retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Last week’s trip to Barcelona was my fourth or fifth time in that Spanish city, but this one was a little bit different because the venue for the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Global Summit was a convention center out by the beach, about a 90 minute walk from downtown. Last Saturday, when I got a chance to take that walk, I was exposed to three very different sides of Barcelona - the area by the convention center, which seems like a planned community with broad avenues and lots of modern, interesting architecture; the beach scene, which has lots of low, bleached-by-the-sun structures, a boardwalk, numerous cafes and bars right on the sand, and its share of nude sun bathers (most of whom, truth be told, probably should have been wearing clothes), and the old city, which has narrow streets and aging buildings that haven;t changed in decades or perhaps centuries.

One of the great things about it is that, like most cities, it is all eminently walkable - it is the best way to get the flavor of the place, punctuated by the occasional stop in a peaceful park for a glass of sangria to take the edge off the warm sun. I had a chance to do this with two Irish friends of mine, Anne and Fiach, who came over for the weekend and hung out with me on Saturday - just walking and talking about things both profound and trivial. There were lots of reasons that Saturday could have been a bad day, owing to some personal circumstances that I won’t go into here. But it ended up being a grand day, the kind that keeps the mind from going into darker places.

Thanks, Anne and Fiach. And thanks, Barcelona.




One of the best parts of last Saturday was our stop at a place called Lonja de Tapas, where we had some amazing food - fried potatoes with spicy sauce, fried egg with lightly spiced sausage, ham croquettes, and octopus Galician-style were just some of my favorites - punctuated with some wonderful wines, especially the Creciente Albarino, which was a wonderful example of what has become one of my favorite wines.

I could eat like that all the time.




Once home, I had a chance to try a beer I’ve never had before - the Nut Brown Ale from the Peak Organic Brewing Company of Portland, Maine, which surprised me by being complex enough to go with a hearty steak or hamburger, but not so heavy that one would not want to drink it on a warm summer evening. Excellent beer - and I can’t wait to try some of their other brews (if I can find someone locally who sells it).




About 20 minutes from my house is a community called Port Chester, New York, which has turned in recent years into a kind of restaurant mecca - lots of small ethnic restaurants have opened there, as well as Mario Batali’s Tarry Lodge (a favorite of mine for the black squid ink pasta). But in recent weeks, I’ve heard a real buzz about a new place called Bar Taco - it seemed that dozens of people that I’ve met have gone there for its tapas-style plates and jugs of margaritas, and almost everybody seemed to rave about it.

I hate to be left behind, so Mrs. Content Guy and I tried it the other day ... and I found it to be worth the buzz. The margaritas were fresh and more tart than sweet, and I like that in a margarita. And the mini tacos, which were almost like empanadas, were quite good - especially the chorizo, duck and fresh fish varieties. Excellent stuff, and I recommend it.




Not too long ago, I used this space to rave about the new Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris.” What I didn’t say in that review is that as much as I loved the film, I did not particularly enjoy the viewing experience. The theatre was crowded, so we ended up in the front row, and because at the time it was only being shown in an aging art house cinema, the print was scratched and blotchy - amazing for a movie only released a week earlier.

“Midnight in Paris” is so good that Mrs. Content Guy said something on the way out that I cannot remember her ever saying about a movie in the three decades that I’ve known her: “I want to see that again.”

So this week, we did. Except this time, because it has gotten a broader release, we saw “Midnight in Paris” at the AMC multiplex in Port Chester, where we would be assured of stadium seating and digital projection that would assure us of a beautiful print. And let me tell you something - the difference was enormous, and I’m so glad we saw it again. As great as it was the first time, it was a vastly superior experience the second time around.

I like the idea of patronizing independent theaters when I can, but I have to be honest here. If they want to keep my business, they have to provide a better product. I’m not talking about bells and whistles like espresso and fancy food. But I think I have a right to expect that I’ll get to see a decent print of the film I’ve paid $10 to see ... especially because these days, if I just wait a few months, I’ll be able to see a high-definition DVD on my big screen TV.

You’d better give me a reason to go out. In the movie business, first and foremost, that means giving me a movie I want to see. Second, give me a print that is actually watchable.




That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

Slainte!!
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