30 May 2009

YouTube Charm: A Few (thousand) Views Later

This is easy to say: I'm a fan of YouTube.

When I can, I search YouTube for music videos. Not necessarily the MTV/VH1/BET/etc. kind of music videos, but the videos which COULD be used in those applications, as well as videos of musical groups taken by professionals and amateurs who have found a "gem" performance by an individual or group. A "gem" to me also means that the music is good quality, or at least good enough to hear a wide range of things: high hat on a drum set, for example, as well as the depth of the bass, the vocals of everyone in a group setting, and so forth. See, although I'm not technically called an audiophile, I am rather picky about what I hear on these videos, which leads me to listen to literally thousands of video files on YouTube. And it is interesting how widely varied the songs and performances I have found.

Given that I am a fan of different genres of music, there is no shortage in finding something different every day. Last night (although this has been going on for days), I was sitting and going through dozens of videos of the band Chicago [and a few of The Buckinghams and The Beach Boys]. Chicago's been around for about 42 years --- no small feat in the world of music --- and they recently stopped in St. Louis for a concert on their latest tour. Sorry to say, I still have yet to hear them in concert. I'll have to wipe that one off the TO DO LIST sometime soon, I suppose...although the current lineup has been static for more than a decade, with original members Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, Walter Parazaider and Robert Lamm, and longtime members Bill Champlin (a man who has been writing hits almost as long as Chicago has been performing), Jason Scheff (he's the man who had to fill the role of bassist Peter Cetera when the latter left for a solo career in the 1980s), Tris Imboden (he's the poor sap who eventually took over from legendary drummer Danny Saraphine when DS was given the boot for creative differences), and guitarist Keith Howland.

I'm not the big fan of Chicago that some are, but I do see the history of this band for what it is: lengthy, storied --- both good and not so good, and sincerely super because of great songs which both hit the charts and simply became legendary tunes. But the videos on YouTube are what has drawn me into their history even more over the past several weeks. I mean I already have been listening to a couple of different "Greatest Hits" compilations by Chicago over the last 15 years, so I already know there are vastly different recordings available to fans --- but YouTube has made me a bigger fan AND made me want to tell some other fans to shut their typing fingers up unless they have something other than the same old "Terry Kath is rolling over in his grave" posts in the comments columns on some of the videos. Terry Kath has been dead for 31 years and the band went on without him. As a musician and fan I will admit that claims of Kath's being the "soul" of Chicago in their early years bears noting: clearly he had a rock/soul style that fit into the band and helped transform it from a group of young guys in the Chicago area to a worldwide phenomenon. But that doesn't mean the group had to die when he died. That would be like saying the U.S.A. had to die when Warren G. Harding died in office: people move past troubled times in history, and Chicago the band did just that.
The fact that there has been historical evidence that Kath was not as pleased with the direction of the band during its most successful period is nothing new. All bands evolve, rock or otherwise. I play in a band with a 46-year history. We have one original member left performing: we don't disband our group because the original members are dying off --- we still perform the songs they performed in the 1960s and 1970s because that's what the listeners demand. And just because our original singer isn't part of the mix these days (he decided to retire from performing...and he comes to our performances at least a couple of times each year...and rarely will he actually get up on stage with us to sing) doesn't mean the band has to go to the pile of groups which no longer exist. And the same should be said about Chicago: they are musicians, each with their own soul. They decided that the death of one member was not going to keep them from performing. Another member left...they fired another member...they changed lineups, and in fact it is an evolutionary process that one can see by watching the videos of Chicago in "live" performances as documented on YouTube. In fact, you'll notice videos where Lee Loughnane or Walt Parazaider are not part of the lineup --- this shouldn't surprise anyone because they are human and would likely want some time away with family, or as some have suggested may have health concerns and not make some dates. This gives other musicians the opportunity to play with a legendary group and fill-in for one of those legends --- a feat many musicians would give their left kneecap to accomplish just once.

It's a great media form such as YouTube that gives us all the opportunity to take a look into the greater depths of things --- such as the performing history of a band such as Chicago, a kid playing ukulele, or a video of a family reunion in which you can almost smell the barbecue.

There are millions of things to do on the internet: I find YouTube gives me a sense of yesterday and today. YouTube is one website I will gladly use regularly as long as it exists.

29 May 2009

Eating In St. Louis: Why Aren't We ALL 672-Pound Humans???

If you've lived in the metropolitan St. Louis area, you are always finding new places to dine-in, take-out, mixture of both (I like to do that with pizza or chicken...eat-in sometimes at Porter's Chicken, but usually take it home to the family...same with the original location of Fortel's at MacKenzie and Heege), or places to purchase your ingredients and take them home to combine and cook them in the kitchen or on the grill. This IS St. Louis, after all, so we have options galore for breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, late night, even the middle of the night.

So --- I've not given my opinions on a blog before, but I'll give a few of my favorites today just because I have been inundated with food since I got up at dawn.

If money is no object, this list is beyond lengthy, so maybe I'll give myself a $4000 account for the week. That should be more than enough anyway, right?

An option that is good at any time of day for me is GINGHAM'S. It's a family-style restaurant that most people would see and think "Denny's style" or even "Bob Evans like". And since the family that started the restaurant split the business up just a little bit, they have "two" locations --- one in St. Charles at Highway 94 and Sherman, the other in South St. Louis County at Lindbergh and Lemay Ferry --- both are good, although I have been partial to the South County location for many years since I've lived closer to it for the past 15 years. REASONS TO GO: If someone thinks that "Uncle Bill's" is a good pancake place...I invite you to do a comparison. To my taste, GINGHAM'S is clearly the better pancakes. But, that having been stated, do yourself a favor if you are actually hungry when you go into GINGHAM'S and like omelettes --- order your favorite kind of omelette and get the 3 pancakes option (the other option is hash browns and toast for if you want the omelette and aren't as hungry). You can get your fill and enjoy the flavors. For whatever time you go in --- they're open 24 hours a day --- I suggest the iced tea and/or coffee with your meal. They have great dinners, too, so don't limit yourself to the vast breakfast menu.

Okay. So we can find other options for breakfast for certain...let's just say that we were going to meet at Gingham's for brunch instead so we'll need an early morning option. I'm thinking doughnuts. Hoo-boy...do we have options here in St. Louis...and I'll be up front in saying that I'll hear from people about the places I'll be leaving out of my short list. These are simply because I don't frequent them --- not because I don't like them. I've eaten at nearly every good doughnut shop in the region, and some of the less-than-good shops, too.

If you think it's tough to find a place for breakfast and stick with it --- doughnuts are even tougher to dedicate yourself to just ONE of these places. But if I have to find a place that I can count on for consistency, it's EDDIE'S SOUTHTOWN DONUTS at S. Kingshighway and Murdoch, just a block from the Christy/Kingshighway firehouse. Eddie's cake doughnuts are soooooooo good. Oh my heavens...I'm a cake doughnut fiend, and it takes my strongest will to keep from going there every single day. There are so many different doughnuts to try, too --- and it's not easy to walk in early and figure it out...which is why I usually wait until after 8 AM, so there are fewer options (crazy, you say? Naw...makes it easier to choose!)! EDDIE is there most mornings early on, so if you're up early go in and tell him Buzz sent you.
That having been said, they're not alone in my visits each month, due to location of my drive path to and from work. You see, not far from there at the corner of ChippeWatson at Donovan (it's what I call it because Watson and Chippewa meet there) is DONUT DRIVE-IN. They've been there forever, it seems, with a good variety of doughnuts. I am easily suckered in there...there are memories for me from 9/11/2001 (walked in with my family that morning and heard the news on WCBS/KMOX - we'd been listening to a Veggie Tales recording until that moment), and I still enjoy their custard doughnuts a lot - more because of location for me than otherwise because: THE BEST CUSTARD DOUGHNUT EVER is found at DONUT DELIGHT at 3605 Dunn Road in North St. Louis County. I've eaten hundreds of pounds of custard doughnuts with chocolate icing on top --- DONUT DELIGHT is the hands down winner of this category. I even was told how good "COUNTRY DOUGHNUTS" in Crystal Lake, IL was --- and they are very good doughnuts, and overall are fantastic (if you want to drive the 300 miles from STL to Crystal Lake, go ahead...just don't make it your only stop - that would be silly unless you grew up there) --- but the custard doughnuts at DONUT DELIGHT still win my devotion. But, why? Let's start with the size: it is larger than almost any other filled doughnut around. Go with texture of THE CUSTARD being textbook good. Let me reassert that I am a cake doughnut eater and not easily persuaded by non-cake doughnuts, yet I still love this particular doughnut. Filling: again, spot on because it's not supersicklysweet nor too tart --- it's a good mix. Topping the top: the chocolate on top has a chocolate flavor --- as if someone took the time to care about making the icing with real cocoa. Overall, it's my favorite doughnut outside of the realm of cake doughnuts.

I can safely say that a visit to other doughnut shops is not uncommon for me all over the metropolitan area, but I will for certain say that since the Kolache Factory took over on Brentwood Blvd., I sure miss the apple fritters which used to fill my stomach on certain days.

An old favorite lunch spot from the time I was a kid is Woofie's. It's in Overland on Woodson Road just north of Page, in a tight spot for turning in and out --- perfect for anyone who loves the numerous varieties of hot dogs and sausage of similar ilk. I still can't tell you which is my favorite there --- my mouth is in the mood for something different each time I stop there. It's a MUST for your friends from Chicago when they're in town watching the Cubs being demolished by the Cardinals. Treat them to this: Chicago-style hot dogs make with Vienna beef --- yum --- because they'll need it with the next Cardinals sweep of the Completely Useless By Septembers.
There are numerous places with great lunch deals --- I can't tell you how many different places my mouth has found happiness and my pocket found some relief because someone told me about a $6.75 lunch special which included an entree, sides and drink. I'll let you decide your favorites for lunch...but if you are like me and sitting in South County with a Chicagoland native who wants a hot dog...you make the drive up to Woofie's ANYWAY.

Okay --- here's a tough item for anyone in St. Louis.


Why is this so difficult? Well, because St. Louis has its own pizza. And that's a bone of contention and some contentment depending upon where you were raised. If you were NOT raised in St. Louis, you are probably not a fan of Imo's Pizza, Cecil Whittaker's Pizzeria, and numerous others who use PROVEL CHEESE on their pizzas.
My personal recommendation is CUSUMANO'S Pizza and Italian Restaurant (formerly of North County/Glasgow Village - now in the third generation, now located) at 1120 Technology Drive in O'Fallon MO --- on the northeast corner of Highway K at Highway 40-61 --- from the simple cheese pizza to your favorite toppings, these are done the old-fashioned way, with a thin crush. The Cusumano's Pizza special has: Sausage, Pepperoni, Bacon, Mushroom, Onion, Green Pepper, Ham & Shrimp. A bit out of the ordinary, right?

If you're in St. Louis proper and don't wish to drive out to O'Fallon MO, finding one of these operations with a good track record, such as the CWP on S. Grand (hello Laura) or the one at Lemay Ferry and Forder (hey, Greg) is the best idea. At Cecil Whittaker's, my preferred toppings are black olives, mushrooms and sausage. I'm not a big pepperoni fan, but these two locations do have good pepperoni as far as I am concerned --- it's not too greasy.

There's a St. Louis homegrown pizza restaurant which serves a variety of pizzas that I'd have to say is a favorite of both St. Louisans and non-St. Louisans. That is FORTEL'S Original Pizza Den at the corner of MacKenzie and Heege Roads. You'll find a variety of options with different sauces, different toppings...it's a little on the gourmet side, yet it's not too "foodie" for regular pizza fans. Tell Shelly that "Buzz on the radio" says "hi". No, you won't get a deal, but you'll make me smile if when I go in next to say "hi", Shelly tells me someone came in because I said you should do so.

If you were raised on non-St. Louis pizza, there are a few options. But I honestly will go with the masses here: PI. That's some FANTASTIC pizza --- I had some recently and found out what all the hubbub is about --- oooooo it's sooooooooooooo good! I'm sure to find a reason to be on the Delmar Loop area and stop at Pi again soon. I want my daughter to find out why we like different styles of pizza --- she's going to like this, too. Having experienced Pi, I know why the president wanted some for himself. It's how Chicago-style pizza, or Napoli-style pizza is done. And out-of-towners love this place, especially if they're avoiding the native St. Louis style cheese and sauce.

In St. Louis some of the best pizza is Spanish pizza?
WHAT IS THAT? Only my FAVORITE PARTICULAR PIZZA. For the best veggie pizza, you have to go to THE HILL to GUIDO'S. GUIDO'S PIZZERIA AND TAPAS on Shaw Blvd. is where you'll find this delightful treat. The sauce is spanish, the veggies are piled up high...it's a thin crust, and when you're done with a piece on the edge, take one from the middle and find out how different it is. Then, when you're done, take it home and put it in the fridge and have a piece in the morning. It will turn into many cold pieces of pizza --- this is the best cold pizza on the planet, too!

There are lots of opinions here. I enjoy PORTER'S Fried Chicken for my take-out --- and because I'm a big fan of their fried okra as a side item, I go there more often than almost any other chicken place. Occasionally I will sit in their little dining area and eat some of their fish, too. Many of my friends have come to agree that the home-fried taste is worth the repeated trips.

My honorable mention for chicken goes in the DINNER category. So...

HODAK'S is known for it's family-style chicken. Ahh, yes, the chicken is delightful. But let's go in for the dinners. Always served faster than you can imagine, always freshly made, hot where necessary, and cold items are cold, too. I love the sides here, in addition to the complex menu. Sure, the chicken is terrific. I love the chicken livers. Let me repeat --- I go for the sides. The mashed potatoes and gravy is great standard fare...always good with the meal. Turkey and stuffing is also good --- these folks know their birds. I cannot think of one time I've ever gone in and not enjoyed my food. This is a city location: Gravois between Jefferson and I-55. The parking is good, and the food is worthwhile...oh, and the staff is quick, friendly, and worth putting an extra five to ten percent in on the tips. Seriously, this is a good destination for someone who wants to make sure that the kids, the adults and the senior citizens are all going to find something at dinnertime.

What? We have to boil it down to one, two, or three places? Sheesh. I can't do that.
My favorite spaghetti and Italian salad is served NOT ON THE HILL, but in Fosterburg IL --- the Castelli family has operated the Moonlight/Castelli's Moonlight at 255 --- for generations...the fourth generation serves you today. The bolognese sauce is my preference because of the spiciness. The HOUSE SALAD is a love/hate thing. Most people will enjoy it, but don't eat it if you have allergies to nuts --- I suspect there is nuts in "secret" recipe, but I've never heard for certain. To find out why I love this place, drive Northbound 255 on the Illinois side and keep going until you exit at Fosterburg Road, turn left and go until you see the sign. It's an Alton area favorite and worth the drive. Okay --- that's my Italian restaurant pick, but I will put up that Cunnetto's House of Pasta (on The Hill) serves my favorite fettucine alfredo, while Charlie Gitto's downtown makes me happy with their variety of Italian fare, Zia's salad (on The Hill) is among the best anywhere, and Mama Campisi's (on the Hill) is high on my personal pick list.
I will state that my favorite spaghetti sauces outside of the restaurants are made by hand in my kitchen by me...but I am not selling it to the restaurants...they'd have to hire me because I can change up the ingredients depending upon what I have available at home. Homemade sauces are still the best.

Too tough to call, in reality, because there are so many reasons to say "somebody's backyard" is better than to have to pay for it at a restaurant. But if I had to come clean about where I go before any other place --- BANDANA'S is still my preference. Yes, I like Phil's, Pennie's, and several other places, but BANDANA'S smoky flavor and choices make it my first choice of the restaurants. Keep in mind that as I have heard that Three Monkeys is good, I haven't yet experienced their food...that's coming soon, I hope. The menu looks good to me.

This is a personal favorite because in 1986 I lived above the restaurant in downtown Washington MO --- COWAN'S RESTAURANT. Breakfast, lunch, dinner...and THE BEST PIES around. I really don't care if you're a bakery fan or not --- Jerry's pies are the ones made with love and experience, and if you get there when they have the chocolate-peanut butter pie, get it room temperature or cold...don't get it warmed up. But if that's not your preference or you have allergies to nuts, try to get something with merengue on it --- lemon is great, chocolate, banana cream pie...oh man, now I wanna drive the 55 minutes to Cowan's and get some pie --- and it's not even lunch time yet.

Since Velvet Freeze is no longer an option, I'll go with something you can find. Maybe I should say different places and options.
For ICE CREAM, it's OBERWEIS --- several locations in Illinois, but I am nearest the Telegraph Road location. They even have a terrific "no sugar added" chocolate yogurt soft-serve.
I'm going to be judicious and make it a tie for FROZEN CUSTARD. I grew up in North St. Louis County --- so I'm always going to love the variety of flavors and toppings at FRITZ'S in Old Towne Florissant (been to the one in O'Fallon MO, too and enjoyed it - there are a few locations around now), even though I now thoroughly enjoy MR. WIZARD'S on Big Bend in Richmond Heights --- and since I've lived south of the Highway 40 Mason-Dixon/Equator Line...yes, I enjoy trips to TED DREWES --- I used to live near the S. Grand location --- I like the fact that I can get a good mint topping and pistachios.

This is where I go back where I began...GINGHAM'S. Why? It's the old person's hangout. This means that the food is as good at 1 AM as it is at 10 AM. Coffee late at night with a waffle. Sounds good, doesn't it? But if it's just a good piece of pie you're looking for, enjoy it. And if you're just wanting to try something different, see if you can put your paws on the biscuits and honeybutter (if you like honeybutter...this is special!). Or get a burger, even the toasted ravioli, or a milkshake or...well, you have such a choice, that fire for a midnight snack can be extinguished with a trip inside.


Let me make one distinction for all: GINGHAM'S allows smoking. These are NOT smoke-free restaurant(s). I would prefer a non-smoking environment at all times, but still go to Gingham's as a frequent to regular customer despite that enigmatic downfall (I am always looking for the ANTI-SMOKING SECTION in restaurants). If you're allergic to smoke, you may want to skip the trip. Their exhaust system is antiquated and not worth putting your life in jeopardy.

27 May 2009

Stronger Than Strangers: The Big C

My life is not much different than many people my age. As aging continues, little things become more prevalent in life, including the death of people who are younger, as was the case earlier this year with someone I knew from when we both were in the same high school. I hadn't seen her since she was 14 or 15, and I had frequently wondered about her since 1983. She'd been married and carried the burden of cancer off and on for a few years. Her husband is left to carry on raising the children without her. She was all of 40.

A few years ago I changed jobs and began working where I am now. Things always are shifting around and last summer I began working with a new radio show. In so doing, I made some new acquaintances and friends. One of these people is Scot Kinnaman, who is a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastor and editor at Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis, and a regular contributor to The Afternoon Show on AM 850 KFUO.

Scot and I have a rather casual but cordial relationship, in that we rarely see each other, speak about once per week on the phone before he goes on the air to discuss the Treasury of Daily Prayer, a book he has edited from several great writers and sources. We found out each other was on Facebook and added one another. I have occasionally looked at his blog just to see what it is he is discussing, and it's possible he's read some of my blogs or notes in the past as well, although I've never asked.

Tonight I saw something more dramatic than usual. He posted on his Facebook and Twitter that the tests he had undergone recently for prostate cancer --- came back positive. Scot has to go through who knows what kind of physical beating (again) to fight the battle against the big C.

In knowing Scot Kinnaman for as little time as I have known him, I have never seen him in a cross mood (well, in the mood to discuss Christ's cross, yes...but in a bad mood --- not thus far). Reading his website (www.scotkinnaman.com), I now know more about him personally. His battle against a deadly disease just a few years ago was won because medical personnel quickly reacted to his symptoms AND because of his faith in God and Jesus that showed to his family and friends. Scot's a winner, and although he is perhaps feeling a bit down at having had to wait for the "verdict" that tests were positive for cancer, he also appears to be poised to fight in order to win the battle against prostate cancer.

I urge you, whether you know him or not, to pray for the healing of Pastor Scot Kinnaman.

Memorial Day: Tribute to Two 1st Lieutenants

I wrote this past Monday, Memorial Day, and posted this to my Facebook notes. Today, I was looking at it again and realized more. This was about two 1st lieutenants in the USAF, yes. But it was also about two different wars, two different eras, two people of different genders. Here's the column:
Today is Monday, 25 May 2009 --- MEMORIAL DAY in the United States of America.

Today is not just any day. This is Memorial Day, when much of America just shuts down in remembrance of our fallen and wounded soldiers. This means the stores are closed --- no running off to buy eggs or milk or Pepsi. So today is a day the convenience stores get a little extra business. On the way home from work I was served notice to pick up something from the convenience store. It's raining cats and dogs as I stopped in St. Louis at Gravois and Weber Road. As I began to leave in the downpour that had been overhead for nearly 30 minutes, I saw myself and all the rest of traffic being stopped for a funeral procession. In all honesty I did not know for another 25 minutes that the procession was for 1st Lt. Roslyn Schulte, killed in action in Afghanistan this past week. To say that the procession was long would be an understatement. That is a good statement, actually. I would rather that she be remembered by hundreds, if not thousands, MORE St. Louisans. Lt. Schulte was a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, a native St. Louisan who joins around five-thousand U.S. military personnel on the deceased list since the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Her death is not being taken lightly by most people, I would imagine --- but not all are following the news of another local member of the military having died --- sometimes we get caught up in our daily lives and don't hear the names and reflect upon their role in combat or even hear of their death. Please realize that we are talking about a HUMAN BEING. But in this case it's a special human to Americans: this is a fallen soldier being buried ON Memorial Day.

Yesterday, we visited Jefferson Barracks National Cemetary in south St. Louis County. I mentioned to the occupants of the vehicle in which I was riding that I was given a privilege to cover the re-interment of 1st Lt. Michael Blassie as a reporter. It remains one of my most poignant memories, not just as a reporter, but as a resident of the United States of America, because of the nature of the services. Lt. Blassie was killed during the Vietnam War, 11 May 1972, and his remains were returned to the U.S. unidentified. Later, in 1984, his remains became interred at the TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER at Arlington National Cemetary as the Vietnam War's Unknown Veteran. This happened before there was such a thing as DNA evidence which helped to identify the remains of soldiers who had died in combat. The military had gathered Lt. Blassie's belongings near the area the military thought was his crash site, but due to the difficulty in positive identification of the 1972 crash, his remains were listed as unknown up through his 1984 burial and until 1998, when the evidence was reprocessed and he was positively identified. My role was as an observer --- as a reporter, I was given an assignment to gather the moment and file a couple of reports to my local radio station and to the ABC Radio Network. Later that evening it sunk in how special my day was to be: I had one of the lead stories in the national news that July 1998. But moreover, I was given a duty and helped Americans hear a story that needed to be told. It is still a source of honor for me to have been given the opportunity to cover his re-interment.

Other than the commonalities that both were 1st Lieutenants in the U.S.A.F. and St. Louisans, today I was able to bear witness to one of the most impressive things that the military can do to honor their fallen comrades: the jet flyby. I was home this time, just a few hundred yards from where Lt. Schulte was being laid to rest --- and this time I was not covering the story for the news. However I felt the same chills as the jet flew overhead. It is that chill which makes me realize I am free because of the service by these two individuals who by all accounts could have led extraordinary lives had they lived beyond their military years.
I hope that when I pass an Air Force 1st Lieutenant next time I recognize them and their rank and thank them. You see, I think that way because I have come to realize it could be that person being buried the next time I witness the flyby.

Thank you, heroes.

26 May 2009

Music, Media, Blogging, and Public Relations...and CAKE!

As if you couldn't figure it out, this is going to be a blog dedicated to forms of music, media, and public relations.

My 25th anniversary as a broadcaster is this year, and I celebrate that long as a journalist even though that predates my on-air days by a couple of years by virtue of the "time off" I did take between my junior year in high school and my time as a news reporter/anchor in radio.

Today, I freely admit that I am more likely to do public relations in tandem with interviews, reporting, etc., because it's more interesting to find the story and help the person with the story TELL it.

My first example is Michael Brinkley. I've known Michael for nearly 20 years. He is an artist and has always been creative. I've seen musical instruments he has created, drawings, movies, and other interesting endeavors...but his new one takes the cake --- literally. Designer Cakes.

Yesterday, Memorial Day 2009, I ate dinner with Michael and his wife and family. He brought a cake. It wasn't just any kind of cake --- it was a special Memorial Day Cake. He created it and made this specialty/gourmet cake specifically for this family gathering...and I must say it was scrumptious...delicious. It fit the day of remembrance to a tee --- and if you read his blog, http://designercake.blogspot.com, you will understand the meaning of the stars and stripes and decorations. Michael has only done a few different designs thus far, but he promises to expand his horizons and create new cakes for those who are looking for a special event cake.

Keep in mind that if you order a Designer Cake from Michael Brinkley, it's going to be personally made --- this is not some store-bought brand thrown together at the last minute.

Go to his blog first and check out the pictures of the cakes. Then consider emailing him and discussing your particular need for a cake or cakes. I guarantee he's not charging $1000 like some of those other cake artists are doing --- he's not a price-gouger or bait-and-switcher. If there's something wrong with the concept he may create for you, haggle with him. His artistry is an open-eared/open-minded creativity and he'll work with you on making and baking a great piece of deliciousness!!!