Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Here is a link to a collection of pictures that I've taken of Bill while we were on assignment for the Kalamazoo Gazette. Click the link below the image of William R. Wood that he called "Silly Billy."


William R. Wood 1957-2012

William R. Wood passed away peacefully at home early this morning, June 26, 2012. He was with his wife, Linda S. Mah, who says she will let his many friends know about plans for a service as soon as they're made. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill's family.

As soon as details are available, we'll post them both here on Bill's "Riffs on the Good Life" and on his "Bill Wood" Facebook page.

Please feel free to post comments about Bill on this blog and on Facebook.

- Bradley S. Pines

William R. Wood and his wife, Linda S. Mah, smile on May 17 as they are awarded the Tony Griffin Golden Word Award by InterComm during a ceremony at Western Michigan University. (John A. Lacko / Lackophoto.com)

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Gilmore 2012: Christian Sands, Ran Blake

by William R. Wood
Minister of Culture

“Left hand, right hand, here we go,” began Christian Sands as he started the noon series at the Civic Auditorium as part of the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo, Michigan on April 30.

Christian Sands performs in the Civic Auditorium. CLICK TO ENLARGE (Bradley S. Pines)

Sand’s work was accessible, invigorating and he played many bouncy blues numbers.
He began with “If You Like Me, You Can Take Me Home.”
Christian Sands smiles while signing CDs.
“I’m a kid,” he said before playing renditions from kids’ shows, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and a fanciful version of the theme from “The Flintstones.”
Ran Blake salutes Kalamazoo's Abbey Lincoln. (Bradley S. Pines)
Ran Blake performed “Nothing But the Truth: Throw it Away, A Tribute to Abby Lincoln at 2 p.m. in the Wellspring Theater in downtown Kalamazoo’s Epic Center. It was quite a contrast to Sand’s concert, as the venue was far more intimate, made more so by the dark, moody lighting and aggressive dynamics. 
Blake played a series of interpretations of Kalamazoo’s own blues legend Abbey Lincoln’s work, including a finale of a song Lincoln wrote in honor of her mother.

To see a few more images from these concerts, please visit Bradley S. Pines’ gallery:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Concert review: Gretchen Parlato in Kalamazoo, Michigan

by William R. Wood
Kalamazoo Minister of Culture

Mood. Passion. Sensuality. Color.
Words came to the lips fast with the appearance of Gretchen Parlato on Friday, April 13, for her second show in the Epic Centre in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The first thing that I heard from someone leaving following the show was that Parlato’s music was fascinating.
Our friend asked the departing guest to describe her style in one word. “Ethereal,” she replied. “Smooth,” he offered and “deep” another patron said.
“A lot of people aren’t going to go for her work,” said Steve Zegree, a Western Michigan University music professor and director of the school’s performance group The Gold Company.  “But she has her own thing,” he said after he brought 40 students to that night’s performance.
We were sitting there taking in something totally different and that’s where the CD helps, it sounds exactly like the concert. Her third CD is called “the lost and found” and released by ObliqSound GMBH.
My friend Harvey sat in his chair determined to call the music ‘smooth jazz,’ but the drummer was hitting hard, the piano was intellectual, the bass had deep soul and the lyrics were cryptic. They are reproduced in the CD’s liner notes. They sounded like Michael Franks’ due to her talk/singing style.
Pick up this CD, “the lost and found” as soon as you can, it’s simply beguiling.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Cardosa family: From hands to heart

This story was written and photographed by my longtime friend and colleague Bradley S. Pines and has never been posted online. I attended the initial tasting of pan tacos in the home of Alano Cardosa and found the food irresistible. - William R. Wood

Text and photography by Bradley S. Pines

A love of food and family recipes are often handed down from one generation to another. This is certainly true for longtime foodie Alano Cardosa and his son, Evan Cardosa, both of Portage, Mich.
"What passes though my hands comes from my heart," said Alano Cardosa, right, as his son, Evan, fills a deep fried pãn taco with home-made fillings in his father's Portage, Mich., kitchen. 
“Evan was raised in the kitchen,” said Alano Cardosa while his son prepared a sample dish during a recent press preview of the pair’s latest kitchen collaboration, the pãn taco. Pãn is the spanish word for bread. Instead of a thin taco shell, the home-made fillings are placed into a bread taco, which has been deep fried. The pãn tacos have been baked fresh by La Azteca Bakery, 1938 Portage St. in Kalamazoo.
They are filled with fresh ingredients cooked with family recipes, including one for refried beans handed down from Alano Cardosa’s mother, and accompanied with sides like a bright, lightly fried Spanish rice which includes sazon spice seasoning.
Deep fried pãn tacos are filled with a slow-cooked cut of beef, blended with toasted and ground cumin and black peppercorn, lime, onion, cold cabbage, salt, pepper cilantro, diced red tomato, chopped avocado salad and topped with queso fresco cheese.
“It’s street food,” explains Alano Cardosa, who says he discovered the dish served in Progreso, Mexico in the Rio Grande River valley while visiting family there. Their carne, or meat, version features a slow-cooked cut of beef, blended with toasted and ground cumin and black peppercorn, lime, onion, cold cabbage, salt, pepper, cilanto, diced red tomato, chopped avocado salad and topped with queso fresco cheese.
It’s a business project for Evan Cardosa, 24, who works full time as a line cook at Sandhill Cafe in Gun Lake Casino. After working a Friday night shift in the kitchen, he’s planning to rise early to cook pãn tacos to sell at the Kalamazoo Winter Market, 1157 Bank St., open on Saturdays from 8-1. 
Evan Cardosa deep fries a pãn taco, a roll fresh baked by La Azteca Bakery, and then fills it with fresh ingredients cooked with a family recipe in his father's Portage, Mich., kitchen.
While Alano Cardosa is busy full time running his Alano Salon at 1923 W. Centre Ave. in Portage, he will continue to offer recipes and advice, much as he did when Evan Cardosa ran the food operations of a number of local coffee shops. “The reception was excellent,” said Evan, following the Jan. 14 debut of breakfast and lunch versions of pãn  taco at the Winter Market. 
“What passes through my hands comes from my heart,” said Alano Cardosa, after passing down his love for food and family recipes to his son, Evan. As well as continuing to sell at the Kalamazoo Winter Market, the father-and-son team plan to offer pãn tacos to catering customers and perhaps open a small eatery in the future.

Zooroona bakes its own pita

Text by William R. Wood
Minister of Culture
Photography by Bradley S. Pines

Zooroona, a newer Middle-Eastern restaurant in the Tiffany’s Village shopping center at 1710 West Main Street in Kalamazoo, Mich., is now making its own pita bread. 
That’s makes the restaurant one of the few Arabic eateries in Kalamazoo to take a such a fresh basic and healthy approach to its food.
Fresh baked pita at Zooroona. (Click to enlarge)
Habib Mandwee
The pita is best eaten at the restaurant, where it is served hot and golden in a basket with sides of hummus and extra virgin olive oil. You can really taste the softness of the texture and care that went into the baking of the pita. "We do everything natural here, (pita) is very basic to us," said Habib Mandwee, co-owner of Zooroona. 
Kafa Kobob ($13.50) with beef and lamb.
The Kafta Kabob, served in a combination of beef and lamb is grilled on skewers, has turned out to be the top selling dish at Zoorona. The meat is tender and the char really adds to the flavor. The rice is extra sweet, and has a garnish of raisins, and the golden color reflects the saffron used as a spice. Grilled tomato, onion and pepper round out the presentation. 
Spicy Egyptian Falafel from a home recipe.
About every Middle Eastern restaurant offers their version of falafel. At Zoorona, there’s a choice, regular and Spicy Egyptian. The spicy version is a rare treat. Developed from a chef’s home recipe, it gets its heat from jalapeno, mixed with the fava beans, garlic, cumin, cilantro, and black pepper.
Zooroona has become one of my favorite places for both lunch and dinner.
Zooroona is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on Sunday noon to 9 p.m. It is closed on Monday.
For a full picture gallery of images, please see Bradley S. Pines’ web site at smugmug.com:

Friday, March 23, 2012

CD Review: Conversations with Christian by Christian McBride

"Stank!" jazz bassist Christian McBride cries as he accompanies Gina Gershan on Jew’s harp on his new CD, “Conversations with Christian.”
“I ain’t never heard no funky Jew’s harp before,” he said on the CD.
McBride, who played in Kalamazoo, Mich., last fall, may be more prolific than you think. Not only did he create a CD of his compositions in big band form last fall with his release, “The Good Feeling,”  he soon followed that with this star-filled CD of duets, “Conversations.” Each artist has his or her own style and plays individually with McBride.
The artists include Sting on vocals, Chic Corea on piano, Dr. Billy Taylor on piano, Dee Dee Bridgewater on vocals, Regina Carter on violin, Angelique Kidjo on vocals, Hank Jones on piano, George Duke on piano, Ron Blake on sax, Eddie Palmieri on piano and Russell Malone on guitar.
Since bass players perform with many different musicians, they cover great musical territory during work and this CD shows the pop cross currents that McBride has been exposed to.
It starts off briskly with Kudjo’s “Afirika” and Sting is a later highlight in “Consider Me Gone.” “Conversations with Christian” is passionate, focused jazz.

CD Review: Radio Music Society by Esperanza Spalding

Come join Esperanza Salding’s ride to stardom.
With her new CD, “Radio Music Society,” a CD/DVD combination, it is easy to see why she won a 2011 Grammy as the year’s best New Artist. 
Spalding, a jazz bass player, is the complete package. She is talented, full of personality, slender and attractive, and the camera loves her. Creating a DVD was an excellent decision as she is best appreciated seen, not just heard. 
“Radio Music Society” features her handsome bass and delicate voice. She has a creativity that can not be denied. But I’m still waiting for a hit single.

Martini's special: The more you chew, the better it gets

Chef Marlon Manty, of Martini's, created this baby arugula salad with roasted asparagus and mushrooms with procuitto toast and egg as a $9 special. Chef Mandy is planning a new spring menu at Martini's, 832 S. Westnedge Ave. in Kalalmazoo, Mich. (Bradley S. Pines / bspines@gmail.com ©2012)
Is it finger food, or is it salad?
It’s really both as Chef Marlon Manty combines lettuce, chopped egg, asparagus, and a giant triangular crouton grilled with fancy Speck ham. The more you chew the Speck, the better it gets. The crumbled hard-boiled egg, about one-third of a whole egg, added richness.
The dish was a special at Martini’s, 832 S. Westnedge Ave., in Kalamazoo, Mich., yesterday. Manty is creating a new spring menu. If you haven’t been to Martini’s in a while, there’s a great excuse to visit. 
Manty is an old-school chef, eschewing both an email account and a cell phone. said, “I just work with fire and knives.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A surprise dance, a night to remember

The dance seemed to go on forever.
That was a good thing. How often do you get a belly dance with your meal, from the chef?

I shake my feathers as Chef Channon Mondoux shakes everything else.
(Photos by Mark Bugnaski)
About 20 local chefs and volunteers threw a retirement party for me on Feb. 19 at BraVo! Restaurant and Cafe in Kalamazoo. 
I was showered with hugs. It’s just amazing that people can have fond memories of me like that. There were more than 200 people there.
Beyond all of the great food, a belly dance by a local chef, culinary educator and historian, Channon Mondoux, provided the highlight of the evening. 
The chefs sat me in a chair, and I thought, “What’s going on?” as they dressed me in an Arabian hat and cape, and beckoned me to watch the dance. Wow, Chef Mondoux. 
The aromas were incredible as meats were grilled in the rear of the restaurant. Pickles were homemade by Billy Sutcliff, of Cafe 237 in Paw Paw, himself another stage-4 cancer survivor. His ham, in proscuitto form, had been curing for months at his restaurant, reserved for such a special occasion. Most chefs prepared more than 150 portions. I was overjoyed and impressed. 

 I had spent 23 years trying to share the lives of local chefs with the community. The party was a reminder of that. The chefs had made many of the foods I had highlighted in stories in the paper. I was the center of attention, so I didn’t get the chance to taste much of the food. My family got to see that I had become a success, and that I wasn’t just the weird one. I was always the weird cousin, talking about news and different foods. I saw that people really respected me. Their generosity was stunning.

What people didn’t know was that a life and death drama was going on at my home that night. The family cat, Bob, had a potentially fatal urinary blockage. Bob had to be taken to the pet emergency hospital that night. Half of the family was at the party with me and half was at the pet hospital. Bob survived. I call him “The Thousand Dollar Cat.” 

Here’s a link to John A. Lacko’s gallery of images from the party:

Here’s a link to Mark Bugnaski’s Facebook gallery of images from the party:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Meet Bill Wood, Kalamazoo's Minister of Culture

Now may be the time to admit that I had one of the coolest, most-envied jobs at The Kalamazoo Gazette for 23 years. The work offered a great opportunity to get to know chefs and to share their lives with our readers. You will get the chance to read more about them and their culinary creations here on Riffs on the Good Life. I also wrote about other aspects of culture, like fashion, art and jazz music. Kalamazoo's Western Michigan University has one of the oldest and best jazz programs in the United States. Expect occasional reviews of the concerts in the local jazz scene and of jazz recordings here too. 
I'm often asked what I look for in a new restaurant. I look for a clean bathroom and clean silverware. That's how you can tell that a new place cares about its customers. The better the wine glasses are, the better the wine list is. I look for the use of fresh, local ingredients and culinary imagination. If food basics are executed perfectly, then, I'm there. You can find good fare at both mom & pop restaurants as well as fine dining spots. My job has been to sniff out the best of the best and to let everyone else know about it. I hope to continue that sniffin’.
The good life doesn’t have to be expensive. I've learned that to purchase quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar is a good place to start. Use real garlic, which gets mellow after being cooked, and you may improve your meals for generations. The garlic thing my be silly, but it led to my interest in food and my position as a critic for the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Bill Wood at the 2012 BraVo! Chefs' All Star Dinner.
Everybody has their own style. Clothing is very important to me. When you're well clothed, you feel better about yourself. Every man should have an occasional professional shave. Every woman should indulge in an occasional massage. When people say "Nice look, brother, I want that hat!" that makes me feel good. One or two people have said, "I've never seen anyone dress the way you do before." People in Manhattan look like that all of the time. They look like mannequins walking down the street. I use fashion to display creativity. Ascots, bow ties, the interplay of colors and patterns and the fit of my clothing communicates sophistication. 
It's important to me to help people connect the dots in their lives. I've always liked the feeling that I've found exceptional things hiding in plain sight. I hope you find Riffs on the Good Life invigorating and a valuable continuation of what I once wrote while having the best job in an entire daily newspaper.

William R. Wood
Kalamazoo’s Minister of Culture