November 18th, 2012


Hagdirt's natal festivities

We headed downtown to enjoy the noir, if damp, look of DTLA in the rain. We (Us, A&K, castle_kevorah, Lady Euthanasia and her Shad0) assembled at the Onyx Lounge. My sazerac was splendid, and Dr. Pookie's mezcal-based Barbacoa was excellent as well. They have a pretty awesome cheese plank, and the shishito peppers were fantastic. Two thumbs up from me.

We then had an unscheduled stop at Buzz, a funky spot for wine and beer. They have a tasting license, so we ordered flights of red, white, and beer. I would be driving -- eventually -- so I restrained my sips. Didn't like the Silvaner, thought the three syrahs were all decent, and focused on the beer. These were all 'winter' beers to keep you warm; and warm they were, with ABV's ranging from 9.5% to 13.2%. My fave was the Flying Dog Barrel Aged Gonzo, an imperial porter aged for half a year in Stranahans whiskey barrels. Not strong on the whiskey flavor, which is a good thing, since it's an excellent beer to begin with. It was also the lowest ABV... a mere 9.5%. The ones up around 13% just don't taste like beer any more. Second place goes to Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, perhaps not coincidentally the second lowest ABV, but also a yummy dark Imperial Stout.

Thence to the Crocker Club. It was much as I remembered it. It's loud, all the tables are reserved, the staff is slow, and somehow the whole experience is unwelcoming, starting from the dresscode, that might as well just save time and say, "No ghetto black people."

Finally, to Bäco Mercat, which was chaotic, but pretty fabulous. Everything on the menu seems to be created by spinning the wheels of the exotic foodstuff slot machine:

Pull... [ratchety rackety ratchety]

[clank!] harissa....
[clink!] smoked aioli...
[clunk!] and pickle!

Pull... [ratchety rackety ratchety]

[clank!] muhamara....
[clink!] pickled lemon...
[clunk!] and sumac!

Despite(?) that, everything I tasted was pretty amazing. The staff presents the restaurant as a family style/tapas/sharing sort of place, but many of the items are not really ideal for sharing. But it does work if you really are family (and, oh yes, we are!) and you get your knives, forks, elbows, and toes all digging into the plates. My faves were the duck confit pasta, the spicy chicken baco, the yam, and the tomato flatbread with added porkbelly bacon sausage. I was actually a little disappointed with the porkbelly bacon sausage. I mean those words smashed together like that create an expectation of the best thing ever, when in fact it was merely extremely tasty.
The other fabulous find was my drink, the Inca Punch. Based on pisco, natch, the most interesting ingredient was the chicha morada shrub. I have fond memories of chicha morada (and even plain chicha) from our trip to Peru, so I had to go for this one. The ingredients just went together so well, and at the same time it was so interesting from the more unusual ingredients (which simultaneously were faintly familiar for me).

Through all of this, of course, we gabbled of this and that, and generally enjoyed good company. Yay!

ETA: Oh, I'll add the one important discovery demonstrating the commonality of mankind. Male or female, the license we all indulge in when our partner is away, is to use the bathroom with the door open.

Tokyo Jungle & The Unfinished Swan

Dr. Pookie and I were both intrigued by the idea of Tokyo Jungle. Mankind has vanished, leaving pets and zoo animals to fight to survive in a Tokyo slowly returning to nature. I thought I was gonna like the story mode, because... hey, I like stories. But Story mode was more annoying than enthralling.

Fortunately, Survival Mode turned out to be more interesting. It may seem simple, and it does get a bit repetitive, but it manages to engage your interest on different levels. First you just try to stay alive. Then, you start to notice the little mini-missions that give you some goals to carry out. Then, you start to explore more of the world. Then, you start to get hooked in by 'evolving'. If you complete a particular mission as a dog, then you can come back next time as a dog, and then a wolf, and then a lion, and so on. With more competent animals, you get to see more of the world.

I can imagine getting tired of this before the end, because it does get monotonous at points, but I stuck it out the end. Making the game a super value on the time enjoyably wasted per dollar scale. It was a major title in Japan, but the US port is just $15.

Coincidentally, The Unfinished Swan is also $15, but it's a much faster sprint through to the end. A much kinder, gentler experience, you go about tossing blobs of liquid from your magic paintbrush into a strange world. With such a limited idea, they do manage to squeeze out a number of interesting changes that make it a fun, but not particularly challenging, puzzle. You start off in a world completely white, and the blobs of black ink stain the territory so you can actually see it, and start moving around in your new Jackson Pollocky world. Later, you can see the world, and find new ways to interact. I enjoyed it, especially a few nice details here and there, but I wasn't wowed.