Monday, January 22, 2024

Azul Elevates Modern Mexican Cuisine in Downtown Santa Barbara


(Photo: Anthony Cabrera, Lucha Media LLC)

Given the time it took for Azul Cocina Artesanal & Cantina to launch — it was first announced in November 2022 and didn’t open until a full year later, November 24, 2023 — you might imagine the operations team could be feeling a bit, uh, blue. But when I talked to co-owners Edgar and Maria Estrada, and Executive Chef Manny Diaz and his wife and restaurant GM, Veronica Tovalin-Diaz, nary a negative word was expressed.

“It’s been a learning experience for us,” Edgar Estrada said. “All the community has been so supportive, calling us to see how we’re doing. It’s amazing.” Azul serves modern Mexican cuisine. Read that as all the full flavors you would expect, but crafted from farm-to-table ingredients and prepared with elevated kitchen techniques. That means that at Azul, the mole is served over pan-roasted duck breast, not chicken, and that the chamorro de puerco en chile verde stars Kurobuta braised pork shanks, not some inexpensive Boston butt.

Care to read the rest then do so at the Independent's site.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

A Review of "Lou Reed: The King of New York" by Will Hermes


Will Hermes admits he’s on a fool’s errand with the opening quote of the preface to his 529 page biography of Lou Reed. The mercurial genius most famous as the leader of the Velvet Underground once told journalist Jonathan Cott, “There’s no reason to get into autobiographical things with me, because I’m a writer and a musician.” But Hermes, a diligent researcher (he makes clear he’s even read the archive of Reed’s sometimes terrifying “fan” mail), perceptive critic, canny social historian, and flat out elegant writer, is more than up to the task for what he himself calls “myth parsing.” As he puts it, “One gets the sense that memories might be clouded by subsequent myth, every double scotch or methamphetamine injection magnified into more smoking-gun evidence of the ‘Lou Reed’ character he blurred into by the mid-’70s.” 

 Then again, Reed went through a lot. Born in 1942 on suburban Long Island to a respectable middle class Jewish family—Hermes does wonderful work connecting Reed to that heritage—Lewis Allan Reed knew he was queer at age 12 almost two decades before Stonewall. Drawn to music and literature, New York City beckoned as it did to every artsy person in the northeast in the late 20th century. Alas Reed’s first and only year at NYU ended with him back at home and getting electroshock therapy (Hermes puts this seemingly barbaric practice into scary historic context: “In lieu of commitment to a mental hospital, an option that may have also been on the table, outpatient ECT probably seemed the lesser evil.”) Eventually Reed attends Syracuse, only to get his first case of hepatitis—and liver failure would be what led to his death in 2013—the first time he shoots heroin. It’s as if he was creating a life that could only be rock ‘n’ roll mythic.

Want to read the rest then do so at California Review of Books.

Friday, January 12, 2024

A Review of "Creature" by Marsha de la O


Ventura, California-based poet Marsha de la O knows of fire, force of destruction and engine of rebirth. Consider the poem “The Afterlife of Flames,” from her intensely engaging (or perhaps that should be engagingly intense) new volume Creature, in which she writes: “there’s / no need to abide any longer, / no need for the abode, the / hut, the hull, the home, only / translation is required.” This is serious music, words tumbling like dice hoping to land lucky or right. Or perhaps it’s the very song of their fall to the troubled table of our world that matters. Fortunately for us, de la O is the keenest of translators, her book a bridge bringing us the world’s wordless but no less felt pain and beauty full force. 

 Even the note for “The Afterlife of Flames” at the back of the book is a prose poem; de la O, a lecturer in English at Cal State Channel Islands and indomitable arts advocate, writes that the poem “refers to the California fire poppy, which grows after a major burn. Its seeds can lie dormant for decades. They bloom for only one day.”

Care to read the rest then do at California Review of Books.