Pip Pip hooray

Pip Hanson's emulsified olive oil cocktail caught the eye of I.W. when Marvel Bar first opened in August. Now, it appears the buzz has gone beyond the Twin Cities. Marvel got some love in the new issue of Imbibe, the country's liquid bible, as Hanson's Oliveto was named "Drink of the Week" on the magazine's website. Hanson described the cocktail's creative ingredients (which also include egg white) as giving the drink "a totally unique, silky meringue texture." Drink of the week? I.W. has had the pleasure of downing quite a few Olivetos. Around here it's known as "Drink of the Week," "Drink of the Weekend" and "Drink of the Week-After-Next."


Badger buddies

I.W. was arguing that "Breaking Bad" was superior to "Modern Family" during a segment Tuesday on Channel 5's "Twin Cities Live," when we were suddenly interrupted via Skype by a surprise guest: Steven Levitan, co-creator of "Modern Family." Turns out Levitan is close friends with fellow panelist and KSTP personality Rusty Gatenby. In fact, they were roommates at the University of Wisconsin and have been in each other's weddings. I.W. quickly tried to recover, lauding Levitan for maintaining such high quality in Season 3, but we couldn't escape at least one jab. Before the segment was over, we asked Levitan to tell us an embarrassing story about Gatenby from his college days. "That will be answered on 'Breaking Bad,'" Levitan said.


Exit stage left

Whose voice will welcome patrons to the Guthrie now that production stage manager Russell W. Johnson is no longer with the theater? Johnson -- whose recorded voice is, for the moment, still being played for escalator riders at the Big G -- became a former Guthrie employee late last week after a nearly-three-decade run in which he worked on some of its biggest productions. He had been stage-managing "Much Ado About Nothing." Johnson's abrupt departure has left the Twin Cities theater community perplexed and atwitter. Guthrie spokester Quinton Skinner said that as a matter of policy, the theater does not comment on personnel matters.


Graywolf in the hunt

The finalists for the National Book Award were announced this week, and, no surprise, Graywolf Press of Minneapolis was in the thick of things with Deborah Baker's "The Convert," a biography of a Jewish woman who converts to the Muslim faith. "Deborah was bold to take on the subject," Graywolf publisher Fiona McCrae told I.W. But competition will be stiff. There's another bold book among the nonfiction finalists -- a gorgeous biography of Pierre and Marie Curie told in a most unusual way. "Radioactive," by Lauren Redniss, is not quite a graphic novel, not quite a picture book, but something in between. It's well-researched and beautifully designed, with pictures and typography and a special font Redniss designed herself. And just think, there are another 19 finalists out there. An embarrassment of riches.


Parking Lot-a-Palooza

In this day and age, a concert failing to draw a big crowd is hardly anything out of the ordinary. What's interesting about last weekend's PegHead-Palooza, though, is just how poorly it fared -- and how confident its organizer still appears to be about future events. Held at a Star Tribune parking lot in downtown Minneapolis (the Strib was involved only as landlord), the daylong concert featured 1980s metal hitmaker Dokken as headliner plus six mostly unknown bands. The $18 event drew only about 300 of the 4,000 hoped for, according to promoter JD Gassman. Local act the Japhies estimated their audience at 20 people. "We kind of lost our butt," Gassman told I.W. But he plans to put on another PegHead-Palooza next year, as well as both a country and a hip-hop festival. I.W. suggests that next time a certain parking lot in Arden Hills might work.


The Sounds of MOA

The Sounds of Blackness holds a few Twin Cities records: first choir to win a Grammy (it's collected three), oldest choir with some original members (this is the group's 40th anniversary) and most album-release parties at Mall of America (this will be No. 5). Founder/director Gary Hines' powerful gospel-infused choir is staging another MOA celebration in honor of "Sounds of Blackness," its 10th album and first for the venerable Southern soul label Malaco Music. The new single, the uplifting soul-gospel "Fly Away," showcases the mighty choir and vocalist Jamecia Bennett, daughter of former Sounds lead singer Ann Nesby and mother of "American Idol" finalist Paris Bennett. Embracing everything from spirituals to the Beatles' "Hey Jude," the new album features several special guests, including guitarist Norman Brown, "Funkytown" vocalist Cynthia Johnson, two choirs from Japan, two musicians from India, and singer Doris Hines, the director's 87-year-old mother, who will join the Sounds at 6 p.m. Tuesday at MOA's rotunda.