthday and his mom even came up on stage at one point with cupcakes and a candled cupcake. Josh passed the cupcakes out to the crowd. I’m sure there’s a certain extent to which he tells every audience that it’s been an amazing, unforgettable night, but I certainly believe his Seattle show will be remembered by all involved.
I woke up Friday morning feeling fine other than a little bit of a headache, which is pretty normal when I am up late and sleep late, but by the time ReckenRoll and I sat down to brunch and food was in front of me, I had lost my appetite and felt pretty bad. I fell asleep shortly after being dropped off and slept the rest of the day. I felt pretty normal on Saturday with the exception of no appetite, but got exhausted Saturday night fairly early. Sunday was a little of the same, but when it came time for Josh Ritter I was feeling much better.
ReckenRoll was a gracious host. Giving me space while I dealt with feeling crappy and she even came home from shopping with Ginger Snaps and smart water. She’s got a good summary over at her site. She definitely got the Josh Ritter bug…especially after meeting him before the show. Although she might exagerate my Freaks & Geeks references, I had just finished watching the complete series and during the commentaries which were recorded more recently, there were lots of tie ins to Superbad, Knocked Up, 40 year old Virgin, and even Anchorman (all Judd Apatow influenced films with Seth Rogen involved).
I woke up this morning to the report of snow on the roads. It snowed about an inch. It’s bright and sunny now, so some of it has melted, but what doesn’t melt is likely to be around for the duration.
Despite not doing much of what was on the loose agenda for the weekend and being under the weather it was the weekend of the year.