Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Essential Christmas Album Collection

The Meaning of Christmas

This is one of the great Christmas albums of all time. It starts out with the medley "Sing We Now of Christmas" and some of the older re-issues of this album go by that name, but the star of the show is the original version of "The Little Drummer Boy". You probably listened to tunes spun from the vinyl of this LP when you were opening presents under the Christmas Tree when you were a little kid. This album is a re-issue of the original 1959 classic.

This album featuring choral singing backed by orchestra is another must have for the Christmas season. I love the use of some lesser known Christmas songs. It is another old standard and features a great collection of sacred Christmas music that you will spin again and again.

John Rutter is an English composer and conducter of sacred music. He has several Christmas albums and this is his best. It includes most of Rutter's original Christmas compositions and some fresh arrangements of Christmas standards. What makes Rutter great is his ability to bring a contemporary twist yet still have that touch of either mystery or festivity that is the essence of Christmas.

Handel's Messiah is a composition which I have to listen to at least once during the Christmas season, even though only one third of the oratory has to do with the prophecies and events of the Messiah's birth. There are lots of bad Messiah recordings, this is not one of them. The version done by the Academy of St. Martin in the Field is a great recording and one of my favorites.

The late, great Luciano Pavaratti is my favorite tenor. This album is a re-issue from the late 70's. "Uncle Luke's" voice is at it's peak of perfection. This is a wonderful collection of timeless, beautiful songs that capture the meaning of Christmas.

The Spirit of Christmas

Bing Croby, Burl Ives, they are all here. This and the companion CD linked below bring together just about all the Christmas classics that are part of the Great American Songbook. If you are looking for a comprehensive collection of the songs of your childhood Christmas memories, you have found it here. The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas: Christmas Memories

The animated TV perennial. This soundtrack is from was the very first Peanuts inspired seasonal special and is the wonderful. There is something about Charlie Brown's sad Christmas tree and Snoopy's antics along with Linus' reading of the Christmas story that capture the spirit of the season for me. As a bonus Vince Guarali's jazz interpretation of the Peanut's charachters is spot on.

OK, now for a few albums that are newer, but have an earned a place on my must play at Christmas time playlist. My kids introduces my to the music of Sufjan Stevens. He is a multi-instrumentalist minimalist singer song-writer. This 42 track CD is a compilation of Sufjan reinterpretations of Chrismas classics plus new music he sent out starting in 2001 to his friends as a kind of a musical Christmas card.

Maggie, Terry and Suzie Roche are three sisters out of the New York folk season. They used to do an annual Christmas concert at Manhattan's Town Hall. Their tight harmonies and sweet and sassy style are a joy to listen to. I always thought they were one of New York music's best kept secrets. I have enjoyed introducing them and especially their Christmas album to a a lot of different folk over the years.

Why is this one here you might ask? Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses, I Believe in Father Christmas by Gregg Lake, Step Into Christmas by Elton John and Father Christmas by the Kinks, all in place. Lots of Christmas memories from my late 70's early 80's college days. Almost an anthology of Classic Rock Christmas music. If "Do They Know It's Christmas" and "Merry Xmas (The War is Over) were here this would be golden.

Great Deals under $50 at!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Gourmet Boardwalk Food at the Jersey Shore

It may be the new found notoriety of Seaside, but I noticed on a recent trip to the boardwalk that the quality of some of the food stands has moved noticeably higher. Of course the great old favorites are still there such as Maruca's Tomatoe Pies, and Midway Steakhouse, but some pretty interesting eateries have sprung up to compliment the cra
zy boardwalk mix since my last visit.

The first place I visited was Buffie's Baby Burger. The name implies that these burgers are going to be tiny little things. They are small, (about 4 bites or so), but each yummy mouthful will leave you wanting more. The burgers are juicy. They are served on a soft potato roll, topped with sauteed onions and some crunchy bread and butter pickles. Definitely not your usual burger.

Next to Buffie's is a stand serving a treat I thought I would have to drive to New York to try after learning about this street food from
a Bobby Flay Throwdown episode. These are the authentic Liege Wafles (the other Belgium Waffles) served at the Wafles and

Dinges shop. These wafles are different from the Belgium waffles you will find at some of the ice cream stands at the boardwalk. They are made from a yeast batter sweetened with pearl sugar that bursts in your mouth when eaten. Rather than being poured
the waffles are hand pressed into the waffle iron. My wife had hers with the Nutella.

The final new comer to the boardwalk is Bubba's Dog house. What caught my eye for this stand was the advertising of Newark Style hot dogs. My favorite iteration of this kind of dog comes from Jimmy Buff's, so I was interested to see how Bubba's version stacked up. The dog I had was fried as it should be then stuffed into a quality roll with fried potatoes, peppers and onions. Quite a good version of a dog I used to have to travel up north to enjoy.

So there are still a few weeks left to summer and then the best month at the shore, in my opinion, September is still in front of us. Head over to the boardwalk to try some of these gourmet boardwalk treats.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jule's Italian Restaurant: Epic Hospitality and Customer Service

A Wedding Story

Tonight I had one of the most wonderful experiences of hospitality and customer service I have ever had, perhaps in my life. It all started when we began the drive from Point Pleasant, where we had just finished the rehearsal for my daughter's wedding. We were headed to the place in Brick that we had recommended for the out of town groom's parents to arrange the rehearsal dinner. As we were driving, the sky opened up, pelting the area with driving rain and giant hale stones. The already terrible Brick traffic was snarled as the roads flooded. Tornado like winds ripped through Brick and the whole town, as far as we knew, was in darkness, including the traffic lights that under normal circumstances kept the cars crawling through town.

As we were battling this weather to get to the rehearsal dinner spot, the cell phone rings. My daughter is on the phone speaking to her mother who is next to me. I only hear the mother of bride's side of the conversation, but I pick up real quickly that disaster has struck the evening's plans. The place we were headed to was in darkness with the rest of the town. Forty guests are at the spot and have just been told that the event cant' happen because there is no power and they have no idea when the lights will come back on. The bride to be has just informed her mother that we have to come up with plan B and do so quickly. My reflex reaction is "call Jule's". Even though we have only eaten there a few times in the past year, some how I knew from the great service we experienced that Barbara, the owner of Jule's, might be able to pull off a save.

And she chalked up so much more than just a save. In less than a half hour, Barbara had called in extra staff, gotten their private party room ready, and were in the kitchen cooking up a beautiful buffet of their famous antipasto salad, penne vodka, chicken marsala, meatballs and sausage with peppers. The quality and care of each dish were remarkable. What a wonderful restaurant and what a fantastic business person. If I were in the position to hand out rewards, I would give Jule's Italian Restaurant of Toms River, and Barbara a medal for Epic Hospitality and Customer Service. I shall be spending a lot more time at Jule's this coming year.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Great Summer Recipe

If you are a gardener, you are as excited as I am that tomatoes are ripening on the vine and the first of the season are being harvested right now. Here is a great recipe that came across my desk this morning using tomatoes and new potoatoes.--two of the great foods of summer. Looks great, I can't wait to try it. And if you aren't checking out the blog Simply Recipes, give it a read.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Joys of Living at the Jersey Shore

I'm Back

Hey All,

It's summer at the Jersey Shore, my daughter is getting married next week, my youngest child is heading to Ohio for college, and I have finally gone part time at the Hospice. So . . . it's time to start blogging again. Just to whet your appetites . . . I found this interesting recipe for Crock Pot Enchiladas and made them last night. It was very good. My future son-in-law declared them uber healthy. I added shredded chicken left over from the $4.00 roasted chicken from Costco. I would probably use corn tortillas next time, and crumbled a bit of feta cheese on top toward the end of cooking. Enjoy!