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Friday, June 30, 2017


The Brew Project/ San Diego

GUEST BLOG / By Mike Shess, Publisher, West Coaster craft beer website and print magazine.
Once a year, usually in the Fall, as in 2016, West Coaster craft beer website and print magazine publishes the results of its Readers’ Poll.  Publisher Mike Shess and Editor Ryan Lamb ask readers to vote for their favorites among the following categories:
         Best San Diego Beer
         Best San Diego Brewery
         Best Brewmaster
         Best Brew Pub
         Best Homebrewer
         Best Tasting Room
         Best New Beer Spot
         Best Beer Bar
         Best Beer Restaurant
         Best San Diego IPA
         Best Beer Region within San Diego County
         Best Beer Festival
         Best Bottleshop
         Best Beer Selection
         Most Underrated Brewery

Best Beer Selection
Tap Rotation: Brew Project
Touting itself as a brewery tour under one roof, The Brew Project has demonstrated a firm commitment to showcasing San Diego Beer. Tap handles from the delicious but seldom-seen Breakwater Brewing Co., newcomer Bay City Brewing Co. and established Green Flash were found on tap at time of press. “We’re proud to have had over 105 different San Diego breweries on tap,” says publican Beau Schmitt. For the full experience of what this cool spot can offer, take a look at the recently-launched Boilermaker Program, which connects local beers and spirits with regular food pairings.


Thursday, June 29, 2017


CHOP TALK—Perry’s Steakhouse in Austin Texas serves a three-deck pork chop thick as a Henry James novel.


GUEST BLOG / by Eric Peterson--Let’s just say that one of us overestimated how many Juicy Couture sweatshirts, Papaya print chiffon tank tops, Abercrombie jackets, and pairs of ASICS running shoes and Lucchese boots would fit into a rented Lincoln Navigator—that is, after the flat-screen TV, computer monitor, bedding, and framed horse pictures had already been loaded.

The happy result? I’d have company on my road trip. 

It was Memorial Day Weekend, and my daughter Caroline was relocating from Austin, Texas, to San Francisco. The obvious solution to our dilemma was that Caroline would follow me, her father, in a second, equally jam-packed SUV.

Four days on the road with my precious, 26-year-old daughter. Heaven. But the prospect of embarking on a road trip always engenders a certain amount of apprehension. I’m convinced it’s in our genetic makeup—residual atoms from ancestral pioneers who crossed the untamed West in covered wagons. 

Caroline and I would be spared the perils of prairie fires and marauding Indians, but traveling through four western states, we faced savagery of a different sort: gas station restrooms, two- and three-star low-rise hotels, and a plethora of casual dining restaurants.

On our last night in Austin, leery of meals to come, I steeled myself with a Perry’s Steakhouse pork chop. Thick as a Henry James novel, with three ribs protruding from the top of the chop and a slice of tenderloin they call an “eyelash” served on the side, a pork chop at Perry’s will have you raising your hands and singing hosanna. This moist, buttery, decadently fatty interpretation of “the other white meat”—each bite loaded with notes of smoke and bacon—is Perry’s signature entrée for good reason.

The highways of Texas are a joy to travel. The smooth, spit-shined asphalt surfaces put California’s potholed freeways to shame. The posted speed limits of 75 mph mean you can safely cruise at 80, and my Lincoln Navigator was up to the task. Its acceleration was impressive; its air conditioning robust. 

The soft leather appointments of the cabin enveloped me in a cocoon of quiet luxury, and the Sirius satellite radio served up a seamless selection of uplifting country music. Passing trucks, I relished seeing the Navigator’s LED turn signals as they flashed on the side mirrors—like a police cruiser.
For the record, the ‘80s-era Lincoln Town Car still stands today as the best road-trip automobile ever made. Nothing facilitated a weekend screamer like tooling around in a big, stinkin’, rented Lincoln—some of those weekends are among the better memories of my early adulthood, but mention Phoenix, Arizona, to me and I will deny ever having set foot in the place. Mention it twice and my lawyers will sue you for libel.

By the time Caroline and I reached Lubbock, Texas, night had fallen. Exhausted and hungry, we checked in to the Hilton Garden Inn. For spaciousness, comfort, and cleanliness, our rooms at this hotel rivaled any of their big-city, high-rise cousins. The hotel’s glittering lobby was stunning, and the staff of leggy, impeccably tailored Lone-Star brunettes who welcomed us—well, in my next life I hope to come back a Texan.

We settled for a late dinner at a nearby sports bar. The bright overhead lighting, the banks of buzzing TVs, the multicolored menus with their pages stiff and glossy as children’s storybooks, the bar tops tacky as glue traps—it was like eating in a nursery school. The chicken piccata came out defrosted, microwaved, and solidly breaded. 

Even the garden salad tasted like Chicken McNuggets.
The next day, we caught Highway 40, a route that parallels active railroad tracks. Mile-long freight trains came in scores, gifts from a munificent God. In Albuquerque we met Caroline’s sister, Katie, and Katie’s fiancé, Lucas, for dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Both girls ate sensibly. I, on the other hand, flouted cirrhosis of the liver and coronary artery disease by matching Lucas in a wild carnival of gluttony: a slew of Manhattans followed by too much red wine, calamari with spicy Asian chili sauce, a bone-in New York strip, and a fully loaded baked potato. Did I mention that I love my future son-in-law? That night I slept well, certain I could make San Francisco by living off my body fat.

Monday was a long day of driving for Caroline and me—10 hours. In Flagstaff, Caroline found an elegant workaround to fast-casual dining: she led us to a Whole Foods Market, where I soothed the jackhammering in my head with a 750 ml bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water and two slices of a thin-crust vegetarian pizza.

On the last morning of our trip, leaving Barstow, California, passing through the Mojave Desert, I suffered a shock: it seemed Southern California was being overrun by an army of colossal robots from outer space. On closer inspection, these gargantuan beings were horizontal-axis wind turbines, arranged in hideous Orwellian eyesores euphemistically called “wind farms.” I am convinced these blots on Mother Nature’s splendor will be the bane of our generation. And as far as I could tell, only about one in ten was turning. What’s with that? And who will dismantle these monstrosities when mankind comes to its senses?

Like most road trips, this one ended too soon. Crossing the newish Bay Bridge into San Francisco, I panicked as I realized I’d have to return my Lincoln Navigator to the car attendants at AVIS. I’d become attached to this big black truck the way a cowboy ranging over four states might grow fond of his horse, and now I had to shoot it.

Caroline and I finished our trip on a high note: dinner at Tadich
Grill, San Francisco’s oldest restaurant, that landmark spot in the Financial District where my father and grandfather once dined. I had successfully delivered Caroline home—home to the site of her first job out of college, home to that bone-chilling summer fog, home to that bustling, Bohemian, disgraceful city by the bay.
HIGH NOTE--San Francisco’s Tadich Grill was the perfect dinner stop after a father-daughter road trip covering four states.
At our table near Tadich’s busy kitchen, I mopped my melancholy with chunks of garlic toast dipped in the simmering tomato sauce of a seafood cioppino, knowing that our father-daughter road trip was one for the ages, thinking that in an era of flying, self-piloted cars, when cancer and heart disease are cured by a simple pill, when a technology called Hyperloop is moving people from place to place at 4,000 mph, Caroline can tell her grandchildren that she once drove from Texas to California with her old man. In those days, she’ll tell them, you had to stay awake and steer your own car, which traveled strictly on the ground. The journey took four grueling days.  


Eric Peterson is the author of  The Dining Car, a contemporary novel about a former college football player who enlists as bartender and personal valet to a curmudgeonly food writer and social critic who travels the country by private railroad car.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


GUEST BLOG / By David Neld, Nature Neuroscience--We now know much more about when we dream, the parts of the brain involved, and what we dream about, thanks to new research – and experts say it's one of the most important studies ever published on dreaming.
Not only does the research give us a better understanding of how and when we dream, it could lead to ways of inducing sleep and even manipulating dreams, for those who struggle with nightmares and insomnia.
Scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison identified a new "hot zone" of electrical activity in the brain that indicates dreaming, and showed that much of our dreaming happens outside REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, even if we can't remember our dreams when we wake up.
What's more, the study showed that areas of the brain we use when we're awake can also take on the same tasks when we're sleeping – tasks like recognising faces in dreamland.
“We were able to compare what changes in the brain when we are conscious, that is, when we are dreaming, compared when we are unconscious, during the same behavioural state of sleep," says one of the researchers, psychiatrist Giulio Tononi.
"In this way we could zoom in on the brain regions that truly matter for consciousness and avoid confounding factors having to do with being awake rather than asleep or anaesthetized."
A total of 46 volunteers were recruited for the study, sleeping in the Wisconsin Institute of Sleep and Consciousness (WISC) lab and wearing caps with 256 electrodes to measure brain and facial activity. At various points the participants were woken up and asked about their dreams.
One experiment spotted changes in activity during dreaming in a region at the back of the brain that the researchers called the 'posterior cortical hot zone', which usually helps our brains process visuals and integrate our senses.
The same pattern of activity was seen during REM and non-REM sleep, no matter what the rest of the brain was doing – it's "a signature of the dreaming brain", researcher Francesca Siclari told Nicola Davis at The Guardian.
By monitoring this 'hot zone' and then waking the participants up, the team was able to accurately predict whether the volunteers were dreaming 87 percent of the time.
Up until now, scientists haven't been able to find tell-tale signs of non-REM dreaming, and there have been doubts that it's even happening at all. Are our non-REM dreams just memories of dreams during REM sleep?
The new research suggests not, and based on the responses of the study volunteers, we're still doing plenty of dreaming during our shut-eye even if we don't remember everything when we wake up.
Another experiment looked at the content of dreams, and researchers were able to link brain activity happening during dreams with similar brain activity that happens when we're not asleep, such as parts of the brain used for facial recognition.
"This suggests that dreams recruit the same brain regions as experiences in wakefulness for specific contents," says Siclari.
"This also indicates that dreams are experiences that truly occur during wakefulness, and that they are not 'inventions' or 'confabulations' that we make up while we wake up."
The experiments also linked greater activity in the prefrontal cortex during dreaming – the part of the brain associated with memory – and a better recall of those dreams.
"Maybe the dreaming brain and the waking brain are much more similar than one imagined," adds Siclari.
While we're still a long way from being able to manipulate our dreams Inception-style, the research teaches us a lot about dreaming: such as how only a small area of the brain is needed to generate dreams that feel like consciousness.
Many future studies can now be based on this work, the researchers say, such as further investigations into whether we dream in order to process the memories of the day.
Christoph Nissen, from University Psychiatric Services in Switzerland, wasn't involved in the study but told Chelsea Whyte at New Scientist that this new brain map could open up ways of modulating sleep, perhaps to suppress nightmares for people with PTSD or to treat insomnia.
Meanwhile, other experts have been quick to praise the researchers' work.
"The importance beyond the article is really quite astounding," Mark Blagrove of Swansea University's sleep lab, who wasn't involved in the research, told The Guardian.
"It is comparable really to the discovery of REM sleep and in some respects it is even more important."
The research has been published in Nature Neuroscience.