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