In With the Old, In With the New!

Happy New Year Amigos! The start of the new year leads us to pause and reflect on all that we have seen and learned in 2014, and to send a big thanks to all the great folks we have met along the way. What a year it has been! We've got a full calendar coming together for 2015 and we're looking forward to visiting new places, playing new spaces, and stuffing our faces (that's three rhymes in a row) with local culture everywhere we go.

We just closed out a glorious week in sunny California, where a recording session, fun shows in Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco, a visit to Sammy Squeeze's alma mater, and spicy burrito and Chinese food explorations combined into an action packed adventure.

Tiny Telephone Studios in the Mission is larger than their name implies. Founded by indie-music icon John Vanderslice, this beautiful and colorful maze of rooms is a vintage audio play land. It was the perfect place for the Amigos to get loose and creative. Recording directly to tape (like so many of our heroes) and armed with strange, space-age instruments and amplifiers, we spent three fun-filled days with engineer Rob Shelton and Marvin the studio cat, setting the stage for some new, rockin' tracks to be released in 2015.

Marvin the studio cat from Tiny Telephone Studios naps on a vintage console from the BBC.

Marvin the studio cat from Tiny Telephone Studios naps on a vintage console from the BBC.

Recording is a time and energy consuming process, and all those spicy new tracks got us pretty hungry. The Bay Area is host to all kinds of ethnic cuisines, and we were ready to explore. With so many memories of Chinese feasts from our state department tour, we came in to San Francisco's famed Chinatown looking for the best of the best. The local recommendation was Z and Y Restaurant. As soon as we entered the small, cozy restaurant, the smells of Sichuan cooking held us in eager anticipation. Each Amigo chose a dish to share with the table, taking care to ensure we had enough of the unique tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns to go around. We needn't have worried. The folks at Z and Y make sure you get maximum mouth-numbing with each dish. After a plate of tasty steamed pork dumplings ordered by Amigo Noah, we were greeted by a pile of delicious garlicky green beans loaded with Sichuan peppercorns. These crispy, pan fried beans were a highlight of the meal. Tongues numbed with the tingling citrusy glow of the peppercorns, we were ready for our main courses. First came Spicy Lamb with Flaming Chili Oil. Generous strips of lamb, bursting with cumin flavor came with cabbage underneath a sea of fiery red chili oil, turning our plates into moats of lava. This dish was a solid gold hit. Next came Ma-Po Tofu with Pork, easily the spiciest dish, with silky tofu melting in our mouths. Our final dish was the chef's suggestion of Chicken with Explosive Chili Pepper. The name says it all. Crispy, golden chunks of chicken came buried under a landslide of dried chili peppers. Armed with forks and spoons, we were on a culinary treasure hunt. Though the giant bowl contained precious few chicken pieces, the intense, spicy flavor was well worth it, and caused us to empty any remaining Tsing-Tao beers.

Spicy Special Rating: Highly Recommended

Spicy Times at Z and Y Restaurant. Photo by Toby Silverman.

Spicy Times at Z and Y Restaurant. Photo by Toby Silverman.

Explosive Excavation

Explosive Excavation

After a mandatory cat nap, we rode off for our annual performance at the lrgrndary Last Gasp Books headquarters. Equal parts underground comix publishing house and oddity museum, Last Gasp is a counter-culture landmark, with enough unique memorobilia to give Ripley's Belive It or Not! a run for their money.

It would be a while before we would work up a good appetite, but the following day found us searching for a top-notch burrito. Taqueria Guadalajara in the Mission immediately overwhelmed us with a variety of housemade salsas and hot pickled vegetables. The local recommendation was the Super Shrimp Burrito. Refried beans, avocado, and tasty-lime flavored shrimp built a perfect platform for sampling a variety of salsas. The green salsa proved to be a perfect pairing, but our lust for adventure brought out the tangy, mind-meltingly hot habanero for the last few bites, capping off a great meal and another great trip to the Bay area.

Spicy Special Rating: The Sauce is Boss

Taqueria Guadalajara's Super Shrimp Burrito with a palette of sauce options.

Taqueria Guadalajara's Super Shrimp Burrito with a palette of sauce options.

Hope your new year is full of spicy offerings. We'll see you soon!

The Amigos