the gumbo pages

looka, ('lu-k&) Yatspeak. v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look", in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans; usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  
2. --n. My weblog, focusing on food and drink, music, New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news, movies, books, sf, media and culture, Macs, politics, humor, reviews, rants, my life, my opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles my fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

Page last tweaked @ 12:02pm PST, 3/31/2001

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Chuck Taggart (who?)

Looka! Archive

February 2001
January 2001

2000:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream
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Raidió na Gaeltachta
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Cocktail hour:

The Sazerac Cocktail


Cocktail Time


Bar Asterie

Ardent Spirits

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails

Ingredients & substitutions

Let's eat!

New Orleans Menu Daily


Food Network


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The Online Chef

Pasta, Risotto & You

Slow Food Int'l. Movement

Zagat Guide


In vino veritas.

The Oxford Companion to Wine

The Wine Spectator

Wine Today

Recent Epinions:

1. John O'Groats: Home cooking, better than home

2. Bombay Sapphire: Gin haters, repent!

3. The Cajun Bistro, WeHo: Skip it

4. Absolut Kurant: I'd sooner drink Robitussin

5. Sanamluang: Best Thai food in L.A.

6. Volkswagen New Beetle: Fun fun fun!

Now reading:

Pot on the Fire: Further Exploits of a Renegade Cook, by John Thorne.

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, by Eric Schlosser.

I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson.

The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, by Diana Kennedy.


Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

by Garry B. Trudeau

by Peter Blegvad

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

Lookin' at da TV:

"The Sopranos"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Father Ted"
"Iron Chef"
"The Simpsons"
"Star Trek: Voyager"
The Food Network

Weblogs I read:

The BradLands
Eat, Link and Be Merry
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
Jonno (if you must know)
Lake Effect
LanceLog 2000
The Leaky Cauldron
Mister Pants
Mr. Barrett
One Swell Foop
Q Daily News
Robot Wisdom
Strange Brew
The Tao of Upndown
The Other Side
Web Queeries
Whim and Vinegar
Wild Oats

Matthew's GLB blog portal

<< web loggers >>

Must-reads: (Progressive politics & news)
The Deduct Box (Louisiana politics)
The Fray (stories)
Landover Baptist (better Christians than YOU!)
The Onion (news 'n laffs)

The Final Frontier:

ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Spaceflight Now

What's in Chuq's Visor? (My favorite Palm OS applications)

AvantGo *
Launcher III *
Showtimes *
WineScore *
Zagat Guide *

(* = superfavorite)

Number of votes by which George W. Bush lost the national popular vote on November 7, 2000

Number of votes to which Bush's lead had dwindled in Florida when the hand recount was stopped

(Just what do you think you're doing, Chuck?)

Made with Macintosh

hosted by pair Networks

weblog and (almost) daily blather

  "There ought to be limits to freedom."
  -- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999

  Saturday, March 31, 2001
Off for a closer walk...   Milton J. Batiste Jr., who as the trumpeter and leader of Dejan's Olympia Brass Band preserved and perpetuated jazz funeral and second-line traditions and took New Orleans brass band music around the world, died early Thursday after a long illness. He was 66. [more]

Today on "Down Home":   Music by Milton Batiste and Dejan's Olympia Brass Band, the ReBirth Brass Band, Sean Watkins, Zachary Richard, Fred McDowell, Richard Thompson, The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Morris & Dexter Ardoin, Jimmy Noone, Lee Monroe Presnell, Milladoiro, Bruce Molsky and more. Tune in with your Windows Media Player from 3:00 - 5:00pm PST (2300-0100 GMT) at

  Friday, March 30, 2001
Just shoot me.   I live with a disability. It's not a terrible one -- you probably wouldn't even realize it if you saw me walking down the street. It's one I can live with, and despite my affliction I lead a fairly normal and happy life.

I am dancing-impaired.

Some people feel sympathy for me and my fellow disabled, and offer lessons or even free advice on web sites. But ... if you ever see me in public looking like this guy, I want you to shoot me. Six times. In the head.

Reminds me of something my friend Louie said to me at a Dr. John show at Club Lingerie many years ago, after surveying the crowd and letting out a guffaw:  "God, I love to watch white people dance." It also reminds me of something Andy M. Stewart once said;   "Remember that without music ... dancing looks really stupid."

(Actually, this guy's site is terrific. Check it out; there are lots of toys and amusements. And while the above site is meant to be funny ... Gawd help me, I've seen people dancing like that for real.)

Intriguing food idea of the day.   Transplanted Yat and regular correspondent Greg Beron, who discovered the beer-and-chocolate thing years ago, makes an interesting recommendation -- the Stout Shake. "Adding about an ounce of Guinness to a vanilla milkshake gives a level of maltiness that works very nicely. Even my brewing friends were a little reluctant to try it, but everybody seems to love it once they do. Well, actually, one really hardcore homebrewer said that he pours Guinness over icecream like it was Hershey's syrup." Um ... I think I'll just try a shot of it in a milkshake first. :-)

Cocktail of the day.   More interesting correspondence, this time with Chris Viljoen (who offered the Preview cocktail a while back). We've been talking Caipirinhas, and variations thereof.

Thanks to Chris, I've learned that Caipirinhas made here aren't quite the same as the ones made in Brazil, even using Brazilian cachaça; they don't taste quite the same. Some of his Brazilian friends told him that to get it perfect, you must use Brazilian sugar, which has more of a molasses content than our white granulated sugar. I asked him if turbinado ("sugar in the raw") would work, and he said it's not quite the same either -- perhaps an equal mixture of white and turbinado might be closer. In any case, I'll be looking for Brazilian sugar at El Camaguey Market, or the Palms Latino market (thanks again for that one, Greg!) on Motor. They also use a specific type of Brazilian lime called taiti, which are obviously going to be much more difficult to get here. (I guess I'm just going to have to go to Brazil and get a real one.)

Apparently they also make versions of the Caipirinha using other fruits besides limes, including strawberries and the cashew nut fruit, caju. I first tried cashew nut fruit juice at a terrific little Brazilian restaurant in West Hollywood called Itana Bahía. It's absolutely luscious. You can find it frozen in Latin or Brazilian markets, and you muddle some of that along with about half the amount of lime.

Here's an interesting looking variation on the Caipirinha, which has a little froth from the addition of egg whites.

Batida Paulista (from the city of São Paulo)

2 teaspoons egg white.
2 tablespoons superfine sugar (Brazilian if possible).
2 ounces cachaça.
1 ounce fresh lime juice.
3-4 ice cubes.

Combine the egg white, sugar, lime juice ,ice and cachaça in a shaker. Shake vigorously about 15 times. Strain into a chilled Old-Fashioned glass and garnish with a thin slice of lime.

Arachnodontophobics, avert your eyes.   This image is not for you. (There are more like it, and you can learn how to make some yourself.)

Perfect for any decor!   Be the first on your block to install the latest in lighting accessories from Italy.

  Thursday, March 29, 2001
Gimme a necta, cap!   New Orleans has had its own local soft drinks for years -- Big Giant Cola is still around, as well as all the Big Shot fruit flavored soft drinks, with its 1930s-era logo of the "big shot" with derby and cigar, in flavors from pineapple to strawberry to cherry. A few of them have left us -- who remembers Pop Rouge, La Grape and Dr. Nut? But perhaps the first one was our own Nectar, from nectar soda to nectar cream snowballs.

New Orleans Nectar is is a orangey-red syrup flavored with almond and vanilla, and is in the cream soda family of flavors. For years (stretching back to the late 1800s) it was served at soda fountains only, mostly at the late, lamented K & B Drugstores old soda fountains and lunch counters (which I am just barely old enough to remember), and oddly enough nobody ever bothered to bottle it. While you can still get nectar cream snowballs at Hansen's Sno-Bliz and Williams' Plum Street Snowballs, nectar soft drinks disappeared in the early 1970s when the soda fountains all started going away.

Fortunately, a few years ago some enterprising New Orleanians started making and bottling this stuff locally, and voila ... New Orleans Nectar Soda is born! It's bottled in a 20-ounce size, and is also available as a concentrate syrup (hmm ... a Nectar Martini, perhaps?). It's getting pretty popular, and those who want a taste of an old New Orleans tradition can even mail order the soft drink or the syrup.

With all the New Orleans landmarks and traditions that are slowly disappearing, it's nice to see that someone's helping keep some of them alive.

Cocktail of the day.   My friend Sheldon writes, "No more cocktail porn! Although the infused vodka looks interesting..."

No no, Shel ... cocktail porn is good. :-)

Here's another one I've seen in the old books and was nudged into trying by the bartenders at Petrossian. It was supposedly invented at a New Orleans joint called Santina's Saloon in the mid-1800s, although I'd never really heard of it growing up in New Orleans (then again, there's a whole lot of stuff out there that I don't know); it also wasn't listed in my 1937 copy of Stanley Clisby Arthur's Famous New Orleans Drinks and how to mix 'em, either.

The traditional spirit for this drink is brandy or Cognac, but bourbon has been known to be substituted (the Petrossian version specifically called for brandy, though). After studying both the Petrossian version and the somewhat different version I found in Herbst & Herbst's The Ultimate A-to-Z Bar Guide, I've arrived at a mélange of both that I find appealing, although I have no idea which is closest to the original. In fact, I'll include all three. (To confuse matters further, DrinkBoy has one that calls for Bourbon.)

Crusta (Petrossian version)

1-1/2 ounces Raynal VSOP brandy
1/2 ounce Maraschino
1-1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 ounces sugar syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters

Crusta (Herbst version)

2 ounces brandy
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Cointreau
1 teaspoon Maraschino

Crusta (Chuck version)

2 ounces brandy or Bourbon
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce Maraschino
2 teapsoons Cointreau
1 teaspoon sugar syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters

For any of the above recipes, moisten the rim of a chilled cocktail glass with a lemon wedge, then dip the rim into superfine granulated sugar. Shake all ingredients with cracked ice, then strain into the glass. Drape a very long spiral of either orange or lemon peel into and hanging out of the glass by about two inches, then serve.

Clover Club correction!   Almost had some nice alliteration going there ... kinda did anyway, but no "cl" sound to start the third word. Anyway, I digress.

In flipping through Clisby Arthur I saw his recipe for the Clover Club, which I like much better than the old traditional one. It's almost exactly the same, but with a New Orleans touch that I love. Here's his version with some of his comments excerpted.

Clover Club (New Orleans version)

1-1/2 ounces dry gin
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 pony (1 ounce) raspberry syrup
1 egg white
1 dash Peychaud's bitters

Pour the ingredients into the shaker over ice in order given. Set yourself for a good shaking, for this is a cocktail that must be well frappéd. To give chic to the final result, decorate your cocktail glasses with sprigs of mint after straining into them the delightful liquid from your shaker.

We have always admired the added ummph the dash of Peychaud bitters gives this deservedly popular concoction.

So do I, Mr. Arthur, so do I.

Two great tastes that taste great together?   According to a recent Epicurious article, that would be chocolate and beer.

Dark beers, especially, as their dark-roasted malts produce flavor components and aromas reminiscent of coffee and dark chocolate. This wouldn't work with pisswater swill like Coors Light, but would work nicely with something like Anchor Porter or any good stout. I haven't been drinking much beer lately, but I'm more than willing to give this a spin.

Oh, and do yourself a favor -- unlike what the article says, don't settle for M&Ms or Whoppers. Buy a nice bar of Scharffen Berger or something. It won't break the bank. Always be good to yourself.

An open letter to browser sniffers.   This is directed to all y'all who are using browser-sniffing code to detect if someone's using an older browser, like Netscape 4.*, and either popping up windows urging you to upgrade (one of which I recently encountered actually said "You suck") or even redirecting you to an upgrade page without allowing you to see the site's content at all.

The intentions behind what you're doing are noble. Your hearts are in the right place, and we do need to get as many people to upgrade to newer, browsers. However, please think about people who use the web at work, and whose companies (for whatever dopey, inexplicable reason) forbid them to install newer browsers due to Draconian restrictions against installing anything non-authorized on their machines. Some of us are stuck with older editions of Netscape and IE at work, and telling us that we suck because we're unable to upgrade yet isn't going to do anybody any good. In fact, it could piss some people off.

In fact, one of the sites whose annoying pop-up said that my browser would be unable to handle the code used to generate the site looked fine to me under copy of IE 4.5 I'm stuck with. I'm sure your painstaking designs are lovely, but I'm primarily interested in your words, and I can read your words with Lynx (and often do).

Speaking of which ... your sites are at least reasonably Lynx-friendly, aren't they? Blind and visually-impaired people who use text readers and speech synthesizers can access your site, can't they?

Okay, said my piece. Have a frosty beverage, or something.



More web kvetching!   Why do some people think that gray text on a black background is readable? I'm beginning to lose count of the number of sites I come across with this little design feature.

Like this, for instance. Do you find this even remotely readable, or is this a Ticket to Eyestrain, U.S.A.? Do you find that you have to highlight such text to even read it, or do you just blow off the site and not bother anymore?

Ugh. Do people who design sites this way actually ever look at them and try to read them?

Boy, I'm in a mood today, ain't I?

  Wednesday, March 28, 2001
In praise of small independent neighborhood markets.   Okay everyone, repeat after me:  The large supermarket chains are ripping us off. Sure, it's great to have them -- big, convenient, wide variety of products. But for lots of items, from staples to produce, I've been finding much higher quality and much lower prices at little neighborhood (usually ethnic) markets.

My favorites are Roma, the wonderful little Italian market on Lake and Mountain in Pasadena, the two or three little Latino markets and carnicerias on Orange Grove near Fair Oaks, and the always-busy Elat Market on Pico near Robertson, featuring Middle Eastern fare. It's a world of great stuff and interesting people, and boy, is it inexpensive.

One example -- lemons. We use lots of lemons, in iced tea and in cocktails. At the Ralph's on Pico and Beverwil or on Lake in Altadena, lemons sell for 69¢ each. At Roma and Elat they're 39¢ per pound. Limes that go for 25¢ each at the supermarket are 39¢ per pound at the little markets. Guajillo chiles were $3.99 a pound (that's about 65 chiles) at the Latino Market, and across the street at Vons they were $5.69 per pound, where the vinegar was also about 45¢ higher than at the Latino Market.

The produce at Roma is beautiful most of the time -- huge oranges, cantaloupes, strawberries and melons for a fraction of the supermarket cost. Elat has great deals as well, plus bundles of fresh herbs that are half the cost of supermarket fresh herbs and are five times bigger. They also have so many exotic products that the mind boggles -- herb-flavored waters to quince preserves and cardamom tea. The carnicerias make their own chorizo out of better meat than what you see in store-bought supermarket brands (i.e., cheeks, lymph nodes and salivary glands). It's so much fun to shop!

There are dangers, though. The danger at Roma is getting fat. When we go in, the two little old Italian guys who run the place will offer tastes of cheeses and olives, then say, "How much can I get you? A pound?" Last thing my waistline needs is a pound of cheese. Plus, we're likely to be offered a loaf of bread (quite literally baked right in nonna's kitchen) that's the length of a skateboard and twice as wide. We've accepted offers of slightly smaller loaves that have been absolutely delicious.

At Elat, my penchant for wandering and leisurely browsing through the aisles can get me run over. All the people I've met there have been very nice, but "bustling" is the perfect world to describe the Middle Eastern cultural vibe at that place. If you don't know what you want and you're just piddling around in someone's way, they'll plow right past or over you. Keeps you on your toes, though! Plus, I've noticed new and interesting things that settle into my field of vision right after dodging out of the way of some lady's shopping cart.

Sure, sometimes you're going to have to go to the big supermarkets, but if you've got a little mom and pop neighborhood market near you, patronize them. You'll probably be surprised and thrilled by what you find and what you don't spend. Plus in these days of factory-produced meat coming from God knows where, getting to know your butcher can be a Very Good Thing. Best of all, you could get a wonderful cultural experience, and what's more fun while shopping than being greeted by name by your grocer or butcher, and having him know what you want and what you might like to try?

Cocktail of the day.   This one's another old classic that I'd never thought to try until relatively recently. My becoming a born-again gin drinker has helped, along with my fascination with cocktails that contain eggs. The final push was having it pointed out to Wes and me by Michael and Arturo, the two bartenders-from-Heaven at the Petrossian Bar, who like cocktails from 75-100 years ago as we do.

I've started using a pasteurized egg white product from the refrigerated section of the supermarket instead of fresh egg white, and it works just as well, plus no worries of pesky salmonella. You can't get pasteurized yolks, so if I'm going to be making any flips or golden fizzes we'll just have to take the leap. The "classic" recipe calls for grenadine, but this ingredient is so ubiquitous (and usually such poor quality, mostly artificially-flavored) that I took a cue from the Bellagio bartenders and used raspberry syrup instead. This drink is a deep pink with a thick frothy head, and is delicious.

Clover Club

1-1/2 ounces gin.
3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
2 teaspoons raspberry syrup.
1 teaspoon sugar syrup or bar sugar.
1 egg white (substitute 2-3 tablespoons of pasteurized egg white product).

Place all ingredients into a tall cocktail shaker with lots of ice and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. This one's pretty enough not to require a garnish.

Fear no wine!   When I took my first wine class at UCLA, the sommelier who taught the class told us one important thing up front:  "Drinking wine and learning about wine is not nearly as difficult as the wine snobs would have you think."

It can be intimidating -- there's so much wine out there, good and bad -- but don't let that put you off. Find some good, moderately-priced wines (Francis Coppola's Rosso red and Bianco white are great places to start) and if you like them, stick with them. (I would recommend against any wine that comes in a one-gallon screw-top jug or a two-gallon cardboard box, though ... but hey, drink it if you like it.) If you have a wine store near you, ask for recommendations from the staff, and look in the food section of the paper for what they recommend. Keep within your budget, but try new wines when you can.

Today's New Orleans Menu Daily talks about this, and offers a few pointers on pairing wine with food:

Drinking wine is not like dancing. If you've never drunk a glass of wine in your life, you will not make a fool of yourself by ordering a glass and drinking it as if it were any other beverage. There are no ceremonies that must be practiced. You lift the glass to your lips, drink some in, and swallow. Period.

Neither is it essential to match the wine to the food. Although endless streams of words are written on this subject, not even the severest wine snobs would disagree with this statement: almost all wines go with almost all foods. The exceptions are so few that I can list all of them right here:

1. Strongly-flavored, oily fish taste a little funny with big-bodied, dark red wines.

2. Extremely spicy foods and high-alcohol wines accentuate each other's edges too much.

3. Artichokes make all wines taste metallic.

4. Dishes containing an up-front vinegar component (i.e., most salad dressings) don't go well with any wine.

So don't worry about the food-wine pairing thing. You'll find a lot of interesting possibilities if you decide to dig into it. But just because you don't want to buy a thousand-dollar Nikon doesn't mean you should hesitate to take snapshots with a disposable camera.

Long books and millions of column inches in magazines have been written about which wines to buy, how to serve them, how to age wines, and all that. But none of that will tell you nearly as much as pulling a cork out, pouring the wine into a glass, smelling its aroma, and tasting it. Then, next time, getting a different wine and doing the same thing.

Most people still stick with the hoary old "red wine with meat, white wine with fish or chicken". Well, a red like a Pinot Noir, Beaujolais or even Merlot will stand up to a Shrimp Creole, with it's bold red gravy. I love white wines with pork, and I'm fond of a fruity, slightly sweet Riesling or Gewürtztraminer with spicy foods (even Asian foods).

Besides, even your doctor says it's good for you, particularly reds. Don't worry ... you won't be a wino if you drink wine every day.

  Tuesday, March 27, 2001
This Modern World,   by Tom Tomorrow. This week's strip looks at the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, which will be discussed (but not disclosed) behind a two-and-one-half-mile fence. No pesky protesters this time!

Will's hate mail.   Will Leitch over at IronMinds has been getting some pretty psychotic email lately.

My hate mail.   There are people out there who'll read something you wrote -- something quite benign, in fact -- and take it as a personal insult.

From: Ted Straub <>
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 20:12:36 -0500
Subject: Creole and Cajun Cooking

Hey chuck- sounds like you need to get the stick out of your ass-or maybe just get laid. (not by your sister or mother- or father) Bourbon chicken is better than any shitty ass recipe you white trash cornbread hicks down in N. Orleans can dish up. So maybe you should give out the recipe when it is politely requested instead of being a total asshole about it.
-Bourbon chicken fan

Such people really need to get a life. (At least Leitch's guy was reasonably articulate.)

Such people also apparently don't know how to use search engines -- both Google and Altavista return about six hundred feckin' Bourbon Chicken recipes.

  Monday, March 26, 2001
<voice="Felix">Oscar, Oscar, Oscar...</voice>   Unsurprisingly, they went with the epic instead of what I feel was the more important film (I was rooting for "Traffic"). I'm very glad Steven Soderbergh won, and I'm especially happy for Cameron Crowe. "Almost Famous" was a wonderful movie and should have been nominated for Best Picture.

And is it just me, or is Bob Dylan looking an awful lot like Vincent Price these days?

Oy, my elbow...   The left one, sore from some kind of vigorous repetetive motion I made while cooking for over 4 hours yesterday (either that or I slept on it funny).

Chilaquiles con chorizo for dinner last night -- the chorizo made from scratch, the guajillo-tomatillo sauce as well (clean, stem, seed and toast about 60 guajillo chiles, then rehydrate them, purée them and force the paste through a sieve), and the chilaquiles built and baked as if it were a Mexican lasagna. Tortillas, halved and fried briefly to make them a little chewy, were the "noodles", and it was layered with sauce, cotija cheese, spinach, corn and chorizo. It tasted great, but was so much trouble that I think I'll just make a big pot of red beans for next year's Oscar gathering.

All this and no mandate.   George W. Bush, a president without a mandate from the people who was put into office solely because of a botched election, has so far scrapped limits on carbon dioxide emissions, ergonomic regulations designed to protect workers, regulations to reduce arsenic in the water supply, favored large HMOs over the rights of patients, and has also cut back on funding for needy children. All the while he's been building an administration that, astonishingly, is far to the right even of Ronald Reagan's.

"What you're seeing is an administration that, believe it or not, is further to the right than either the first Bush or the Reagan administration," said Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way. "Across the board, it's obvious that the right wing is in control. And it's a right-wing agenda that's being implemented."

So much for bipartisan cooperation. What a boldfaced liar.

Excuse me, is that ... rat tart?   If I ever make it to Vietnam (which I'd love to do one day, among other reasons because I love Vietnamese food), remind me to make sure that the first sentence I learn in Vietnamese is "no rat, please".

And while we're at it, I'll pass on the mushrooms, too.

Quote of the day.   "I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating. I don't care if it's a book, a film, a painting, a dance, a piece of theater, a piece of music. Anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us. I think this world would be unlivable without art. Thank you for inspiring me."

-- Steven Soderbergh, after accepting his "Best Director" Oscar

  Friday, March 23, 2001
Homemade Lemongrass and Lime Infused Vodka!   Boy, is it good.

It's a beautiful color, and smells strongly of lime oil. I think I overdid it with the lime zest, and will have to cut back on the second batch, but upon tasting it the lovely perfume and flavor of the lemongrass comes through well enough. I used six stalks of lemongrass (bruised and chopped) and the zest of four limes with about 750ml of vodka this time. Next time I'll try eight stalks of lemongrass and the zest of two limes -- I still want there to be an element of lime, but I want the flavor of lemongrass to be dominant.

I did a little web research to see who else had thought of infusing vodka with lemongrass. Of course, I knew that I wasn't the first, but just hadn't myself come across anyone doing it before -- primarily because I hadn't looked.

Apparently I'm in good company -- Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten makes a lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf infused vodka that sounds wonderful; I'll bet the lime leaves are the perfect way to get that subtle flavor of lime for this drink. Unfortunately, the only cocktail recipe from Vongerichten that I found didn't look terribly inspiring.

I found a recipe on another site that seemed to fit right in with the advice I got from the bartenders at Petrossian Bar regarding infused vodkas -- keep it simple. (I tweaked it slightly.) The garnish on this drink is a lovely touch, too.

Thai Martini

3 ounces lemongrass infused vodka.
Dash of sugar syrup.
Sprig of fresh coriander (cilantro).

Add the vodka and dash of syrup to a shaker with ice, shake vigorously for a few seconds, just long enough to thoroughly chill the liqur, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the fresh coriander sprig.

One Aldwych, a luxury hotel in London, does a "Thai Martini" with a lemongrass and sesame infused vodka (interesting ... sesame seeds or sesame oil, I wonder), with Canton Ginger Liqueur, Green Crème de Menthe and Lime (fresh juice or cordial, I wonder). I dunno about the Crème de Menthe, though. I might try a dash of ginger syrup; Canton's kind of expensive for a whole 750ml bottle that I'd use 1 teaspoon at a time. Have a lok at One Aldwych's menu -- they do have some interesting looking "Martinis", although I point Wes strenuously objects to a drink being called a "Martini" unless it is gin- or vodka-based AND contains at least some vermouth.

A Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco called Ana Mandara offers the Ana Mandara Cocktail at their Cham Bar: Described by the SF Weekly as "Southeast Asia in a martini glass", it's lemongrass infused vodka shaken with fresh mint, strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with a stalk of lemongrass wrapped in a curly orange twist. Wow!

Also in San Francisco, Thanh Long Vietnamese restaurant offers among their specialty cocktails the Hue Infusion Mary, a Thai chili and lemongrass infused vodka (oy vey) with a house-made spicy horseradish Bloody Mary mix.

Plenty of ideas to steal. Lemongrass is one of my favorite flavors -- beautifully lemony without the acid bite of lemon -- and I don't think I'm ever going to want to be without lemongrass vodka ever again.

Now that you no longer need your Detecto-Hat... you can now bid on a piece of "possible" debris from Mir.

Over six days to go, and two idiots have actually bid on this already. I wonder how many more will, and if the price will beat that of the Detecto Hat. (I've added some screencaps to that entry below; I can't let this one slip away once eBay expires the link.)

Quote of the day.   I'll be back home for Jazzfest in a few weeks, so I'm lookin' forward ta hearin' da sweet and sour sounds o' Yatspeak once again.

"How ya like dem erstas, Chief?"

-- New Orleans Mayor Robert Maestri to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, over dinner at Antoine's, 1936.

  Thursday, March 22, 2001
Another cocktail website is uncorked!   Sorry for the mixed metaphor; best I could do in two minutes before dashing off to lunch.

CocktailDB is a nascent (and still under construction) online community dedicated to the quality cocktail. They've still got a long way to go to get the whole site built, but from the quality of the message boards so far, it's gonna be good.

REAL "apple martinis".   The guys who are participating in CocktailDB so far have shared some nice looking recipes. One of them, who declared as I have that he would never use that artifical "toxic" green apple Pucker schnapps to make the apple martinis his customers requested, sought and found a superior product. I'd been using Calvados, a touch of Stoli and apple juice for my versions so far, but I'd seen a product at The Wine House that I'd been curious about:  Berentzen Apfel Korn Schnapps, a German product made from fresh apples. I haven't tried it yet, but these guys said it's quite good, and offered the following recipes:

Apple Martini

1-1/2 ounces vodka.
3/4 ounce Berentzen apple schanpps.
Splash of Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Cider

Add the first two ingredients with ice to a cocktail shaker; shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with a splash of Martinelli's, and garnish with a fresh apple slice.

Here's another nice looking one that I'll try tonight, but I might have to add at least a dash of bitters to it if it's going to have "Manhattan" in the name:

Big Apple Manhattan

2 ounces Maker's Mark Bourbon.
1/2 ounce Berentzen Apple Schnapps.
Slice of fresh apple.

Stir well with ice; strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the slice of apple. Don't omit the apple slice; it's really important. (Created by Dale DeGroff and Audrey Saunders, as related by Martin Doudoroff.)

On a more depressing note, I wanna have a drink every time I read the goddamn news these days...

Some hideous ghouls, as my friend Steve put it, are undoubtedly on their way to the Supreme Court bench. The acting President has ended the American Bar Association's 50-year-old role in vetting prospective nominees to the Court. The ABA evaluates nominees and gives them ratings of "well-qualified", "qualified" or "not qualified".

Conservatives are still pissed off that Robert Bork didn't get on the Court and have been complaining ever since that the ABA is "liberal", even though the recommendations board is made up of both Democrats and Republicans. Seedling declared that there will no prior announcement of nominees before they're presented to the Senate.

By the way, I'm tired of all those bastards who use the word "liberal" as if it were a dirty word. It means, among many other definitions, "BROAD-MINDED; especially: not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms", according to Merriam-Webster, with synonyms listed as "generous", "bountiful" and "munificent". Sounds good to me.

The truly amazing thing about this is that after reading the copy, 13 people still bid on it (some of them several times) and some stupid fucknuckle actually paid $61 for it. *boggle*   [Screencaps: 1, 2, 3, 4.]

  Wednesday, March 21, 2001
Infuse-O-Rama.   Last night I got two batches of infused vodka going. They're looking good already! First batch is similar to the one they told us about at the Petrossian Bar in Las Vegas -- strawberry, kiwi, pineapple, blueberry and vanilla bean. (The version which won a contest for Petrossian's bartenders didn't have blueberry, but the version they were serving at the bar when we visited did.) The second batch is the one I'm actually more excited about -- lemongrass and lime zest. It smells absolutely gorgeous, and is already picking up a pale green hue from the oils in the freshly-grated lime zest.

This is very, very easy and I encourage you to try it. Your results are limited only by your imagination and creativity.

Petrossian just served their infused vodkas straight up, ice cold out of the fridge, shaken gently with a little ice (and from the slightly frothy head, perhaps a drop of Frothee, although for froth I'd prefer a teaspoon of pasteurized egg white) and strained into a cocktail glass. I'll try serving them that way, or just in my new cokanjcici, plus ... gotta start thinking of some cocktail ideas.

What was that you just said?   Cokanjcici. Plural of cokanjcic. (What, can't you read Serbian?)

My good friend Dule went home to Belgrade to visit for Christmas (and to help vote that bastard Milosevic's cronies out of office) and brought me back a wonderful and thoughtful gift. Along with a stunning book of photographs documenting the fall of the Milosevic regime, I got a set of four cokanjcici, which are very traditional Serbian drinking vessels for rakija, the fiery and usually home-made fruit brandy found all over the current and former Yugoslavia. (The type of rakija -- roughly pronounced <ROCK-y-uh> -- with which you're probably most familiar is the Eastern European plum brandy known as sljivovica, or slivovitz.)

Apparently the word is one of the most difficult to pronounce in the Serbian language, and according to Dule is included in his language's most difficult tongue-twister. The "nj" in Serbian (and I suppose Croatian and Slovene as well) is pronounced like the Spanish "ñ" in "jalapeño". I can't reproduce the Serbian diacritical marks until we're all using Unicode, but the first and second "c"s have the diacritic that looks like a little "v" over them, making the letter sound like "ch". The final "c" has the diacritic that looks like an acute accent, "´", which makes it sound like "tch". So ... try <cho-KANy-chitch> and <cho-KANy-chitch-ee> and you're in the ballpark.

They're about three or four inches tall, teardrop/bulb shaped, with a wide base tapering to a narrow neck, and cold rakija is sipped (not slammed) from the opening. The stuff is stong, but apparently they nurse their rakija for a while. According to Dule they're falling out of style and are very difficult to find; they're mostly used these days by the very elderly, by folks who are into the preservation of cultural traditions and also, unfortunately, by the ultra-nationalist types (I was invited to wish that sorry lot into the cornfield). Due to their increasing rarity I'm doubly happy to have some examples of this artifact of another culture's imbibing tradition from halfway across the world to add to my glassware collection. Hvala lepo, Dule!

  Tuesday, March 20, 2001
My mind is going.   It annoys me how absentminded I can be. I forgot to wish everyone a happy St. Patrick's Day last Saturday (and it's my people's holiday, dammit!). I celebrated by playing two solid hours of Irish music on the radio. I hope that if you celebrated at all, your beer was BLACK, not green. (Ugh. Green beer. Of all the eejit American things to do ...) In New Orleans we celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a big parade (what else), which is quite unlike the ones in New York, Boston, Dublin and Cork -- not only do beads and doubloons get thrown from the floats, but cabbages as well. Parasol's Bar will be jammed to the rafters, with revelers spilling out into the side streets of the Irish Channel.

Incidentally, they don't eat corned beef and cabbage in Ireland -- one Irish emigrant quoted in the Los Angeles Times had never heard of the dish until he came to the States. My friends in Ireland had never heard of it either. Although I'm Irish-American, I think corned beef and cabbage is nasty.

Not only did I forget to mention all that, but I also forgot to wish everyone a happy St. Joseph's Day yesterday. That's the big Sicilian holiday, and with our big Sicilian population in New Orleans it'scelebrated in a big way back home. St. Joseph's Day altars loaded with offerings of Italian breads and fig pastries, wine, fruits and vegetables, and of course the lucky fava beans.

A slice of New Orleans, done right.   Who'd a thunk it? The new "Downtown Disney" would seem to be one of the least likely places for one of the most authentic New Orleans restaurants in Southern California. While it does have its few touristy touches, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen looks perfect, almost as if it were lifted out of the French Quarter (except a lot newer-looking), with a relatively small but very tasty menu, and ... drinks!

Sazeracs! Ramos Gin Fizzes! Hurricanes made with fresh juices! (And thereby better than the ones at Pat O'Brien's due to the powdered Hurricane mix base they use.) Kir Royales and French 75s and Mint Juleps to boot. Very impressive.

Also impressive were the list of appetizers. We tried lots of them, including house-made boudin and andouille sausages in a Creole mustard sauce, the near-ubiquitous Shrimp Remoulade on Fried Green Tomatoes, done here as a Napoleon (which they were out of when we were there ...*sob*), fabulous Oysters en Brochettte, a lovely Shrimp and Mirliton tart served with a tangy fig and balsamic vinegar sauce and garnished with dried figs to the simple but delicious spinach and artichoke dip served with Zapp's Potato Chips.

I zeroed in on the first two entrées almost immediately. Cochon de Lait with Southern-style greens, sweet potato gratin and crispy fried onion rings, with a Southern Comfort sauce. Oh my. Next was a Brennan family perennial -- Pasta Jambalaya, which looked almost exactly like the version served at their Mr. B's Bistro in the French Quarter. I went for the pig, and when it arrived it was served as a huge layered timbale, with the sweet potatoes as the base, then a thick layer of greens, then a thick layer of pig, topped with little fried onions, perfectly centered in a big plate that was swimming in a pool of that sauce. Oh my. It was good.

The service was efficient and very friendly, the atmosphere was lovely (you quickly forget you're in a Disney theme park, particularly as you get snoggered on Sazeracs), and the food and drink were top-notch -- unsurprising, seeing as this is a Ralph Brennan restaurant. It's actually worth the drive way the hell down to Anaheim just to eat here (major downside is the $7 parking fee for the Gargantuan parking garage that serves the "Disneyland Resort").

Cocktail of the day.   I found this one in a book that's rapidly becoming my bible of turn-of-the-century (that's the 20th century) cocktails, The Savoy Cocktail Book, which is subtitled thusly:

BEING in the main a complete compendium of the Cocktails, Rickeys, Daisies, Slings, Shrubs, Smashes, Fizzes, Juleps, Cobblers, Fixes and other Drinks, known and vastly appreciated in this year of grace 1930, with sundry notes of amusement and interest concerning them, together with subtle Observations upon Wines and their special occasions. BEING in the particular an elucidation of the Manners and Customs of people of quality in a period o some equality. The Cocktail Recipes in this book have been compiled by HARRY CRADDOCK of the SAVOY HOTEL LONDON.

You said it, Harry.

The book states that this drink is "so-called because if there should happen to be an earthquake on when you are drinking it, it won't matter. This is a cocktail whose potency is not to be taken too lightly, or, for that matter, too frequently!"

I can attest to the truth of that statment. Holy bejeebies.

The Earthquake Cocktail.

1 jigger gin (I use Bombay Sapphire.)
1 jigger whiskey (I use Old Overholt Rye; try any rye, Canadian or Bourbon.)
1 jigger absinthe (Use the real stuff from Europe if you can get it; otherwise use Herbsaint, Pernod or Ricard).

Shake well and serve in a chilled cocktail glass.

You might also want to try standing in a doorway when you drink it (so that you can steady yourself easily).

Rum Wars.   Fidel Castro, the greedy bastard, apparently feeling that he's missing out on a money tree, has declared that Cuba will start making their own Bacardi rum.

Bacardi had been made by a Cuban family since 1860, and the family fled Castro's revolution 100 years later. Lotsa luck on your new capitalist business venture, Fidel, although something tells me that there won't be a whole lot of this neo-Bacardi imported into the States.

Screw Castro anyway. I myself usually drink New Orleans Rum, Appleton's from Jamaica or a good dark Barbados rum.

As you're all about to see,   we'll tell you straight why gay Paree is gay! (A line from "Victor/Victoria", my favorite musical.)

The people of the City of Paris (France, not Texas) have elected Bernard Delanoe as the first openly gay mayor of a major city. The people seem to have elected him on his merits and considered his sexual orientation as irrelevant, just as they should have. I wonder which major American city will be the first to evolve past prejudice.

"Yo quiero Taco Bell,"   said the little Chihuahua, "porque sabe a comida de perro!"

The Taco Bell corporation, who are responsible for a significant swath of middle America's thinking that that nearly inedible swill is what Mexican food tastes like, is offering a free taco to everone in America. However, there's a catch. It'll give away the nasty food if the plummeting Mir space station's core segment hits a 40x40' floating target they have placed in the Pacific Ocean.

Will somebody please go and sink that goddamn thing before our nation gets any more embarrassed about this? Sheesh.

George W. Bush:  Orator and Great Thinker.   We are so privileged to be alive in 2001 to hear this great man's words.

"You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test." -- Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001

I couldn't had say it any more better my self.

"But the true threats to stability and peace are these nations that are not very transparent, that hide behind the -- that don't let people in to take a look and see what they're up to. They're very kind of authoritarian regimes. The true threat is whether or not one of these people decide, peak of anger, try to hold us hostage, ourselves; the Israelis, for example, to whom we'll defend, offer our defenses; the South Koreans." -- Media roundtable, Washington, D.C., March 13, 2001

Yep, just as the White House Press Secretary said last week, "The President is always correct." Boxer the Horse said almost the same thing, "Napoleon is always right," not long before he got picked up by the knacker's truck.

  Monday, March 19, 2001
A new website for New Orleans.   Last Friday I got an email from some nice folks back home who are launching a new website especially for locals. It's gonna be a BIG job, and they're already well on their way. Check 'em out and help 'em if you can ...

We are a group of local residents who are fortunate to call New Orleans home. We all know that New Orleans is unique "a city like none other" full of beauty, talent, brilliance, and potential. This city, this community, and these neighborhoods, belong to all of us. And we believe New Orleans deserves a web site that highlights the positive, showcases our best people, places, and events, and offers you the opportunity to participate in an on-line venue.

The intent of is to share information, education, entertainment, and your ideas about our city to the community at large.

Good luck, y'all!

Cocktail of the day.   This is one I haven't seen before, and according to the contributor was Rat Pack member Peter Lawford's drink of choice. Thanks to Chris Viljoen for sending it in.

The Preview

1-1/2 ounces Bombay Sapphire gin.
1 ounce Cointreau.
1/4 teaspoon of Ricard, Pernod or Herbsaint.

Pour the Ricard (or Pernod or Herbsaint) into a chilled cocktail glass and swirl to coat the inside of the glass; shake out the excess. Place the rest of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice, shake and serve straight up in the coated glass, garnished with a long, curly twist of orange peel.

A grave disappointment.   I have to grant the bar we visited last Saturday night this concession -- the Petrossian Bar in Las Vegas is going to be a very, very hard act to follow. I had reckoned that if we want to get truly well-made cocktails with only the freshest ingredients, the place to go would be a high-end hotel. So on Saturday we finally made it down to the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, after a lovely meal at Hugo Molina.

It's a beautiful hotel with a lovely bar, but ... they need help.

They had a nice drink menu, which is a promising sign. There were plenty of fine Scotches, Bourbons and Cognacs listed, plus a few tequilas and vodkas. I noticed that their list of sherries was limited to three, and none of them would have been difficult to find in your local supermarket. The only list of cocktails they had was of "specialty martinis", mostly pretty pedestrian (especially that vile "sour apple martini" with the Pucker schnapps). They actually listed a so-called "Cajun martini" -- good Gawd, does anybody still drink these things? They were trendy back in 1985 (and are not unlike drinking flaming battery acid).

I tested them out by ordering a Sidecar. It arrived in an unchilled glass, no sugared rim, made with commercial bottled sweet and sour mix. Feh.

Apry? Caperitif? Abbott's Bitters? Hercules? What the...   If you're a fan of classic cocktails like myself, you'll often scratch your head and furrow your brow when looking through drink recipes from 60-100 or more years ago. Lots of them call for now-mysterious ingredients that are either uncommon, unavailable in this country or are no longer produced.

To the rescue comes this fantastic compendium of ingredient definitions and cocktail substitutions. (Apry is a French brand of apricot brandy; Caperitif is a South African fortified red wine aperitif for which you can substitute red Dubonnet; Abbott's Bitters are no longer made, and you can make a substitute with 1 part Angostura to 2 parts Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters; Hercules is a British pastis for which you can substitute any other pastis.)

Bushonics speakers of the world...   unitify!

My kind of town.   My friend Tom Krueger reminds me of why he likes living in Chicago so much by torturing me with a link to Trotter's To Go, a new venture from Chef Charlie Trotter.

Trotter's To Go offers take-out food prepared fresh each day on the premises. Consistent with the same culinary philosophy of Charlie Trotter's, Trotter's To Go will maintain the same commitment to high quality, seasonal foodstuffs, and organically raised products. You will find organically raised meat and game roasting over a wood-burning spit-rotisserie; marinated vegetable, grain and noodle salads such as Spit-Roasted Turkey Breast with Quinoa & Roasted Yams; slowly braised cuts of meat such as Thai Barbecue Beef Short Ribs, Muscovy Duck Confit and Bay Leaf & Aromatic Vegetable Braised Veal Shanks. There is also a daily selection of artisan breads and pastries such as hand rolled ciabatta bread, Rustic Pear and Cranberry Tarts and Quince, Maytag Blue Cheese and Walnut Brioche Tarts.

The kitchen team at Trotter's To Go prepares daily an extensive selection of salads, soups, sandwiches, entrees, and side dishes. Items from the menu and special requests can be ordered twenty-four hours in advance in any quantity you prefer. In keeping with Charlie's spontaneous approach to cuisine, last minute surprises pop up throughout the day including Maine Lobster Tails with Vanilla, Choyotte Squash and Young Thyme Vinaigrette or Sesame Flavored Ahi Poke, or a Smoked Salmon, Black Truffle and White Anchovy Terrine. You will generally find two or three vegetable dishes that are not on the menu such as Grilled Cippolini onions with Balsamico, Cardamom-Vanilla Bean Roasted Root Vegetables and Maple Syrup-Sweet Potato puree.

In addition to the on-site produced foodstuffs, the store will carry an extensive selection of unique and hard to source specialty items such as organic soy sauces from Japan, Forbidden Rice from China, Bonito from Spain, organic soba noodles from Japan, Verjus from Oregon's Willamette Valley, artisan pastas, unique flours, hand-made chocolates and specialty cooking equipment. Trotter's To Go offers an in-depth line of hand-made-cheeses from around the world. The store will also feature an incredible cookbook section, dense single-title selections, hand picked by Charlie himself.

Sweet Jesus. (My only consolation is that it's all probably pretty expensive.)

  Friday, March 16, 2001
Erratum.   I had a typo in the link for my favorite records of 2000 list; it's fixed below, and presented again here so that you may spend too much money on records like I do.

Quote of the day.   This is a passage from Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the American Meal, and is about a McDonald's not far from Dachau, the first concentration camp built by the Nazis. The fast-food restaurant, among other stores in a new shopping complex, is built on fields where inmates once did forced labor. This is horrifying on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin.

After the curator of the Dachau Museum complained that McDonald's was distributing leaflets among tourists in the camp's parking lot, giving them directions to the restaurant, the company halted the practice. "Welcome to Dachau," said the leaflets, "and welcome to McDonald's."

The McDonald's at Dachau is one-third of a mile from the entrance to the camp. The day I went there, the restaurant was staging a "Western Big Mac" promotion. It was decorated in a Wild West theme, with paper place mats featuring a wanted poster of "Butch Essidy". The restaurant was full of mothers and small children. Teenagers in Nikes and Levis sat in groups smoking cigarettes. Turkish immigrants worked in the kitchen, disco music played, and the red paper cups on everyone's tray said, "Always Coca-Cola".

The most notable thing about the place was its total and utter banality. This McDonald's was in Dachau, but it could have been anywhere -- anywhere in the United States, anywhere in the world. Millions of other people at that very moment were ordering the same food from the same menu in a hundred different languages, in almost every time zone, every longitude and latitude, food that tasted everywhere the same.

Mmmmmm, the Big Mac...   Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, and a syringe on a sesame-seed bun.

Dubya's accomplishments so far:   Let's see, where to begin? Well, in addition to giving speeches and press conferences in which he demonstrates a feeble to nonexistent grasp of what's actually going on, there are...

1.  Bungling relations with North Korea with his stupid and ill-thought comments, thereby pouring flammable liquid on relations that had been slowly but steadily thawing.

2.  Breaking a campaign promise which he pledged to regulate and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, delighting his friends in the high-pollution coal industry.

3.  Personally endorsing an absurd "Star Wars" missile defense system and appointing hawkish people like Rumsfeld who'll work to get it made, thereby pissing off the Russians and causing them to halt their START II weapons dismantling program.

4.  Putting the brakes on a proposed Ronald Reagan memorial, a man who is not only still alive but who is wholly undeserving of such a memorial. (Gee, at least he's done something right.)

Great idea!   An article in the New York Times gives us a tantalizing idea for the Shrub Era ... faith-based air traffic control.

"Think of the possibilities for innovation that will emerge from thousands of small faith-based groups trying to guide planes safely and efficiently through our overcrowded skies... It will transfer tax dollars from overfed government bureaucrats back to the people. The airlines will be forced to become self- reliant, instead of depending on the public dole and publicly funded air traffic controllers. And while proselytizing may happen while planes are being guided in, at least passengers will have the chance to listen to stirring, faith-based messages full of family values, instead of watching a movie full of sex and violence."

[The] real point, of course, is that to listen to President Bush, you'd think our only two choices today were a tax cut that returns the surplus to the people or having it wasted by the government. He never discusses a third possibility -- that government provides essential services in our lives, that we as Americans are fortunate to have the services we have, and that we constantly need to be reinvesting in them because we have a collective responsibility to our children's future, and to the less fortunate...

So when Mr. Bush repeats his mantra that the budget surplus "is not the government's money, it's your money," he's right. But the sentence is incomplete. We must finish the thought:

"It's not the government's money. It's your money. But it's also going to be your responsibility to pay your parents' nursing home bills when they get old and you find that Social Security and Medicare are underfunded because of today's excessive tax cut."

"It's not the government's money. It's your money. But it's also going to be your traffic jam, when the government can't afford to invest in mass transit around cities so your 20-minute commute becomes an hour." [More]

  Thursday, March 15, 2001  ::  The Ides of March
Chuck's Picks: Best Records of 2000.   What the hell, it's only 2-1/2 months late.

Once again I get into compulsive listmaking mode and attempt to come up with a compendium of my favorite album release of last year. I've had it finished for a while, I must confess, but didn't get it HTMLified until recently and still haven't finished the capsule reviews. Oh well. It's still useful if you trust my offbeat taste in music and are looking for some recommendations for albums you might enjoy.

Why commercial radio sucks.   It's not just that "there's nothing but crappy insipid pop on there", it's why there's nothing but crappy insipid pop on there -- because as a Salon article tells us, most stations play only the songs the record companies pay them to. Payola's alive and well, and legal -- not the old-style payola that sparked the anti-pay-for-play laws, but today's modern version.

Even public radio stations today are increasingly falling into corporate pockets and the pockets of the record companies, so if you have a public or community radio station in your area that truly seems independent, listen to it and support it with your money to the greatest extent you can.

I crave French fries and chocolate, though!   (Just not at the same time... although I have been known to dip fries into chocolate shakes every now and again.)

There have been some interesting studies of food cravings recently, which among other things have found that men crave salty and spicy foods instead of chocolate and sweets far more than women, who tend to crave the sweet rather than the savory. (Thanks to Damien for offering the link.)

I myself often find myself craving both. What does that make me? More highly evolved, I suppose. :-)

More trademark madness!   Speaking of Damien, the other day he offered a link:

Lest we forget who paid The Blank Stare™'s way into office...

Looks like Damien has trademarked "The Blank Stare"™, and we can assume that licensing fees are now required each time that expression is used to refer to Shrub. In anticipation of the inevitable cease-and-desist, I'll just counter it by offering to buy Damien one drink every time I use that sobriquet. Since I don't have an unlimited budget, I might just have to keep referring to Shrub as The Potted Plant™ (as I did yesterday), or maybe just The Great Pretender™. (Er, how 'bout just The Pretender™?)

When will this child from Kentwood go AWAY?!   Britney Spears, the pop anti-culture scourge from Kentwood, Louisiana, is going to write a novel.

British publishers just paid three quarters of a million dollars for the publishing rights. (Random house paid $1 million for it in December, a fact which my mind seems to have mercifully filtered out at the time.)

Apparently she wrote an autobiography when she was 18 (missed that one too, thank Christ). What the feck could an 18-year-old child possibly have to fill an autobiography unless he or she has led an extraordinary life (which Spears most certainly has not). When I think of how many real writers there are out there who have filing cabinets full of rejection slips because this is the kind of shit that sells 150,000 copies ... *tear hair out*.

Earthquake as artist.   A sand-tracing pendulum in Port Townsend, Washington got its regular routine interrupted by the 6.8 magnitude Seattle earthquake, and produced a rather interesting design.

That's how they get ya., the company that's been offering free (and toll-free) voicemail to net.folk (and especially webloggers) everywhere, cuts it all off as of today. They'll now charge you between $3 and $7 per month to keep your toll-free number, depending on how many services you want to use.

Something tells me that all those 1-877 numbers on all those weblogs will be vanishing almost instantly ... *poof*! (Including mine. 'Twas a trifling toy, don't need it.) Wonder how long uReach will last.

Oops.   I guess this guy didn't have enough sufficiently advanced technology ... like maybe an enchanted Kevlar vest.

  Wednesday, March 14, 2001
The bar from heaven.   I would almost ... almost ... go back to Las Vegas for no other reason than to drink and nosh at the Petrossian Bar in the Bellagio Hotel.

While on a search to find a bar in Vegas that served the kind of drinks we like -- high quality, expertly mixed cocktails using only fresh juices and the best ingredients by bartenders who care about what they're doing -- we figured we'd do well in one of the most fabulous hotels in the city. Even then, we stumbled into this place by accident, because the other places we saw off the casino had no free tables.

It looked good as soon as we got there, with a beautifully appointed bar, rich wood, antique mirror behind the bar, and an extensive drink menu (a separate drink menu is always a good sign). A few dozen Champagnes and sparkling wines from Francy, Italy and the U.S. West Coast were listed first; a dozen or so frozen vodkas next, the list ending with the intriguing invitation "Please ask about our fresh fruit infusions of SKYY vodka"; a whole page of single malt Scotches ... then the house specialty cocktails. And that was only page four. And the cocktails looked great. We got a table.

We later learned that this bar is an offshoot of the Petrossian Restaurant in New York, itself an offshoot of Petrossian Paris. The Petrossian brothers began supplying caviar from the Caspian Sea to the citizens of Paris, and later began offering other high quality foods from smoked salmon to foie gras and pâté to rich chocolates and beyond. Petrossian Caviar seems to have quite the reputation, and was also offered on the bar's food menu at some fairly shocking prices. We were in a pretty classy joint, it seemed, but the cocktails were reasonably priced at $8.00.

We started off by ordering a Cable Car for each of us, which was featured on the specialty menu. It was absolutely perfect. Beautifully garnished, the glass beautifully rimmed, the juice freshly squeezed. This is, to us, what cocktails are all about -- fine, fresh ingredients masterfully prepared. You might think that $8 is a lot for a cocktail, but I'd rather pay $8 for a great cocktail than $5 or $6 for a crappy one.

Cable Car

2 ounces Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
1 ounce Cointreau
1/3 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

Prepare a chilled cocktail glass by moistening the rim with lemon juice and dipping the rim in a mixture of cinnamon and superfine sugar. Shake ingredients with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with a long, curly twist of lemon.

We ordered some food as well, as it was after 11pm and we still hadn't had a proper meal that night. The menu ranged from fresh scones with clotted cream, to assortments of open-faced finger sandwiches, to a cheese and fruit plate at the lower end; the terrine of foie gras was tempting, although a bit pricey; $125 for Beluga caviar was out of the question, though, and it was far too late for their afternoon high tea. We decided on the cheese and fruit platter at $19, after the waitress assured us that it would be more than enough for the two of us. She was right -- there were a half-dozen different cheeses, hard and soft, plus tiny green plums, dates, sliced apples, grapes and a small ramekin of an onion marmalade, plus a basket of Parmesan cracker bread, baguette, olive bread and breadsticks. When we finished we were stuffed.

Along with the cheese and fruit I wanted to try their Bellini; I had had one at an Italian restaurant's bar in the Venetian the day before, which was okay, but something told me this one would be extraordinary. I was right. It was. It was light-years better than the Bellinis I had made for brunch a few months back, and everyone had complimented me on those. The flavor was marvelous; it tasted like summer in Venice. The color was amazing, too -- it looked like a fresh white peach, and stayed blended the entire time, all the way down to the bottom of the flute (mine had a tendency to separate). It was the best Bellini I ever had.


3 ounces fresh white peach purée
4-5 ounces ice cold Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine)

The bartenders at Petrossian use a high-quality frozen white peach purée from France which tasted better than the purée I made with fresh peaches from the farmer's market. I asked them their trick on keeping the drink homogenized, and they said that you put the purée and Prosecco in a shaker with a few ice cubes and give it one or two VERY gentle shakes, then strain into the flute. Don't shake vigorously, or more than a couple of times, because you don't want to beat the bubbles out of the Prosecco. (You can substitute Champagne or any good dry sparkling wine if you can't find Prosecco.)

This isn't how they do it at the Bellagio, but from DrinkBoy I got the idea of topping the drink with a dash or two of peach bitters; you could also add it to the shaker.

It was getting late, and I didn't want to have too much to drink, so as they finished up with food service we settled the bill and prepared to leave. Before we did, though, I wanted to go back into the bar (as we were seated out front, in the area that extended into the Bellagio lobby) to thank the bartenders for the wonderful cocktails.

Let me tell you -- It's good to show appreciation to your bartenders, and it's good to compliment them and tell them that they had just made you the best cocktails you'd had in recent memory, and to demonstrate an interest and passion in mixology. We ended up sitting at the bar, meeting two extraordinary bartenders named Michael and Arturo, and spent another half-hour with them, talking cocktails, learning tricks and being offered tastes of some of their ingredients (this is where we tasted the fruit purée that went into the Bellinis, for starters). They confirmed for us what we were assuming from the menu -- that this bar uses only the best quality spirits and ingredients, and uses only freshly squeezed juices in their cocktails (the way it should be).

My eyes lit up after we were asked, "Hey, have you guys tried our infused vodka?" We saw a large, beautiful glass jar on the bar which had a small spigot at the bottom, filled with layers of sliced fruit -- from what we could see, it had pears, blueberies, strawberries and who knows what all. I tasted the little sip that they so generously offered ... and it was amazing. I had never tried making fruit-infused vodka myself, although I had read about it and it seemed easy enough.

Easy indeed; all you do is put the fruit in the jar (after carefully removing any stems and/or seeds that would add bitterness), add the vodka, and wait 3-5 days. I'm looking forward to my first try with a combination they recommended, with which they had won a contest:  kiwi, strawberry, pineapple and vanilla bean.

The longer we stayed, the more it seemed like we were in a bartending class, one revelation after another. I was particularly thrilled when Michael asked, "Hey, have you ever tried Peychaud's Bitters? We found out about them a couple of years ago, and have been incorporating them into lots of our cocktails." Indeed we have, sir, being New Orleanian (and of course, Wes is an honorary New Orleanian). My next inquiry was inevitable, and then Arturo proceeded to make history with me -- he was the first bartender outside of New Orleans that we had ever seen who knew how to make a Sazerac,and proceeded to do so. We practically trembled with anticipation. The drink he made was very good, although not the way I'm used to making it. He saturated a sugar cube with bitters and muddled it, like they used to do in the very old days, but then served the drink on the rocks, which as far as I know they only do at Galatoire's, and then topped it with an ounce or so of water (which I don't do). Still, it was definitely a passable Sazerac, and if I were going to be there long enough to become a "regular", I'd gently suggest making them straight up with no top of water.

The evening ended with a declaration of "We have got to come back here tomorrow night!" ... and we did. We sat at the bar this time so that we could talk to our new pals, and dove headfirst into the cocktail menu. After the tantalizing little taste I had been offered the night before, I wanted to try the infused vodka as they usually serve it -- ice cold as a "martini", although basically the drink is just the fruit-infused vodka shaken with ice, served up in a cocktail glass with a garnish of lemon and lime twists. Simple preparation, and very stealthy -- you don't taste the alcohol. It was delicious, and went down as smoothly as juice. It had the perfect amount of sweetness from the natural sugars in the fruit, but wasn't nearly as syrupy as a liqueur. Also, it's not as dry as the infused Stoli vodkas, which are distilled with the fruit and have no sugar content. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. (Michael pointed out that you can't really eat the fruit afterwards; it gives up everything it has to the vodka, and after the infusion's done the fruit has almost no taste whatsoever.)

We also wanted to try some of the house signature cocktails, and Wes ordered one called the Bellissimo. It was created by Delos Benedict, one of their bartenders, and won the Grand Prize in the 1999 Angostura National Drink Contest. Its primary ingredient was one that I had always wondered about, having seen it in spirits shops and not really knowing what to do with it -- Alizé Red Passion, which is a mixture of Cognac, passion fruit juice and cranberry (there's a regular version of Alizé without the cranberry that's yellowish-orangish).

The Bellissimo contains Alizé Red Passion, Bacardi Limon Rum, freshly squeezed orange juice, house-made sweet and sour (freshly squeezed lemon juice, water and sugar in a 2:2:1 ratio, which they make daily), Angostura bitters, and is topped with Sanbittèr, which was a new ingredient to me. It's a dry, not-quite-bitter, bright red aperitif soda made by San Pellegrino for people who want a nonalcoholic bitters aperitif (as the Italians are quite fond of bitter aperitifs and digestifs like Campari, Averna and Fernet Branca); in fact, the ad slogan for Sanbittèr is "Zero alcol, molto spirito!" We tasted some of it by itself and found it wonderfully refreshing, particularly because it is not sweet at all (if you can't find Sanbittèr locally, you can apparently order it online). Final garnish for the drink consisted of two long curly twists of lemon and orange peel, and one of the bartenders added an orange wheel as well. Even though it's a long drink (which I generally don't like), this particular long drink was absolutely lovely, with a gentle, fruity flavor unlike any I've ever tasted.

Arturo also gave me a little taste of the other signature house cocktail, which was left over after he made two of them for someone else -- the Bellagio Cocktail, which consisted of Rotari Italian sparkline wine, Alizé Red Passion and a little fresh passionfruit purée, also delicious.

After they found out about our fondness for Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, we were encouraged to try another one on their specialty list -- the Casino Cocktail, another old classic with their own spin. They use a special brand of brandied dark cherries that are imported from France instead of a Maraschino cherry for garnish, plus they add one special twist -- they drizzle a small amount of the brandied cherry juice into the bottom of the drink after it's poured, creating a cherry juice/brandy layer at the very bottom o the glass, then garnish with one or two cherries on a pick. The drink will change character as you get closer to the bottom. I didn't get their particular recipe, but none of the Casino recipes I've seen seem like they have enough Maraschino or lemon juice to offset the flavor of the gin. The Petrossian uses Junipero gin for this drink, with a very strong flavor of juniper berries (not my favorite flavor), but they perfectly balanced it with enough of the other two ingredients. I'm going to start experimenting with these amounts, but you may need slightly more or less of the second and third ingredients to get the balance just right.

Casino Cocktail à la Bellagio

2 ounces Junipero gin (although I'm going to try Bombay Sapphire)
2 teaspoons Luxardo Marashino liqueur
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 to 1 teaspoon brandied cherry juice (optional, if available)
Brandied cherries for garnish (use Maraschino cherries otherwise)

Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Drizzle about a teaspooon of cherry juice into the glass; it will settle at the bottom. Spear 2 cherries onto a pick and garnish.

I'm going to look for French brandied cherries, but othewise I'll soak some dried tart dark cherries in warm brandy until soft and plumped, then refrigerate.

I had one more before retiring for the evening -- a Tennessee Highball, which was Single Barrel Jack Daniels, freshly squeezed lemon juice and orange bitters, topped with dry ginger ale. This was lovely too, a big step above your average highball. (Gawd, I hadn't had anything called a "highball" in years. That was THE drink among my parents and grandparents when I was a kid, usually 7 and 7 or Bourbon and Coke.) The Bellagio sends one of their chief bar personnel to Jack Daniels to sample the barrels and personally select which barrel will provide the whiskey for their bars; once selected one barrel will yield about 230 bottles of whiskey, each labelled with a special ribbon and tag that says "Specially selected for the Bellagio Hotel".

Yet more evidence that this bar is serious:  Michael told us that he had been a bartender for 31 years, at Caesar's Palace for quite a while before the Bellagio opened, and had learned more about bartending and spirits in his last four years at the Bellagio than in all of his previous 27 years combined. There are regular exams the bartenders have to take and pass, there are monthly "Scotch Society" meetings where different single malt Scotches are tasted and discussed by all the bartenders and bar managers ... it's an absolutely amazing level of commitment to quality in spirits and wines.

We wished out loud that this bar could be teleported lock, stock and barrel to Pasadena along with its bartenders, but alas ... the search for a bar to measure up to the quality of this one (and without any trace of L.A. attitude) goes on. I have yet to have a bar experience this enjoyable anywhere in L.A., and I think that I'll have to start trying some of the nicer hotels if it's going to happen. I'll let y'all know.

Other drinking adventures in Vegas.   We ended up not making it to Red Square, which has many different vokdas and which freezes the surface of their "ice bar" like a skating rink. Wes declared that to be "frat boy gimmicky"; I'll bet it keeps the vodka shots nice and cold, but it'd be hell to lean on. Nor did we make it to the Voodoo Café, where the drinks are supposedly good, but the bartenders throw the shakers up in the air and set them on fire à la Tom Cruise in Cocktail -- that didn't particularly interest me either. I think of bartending and mixology not unlike Marc Savoy thinks of playing music -- if you're truly talented, all you need to do is sit there and play; you don't have to stand on your head or throw your instrument in the air.

We did have some very nice Caipirinhas at Samba, a Brazilian restaurant and bar at the Mirage, then moved on to rumjungle at Mandalay Bay. It was pretty sleepy, as we were there in the afternoon, but it gets hopping at night (particularly on weekends), when it turns into a hugely crowded nightclub where you can actually dance to Caribbean, Latin and African music instead of the ubiquitious techno-crap. There's a huge selection of rums, almost 200, plus a menu of exotic drinks, most of which looked pretty good. I had a very nontraditional Mojito, made the traditional way but topped with a scoop of shaved ice that was then drizzled with a dark rum from Barbados -- very very tasty. Second libation was a "Tropical Island Martini", which wasn't a martini at all, but a straight-up cocktail of Captain Morgan Private Reserve Rum and Bacardi Limon, at about 2:1.

"Worst drink with the best view" award goes to the bar at the Stratosphere, at the north end of the Strip. After grumbling about having to pay $6 just to go up the elevator to the top (I guess they have to pay off that Gargantuan debt), we marveled at the truly spectacular view. (I must confess that my butt muscles clenched every time I got within 3 feet of the window -- it's over 1,100 feet STRAIGHT down). Unfortunately, our experience inside wasn't terribly pleasant, despite the best view in the West. The service began as merely slow, and when our waitress finally came by after several minutes it was to tell us we couldn't sit where we were sitting and had to move. Then it was at least 10 more minutes waiting at a dirty table before she came by, cleaned it off, and took drink orders with an attitude that ranged from indifferent to surly. Megan's Scarlett O'Hara was okay, Wes' Cosmopolitan tasted primarily of Rose's lime cordial instead of fresh juice, and my drink was just awful. I suppose it was my own fault for trying to order something non-standard (and trying to do it via the waitress instead of the bartender), but how difficult is it to make tequila (Herradura Reposado) and Grand Marnier, 2:1, with an orange twist? Go to the Stratosphere for the view, but don't count on the drinks too much. (Your mileage may, of course, vary).

Oh, and you couldn't have gotten me on any of those rides atop the Stratosphere even if you had held a gun to my head.

"I'll take 'The Bleeding Obvious' for $50, Alex.   Not that he'd ever come close to getting on Jeopardy!...

The Potted Plant has now taken to ending his speeches, no matter what the topic, by saying that one of his most important jobs is to remind people to love their kids.

My job," Bush told a crowd in North Dakota last week, "is to say to the moms and dads of America, 'Your most important job is to love your children with all your heart and all your soul.'"

In variations on a theme, he's delivered much the same message in the trading pits of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, to Treasury Department workers in Washington and to crowds around the country as he travels to promote his tax-cut plan.

Apparently even people who agree with the sentiment think this his job actually is running the country, and that he should keep his trap shut about how to have relationships with their kids.

"In many ways, I agree with him," says Jeffrey Goldfarb, a sociologist at New York City's New School University, "but I really don't know why the President of the United States is saying it." Furthermore, says Goldfarb, "as a very dedicated parent, I find it totally inappropriate for the President to be telling me about what my relationship is supposed to be with my children."

The SF Gate's "Morning Fix" adds that Shrub "also reminds everyone to eat food thingies, breathe oxygen, shoot stuff with guns, and speak neat-o words in the correct sequence so you don't prove what a goddamn non-intellectual idiot you are to the entire nation all the friggin' time."

"Let it go?" Uh, looks like he lost.   If it were not for the confusion over the butterfly ballots in Palm Beach County, Al Gore would have won the state and therefore the Presidential election by over 6,000 votes, according to the Palm Beach Post.

According to the newspaper's review, 5,330 ballots were thrown out because voters punched chads for Gore and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, whose name appeared just above Gore's.

Another 2,908 voters punched Gore's name and Socialist David McReynolds, the candidate whose name appeared just below Gore's.

Bush lost 1,631 votes because people selected both Bush and Buchanan. Buchanan's name appeared just below Bush on the ballot.

The two Gore combinations, minus the Bush-Buchanan votes, add up to 6,607 lost votes for Gore.

How can we be exhorted to just "let it go" when even after all the outrage at the Republican Party's tactics during the election battle something like this comes out? The man should never have been inaugurated.

Headline of the day.   Sky diver crashes into beer server at cole slaw wrestling event.

My friend Steve Kelley summed it up by quoting Lisa Simpson: "I know what each of those words means, but they don't make any sense together."

  Tuesday, March 13, 2001
Happy boit-day, hawt!   My kid sister Marie re-celebrated her 29th birthday yesterday. This is one day belated, but I'm not yet geeky enough to access my email or web server while I'm on vacation.

I came out ahead in Vegas!   Not bad for a guy who doesn't gamble, either. I made the same deal with the casinos that I make with panhandlers -- they can have my pocket change. If we had to wait to meet up with any of the others, I'd drop a quarter in a slot or poker machine. I came out 75c ahead. I'm working on a retirement plan already. (Hey, I remember back in fifth grade -- in those days I thought 75c was a lot of money.)

But why go to Vegas if you don't gamble?   For me, two words -- food and drink. (Caution -- food porn forthcoming.)

There are now top-quality restaurants everywhere in Vegas; unfortunately our budget only allowed us to visit one. This time it was Jean-Louis Palladin's restaurant Napa in the Rio Suites Hotel.

I was a little wary as we approached; as usual, you have to worm your way through the maze of twisty little passages (all alike) that is the casino. Granted, the Carnaval parade with floats hanging from the ceiling was neat, but not conducive to a quiet night of fine dining. Once you get inside, though, the cacaphony of the casino and the parade fade away -- Napa is pretty, quiet with subdued lighting (but plenty enough to see the food). Service was prompt and extremely courteous without being obtrusive, and began almost immediately as we sat down with offers of water and beautiful, delicious, warm house-made brioche. (I could see it coming from the kitchen, and thought "Ooh! They're bringing us brioche!"  Gets you in a good mood right away.)

I started with an appetizer that wasn't on the menu, even though it's the chef's "signature dish"; they offer it as a special every night, but I suppose it's not on the menu because the preparation and accompaniments are frequently changed. It was Roasted Hudson Valley Foie Gras, served with a quince glaze, quince purée and wine-poached slices of fresh quince (the glaze and fruit accompaniments vary from pear to rhubarb to white peach). This is the first time I'd had roasted foie gras (usually it's been seared or baked in a terrine when I've ordered it before), and it was luxurious -- an enormous portion (priced accordingly) perfectly done, just barely pink on the inside (sometimes seared foie gras is a little underdone for me), beautifully seasoned on the outside. The quince motif, repeated via the richly flavored sauce, the purée under the foie gras and the crisp-tender slices of fresh quince, seems to be a style repeated through the menu, where several dishes offer different treatments and textures of one ingredient throughout the dish. The sweetness of the fruit, offset with a slight hint of tartness, was the perfect foil for the foie gras (although I must confess I would have really loved to have tried it with white peach).

Using the "hey, I'm on vacation" rationalization, combined with the "I'm spending this one fabulous food, and it's better than peeing it away in the casino" rationalization, I ordered a sweet wine to go with the foie gras -- I'd never tried Hungarian Tokaj wine (TOKE-eye), and the waiter recommended it as a particularly good accompaniment (and I was relieved he didn't recommend the 1955 Château d'Yquem at $75 per glass). I had been wanting to try one, and this was a good one at 6 puttonyos, meaning it's one of the richest and sweetest Tokaj wines. It was a 1993 Tokaji Aszú Nyulaszo, and it was glorious -- honey-sweet, full-bodied and was perfect with the foie gras and quince. I'd much rather have had this kind of appetizer, this culinary experience, then to have lost all that playing slots or blackjack, so it was worth what it cost.

Wes' appetizer was, fortunately, more reasonably priced, and wonderful as well -- Sautéed Rock Shrimp with Corn Flan and Corn Ragout. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and beautifully seasoned, the ragout was creamy and full of crunchy fresh corn kernels, and the flan was both rich yet full of the delicate flavor of corn. Lovely, lovely dish.

Next course I had soup, which was so intensely flavored that it seemed more filling than it probably was, with the menu description of Farm Hen Consommé, Fresh Chestnut and Wild Mushroom Cappuccino. The consommé was full of the flavor not only of chicken but the mushroom infusion as well, filled with tiny pieces of carrot, celery, onion and pepper that were cut into perfect triangles, and the whole thing was topped with a large dollop of chestnut mousse that made the whole thing look like a huge cappuccino. Great, whimsical presentation which is the kind of thing I've loved since seeing similar presentations at The French Laundry in Napa Valley.

Wes opted for a salad for the second course, this one being another whimsical presentation -- Baby Green & Red Romaine Caesar Salad with Parmesan Crackle. It consisted of perfectly dressed, perfectly chosen leaves of romaine arranged in the shape of a bow-tie, with the "knot" being a curved savory Parmesan tuile.

Since I was being bad by ordering foie gras, I decided to order red meat for my entrée (and as good as it was, I ended up wishing I had ordered what Wes ordered). Of all the wonderful dishes on the menu, the one that ended up catching my eye was Roasted Venison Loin with Banyls Vinegar Sauce, Lemon Confit, Roasted Asparagus and Julienne Prosciutto Ham. I ordered it medium rare, and the outside came slightly charred and magnificently seasoned, and the very inside of the center slices of the lion were red as carpaccio. More intense flavor combinations, all wonderful, and washed down with a 1998 Grgich Hills Zinfandel. I enjoyed it all very much, but I nearly passed out when I saw Wes' dish, that night's special -- Fresh Lump Crabmeat Risotto, made in the traditional style and then enriched with cream. Oh, my. My my my. The pieces of crabmeat were so big that he had to cut then in half. It was stunning, a crabmeat dish to rival only the most magnificent I'd had at places like Galatoire's back home. Bravo, Jean-Louis!

Amazingly enough, we decided that we had room for dessert. We were on the verge of being so full that the "there's always room for dessert" rule might not have applied, but after gasping at the dessert menu, we forged ahead. Once again, as great as mine was, I think Wes did a little better. He ordered another example of the chef's repeating of ingredients in different treatments, getting the Mango Flan with Orange-Caramel Coulis, Mango Spaghetti and Mango Sorbet. The flan was tiny, as tiny as the corn flan with which he began his meal, but so rich that it couldn't really have been any bigger. It was napped with just the perfect amount of coulis, adding a citrus tarness and the caramel sweetness to offset the richness of the flan. That was on the left; in the center of the plate was a small pile of long, thin strands of fresh mango that looked very much like spaghetti, dressed with a sweet glaze, and on the right was a small quenelle of house-made mango sorbet served inside a tall, curved crescent moon-shaped tuile. Beautiful presentation, beautiful flavor, and although it looked tiny it was the perfect way to finish a big meal like this.

I, on the other hand, ordered a soufflé that was the size of the chef's toque. Well, if I'm going to begin the meal with excess, I might as well end it that way too. The pastry chef offers two different soufflés that change every night; tonight's were Passionfruit, and Coconut Soufflé, served with sweetened double cream. The soufflé puffed up at least four inches from the top of the ramekin, but was very light and airy; with the cream serving to remind me of how rich this all was. I actually couldn't finish it all (but came close).

I didn't have a heart attack when I saw the bill, because I had prepared for it and because I knew this would be my big indulgence of the trip. I don't gamble and I had planned to eat at buffets for the rest of time we were in Vegas (and the buffets at the Rio, Luxor and Aladdin were all quite good and quite inexpensive). What the hell, I was on vacation.

Tomorrow, we'll talk drinks.

  Friday, March 9, 2001
Off to Vegas.   Four days in Glitz-land, so no Looka! until next week. I'm already behind enough on keeping up with email as well, and it's only gonna get worse, so sorry 'bout that.

The good news is that I should have some truly salacious food porn for you when I get back -- tonight we're having dinner at Jean-Louis Palladin's Napa restaurant at the Rio, which is one of the two best restaurants in the city. They'll clean my pockets out almost as thoroughly as an evening in the casino, but at least I'll have had a great meal to show for it.

Tune in this weekend anyway!   "Bluegrass, Etc." host Frank Hoppe, who did a great job filling in for "Down Home" back on February 17th will be doing it again tomorrow, and the proposed playlist already looks excellent. Saturday, 3-5pm PST, KCSN 88.5 FM, streaming worldwide.

  Thursday, March 8, 2001
Happy birthday, Wes!   It's the big three-five. I won't rub it in, 'cause you'll be quick to remind me that you're not nearly as old as I am. :-)

Go ahead, eat da rat.   It tastes good, really. Of course, I don't speak from experience, but rely on the word of trustworthy folks like Abbeville, Louisiana writer Chris Segura, who penned an encouraging article as to why you can help Louisiana's environment by eating the low-cholesterol, delicious meat of the nutria. It's already be really big in Louisiana cuisine, if not for the fact that it looks like a big rat.

Or eat somethin' else.   Let Chef Emeril Lagasse help you make some fabulous meals with his newly revamped website. I hear frompeople who love his TV shows, and somewho can't stand them, but all I've got to say is this -- I've had some of the best meals of my life in his restaurants (and I've had good luck -- Chef has been on the premises every time I've dined at Emeril's). Don't miss the recipe section, with over 2,500 recipes in the database.

  Wednesday, March 7, 2001
What about the bullies?   Charles Andrew "Andy" Williams killed two people and wounded 13 more the other day. Andy was described by friends, family and teachers as a "normal kid" who "fit in", a kid "who was loved", "a popular jokester and frequent dinner guest" with a "great sense of humor" who was "always laughing" and was given affectionate nicknames, an honors student who was "a pleasure in class", a boy who was "always hugging people" and a peacemaker who was horrified when he watched news reports of the Columbine shootings. Doesn't really fit the profile, does he?

Then he moved with his just-divorced father from the small town in Maryland where everyone liked him to San Diego, where all of a sudden he was outcast, "constantly" picked on and bullied and tormented for being small and pale, a kid with a high voice who "didn't stand up for himself", who was "openly ridiculed for his passivity". He was unhappy from the beginning, wanted to go back home, and spent his days being picked on by older, bigger kids, "cooler" kids and "even the kids who got picked on" themselves. "Kids stole shoes off his feet or stuff from his backpack and he never fought back. Twice, his skateboard was snatched away."

I saw his picture in the paper. He looks a lot like I looked when I was a geeky high school freshman.

Before the hate mail starts flowing, let me just say that Williams' culpability for what he did is unquestioned. He destroyed many lives that day, and must pay the consequences of his rampage. I feel horrible for everyone whose own lives were affected and destroyed by what he did.

But I feel sorry for him, too. He destroyed his own life along with all those others because he apparently couldn't handle how he was being treated, and now this fifteen-year-old will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.

Something inside me sighs and shakes its head, sadly but knowingly. I was a scrawny, geeky, pale, unathletic little kid in school, and I got taunted and bullied and picked on all through school. There were many, many days when I used to dread getting on the school bus every morning. Fortunately, I didn't have it as bad as some kids did, and I was mentally stable enough to get through it all without snapping and hurting anyone. I just have to wonder ... would he have done it, would there now be two dead people and 13 wounded people, if all the bullies and other kids who went out of their way to make him miserable had just left him the fuck alone?

Big surprise.   More of the business interests who bought Shrub the presidency have gotten their way. The Senate has voted to repeal OSHA workplace safety regulations regarding repetetive motion injuries, regulations that were first proposed by Elizabeth Dole, a Republican, in 1990. To this administration, business bottom line is more important than worker health and safety.

From a story in today's Los Angeles Times:

Among [affected workers] was Gloria Palomino, an immigrant from Mexico who worked at a Zacky Farms chicken processing plant in Commerce for 21 years until it closed in December. For most of those years, she shot an air gun into chickens on a slaughter line, squeezing the trigger 30 to 40 times a minute.

Her fingers grew swollen and sore; neck pain woke her up at night. She soaked her hands in warm water to open them on cold mornings, and didn't go a day without prescription-strength Motrin. Years ago, she took her pain to a company-contracted clinic and was forced to rest at home for a week. But Palomino said she collected only about half of her minimum wage pay during that time--not enough to support her family--and learned not to complain.

When the plant closed, she received a week's severance pay and lost her health insurance. No longer able to afford the prescription-strength pain reliever that had gotten her through most of the last decade, Palomino took over-the-counter remedies and wondered where she could find work now, at 45. "It's so hard to get out of bed," she said. "How I battle in the morning to open my hands. Tell me, who will hire me with hands like these?"

To Shrub, who says he'll sign the bill if it passes the House, and the Republicans who pushed the bill through, people like Gloria and the 2 million people like her who suffer from work-related repetetive strain injuries each year aren't worth protecting because the regulations are "burdensome and costly". I guess those 2 million people will just have to put a burden on our already strained health-care system, then.

A lovely drink.   I found a recipe in a book called The Martini Companion: A Connoisseur's Guide which looked tasty, but needed a little work.

The drink specifically called for Jose Cuervo Gold tequila (icky icky p'tang!), which boggles the mind when you consider the two high-quality ingredients with which it's mixed. For this drink I'd use a very good quality sipping tequila, but not one of the super-expensive ones that you'd be reticent to add to a cocktail. I used one of my favorites, Cazadores Reposado, but Sauza Hornitos, Herradura, or any good, medium-priced 100% agave tequila would be fine. I also added one more ingredient to help add a little edge and balance to the sweetness of the liqueurs.

In the book the original drink was named the "Tequila Martini", which didn't make much sense either -- this drink is as far removed from what a Martini really is than just about any cocktail I can think of. So with the help of Babelfish I came up with something else; Spanish speakers will probably roll their eyeballs and giggle, as this is probably as grammatically and idiomatically incorrect as just about everything else that comes out of Babelfish. Please feel free to make fun of me and/or suggest something better.

What matters is that the drink tastes really good.

Anaranjado Tequila

2 ounces good-quality 100% agave sipping tequila
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1 healthy dash of orange bitters

Combine all ingredients with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker. Stir until very cold, then strain into a small brandy snifter and serve with a strip of orange peel -- wider than a twist, about 1/2".

Paulie's past.   The ever-entertaining Smoking Gun site has obtained some 1971 felony affidavits and court sentencing records for a feared, mob-connected shakedown artist whose favorite way of reasoning with his targets was by hitting them over the head with a baseball bat. That wise guy was Gennaro Sirico, AKA Tony Sirico, who portrays mob lieutenant and hitman Paulie "Walnuts" Goltieri on "The Sopranos".

Tony's been a good boy in the 18 years since he got out of the joint, if you don't count everyone he's whacked during the last two years of "The Sopranos". If you've ever wondered why his performance has such an unsettling air of authenticity, this is why.

I hope she wasn't the special that night.   From the Dangerous Loonies Who Should Be Locked Up For The Rest Of Their Lives Department ... a man in Jackson, Michigan will stand trial for murdering his wife, dismembering her and cooking her in their family's restaurant, Kip's Pizza and Taco House. No mention was made as to whether or not he actually served her to patrons. Oy.

  Tuesday, March 6, 2001
It's a micro-cocktail!   If you're a home mixologist and make cocktails so beautiful in color, presentation and garnishing that you want to photograph them, try using an electron microscope sometime. You'll get some amazing results.

Thank you, Mr. Dave.   David Lindley, musical guru of everything with strings, world music explorer and one of my favorite musicians in the world, weighs in on Napster and the now-infamous Courtney Love speech, saying that the whole rigamarole over downloading music for free is that people basically want to get back at rich people.

In what I hope will be a model for the future, Mr. Dave eschews record companies and sells his music himself:

This whole thing depends ultimately on the fans. The fans have spoken to the record companies for whatever reason and, in the process, are throwing the baby out with the bath water, shooting the messenger. My fans know that when they download my recent stuff from Napster they are only hurting me, so they don't do it. When they make recordings, when they tape my stuff, they send me a $5 taping fee and they do it all the time. Sounds strange doesn't it? I put a little note in there in one of my CDs that said that if they taped my stuff they should pay me $5, so that I wouldn't appear in their dreams like Freddy Kruger. I also said that if they couldn't afford it then they didn't have to pay me. Sounds logical, doesn't it?
The question is, how do you establish the big, loyal fan base to begin with? Food for thought.

New from King.   TIME magazine has published advance chapters of Stephen King's new novel Dreamcatcher.

The election: bought 'n paid for.   The large corporations who gave almost $700 million to get The Blank Stare elected, and now they're all lining up to tell him what they want in return. For instance, MBNA America Bank are already seeing their rewards:

The bank and its employees gave a total of about $1.3 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan clearinghouse here. Charles Cawley, MBNA's president, was a member of the Bush "pioneers," wealthy fund-raisers who each personally gathered at least $100,000 for the presidential campaign.

Mr. Cawley hosted Bush fund-raising events at his home in Wilmington, Del., last year and, in 1999, at his summer home in Maine, north of the Bush family retreat in Kennebunkport. At the Maine affair, 200 guests gathered in the early evening on the large porch of the Cawley home, situated on a hill with a sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean. Guests sipped cocktails and heard a brief talk by the candidate.

The money didn't stop on election day. Mr. Cawley and his wife each gave the maximum of $5,000 to help fund Mr. Bush's fight in the Florida vote recount. Mr. Cawley gave an additional $100,000 to the Bush-Cheney inaugural committee, the most the committee would take from a single donor.

Last week, MBNA's investment began paying off. The company, one of the nation's three largest credit-card issuers, has been pushing for years to tighten bankruptcy laws that allow certain consumers filing for court protection, in effect, to disregard obligations to credit-card companies and other unsecured lenders. On Wednesday, the White House announced that President Bush would sign a bill now moving through Congress that would make it tougher for consumers to escape such debts. If enacted, the measure could translate into an estimated tens of millions of dollars in additional annual earnings for each of the big credit companies.

Quelle coincidence. I don't know about you, but I'm about ready for public financing of presidential campaigns.

  Monday, March 5, 2001
Hey, I can see my house from here!   After seeing Jason play with the GlobeXplorer site, I just had to play with it too.

(My hood) (My house)

Half of me thinks this is incredibly cool, and the other half finds this terribly unsettling. If I had actually seen my car parked out in front, I might've passed out (although I think I can see my landlord's old junker car parked behind the house, where it sat on four flat tires until September of '99).

Those wacky Saskatchewanians.   They seem to have come up with an advertising slogan for the pork industry that's far superior to "The Other White Meat".

Who?   Just like Jonno, until last week I had also never heard of Dale Earnhardt.

(Although thanks to my friends Chris and Michael's all-encompassing fandom of Indycar and Formula One, I'm somewhat familiar with some of those guys. I like Jacques Villeneuve particularly.)

From Jonno I also nabbed a link to an amusing New York Times story about how self-identified chic New Yorkers don't really start any cultural trends themselves, they just import them all from elsewhere (and are therefore two years behind everybody on just about everything).

One particular passage caught my eye:

"The West Coast is way ahead of New York in terms of cocktails," said Julie Reiner, the bar manager at the C3 lounge in the Village. "They were drinking apple martinis in L.A. two years ago."
ATTENTION! This is not a cultural advantage.

Please, let me remind you -- if you're drinking a so-called "apple martini" and it looks not like apple juice but like some bright glowing green concoction that would look at home aboard a Borg cube, then you're drinking swill.

Mmmm, lasagna...   Some nice person sent me the URL for a pretty tasty-looking dish called "Louisiana Lasagna", using andouille, crawfish and a mixture of mozzarella, provolone, gorgonzola and chevre cheeses. Unfortunately, it's on some "AOL House&Home Channel" thing, with a mind-crushing 277 character URL as the only apparent way to access it. Sheesh. Nice programming, y'all.

¡Ay, qué tragedia!   Chris tells us why he thinks it's a good idea to learn Spanish. The saddest part of this story is that a perfectly good burrito de lengua ended up in the trash. I'd have been happy to scarf the rest of that baby up for him. I love lengua!

Quote of the day.   "I love tongue. It tastes so good I wish the whole cow was made out of tongue."

-- Marc Savoy of Eunice, Louisiana; from the film "Yum! Yum! Yum!", by Les Blank.

  Sunday, March 4, 2001
Woke up this mornin', got yourself a gun.   Finally. Tonight at 8pm is the third season premiere of "The Sopranos". I can't wait. I hear rumors that this season's gonna be incredible, and I'm very excited that Joe Pantiliano has joined the cast. (Baked ziti for dinner tonight!)

  Saturday, March 3, 2001
Celtic Fest begins today.   But am I going? No. (Feck.) Couldn't work out budget and travel, second year in a row. Don't get me started.

What I'm talking about is the Tenth Annual Celtic Music and Arts Festival, one of the best festivals of its type in the country, held at Fort Mason in San Francisco. It's a great lineup this year, too -- the great uilleann piper Paddy Keenan, formerly of the Bothy Band; Lúnasa; Cape Breton Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond; The Lahawns; Susan McKeown and Chanting House; singer Seán Tyrrell and the great Donegal fiddler Tommy Peoples; Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill, and more. Sigh.

I'll try to make up for it by featuring all of these artists on "Down Home" today. Tune in at 88.5 FM in Los Angeles from 3:00 to 5:00pm, or live on the web at (Windows Media Player required).

I'm glad I don't work at PSInet, based on what is allegedly an actual email from management to staff in L.A. Gotta love the line, "I AM SO FUCKING PISSED THAT YOU GUYS ARE MAKING ME MICRO MANAGE YOU!" -- so reminsicent of the abusive husband who tells his wife "I hate it that you make me hit you!" (Via NTK)

  Friday, March 2, 2001
"Meatless" Fridays are no penance.   Not in New Orleans, at least. In the days when Catholics couldn't eat meat on Fridays ever, to nowadays when you're only prohibited from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, people showed self-denial and sacrifice by eating huge overstuffed fried seafood po-boys dripping with mayonannaise and butter and hot sauce.

This is undoubtedly not what the Church's Cleric-In-Charge-Of-Self-Denial had in mind.

It also never made any sense to me. Why is the flesh of a cow or a pig or a chicken "meat", but the flesh of a fish "not-meat"? It seems an arbitrary and silly distinction. I can still have a satisfying meal (in fact, often a far more satisfying one) by eating fish or shellfish. And if you're going to practice self-sacrifice and self-denial, you shouldn't be eating anyway, right? Sheesh.

You don't have to observe Lent to take part in the food traditions that sprang from Lent, and there have been a lot of good ones -- not the least of which is a good shrimp po-boy.

Shrimp Po-Boy

First, you need good French bread. This is difficult everywhere outside New Orleans, which is just about the only place you can get the proper kind of French bread for a po-boy. It must be light, with a crispy crust that is NOT too chewy (all those artisanally-made baguettes that are popular nowadays, like those made at the La Brea Bakery, wonderful as they are, are entirely inappropriate for po-boys). The interior of the bread must be light and airy as well, not dense or chewy. If you're in New Orleans, Leidenheimer's is your gold standard.

My grandmother used to make the most wonderful fried shrimp by dipping them in plain old yellow mustard (although I usually use Creole mustard or Dijon mustard myself), dredging the shrimp in seasoned corn meal (you can mix Creole seasoning into some corn meal, or use a prepared product like Zatarain's Seasoned Fish-Fri), then frying for about 2-3 minutes until the breading is golden brown.

Cut your bread into 8- or 9-inch lengths and split lengthwise. Dress the po-boy bread wit' mynez (or mayonnaise, if you speak American and not Yat), shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and dill pickle slices (although I usually pull these off). Pile up your hot fried shrimp on the po-boy, douse liberally with Tabasco or Crystal hot sauce, and enjoy one of the great culinary creations on this planet.

You can make oyster po-boys the same way, and lots of people like them half-shrimp and half-oyster.

Oh yeah, that's a real hardship. You'll be denying yourself so badly that Jesus'll weep.

Another classic Lenten dish is greens gumbo, or Gumbo Z'Herbes (roughly pronounced "gumbo ZAIRB"). It's incredibly complex, with many levels of flavor (and its complexity increases with the number of different greens and herbs you add to it), and can be made completely meatless if you like (but I don't like). Don't be afraid of making greens -- I served this to a whole table of non-Louisianians, figuring that I'd be eating this one by myself, and they all devoured it and went back for thirds.

Soooo ... if you're going to do the Lent thing and still eat like a New Orleanian, you'd better come up with some kind of self-mortification, like chanting in Latin and hitting yourself on the head with a board. There's no penance in our cuisine.

Extrude THIS, buddy.   I accepted free food for lunch yesterday. You get what you pay for.

Someone had a big meeting downstairs and got a few six-foot sandwiches from Togo's, which were pretty bad (although not as bad as Subway). I foolishly chose the "veggie" one, which was a lot of gloppy, flavorless guacamole with some shredded lettuce and sliced cucumber. Even drenching it with Sriracha sauce didn't help much, and the guacamore oozed out of the sandwich and got all over my face with every bite.

What's worse is ... I also took a bag of junk food that someone had thoughtfully provided to accompany the sandwiches. I can't even remember the last time I'd eaten any of these, but for some reason I took a bag of Cheetos. (Maybe it was because they were out of potato chips, and I do still have a slight weakness for those.) They were bad. Very bad. In fact, they tasted awful. Yet for some reason I kept eating until half the bag was gone (undoubtedly the were coated not only with cheese powder but with Mind Control Powder). Ughh. I threw the rest away, and it took four Altoids to get the taste of them out of my mouth.

I resolved never to put a Cheeto in my mouth ever again, and it got me thinking about the whole idea of "extruded snacks". Both Wes and I had seen a documentary about the production of extruded snacks that was both fascinating and repellent. This stuff is just not real food. I don't know what it is, but it's not real food. It's about as processed and manufactured as it gets, and it uses ingredients like "snack meal" and "snack pellets". It's not cooking. It's just vile.

I'll probably still indulge in some Zapp's potato chips every now and again, but as far as bags-o-snack-food go, that's gonna be about it.

Speaking of Subway...   Don't get me started. (Whoops, too late.)

Several years back I wrote a screed about Subway that said,

These turkeys don't even know how to cut their bread. What good is "fresh-baked" bread if the top part is falling apart in your hand? Whoever's idea it was to cut that little plug of bread out of the top of the loaf (ostensibly to "hold the fillings in") is an idiot. And the fillings ... bland and mass-produced. Blah!

It's bad enough that these places have spread across America ... but when I see someone in New Orleans walking into one, I don't know whether to feel disgust, pity, or whether I should just run up and smack them upside the head.

Patronize locally owned and run independent sandwich shops whenever possible. And when in New Orleans, if you want a sandwich, eat a po-boy or a muffuletta or something from Maspero's. Don't eat at places like this. If you do, I'll know. My spies are everywhere.

My sister Melissa replied to this rant by saying that when she worked in the French Quarter, she sometimes wasn't able to get a full hour for lunch and didn't want to wait in a long line at Johnny's Po-Boys. There was never a line at Subway, she said. Uh ... yeah hon, there's a reason for that, too.

Unfortunately, I often get up too late in the morning to make lunch (gotta work on that), and I've been running out of acceptable (and non-boring) lunch solutions around work. I had heard that Subway no longer cuts their bread in that idiotic way, and that some people had lost hundreds of pounds by eating nothing but low-fat Subway sandwiches (I must of course wonder how someone managed to eat nothing but Subway food for a year without shooting himself). Rationalizing that I still need to drop 20 pounds, I decided to give them another try after many years.

Subway's new slogan is "Low fat, high taste." That's only half-untrue. The fat was low. The sandwiches were, predictably, tasteless.

The "ham" and "turkey" were lowest-quality ham roll and turkey roll. The bread was doughy and lacking in flavor. They have actual "grilled" whole chicken breasts, so I tried those too ... they were completely devoid of any kind of seasoning, and tasted like they had been put through a de-flavorizing machine.

The Sriracha sauce didn't help these much, either.

I shouldn't have been surprised, and I suppose I wasn't. I have this extremely silly streak of optimism running through me; I should look into having it removed.

Life is too short to eat bad food.

  Thursday, March 1, 2001
Buy swag!   Begun well in time to have taken advantage of the 2000 Christmas season but (of course, I being me) only unveiled in March ... The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!

T-shirts, long-sleeve T-shirts, large and small mugs (which are really cool) and mousepads are among the current offers. The swag features The Gumbo Pages logo (little version at the upper right corner of this page, big version here, and the story behind it. The shirts feature the logo with the site's URL on the back, and the mug and mousepad designs also include a classic New Orleanian expression. If I ever have time, I'll try to design a few more. (Probable impediments to this -- I suck at Photoshop, and I'm not a designer. The best thing I ever designed was that logo, and I couldn't even execute it -- my friend Chris, a Photoshop expert, actually did the work. Any talented designer wanna volunteer to do some designing for me?)

So buy, enjoy, and you can feel that you've also done a good deed since the two or three bucks I make from each purchase will help me pay my server bills. (Hey, all I need is to sell about 12 products a month to get this site for free!)

Calling generous and talented designers!   Hmm. I just thought a little about what I just wrote. I'd like to ask that if there are any good designers who are fans of this site and might want to contribute something, I'd welcome it.

What I'd really love is a nice design for my radio program's page, which is plain, plain, plain. It probably needs little other than a nice logo for the show, which is called "Down Home", and features folk, roots and traditional music (from quiet to funky to noisy) of many genres from around the world, both acoustic and electric but primarily acoustic, and featuring lots of fiddles, banjos, and things like that.

The "Down Home" site is only one page, and the page wouldn't need much work. But I need a logo, and I'm not talented enough to design one. I'd probably use it on the page, perhaps on Cafe Press-made items like the stuff in my Swag Shop, and on business cards.

You would, of course, receive full credit, lots of ego-boo on my site, my eternal gratitude and friendship, and as Fukui-san says, "the people's ovation and fame forever." Anyone interested? :-)

Kyo no tema ... KORE DESU!   Up for auction on eBay -- Iron Chef autographs, from the New York Battle. Iron Chef French Hiroyuki Sakai, Iron Chef Italian Masahiko Kobe, Honorary Iron Chef Japanese Rokusaburo Michiba, plus commentator Dr. Yukio Hattori. (The current high bid is already too rich for my blood.)

Can Pacifica be saved?   Former Pacifica Radio reporter Juan González, who resigned on-air in protest over what Pacifica has become, is among the leaders of the Pacifica Campaign, who hope to save Pacifica from

a small clique [who have] hijacked the Pacifica Board of Directors [and who] have rewritten the by-laws of the Foundation to enable them to sell one or more of the stations, to allow them to personally profit from such sales, and to disburse surplus proceeds from such sales to other organizations, as they see fit.

This new Pacifica board is meeting this weekend to push their agenda through. Visit this site if you care about the future of non-corporate community radio.

Money can't buy me love.   Political comedian Will Durst offers FAQs about the Clinton Pardon scandal, worthy of a giggle, a few chuckles and at least one guffaw. Sample FAQs:

Q. But isn't what people are outraged by, is the sheer audacity of pardons for hire?

A. Yes, and few spectacles on earth rival those of a self righteous Washington politician shocked, shocked by the revelation that money gets you access which gets you influence. Oh my God, lawyers being paid to lobby, what next? The Pacific Ocean moist? Arctic camping chilly? Fire hot?

Q. Shouldn't America be concerned with a guy who traded with the enemy?

A. You mean as opposed to Ronald Reagan, the PRESIDENT who traded with the enemy?

Will makes a little booboo right after this -- it was Poppy Bush who pardoned Caspar Weinberger, not Ronnie Reagan. But I forgive him. His heart's in the right place.

Quote of the day.   "Our new president is boosting his leadership quotient by bombing Iraq and then boasting to the press: 'It was a mission about which I was informed and I authorized.' This sums up the shrinking scale of leadership in Washington today: the Leader of the Free World bragging that he was in the loop."

-- Arianna Huffington, 2/19/2001

February Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

Several of my friends and loved ones (and a few kind strangers) contribute regularly to this blog. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Steve Gardner, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Tom Krueger, Eric Labow, Michael Pemberton, Greg Beron and Andy Senasac.
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