East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Summertime in the SLC, part 5

I've run out of things to say about statistics, so let's get back to movies:

Indigènes (Days of Glory) (Rachid Bouchareb, 2006)

SLC Film Center screening at the Rose Wanger Center. The setup isn't formulaic, since it's unprecedented, but it is by the book: contrasting Algerians enlist in the French army in 1943 and live, kill and/or die together. In the key role of the literate corporal who believes in the Solidarity of Oppressed Peoples~! (and takes an awfully long time to get in trouble for it), Sami Bouajila is thoughtful and passionate enough to hold the movie together. Roschdy Zem is the marksman who falls for a French girl, while Jamel Debbouze, as the kid who tells his mother it's his duty to fight, seems too sentimental until he lashes out. The execution is almost as good as in Letters from Iwo Jima, and the ideas go beyond pondering the foreign (though Aurélie Eltvedt, as the woman from Provence, is cleverly made to seem exotic). Those about race are straightforward but telling, though the unfair treatment of the enlisted seems less because of their race than because officers always take credit for their soldiers putting their lives at risk. Those about nation are trickier, as patriotism gets conflated with a bunch of more noble motives. A MINUS


I'd been enjoying complimentary Polygamy Porters all week: solid, workmanlike beers limited by their low alcohol content. After seeing Indigènes, I headed across the road to Squatters to taste the beer from the source. Tried the Full Suspension Pale Ale on hand pump. Doubt it would've been anything out of the ordinary in a bottle, maybe not even on regular tap, but from the cask it was in exceptionally good condition, up with the freshest tasting beer I've ever had. Didn't try the food; I will if I ever make it back to SLC.

Crown Burger

On paper, a burger with both ground beef and pastrami is a cute idea. But a huge pile of pastrami thrown on top of the patty? On the one hand, my Brazilian friend G-Roc loved it. Me, maybe I'm a wuss, but I found it unappetising: that's more red meat than I eat most weeks. The pastrami was tasty, but that just emphasised the tastelessness of the ground beef. Fries were of typical dive quality.

You do have to come here once, because you know, fry sauce.

Market Street Grill University

A/K/A The Broiler. This was our splurge meal in SLC, though we could still only afford the Early Bird Special. Food was very good and fresh if lacking in character. Even the smallest touches seemed designed for the mainstream palette: curly parsley instead of Italian; a wine list filled with big names (i.e. wineries I'd heard of); Haagen-Daas for dessert. So perhaps it's not surprising that the best thing I had was their boiled potatoes, followed by their clam chowder. I asked for my broiled Alaskan halibut to be slightly undercooked, which meant it wasn't overcooked. I was reasonably happy with what our $29 each got us, and note thankfully my server was no less enthusiastic for my wearing a T-shirt.

Red Iguana

Everyone says this is one of the best restaurants in SLC. Everyone is right. From the something-for-everyone menu, I chose the puntas de filete a la Nortena. The shreds of sirloin (with a few bacon bits) were reasonably scrumptious, but the secret is in the sauce - the almond mole was outstandingly complex; couldn't quite tell what else was in it. (Ginger, maybe?) Add crispy fried chips, tasty tortillas and functional refried beans, and you see why the walls are lined with awards. I regret only that they have many dishes I want to try and will never get to.


The ride home:

Waited around at the station among thinning patience for over four hours. The train was supposed to leave SLC at 11:30 pm; it finally chugged off at 3:20 am. Most touching scene was a young couple sharing their smokes with an older woman; in turn she gave them some of her meds. On the train, they started running out of food before Winnemucca, and this time I wasn't prepared. First they ran out of Crystal Geyser, meaning I had to drink the emergency-grade Kansan bottled water, but at least this was complimentary. For lunch I bought instant ramen from the snack car, which even by the hardly sky-high standards of instant ramen was pretty bad - and I was still glad I had nabbed the last pack.

For afternoon tea I bought Doritos for the first time in months; this was sadly the culinary high point of my ride. Finally for dinner, we were handed snack packs, which contained, in order from worst to far beyond worst: Kansan bottled water; stale crackers; a packet of chunks which looked like dried fruit and tasted like damp sugar; something which a blind person with no taste buds might suggest had a passing resemblance to a brownie; and a goo that would give pseudo-cheese a bad name, so let's call it pseudo-pseudo-cheese. When the train finally arrived in Emeryville at 10:30 pm, three hours late, I had to negotiate the bus ride through West Oakland (featuring a couple who were very grateful that the cops had let one of them out of handcuffs moments earlier) before having the best bowl of oatmeal of my life.

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