Bullz-Eye hits the Spike Video Game Awards with Jeep

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11: Host Neil Patrick Harris speaks onstage during Spike TV's 2010 Video Game Awards held at the LA Convention Center on December 11, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Last week I got an email I’m sure every gamer would love to get: Do you want to go to the Spike Video Game Awards Show in LA? Oh, by the way, it’s being hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. Being the professional that I am, I tried to answer with the most reserved ‘Hell yes,” I could manage. It was…not so reserved. I was to be sent to the show courtesy of Jeep and Spike, who had partnered to promote the Call of Duty: Black Ops edition Wrangler. We would stay at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, hit a Maxim party on Friday before the show, and sit on the floor for the show. Again, hell yes.

As you might guess, Spike knows how to host a party, and though I’m sure I slept at some point, the weekend remains an endless blur of bright lights and free drinks. Staying at the Four Seasons is like staying in another world, a world that is completely unlike and seemingly infinitely better than my own. I was greeted in the hotel lobby by an enormous bouquet of live lillies. There was marble, quite literally, everywhere. My room was spacious and well-equipped and I had a great view of the hotel garden below from my private balcony. The bathroom followed the hotel’s upscale, modern decor and featured amenities by Bulgari.

Spike wasn’t content to leave me in that room for long. Shortly after my arrival, my host and I made our way to the tenth floor, where Spike had arranged a gaming lounge for its weekend guests. The suite was packed to the walls with food and drink and each room hosted a different game system. Black Ops was on hand (of course), and I got to spend a little time with Microsoft’s Kinect. As I mentioned in a post on our gaming blog, I’m not typically a shy person, but jumping around like a fool in front of a room full of people I had just met was an odd experience. Still, it was great to have access to some games to get into the mood for the weekend.

For dinner we headed to The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel, also in Beverly Hills. The Bazaar features Spanish tapas, both traditional and modern, as well as some classic dishes with a culinary twist. Andrés was named GQ’s 2009 Chef of the Year, an accolade I can now appreciate after several hours with his food. Our server was kind enough to let us order roughly forty dishes and bring out enough for the table to taste. We went through baby Japanese peaches with burrata, hazelnuts, and arugula, a tuna ceviche in an avocado roll, jicama wraps with mint and basil, and refined versions of homestyle cooking. Cod fritters with a honey aioli replaced your average battered fish. Air bread filled with aged cheddar and topped with rare Wagyu beef took the place of a Philly cheesesteak. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention my cotton candy foie gras. It was decadent.

We left The Bazaar and made our way to Hollywood Blvd for the Maximum Warrior party at LA’s Supperclub, hosted by Maxim. It was everything you would expect from a Maxim party: girls on trapezes soaring over the dance floor, bottle service in private booths, bunkers with skimpily-clad models playing Call of Duty: Black Ops, a photo booth with weapons and costumes to celebrate the Maxim competition, and a DJ that rocked the house as late as people would stay. I had a chance to meet Mark Salling from Glee, chat with Cedric Yarbrough of Reno 911 fame and said a quick hello to Masi Oka from Heroes. All of this, and we hadn’t even made it to the awards yet.

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11: A general view of atmosphere at Spike TV's 2010 Video Game Awards held at the LA Convention Center on December 11, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

After a late night, both at the Supperclub and in various rooms of the Four Seasons after, I was glad for a slow start Saturday morning. My host and I hit breakfast at the Four Seasons café and then split for a few hours – him to the spa, me back to the room for some writing. We reconvened for the Spike Video Game Awards just before two, and enjoyed lunch on the way to the convention center. The red carpet seemed to fly by, and before long we were in our seats on the right side of the main stage. I’ve never been to awards show, so it was interesting to see how the live show went off. Neil Patrick Harris came on just before things got started to give us a little pep talk about the proceedings and get the room fired up for the awards.

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11: Rockstar Games/ Rockstar San Diego (makers of Red Dead Redemption ) accept the Video Game of The Year award onstage during Spike TV's 2010 Video Game Awards held at the LA Convention Center on December 11, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The show itself was pretty cool – NPH is always fun to watch and there were some very cool appearances. My favorite part of the evening was listening to Jose Gonzalez perform his theme for Spike’s Game of the Year, Red Dead Redemption. If you haven’t played the game, it’s hard to appreciate how much atmosphere ‘Far Away’ gives to Rockstar’s vision of a wild west, but you could feel the eerie tension as he played. As part of the show, we also got to see trailers for Mass Effect 3, Guillermo Del Toro’s Insane, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Uncharted 3, all on an enormous screen. The show staff came around periodically to deliver typical gamer food, with a bit of a twist. We had pizza bites made with gorgonzola, sliders and tater tots, and classic hostess snacks.

After the awards show it was off to Katsuya at LA LIVE, the entertainment mall that hosts Staples Center. Katsuya is probably best described as a modern sushi bar for the American palate. The dishes are simple but delicious. I ate chef Katsuya Uechi’s Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna in quantities typically reserved for buffet trays (at one point, our server actually asked if she should just leave the tray – my answer: yes). Katsuya was laid back, quiet enough that I could enjoy the company of some fellow Midwesterners from Jeep’s Detroit media office. Once I had finished the last bit of spicy tuna in the place, we went back to the Four Seasons lounge for drinks before bed.

It would be tough to say enough good about the experience. Both Jeep and Spike are excellent entertainers, and the Spike VGAs were the perfect place to integrate the Call of Duty: Black Ops edition Wrangler. If you ever have the chance to get to LA for a weekend, seize it and don’t look back. You’ll never be short on things to do, and if you’re over near the Staples Center, be sure to get yourself some Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna.

For more about the Spike Video Game Awards, be sure to check out our gaming blog, Fearless Gamer. I’ll be covering several of the announcements in more detail and discussing the atmosphere of critical awards in gaming culture over the next few days.


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Bullz-Eye tests the Brut brand of products

We all know the brand Brut but how many of us have recently tested it for personal use? I have seen the Brut cologne bottle since I was a kid and can distinguish the Brut scent immediately. Bullz-Eye was sent a few samples from the folks at Brut and were very pleased at the quality and reasonable pricing they put together. The splash on is not overpowering but with just enough attitude to get you noticed as the cologne is macho is strength and long lasting. The product that I found very effective was the Brut Deodorant Stick which easily had my back (underarms to be exact) throughout the day and evening.

Some men’s grooming products out there are borderline feminine but Brut is for men only and their tagline of “The Essence of Man” is no joke.


Live chat tomorrow with Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes

The AMP Energy/WEC Hometown Takedown (WEC: Henderson vs. Pettis) is almost here – and AMP Energy is back with another opportunity to give MMA fans exclusive, unprecedented access to the sport and its best fighters.

AMP Energy is inviting fans to a live chat with superstar fighters Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes hosted by PRO MMA Radio host Larry Pepe on AMP Energy’s USTREAM tomorrow, December 14th at 9 p.m. EST.

Faber and Mendes will field questions from fans about the AMP Energy Hometown Takedown at Jobing.com Arena, which is the final WEC card ever, as the organization announced last month that it will be merging with the Ultimate Fighting Championship® in 2011. The event is headlined by a fierce matchup between WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis. Check out Bullz-Eye’s recent interview with Anthony Pettis.

The chat is just another example of AMP Energy providing fans access to fans that no other sponsor has provided in any other sport. To get fans pumped for the upcoming fight, AMP Energy partnered with Bullz-Eye.com earlier this month and gave two fans the chance to have the ultimate experience at WEC Henderson vs. Pettis with the “Best Seat in the House” contest and the “Walk Out With a Fighter” contest, featuring Pettis.

Winners of both contests also received a trip for two to Phoenix, two tickets to the fight, and a dinner with Faber.

This summer, WEC and AMP Energy teamed up for the Hometown Takedown contest, which gave fans the chance to vote and bring a WEC event to their area. Phoenix was announced as the fan’s choice for the December 16 fight.

Here’s a video shout out from Urijah Faber inviting Bullz-Eye readers to join the chat tomorrow night. See you there!


Beer 101: The brewing process and ingredients


Over the last decade, craft beer culture has exploded. There are now more than 1600 breweries operating in the US alone, a number that continues to grow year after year. Beer 101 is a guide to understanding the history of brewing, beer culture, and (my favorite part) the enjoyment of good beer.

Part 2 – Brewing Process and Ingredients

Last weekend I put together a brief history of beer, bringing you through thousands of years of history in just a few hundred words. Sorry for the delay this weekend – I ended up flying to LA for the Spike Video Game Awards. For this week’s post, I’ll be walking you through the basics of the brewing process, a process every enthusiast should know since it informs so much about the way a beer looks, feels, and tastes.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, beer is essentially brewed with four ingredients: water, yeast, hops, and malted grain. There are all sorts of ways to modify the process, but for our purposes, this ingredient list will do just fine. Of those four ingredients, yeast is the really important one. If your yeast goes bad, everything goes bad. Yeast is the miracle ingredient that makes the entire process possible.

First, you steep your malt. Steeping is just what it sounds like – soaking your grain in water, which prepares it for germination. Soaking the grain activates the growth process. Little rootlets start to sprout from the grain and the starches in the grain begin to break down. Once the germination process is complete, you have what is known as ‘green malt.’

Next, the grain goes to the kiln to dry. The kiln process, along with the type of grain used, is what gives the malt its character. Pale malts are dried and lower temperatures than, say, ale malts, which will also produce deeper color in the final product. Once dry, the grain has to be cracked in order to better absorb water during mashing. This cracking is called milling.

The milled grain is now mixed with warm water in what is known as the mash tun. The warm water helps convert the starches from the malting phase into sugars, which the yeast will then be able to consume, creating the alcohol and carbonation in the beer. The sugar-rich water gets strained through the mash and becomes wort.

We’ve finally reached the part of the process we know as brewing. The wort is boiled, causing a lot of different chemical changes to take place. This is where a craft brewer develops most of the flavor in a beer. Hops are added at different stages to produce varied results. Bitterness, aroma, and acidity are all determined, in part, by the moment the different hops are added to the brew kettle.

From brewing, the wort gets cooled as quickly as possible. Rapid cooling preserves the character of the wort and makes it temperate enough for yeast to live and work. Once cooled, the wort heads to a fermentation tank, where the brewer selects the yeast and adds it to the wort. Different yeast strains produce different results, again altering the flavor profile and character of the beer. Also, certain yeasts can live in higher alcohol concentrations than others, allowing higher ABV beers. The next step of the process is known as racking. The beer is transferred from the fermentation tank to a conditioning tank to allow the beer to age. Finally, the beer is ready to be filtered and carbonated, a process known as finishing. Once finished, the beer goes to a holding tank until it can be bottled or kegged.

That’s brewing in a small, tightly compressed nutshell. There are all sorts of ways to embellish this process, and while some of my descriptions are short, several of these processes can get complicated, especially on a large scale. It’s a difficult thing to produce the exact same beer time and time again, but with careful monitoring and the latest brewing technology, it can be done.

Come back next week for a discussion of the many different styles of beer, and in the meantime, check out A-B InBev’s iLoveBeer iPhone app (iTunes Link) – it’s a surprisingly solid look at several different beer styles. I won’t be able to cover them all, but I promise to give you a look at brews both strange and exotic.


Espresso Girls and Fiat

We had the chance to attend a party at the new Fiat dealership in LA to check out the new Fiat 500 during the LA Auto Show. Fiat is finally coming back to the United States and the company unveiled the hot new 500 at the party.

With the Italians involved we weren’t surprised at the incredible food served at the event, and of course they had beautiful women serving espresso as well. We were also struck by the elegant and modern design of the dealership that helped to highlight the impressive new design of the Fiat 500 that was tailored for the American market. The company also had a vintage 500 on hand at the auto show which of course was promoted by a beautiful booth babe. The Italians are reintroducing sex appeal to the auto business, and we couldn’t be happier!