Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Blogs: The Dark Corners Edition

A really interesting bunch of new blogs to add: Urban Adventures, Rookie and Gone, a trio of urban explorers who post photos and reports from their adventures poking about in some of Manchester's dark corners, high roosts and forgotten buildings, getting a look at the places most people don't go. The photo above is from Jim Gillette's trip to the 5th Avenue Culvert on the Medlock in Central Manchester - a place many of us have probably passed over countless times without being aware of its existence. And they take their photography as seriously as their exploration; the resulting pictures are beautiful.

East Angles is Manchester journalist Ben East's blog about all things cultural. Dead Rabbit is artist Naomi Kendrick's blog about multisensory participatory art. Bren O'Callaghan blogs about film, digital art, media, culture and various other things.

Hey, some new music blogs: Pigeon Post and For Folk's Sake. On the latter blog you can read about Single Cell Collective's monthlong programme at Zion Arts Centre in Hulme, Finding Zion, which runs from 27 Feb - 26 March and features all manner of cultural goodies from mass bike rides, music and food.

There's a new hyperlocal blog for Saddleworth, Saddleworth News.

A few new personal blogs: Two Hour Lunch , The Tea Shop Diaries, The Book of Scrap

Some new writers' blogs: Sian Cummins and Andrew Beswick's Moon Printed Shadows. And Your Call is Very Important to Us, featuring the amusing email correspondence of Martin T.R. Higgins and Richard V. Hirst.

A photo blog, Percy Dean

New tech blogs: Tom Mason's SEO Manchester and the I-COM blog

And last but not least, the menswear fashion blog Style Salvage, which is one-half based in Manchester so we can include it here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gigs: Jesca Hoop and Jonatha Brooke

Tonight Jesca Hoop (above) is playing at the Deaf Institute. A few months back I heard a track from her recently released second album on the possibly endangered 6Music (BBC: so, so wrong) and loved it enough to get her amazing first album, Kismet. It's hard to describe her songs - quirky, funky, folky but very personal, and she's got a killer voice. Turns out she moved from California to Manchester last year at the urging of her friends in Elbow. Yay! I'll be looking for other chances to catch her playing her hometown.

Another amazing folksinging lady and one with a voice that's equally unique: Jonatha Brooke is coming to Band on the Wall on Feb 20. Her old band, The Story, released a couple of great albums back in the early nineties and disappeared, but Jonatha's been doing some quality solo stuff since then. Should be a good gig.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Seoul Kimchi and Bubble Cafe

Where can you get the best dumplings in Manchester? Until recently the answer to that question would have been easy: Red Chilli, where the Beijing dumplings have long reigned supreme. But a new contender has emerged: Seoul Kimchi, a tiny grocery and restaurant on Upper Brook Street that serves up Korean home cooking. Many of the Asian restaurants in Manchester don't bother to make their own dumplings and seem content to serve frozen ones shipped from thousands of miles away. So the gyoza at Seoul Kimchi are a revelation: crisp on the outside, bursting with flavour inside, you can tell from the first bite that they're the real thing.

The japchae, a fried noodle dish, and bibimbap, a rice-based dish, were also excellent. Don't leave without sampling the kimchi, the spicy pickled cabbage that Koreans eat with practically everything. And there are lots of choices for veggies. It's nice to finally have an alternative to Koreana, which is much more formal (and more expensive). Unfortunately Upper Brook Street isn't really convenient to anywhere, but you can take the 50 bus right there from Spring Gardens. There are only three or four tables, and if it's full, well, Red Chilli have opened a new location nearby on Oxford Road.

These are good times to be a foodie in Manchester. We may not have any Michelin-starred restaurants, but on the casual/ethnic side we're doing pretty well. During my time living in New York I got swept into the city's amazing foodie subculture. There are thousands of people who comb the five boroughs for the ultimate felafel, soba noodles or corned beef hash, and cultishly track the movements of favourite street food vendors on Chowhound ("The Arepa Lady is back on Roosevelt Ave!") One of my favourite foodie haunts was Sau Voi Corp, a Vietnamese record store on Lafayette Street in Chinatown with a lucrative sideline in banh mi, unbelievably addictive Vietnamese sandwiches filled with meat and veggies.

When I moved here seven years ago, not being able to get banh mi in Manchester got me down; it was like some kind of litmus test. Well, I'm happy to report that you can now get these sandwiches here. The recently opened Bubble Cafe on Portland Street sells bubble iced tea and a selection of Vietnamese snacks including pho, noodle soup and banh mi sandwiches (Bubble's Sandwich). On the day I went, they were out of pate, a grievous omission, but the baguette had ham, sliced pork, grated carrot and coriander. Instead of the usual sweet and spicy sauce, though, it was topped with some kind of weird mayonaise - not an improvement. Still, it was good, and at £3.80 for a giant sandwich it's a solid lunch option.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Factory seconds

So Peter Hook's Factory-themed nightclub, FAC251, opens tonight. Whoop-dee-doo.

Sure, everyone's entitled to their own nostalgia trips, but this particular one has been rammed down our throats for the last 20 years. And I'm not even one of these hippersnappers that utterly scorns the music that came out of that scene. Yeah, I decorated my teenage walls with Peter Saville album cover postcards and still consider most of it great music (Happy Mondays, though... I think maybe you had to be there and on those drugs). But enough already. I've got chronic Factory fatigue.

And I know I'm not alone. Check out Tony Naylor's exasperated, well-argued post on Guardian Music Blog, and this post on Words Dept., which is where I found out about the brilliantly vitriolic FUC51. They're also on Twitter. Anyone considering going along to the opening tonight should check out their blog for an eye-opening Youtube preview of what's likely to be on tap.

Maybe it's time for us to move on and show some love for the great new music coming out of Manchester? It'd be interesting if this club actually did that, but I'm not holding out much hope after checking out their website. Too much grandstanding and too much Rowetta. There's something depressing about watching the Factory folk shamelessly attempting to cash in over and over again, with books, reality show slots, second-rate reunion gigs, crap DJ sets and now this. I ask you: Can officially merchandised Joy Division oven gloves be far away?