looka, <'lu-k&> dialect, 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 @ 9:29am PST, 12/31/2001
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Live audio stream
Alive and Picking
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
(science fiction radio)
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Raidió na Gaeltachta
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WXDU (Durham, NC)
In vino veritas.
The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass, by Stephen King.
Inside "The Wicker Man", by Allan Brown.
Juno & Juliet, by Julian Gough.
Listen to music!
Chuck's current album recommendations
La Bottine Souriante
The Old 97s
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
San Francisco Celtic Music & Arts Festival
Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV
Long Beach Bayou Festival
Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA
A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
J. T. Seaton
The Mirror Project
Bloom County / Outland,
by Berkeley Breathed
Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley
by Aaron McGruder
Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson
by Garry B. Trudeau
Get Your War On
by David Rees
by Peter Blegvad
by Al Capp
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner
by Ted Rall
This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow
Films seen recently:
"Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (*****)
"Ocean's Eleven" (***1/2)
"Spy Games" (***)
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (***1/2)
"The Man Who Wasn't There" (****)
"Waking Life" (****)
"From Hell" (***)
"Mulholland Drive" (****1/2)
"Hearts in Atlantis" (***1/2)
"Our Lady of the Assassins" (****)
"Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (1/32)
"Jeepers Creepers" (***)
"Come Undone" (****)
"The Deep End" (****)
"Apocalypse Now Redux"
Lookin' at da TV:
Weblogs I read:
Eat, Link and Be Merry
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
Jonno / now
The Leaky Cauldron
The Making of a Restaurant
More Like This
Neil Gaiman's Journal
The Other Side
Q Daily News
Therapy for the Inner Psycho
Whim and Vinegar
Wil Wheaton Dot Net
World New York
Matthew's GLB blog portal
<< web loggers >>
AlterNet.org (Progressive politics & news)
The Complete Bushisms (Quotationable)
The Deduct Box (Louisiana politics)
The Fray (your stories)
Landover Baptist (better Christians than YOU!)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (news 'n laffs)
The Final Frontier:
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!
What's in Chuq's Visor? (My favorite Palm OS applications)
(* = superfavorite)
(Just what do you think you're doing, Chuck?)
hosted by pair NetworksDéanta: This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit on an Apple iBook 2001 running MacOS 9.1 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work.
"This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island,
From the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for you and me."
-- Woody Guthrie
Monday, December 31, 2001 :: New Year's Eve
Busy week. Vacationing, both in New Orleans and L.A., and I don't have to go back to work until the 2nd. I hope that you've had better things to do than read all this twaddle turing the last week. Not to worry, more twaddle coming!
Oh, and be safe tonight, y'all. If you're imbibing, stay in and don't drive.
Black gold. I bought a truffle yesterday.
Black winter truffles are in season now, and if you've never had one, may I suggest a splurge? Just one will actually go a fairly long way. It'll be worth it. Believe me. According to this month's Saveur, you can mail-order them from Plantin in New Jersey, plus there's Urbani, and Dean and Deluca (although they're expensive).
I got mine at Surfas in Culver City. When I asked for one, the woman at the register went to the refrigerator in the back room and returned with a large rectangular Tupperware container. She placed it on the counter and removed the lid, revealing about two dozen or so black Périgord truffles. About a second later the combined aroma of these truffles hit me ... and my head swam. My knees got weak. I had to grab the edge of the counter to steady myself. My GAWD ... intense, earthy, sexy. What a perfume. I've smelled it many times before, but it never ceases to have this effect, and when you're smelling a big pile of them at the same time, it's seems as if their effect increases exponentially. If I were in a room that was full of these things, pounds and pounds of them, I think I would go mad.
No more Panola? I missed this, as I haven't been paying much attention to the news during the last week, but my friend Sean reports that the Panola pepper sauce factory in Louisiana burned down yesterday. I hope they can recover from this, because among their huge product line, the original pepper sauce they started with (from an old family recipe) is unique and delicious. The fire appears to have been due to arson, and it was their third devastating fire in 20 years. Hrmmm.
The best hot sausage po-boy on the planet. I had it, a week ago Friday.
My mom mentioned in passing that one of the priests at her church parish (who's Creole) said that a place on the corner of St. Claude and Elysian Fields (not far from the old neighborhood) serves "the best hot sausage po-boy in the city". Just saying the words "hot sausage" in the context of New Orleans turns my eyeballs into little spirals and has me HYP-no-tized ... but that particular series of words strung together served as a magical incantation that set my mind on a single all-encompassing path -- get this po-boy.
Gene's Po-Boys, on the ground floor of a building painted shocking pink, one I had probably passed a million times but never visited, never thinking I needed a reason to; after all, there are a zillion po-boy places in the city, I already had my favorites, and nothing at all distinguished this place from the outside. It's open 24 hours a day, and it's in a ... bit of a dicey neighborhood, let's say. Perfectly safe during the day, mind you, but I came to find out that a number of people had been shot both inside and outside the place in the wee hours of the morning. (So when ya go, stay away between midnight and dawn, awrite?)
Gene's is ... a dump, actually. A complete hole. My dainty mom would never go within 100 yards of the place. It makes lil' neighborhood joints like Uglesich's and Mandina's look like the Grill Room at the Windsor Court. Undaunted, I went in and looked up at the menu board.
The menu is not extensive. In fact, if you don't count an item "with cheese" as a separate item, Gene's only serves four things -- grilled ham, hot roast beef with gravy, hamburgers ... and hot sausage. With or without cheese. On French or on a bun (although I can't imagine why anyone in their right mind would want a bun). I don't count "cheeseburger" as being a separate menu item, 'cause it's just a hamburger with cheese. Four things. That's it. No fries. No chips. No nothing, except drinks (which are free with your po-boy).
I knew exactly what I wanted, and boldly walked up to the counter. "I'll take me a hot sausage po-boy, dressed," I said. "You want cheese on dat?", asked da man. "Oh yes," I said. "What kind? Swiss? Or American." Oh my. "American, please", I said. He handed me a little styrofoam cup and said, "Five bucks." I began to wait.
Everything about the po-boys is made to order at Gene's, and it takes a while. The hot sausage patties are put on the grill and friend only as you order them, then the po-boy is dressed, and the final touch ... they pop it into the oven just long enough to warm it through, melt the cheese perfectly, and give the already-wonderful New Orleans French bread a chance to toast ever so slightly and give it an extra bit of crispiness.
It was served quite unceremoniously, wrapped in white butcher paper and stuck in a brown paper bag. I sat at one of the few tables, outside the foreboding, walled-off video poker machine area, unwrapped my po-boy and took a bite ...
Bliss, bliss and heaven. Absolute perfection. There were people in five-star restaurants at that moment, even in the Grill Room at the Windsor Court, who were not weeping with joy and shuddering with pleasure in the same way that I was at that moment. Beautifully peppery hot sausage patties (the way I like it, not in links), with a slight crust from its high-heat grilling, enveloped in a blanket of melted but not overly drippy-gooey cheese (and one of the few times I think American cheese is pure perfection in a dish), luxurious French bread hot and crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside.
I can safely say that I have never enjoyed a hot sausage po-boy so much in my life, and will be a regular return visitor to Gene's at every possible opportunity. I might even try their other po-boys one day, but what's the point, really? I don't think I'll ever be able to get past the hot sausage, which is fine with me. They've proven to be one of the world's great specialty restaurants, in that they only do four things (and are only renowned for one thing), but they do it extremely well. Go to Gene's, corner St. Claude and Elysian Fiends, and share in the bliss. During the day, of course.
Wonder if he's got a little toothbrush moustache, too. An extremely stupid church pastor in Alamagordo, New Mexico, completely ignorant (or worse, unconcerned) with the historical parallels of his actions, presided over a book burning the other day, tossing Harry Potter books into the fire while spouting complete horseshit like "they're a masterpiece of satanic deception... These books teach children how they can get into witchcraft and become a witch, wizard or warlock." This makes it clear that the stupid bastard hadn't even read the books ... unlike a Baptist minister of my acquaintance, who read them all, enjoyed them and declared them "harmless". (Not only are they that, but they've helped convert millions of today's google-eyed video game-playing kids into book readers.) Doesn't this desperate fool and his de-brained congregation of bleating sheep have anything better to do, like feeding and clothing the poor?
Tuesday, December 25, 2001 :: Christmas Day
Joyeux Noël. Feliz Navidad. Nollaig shona dhaoibh. Hristos se rodi. Mele Kalikimaka. (&c.) Merry Krimble and a Happy Goo Year.
Louisianians who didn't get presents today. Yesterday's Times-Picayune ran a terrific editorial about all the local people that Santa Claus had undoubtedly scratched from his list of those good people who deserve Christmas presents. Among the roster of locals who engaged in unspeakably bad behavior this year were:
* Richard Guidry, "most famous for bribing his way into a casino permit", and his sons Shane and Chad, for beating the crap out of Popeye's founder Al Copeland in a nice restaurant after they saw him and exchanged words, then fists.'Tis but a fraction of the list. While the vast majority of honest Louisianians enjoyed opening their presents today, that annoying cadre of "crooks, political hacks and public figures with anger-management problems" didn't even get so much as a lump of coal (well, let's hope). I hope it gets worse than that for such people until they learn to behave themselves.
* 4th Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Charles Jones, for throwing a punch at Judge Steve Plotkin.
* St. Bernard Parish School Board member Max Shaneyfelt, for slapping colleague Ron Nicosia at a board meeting ... on September 11.
* State Agricultural Commissioner Bob Odom, already in trouble for "allowing" state employees to build his son a house, for cussing at staffers who came into his office demanding documents.
* New Orleans Saints offensive lineman Kyle Turley, whose third-grade helmet-throwing temper tantrum cost the Saints a chance to a tie a game against the New York Jets.
* All the bottle-throwing Saints fans who sullied New Orleans' reputation before a national Monday Night Football audience.
* The Westwego elementary school officials who strip-searched four third-graders while trying to find an allegedly missing $20.
* U. S. Attorney Eddie Jordan, who tried to combat drug use at raves by pushing promoters to ban glowsticks. (What a maroon.)
* Orleans Parish Levee Board President James Huey, for authorizing a Keystone Kops-style private investigation into a local radio talk show host who had criticized him.
* Mississippi River pilots who reserved state-regulated jobs for their own relatives and friends.
* Harrah's Casino, which wrangled a massive tax break out of the state, only to start laying off employees two months later. (I despise the casino. It doesn't belong in this city. I look forward to the day it goes under.)
* The N. O. Sewerage and Water Board, which kept rushing toward a privatization deal that could tie the city's hands for 20 years, but which would also still give board members a chance to reward their friends.
* All the Slidell, Harahan and Jefferson Parish officials who eagerly jumped on the term-limits bandwagon a few years ago but who now look for ways to weasel out of them. (This goes for all their ilk across the country.)
* U. S. Representative John Cooksey, who stereotyped Muslims as wearing diapers and fan belts around their heads, while he advocated racial profiling.
Monday, December 24, 2001 :: Christmas Eve
More bad news for the Chavis family. I'm sorry to have to report that Charles Chavis, son of Leona and the late Boozoo Chavis, and frontman and washboard player for Boozoo's zydeco band the Majic Sounds, died of a heart attack on Saturday. He was a young man, only in his mid-forties, and this must be doubly hard for Leona, who lost Boozoo earlier this year. Condolences may be sent to Leona Chavis, 115 Petah Ave., Lake Charles, LA 70605.
Amazing. All it takes is a lunch house in Lafayette to get me to weep tears of gustatory joy.
Edie's, at 1895 W. Pinhook Road, is open every day except Saturday, and only from 11am to 2pm. The day to go is Sunday (although I think they have it on Wednesdays too), so you can get the pork roast with sweet potatoes. It's spicy pork roast that's so tender you can cut it with a fork, and it melts in your mouth, with a spectacular gravy. The baked sweet potato is perfect, slightly caramelized around the edges, split open and squirted full of what my sister calls "goo", a thick sauce that seems to be made of (among other things) cane syrup, butter and lots of cinnamon.
Go to Edie's!
Shocking revelation of the day. While clothes shopping with my sister Melissa at the Acadiana Mall:
Melissa: "Uh, I hate to be the one to break this to you and burst your bubble, but I work in the fashion industry and I know these things. Men's pants ... that say they're size 36 in the waist ... are really 37."Quote of the day. Also from my sister.
Me: "Oh, fuck off!
"So many of these TV shows are all basically the same. You ever watch an episode of 'Diagnosis: Murder'? It's 'Scooby Doo'!"
Friday, December 21, 2001
Home again, home again, jiggity jig. Twelve hours of cabs, waiting in lines, planes, layovers, waiting for rental cars and sitting in Kenner traffic (and may a lifetime of head, body and pubic lice descend upon the flesh of any and all persons responsible for the consruction and closing of the airport access road during Christmas) finally got me home last night, exhausted after having stayed up all night after seeing LOTR. Ten hours of sleep have done me lots of good, plus a decent meal last night (but only just that ... more later).
Today's agenda -- a hot sausage po-boy for lunch, Christmas shopping, drinks at the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone, Reveillon dinner at the Pelican Club, and then going to Carrollton Station to see Paul Sanchez' annual Christmas weekend performance (can't wait for that one!). Not bad ... a passably busy day, I'd say.
12 months. 41 restaurants. 368 meals. Or, a year in the life of the New Orleans Times-Picayune's new restaurant critic, Brett Anderson. And, as he says, that's not counting all the little trips to Mandina's, College Inn, Dick and Jenny's an' all da udda neighbahood jernts. There are the wholly anticipated aftereffects of such indulgence as well; "Let's just say that I can hardly button some of the same pants that hung loosely on my waist when I arrived in New Orleans in December 2000."
Well, duh. Had to have seen that one coming. As a wise man once said, it's a small price to pay for such pleasure.
His picks are interesting, if occasionally predictable (almost all the really great places get high marks), and that's hardly his fault. It's nice to have a real critic back at the local paper, after they did without one for so long (which boggled my mind). Da Tee-Pee rates restaurants on a scale of one to five red beans (ya can't eat staws, dawlin'), and only one restaurant in the city received the coveted five-bean rating. If you've ever eaten there, your reaction will be a smile and a "yeah you rite..."
Passable. I went out to dinner with Mom and Dad and Granny last night, and my suggestion of the Palace Café met with some hesitancy due to its price. So we settled on what looked to be the bargain of the Reveillon offered by The Gumbo Shop on St. Peter St., which gets lots of tourist and local Quarter businessperson patronage.
Their first mistake -- making my mother and grandmother stand up to wait while we parked the car three blocks away, because of their policy of not seating parties until everyone's there. Apparently no exceptions are made for 84-year-old women who are a little wobbly as of the past few years. When I pointed out that they should have at least offered her a chair, I got a canned and fairly snide remark from the hostess that that's their policy, and she's only doing what she gets paid to do. What this restaurant really ought to do is to pay their staff to be more considerate of their customers, if they want said customers to ever return again.
Fortunately, the Sazerac that I ordered was pretty well-made (although too much Angostura), and that took the edge of my being pissed off at the hostess (who will inspire a letter to the restaurant's manager for her trouble). It turned out that I was the only one who ended up getting the Reveillon, and all three of 'em ordered the same thing -- Grilled Redfish topped with Shrimp Creole. I started with the Oyster Artichoke Soup, one of my all-time favorites. It was very good, although way too thick for my taste. For the entrée I chose the crab cakes with a "green peppercorn and crawfish" sauce, which consisted of no actually visible peppercorns and exactly four crawfish tails, topping breaded and pannéd crab cakes that could have been crispier and could have had some lumpier crabmeat ... they were okay, but that's about it. The side dish of maque choux was brown (did they make a roux? How odd.) and also too thick, and tasted overcooked but was ... okay. The garlic mashed new potatoes everyone else got were good, although too peppery -- the Gumbo Shop has a little bit of a heavy hand with the cayenne where it's not needed. Turns out that I liked everyone else's entrées better than mine. The grilled redfish was very, very good.
Dessert consisted of a chocolate cheesecake topped with raspberry-Chambord sauce that was very good indeed. I loved the sauce and was enjoying the cake ... until my mom said that she wasn't sure, but she thought that they sold the very same cake in the frozen food section of Sam's Club. (Hmm ... Sam Walton, pastry chef. I dunno.) Well, it tasted good, anyway. I was really looking forward to the finishing touch, a very classy one at that, of the venerable Creole spiked and spiced coffee drink Café Brulôt. Unfortunately, the Gumbo Shop's Café Brulôt tasted insufficiently of brandy and far too much of clove. Sigh.
I probably should have known better. Leave the Gumbo Shop for the tourists (their gumbo is pretty good, actually -- solid examples of the dish, and dependable), and next time I'll push harder for the Palace Café.
Thursday, December 20, 2001
Triumph. We just got back from seeing "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring". Despite the fact that I have to take a taxi in four hours (at 4am) to get to the airport, I wouldn't have missed this for the world.
Holy feckin' bejeebies. It was one of the most astonishing films I've ever seen. Laughter, tears, suspense, terror, and for the most part pure and overwhelming awe at the beauty and sweep of the images given us by director Peter Jackson, his co-scenarists, conceptual artists/illustrators John Howe and Alan Lee, production designer Grant Major, cinematographer Andrew Lesnie and, I'm proud to say, my old cinematography teacher Alex Funke, who was the visual effects supervising director of photography. (Even though my career didn't follow that path, I was never prouder to have been one of his students than I was tonight.)
I'm too tired to write a full review; it's nearly 2am and I'm still not packed yet. Suffice to say that this was a spectacular adaptation, full of intelligence and emotion and excitement, and Peter Jackson didn't just pull it off, he achieved something truly momentous. Go see it. I'll link to two good reviews from two entirely different sources, if you insist on reading one. Just get thee to the nearest high-quality cinema with the largest screen, sit back, and disappear into Middle Earth.
The second installment of three, "The Two Towers", will be released next Christmas. It's going to be a long year.
Off to the Land of Dreams. I'll be in New Orleans with family and friends for the next week. Updates may well be scarce; then again, they may not. In any case, have a wonderful holiday.
Priceless quote of the evening, #1. "BO-ring!"
-- Shouted at the screen by an audience member in tonight's LOTR screening at the AMC Burbank 14, during the lame Anakin-loves-Amidala "Star Wars, Episode II" trailer (replete with wooden, badly-written dialogue as well as wooden acting from actors who are capable of far more).
Priceless quote of the evening, #2. "So let me get this straight ... billions and billions of people die, just 'cause this guy can't get laid?"
-- A guy talking to his friend in the lobby of the AMC Burbank 14 after tonight's LOTR screening, referring to Anakin Skywalker, a.k.a. Darth Vader, from the aforementioned trailer.
Mean-spirited-but-true remark of the evening. "George Lucas wishes he were Peter Jackson."
Wednesday, December 19, 2001
This is your country. San Franciscan Barry Reingold, 60, was working out in his gym recently, chatting with people in the weight room as is his usual wont. Not long ago he said,
"People say what dogs those terrorists are. But I've said, 'Look at what a dog George Bush is.'"It seems that his expression of his opinion, even a currently unpopular one, rather than being protected by this country's Constitution and Bill of Rights, earned him a visit from the FBI.
"Look at all the hundreds of thousands of workers being laid off in the United States ... This war is not just about getting terrorists. It's also about money and corporate oil profits."
What does this tell us? Many things. It begs lots of questions, too. First, it makes us wonder if we're developing into a nation of informants. What's next? Will a man's own young daughter turn him in for wrapping fish in a poster of G**rg* W. B*sh or J*hn *shcr*ft? Will this "War on Terrorism" end up as much of a debacle as the "War on Drugs", and end up being a War on Liberty? Does our Executive Branch think that they can simply ignore the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the things we're supposedly defending in this "war"? (By the way, we're not actually at war, unless I happened to be off the planet when Congress declared war on Binladenstan.)
Will these questions of mine earn me a visit from the Effa-Bee-Eye? In these times, don't these agents have anything better to do? For instance, going after actual criminals and probably terrorists? I realize that those two agents who visited Mr. Reingold were on a crap detail, but don't they realize they're contributing to the very thing we're fighting against?
Do you suppose Jesus' favorite movie is "Slap Shot"? Which is his favorite Hanson brother, do you suppose? Do you think he swears as much as the rest of those guys, or if he's ever tripped someone with his stick? How far do you have to push him before the gloves come off? That "turn the other cheek" thing probably won't fly in the world of hockey.
Favorite In Passing quote of the day. "I'll have a glass of... how do you pronounce this?"
"The second one?"
-- A man and a waitress at Caffe Venezia, San Francisco.
Speaking of "In Passing" and wine... A fellow named Ben left a nice list of wine recommendations in the comment section for the above quote. I hope he doesn't mind my sharing it. I always go for learned wine recommendations.
Costa Di Bussia 1993 Barolo Reserve. Very nice, light and fruity. I still think about it now and then.The only one of these I'd had myself was the Egri Bikaver, but not the '95. It was indeed cheap, and quite good, but I didn't decant it. Hey, I could really use a nice wide-bottomed decanter for Christmas!
Secco-Bertani 1995 Valpolicella Valpantena. Gift from friend's private stash... absolutely great bottle. Good body, nice tasting cask.
Acacia 1993 Old Vines Zinfandel. Not spectacular, but the vineyard produces really excellent Reserve wines. This one isn't but try their Cab/Shiraz.
Pio Cesare Dolcetto d'Alba 1995 Dolcetto d'Alba. Something very special. There is a good bit of spice, but the wine is pretty light. Think early fall or mid spring taste...
Hess Select 1996 Merlot. Gha! this is a fantastic Merlot, very rich flavor, nice tannins... you will be happy with anything from them as well. They make a really great Cab as well.
Villa Girardi 1993 Amarone. We held this for over a year waiting to have it with lamb, as was suggested. It was fantastic and worth the wait.
Egri Bikaver 1995 Bulls Blood, Hungary. CHEAP and excellent. If you can find this bottle, you will love it. Other years aren't as good - we've tried, but it is still fantastic. Let it decant for 30 minutes - don't let it wait past 3 hours.
San Francisco de Mostaxal 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon. Wow! Let this decant for 24 hours or more. Serve with dark chocolate. You will be blown out of the water. Any less time decanting and it tastes like old socks.
Wolf Blass ... ANYTHING. Black Label, Yellow Label, Green label, Silver label - it is all fantastic. They have not made a wine that does not taste unbelievably good.
Tuesday, December 19, 2001
Sorry. It's been a spectacularly busy five days.
Last Friday I went off the Vicodin (sitting around stoned is highly overrated, let me tell you) and couldn't wait to escape the stir-craziness that was building up in me after four days at home. I went directly to John O'Groats and tried to eat some solid food. One work-of-art Club Sandwich later, my belly was blissful but my mouth was agonized. Ouch. Too much, too soon. Sigh.
I'm having an easier time with solid food by today, but keeping it out of my still-sensitive sockets is no easy task. Heal, dammit!
Eavesdropping. Via Jim Romanesko's Obscure Store I found a really nifty website called In Passing, whose webmistress "Eve S. Dropper" jots down things he hears people say while passing by, whether one-sided cell phone conversations or snippets overheard in coffeehouses or grocery lines or on the street. She categorizes them under such headings as "funny", "tragic", "wisdom", "uh..." and the like, and it's pretty entertaining. Reminds me of Bunny Matthews' "F'Sure!", only without the cartoons and San Francisco-centric. Visit and listen in.
Favorite "In Passing" quote of the day. "Would you believe this? Forty dollars for two little truffles in a box!"
"Well, you also get the rice they're packed in."
-- A woman and a man at Andronico's, an upscale market in San Francisco
Quote of the day. "Please. This is New Orleans. We are civilized here."
-- The announcer at the Superdome, at last night's Monday Night Football game, during which a bunch of idiotic Saints fans hurled objects from the stands to protest a bad call. (Thirteen arrests, plus fifteen ejections.)
Thursday, December 13, 2001
Thanks, y'all. I really appreciate all the notes I've gotten from folks out there wishing me well in the aftermath of my oral surgery. I'm doing better today, no swelling, the pain's under conrol and I can probably stop taking the Vicodin today. Odd as it may sound, it's really not too much fun just sitting around being all stoned and groggy all day. I'd really rather read or watch movies or something.
Speaking of movies, I did manage to finally see "Wonder Boys" on DVD last night, thanks to NetFlix. It was terrific, and one I think I might just have to add to the permanent collection.
Tonight on "Down Home". It's the 14th Annual Cajun-Creole-Celtic Christmas Special (now with a big dose of other American roots music). Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know we're all sick of Christmas music already, but this is much more off-the-wall than you've been hearing spewing forth from every Muzak speaker in the world. We'll be hearing from Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil, Canray Fontenot, Clifton Chenier, D. L. Menard, the Jambalaya Cajun Band, Altan, Liam O'Flynnm, Chris Smither, Victoria Spivey with Lonnie Johnson, Ella Fitzgerald, Luka Bloom, Aengus (Robbie O'Connell and Jimmy Keane), the Chieftains, Elvis Costello, Dr. John, Sari and Mari Kaasinen, Charmaine Neville, Rockin' Dopsie, and not to mention our annual tradition ... "The Twelve Yats of Christmas", by Benny Grunch and the Bunch. Tune in and have fun!
New chef at Broussard's. Kevin Allman from WHERE Magazine in New Orleans wrote this morning to tell me that Gunter Preuss, owner/chef of Broussard's in the French Quarter (one of our classic Creole restaurants and the home of that yummy German Reveillon meal) has hired a new executive chef -- Gabe Toups, formerly of the Metro Bistro. I'm not sure if Chef Gunter is retiring or just stepping back to be owner or what, but I'll pass on what I find out. Gabe is from Lafayette, so we could see a slight veering to the Cajun direction when it comes to Broussard's menu ... should be interesting!
The bad news is that the Metro Bistro is apparently no more; Kevin referred to it as "now-defunct". I don't know how I missed that bit of news. I always thought the Metro was terrific, and I always enjoyed every meal I got there. I'll see if I can find some recipes from that place to add to the archive.
Food cost and restaurant profit. Today's New Orleans Menu Daily has an interesting article on food cost and how restaurants make money. Author Tom Fitzmorris related the story of one man who recently groused to him about having had to pay $30 for a meal in a high-end restaurant, how anything over $10 is a ripoff, and that the restaurant must have made $28 in pure profit. Well, not so fast. It varies depending on what you had, and besides, restaurants' food costs and profit margins are practically state secrets. Tom boils it all down to this, which is good enough for me: "Just forget about it and see how you feel at the end of the meal. Did you get your money's worth? That's really all that matters. Yeah you rite.
Here are a few things to get you thinking about the bottom-line cost of your meal, though:
FIVE MAIN INGREDIENTS THAT CREATE HIGH RESTAURANT PROFITChuck Heston must be so proud. From an MSNBC report on al-Qaeda's "domestic fortress", a war and terrorism training camp with rooms and homes for the terrorists' families (emphasis mine):
1. Drinks. The markup on cocktails is less than for iced tea, Cokes, and coffee, but the dollars are higher. So they're an important source of restaurant profits. Wine, on the other hand, has a cost basis of between 35 and 50 percent, which is higher than for most other items on your bill.
2. Pasta. Regardless of the quality of the pasta or what goes into it (truffles and caviar excepted), the pasta dishes on a restaurant's menu are very significant moneymakers. Most expansive part of the typical pasta dish: the parmesan cheese.
3. Soups. There are some exceptions to this (seafood gumbo and turtle come to mind), but since most soup is made of by-products, it registers a low food cost.
4. Desserts. Except for the fanciest, most desserts are made with some of the cheapest ingredients a restaurant buys: eggs, butter, flour, sugar, milk. Why any restaurant serves a small portion of bread pudding is a mystery: more than you can finish costs less than a quarter to make.
5. Chicken. Even free-range chicken is inexpensive. When you get a single chicken breast on the plate, the restaurant is usually ringing up some nice percentages.
FIVE MAIN INGREDIENTS THAT CREATE LOW RESTAURANT PROFIT
1. Seafood. Fish is the most perishable food in the marketplace, and so incurs high losses. It's also tougher to buy and handle than beef or chicken or vegetables. The only exceptions are the mass-marketed fish like catfish, tilapia, and salmon.
2. Delicacies. Foie gras, caviar, truffles, and the like are extremely expensive for small amounts, and the dining public is outraged when prices for them climb too high. So the cost percentages tend to be very high.
3. Steak. The best steak houses run some of the highest food cost percentages in the industry. That's one of the reasons you see so many of them with à la carte menus, where you pay five bucks for spinach.
4. Veal. Veal that can be served simply is expensive. Veal that's not really expensive (i.e., osso buco) is very labor-intensive.
5. Garnishes. Wild mushrooms, blue cheese, hand-cured olives, extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Parmigiana Reggiano cheese, and stuff like that is very expensive, and rarely considered by customers as contributing to cost. So restaurant usually keep the price of dishes containing these things low.
The camp, called the Lewa Saradi, or Wolf's Frontier, was one of the main training facilities in Afghanistan for bin Laden's al Qaeda network, according to Afghan security officials. Built like a warlord's fort, surrounded by high mud walls, several football fields long and almost as wide, it seemed designed to impress recruits to the holy war.I may not respect your insane efforts to keep America armed to the teeth, Chuckles, but I'm glad that someone out there does. Your life's work is not for naught. (Thanks to Kate for sending the article.)
On one side of the vast center were the training areas: obstacle courses with jungle gyms, a shooting range with National Rifle Association targets, and ammunition dumps that still contained plastic explosives, a hand-held bomb and touches of Americana like a Los Angeles Raiders cap. On the other side, 70 low-slung houses were laid out Levittown-like, in neat rows with wide streets.
Wednesday, December 12, 2001
Just call me Alvin, or Simon, or Theodore. 'Cause I look like a chipmunk.
The wisdom tooth extraction went mostly very well. As predicted he had a little trouble with the lower left one, due to all the decay -- when the tooth comes in at a 45 degree angle, it catches food where it meets the second molar and is very difficult to clean. That thing would've blown up any day now. Fortunately all four teeth were actually erupted, so no incisions or bone chipping or tooth-breaking was required, and the procedure was over in about 25 minutes. And true to predictions, the swelling that I thought I had been avoiding for the past 48 hours has bloomed in full today, and I'm sore. Vicodin + Motrin = happiness (well, not truly blissful happiness, but I'm a hell of a lot happier than I'd be without it).
My experience wasn't quite like all the stories my friends had told me. Invariably it went like this -- once they got the I.V. started, the doctor would say, "Okay, I want you to could backwards from 100." "100 ... 99 ... 98 ... 97 ..." "Okay, wake up! We're done!"
I didn't get to count back from 100. I got to sing the Al Scramuzza's "Seafood City" song.
Dr. Skaggs and his nurse Alise were both very nice, Alise being particularly jovial, which helped 'cause I was nervous as hell. The first thing they did about that was to strap the ol' nitrous oxide dispenser over my nose. A dozen deep breaths of that and I was wooooooooo, happy happy happy. Relaxed. Nervous, me? Pshaw? Hey, how y'all doin?! Ahhhhhh. What? Open my shirt for EKG leads? Sure, knock yaself out, dawlin'.
The doctor came in and mentioned that the patient he had just finished working on another guy who was from New Orleans as well, and that he had mentioned he was going to make a big pot of gumbo for his friend who came to pick him up after surgery. I said, woozily, that I made a pretty mean gumbo and had just made a lovely brunch the day before, with a savory stuffed bread pudding with spinach, tasso and Gruyère cheese. The doc said that it was a shame that the other guy would be gone before I got out of sedation, because he thought I'd enjoy meeting him. I told him that I certainly would, as New Orleanians have a tendency to bond immediately when they encounter one another out-of-town.
"What, is it the shared cultural experience?" the doctor asked. "Yep," I replied, slurring. "We have a verrrrry unique culture." I felt him spray something cold on my arm, on the inside of my elbow. "That's just a little topical anaesthetic," he said. Oooookayyyy.
"In fact," I continued, "I bet you that if I met him we'd be singing local commercial jingles within three minutes."
The doctor laughed. "So do you have particularly unique and funky commercials? By the way, you're going to feel a little tiny pinch on your arm here." "Oh yeah," I said. I felt a tiny little pinch on my arm. "Give me an example of one," he said.
Well hell, I'm stoned on nitrous. Inhibitions shminibitions. I began to sing.
Seeeafoood City is-a verrry pretty,I started to slow down after that line, but the doctor cracked up. "Al Scum-ooza?!" he exclaimed. "No ... nooo ... Al SCRA-muzza." "That doesn't sound French." "Uhh ... we gottat lotta Italians in New Orleans ..."
Down at Broad 'n St. B'nawd,
Stay with Al Scramuzza and you'll nevuh be a loosuh ...
There was a pause of about two seconds by my reckoning, then all of a sudden my mouth was filled with gauze. I opened my eyes and looked around. The doctor was gone. The nurse was cleaning up. I looked to my left and amidst a bunch of instruments on the tray next to me there were four bloody teeth. Alise said, "Oh hi! You're all done!"
It's extremely weird to have an hour of one's life simply removed, about to be there one minute, and gone the next. Still, I wouldn't want that hour back for anything. I didn't even want to be stoned on nitrous yet still conscious and aware of the procedure, and I certainly didn't want to have an experience like Stever, who said:
If you "don't need you wisdom teeth removed right now, but someday might," do it now. What they don't tell you is that as you get older, your bones harden. Even if they aren't causing problems at 21, consider getting the wisdom teeth out if they ever might be a problem. Do you really want the oral surgeon to stop mid-extraction, ask your age, and then say to the nurse, "That explains it. His jaw is no longer spongy. Hand me the bone saw."Aaaaieeeeee!
Fortunately, the nitrous makes the comment bearable. In fact, it makes the comment positively funny. So definitely choose the laughing gas; this could be your one big chance to do it legally. As I found out, if you want sedation, you need to let them know a few days in advance rather than the night before. But trust me -- you want to be conscious. How many times will you get the chance to hear your teeth being literally ripped from your mouth? It's sorta cool, in a weird, "South Park" way.
(By the way, as you may or may not know, the last line of the "Seafood City" song is "Eighteen twenty-six Nawt' Broooad." That's the address, by the way, as Al repeats while standing next to his two daughters and waving at the camera ... "Dat's Seafood City, 1826 Nort' Broad!" Unfortunately, Seafood City is now gone, replaced by a Walgreens. Feh.)
Happy birthday, radio! One hundred years ago today, Guglielmo Marconi made the first ever wireless transmission, from Poldhu, Cornwall, England to Newfoundland, December 12, 1901.
Roger, Wilco. The Wilco show last Thursday was abso-feckin-lutely fantastic. Jonathan Richman gave an amusing opening set, and then when the lights went down for Wilco to come on, I heard some awfully familiar music playing from the sound system. Then I heard an even more familiar voice say, "Hold your breath. Make a wish. Count to three." Then that voice began to sing:
Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination,The voice, of course, was Gene Wilder's as Willy Wonka. I had just bought the widescreen DVD edition of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" the week before and watched it twice, once with the commentary. Incidentally, the commentary track is done not by the director, writer or producer, but by all of the "Wonka Kids", now grown-up and in their early forties. It was fabulous. But I digress.
Take a look and you'll see into your imagination.
We'll begin with a spin traveling in the world of my creation.
What we'll see will defy explanation.
If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to do it.
Want to change the world?
There's nothing to it.
The boys came out and began to play, saying hello but not much else to the crowd the entire night. What they did was play, and brilliantly. They kicked right off with the first song from the forthcoming album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and by my count played the entire album save for one song. Here's the set list.
I Am Trying To Break Your HeartGlen Kotche, the new drummer, is fantastic. He's an incredibly powerful and passionate musician, and after having seen Wilco a number of times I wish he had been with them all along. He doesn't just pound on the drums to keep the beat, he plays them like an instrument, with power and sophistication, adding a lot to the band's layers of sound. New keyboardist and second guitarist Leroy Bach did a great job too, but it looked like he had his hands full. I was also happy to see the fifth new member of the band as well. On stage next to Jeff was the band member that helped them with some of the complex effects and electronic soundscapes that lend texture to the songs from the new album -- their Apple Titanium Powerbook.
I'm Always In Love
War on War
She's a Jar
Why Would You Wanna Live
Shot in the Arm
Ashes of American Flags
Pot Kettle Black
How to Fight Loneliness
Heavy Metal Drummer
I'm the Man Who Loves You
Far Far Away
Red-Eyed and Blue
I Got You (At the End of the Century)
Outtasight (Outta Mind)
Say You Miss Me
Passenger Side (which was a singalong)
I was thrilled that they played most of YHF, and as great as that record is, I liked the live version of "Kamera" even better than the recorded version -- Jeff sang it an octave higher, and I hope he keeps singing it that way.
Jeff and John sound great singing together as always, and Jeff -- who started off years ago as one of my favorite musicians -- gets better and stronger every time I hear him. If he gets any better than this somebody's going to just explode; whether it's him or me, I don't know.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance CD of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, so I could finally ditch the CD I burned from the Quicktime files the band had been streaming from their website (which was a great idea, giving the audience a taste of the new record and getting them to know the songs). It's an absolutely amazing record, and I hear more in it every time I listen to it. Last I heard it's going to have a March 2002 release, although I still don't know who's putting it out. I hope it's somebody who's fiercely independent, and when it becomes a huge critical (and, I hope, a popular one as well), so that they band can give AOL Time Warner and Reprise a big "thppbpthpt" and a big "up yours!" I'm glad they got dropped, actually, because I think it'll be better for one of America's greatest bands to be on an independent label anyway.
Belated happy boit-day, Bill! I was a little too stoned to get to this yesterday, but my old friend and former roommate Bill Sturgeon had a birthday on December 11, and I hope it was a happy one. Jesus Bill, are you really 40 now?
Ack! Nouveau CD! I've really got to pay more attention. One of my very favorite bands, the Québecois trad-roots-jazz group La Bottine Souriante, have a new album out. It's called Cordial, and I just picked it up from a place I hadn't patronized before, Archambault. I highly recommend them - the service was impeccable, fast shipping, good prices and lots of French Canadian stuff in their catalogue.
The band's label describes Cordial thusly:
"Cordial" is La Bottine Souriante's long awaited 11th album in a career spanning 25 years. It is a powerful concoction of LBS' instrumental prowess and lively vocal harmonies. They are true masters of their craft, creating an overproof blend of traditional and contemporary flavours. Led by the charismatic singer, accordionist and harmonica player Yves Lambert, this nine-piece freight train boasts fiddles, accordion, piano, flutes, whistles, claquettes (tap shoes) and an airtight horn section.The verdict's still out on the new album. It's taken some interesting turns in the arrangements, with more songs in minor keys, and an almost gypsy feel to the first song, "Dans Paris y'a t'une brune" ("The Brunette from Paris"). Their pianist Denis Frechette has left the band, and has been replaced by a gentleman named Pierre Bélisle, who adds synthesizers to the arrangements. This I most certainly do not like, but it's really only obvious in a couple of songs. Perhaps the album will grow on me, but I didn't like it nearly so instantly as I liked their last one Xième. It's still pretty good, though. And their fiddle player's still adorably cute.
Reveillon menu of the day. We've pretty much narrowed it down to the Pelican Club, but there was at least one other choice amidst the four that my friends suggested. Broussard's is one of the great old-line Creole restaurants, serving great local food, but their chef Gunter Preuss is actually German. He has impeccable local credentials, having been the chef of the prestigious Versailles in New Orleans for many years. However, for Reveillon he reverts to his own childhood memories of growing up in Berlin, and does a huge German feast. I don't know much about German food and haven't had all that much of it, but everyone I know, from friends to New Orleans food writer Tom Fitzmorris, raves over Chef Gunter's Reveillon. Here's the menu, along with brief commentary from Tom in today's New Orleans Menu Daily:
For the past several years, this has been my favorite of the Reveillon menus. The dining room is beautiful, the environment is peaceful, and the menu is German. German? Yes -- but this is not the cliché German food you're used to seeing at Oktoberfest. Chef Gunter Preuss turns out highly polished versions of the dishes he remembers from his childhood in postwar Berlin.
(Mixed German sausage plate)
Hering hausfrauen art
(Pickled hering with apples and sour cream)
Linsen suppe mit wurstchen
(Lentil soup with smoked sausage)
* * *
Sellerie und tomaten salat
(Celeriac and tomato salad)
* * *
Sauerbraten apfel rotkohl klosse
(Marinated braised beef with red cabbage dumplings)
(Veal shank roasted with mixed vegetables)
Geschmorte ganse brust mit rauch fleisch
(Goose breast on turnips with smoked pork)
Forellen filet berliner art
(Salmon trout with crawfish and leeks)
* * *
Rumtopf mit vanille eis
(An amazing dessert, made over the past months from the fruits in season,
marinated in rum, served with ice cream)
* * *
Monday, December 10, 2001
Twenty, twenty, twenty-four hours agooo ... I wanna be sedated! Lots of drama this past weekend, starting with my visit to an oral surgeon on Friday, and a scheduled appointment this morning at 10am for a quadruple wisdom tooth removal. I'll be stoned on Vicodin for the next two or three days, so don't expect much here. I promise not to talk about spitting out mouthfuls of blood, or anthing like that.
What I will do is talk about last Friday's fantastic Wilco show ... but later. Wish me luck (and deep anaesthesia).
3:43pm. Whooo ... Vicodin is my friend.
Thursday, December 6, 2001
Giant vats of green goo? An article in today's L. A. Times enlightens us about the Calavo guacamole plant in Santa Paula, which produces over 100,000 pounds of guacamole a day. It's unfortunate that the online version of the story doesn't include the picture from the print edition, whch depicts masked and gowned workers ending a long conveyor belt laden with "green goo", eventually spilling it into a huge vat that makes guacamole (something I love) look entirely unappetizing.
I like making guacamole by starting with an avocado, seeding and peeling it and keeping it chunky, mixing it with minced red onion, fresh lime juice, minced jalapeñ or serrano chiles, a few pinches of ancho chile powder, chopped tomatoes and cilantro, plus a little salt and pepper. No vats, no goo.
Ashcroft: One scary son-of-a-bitch. Our mad Attorney General told Congress today that anyone who criticizes his post-September 11th policies "only serve to help terrorists." [Emphasis mine.]
"To those who pit Americans against immigrants, citizens against non-citizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve," Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil."He accuses people of helping the enemy they exercise their First Amendment rights to criticize the government. It's appalling. He gets scarier every day.
Ashcroft flatly rejected criticism of the administration's policies, including President Bush's decision to allow the use of military tribunals to try non-U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism, the detention of hundreds of immigrants in connection with the terrorism probe, the "voluntary" questioning of thousands of men from mostly Middle Eastern countries, and eavesdropping between attorneys and their clients in terrorism cases.
Each of those initiatives, he said, balance constitutional rights against the threat of terrorism.
"Charges of kangaroo courts and shredding the Constitution give new meaning to the term 'fog of war,'" Ashcroft said.
Senator George V. VoinovichDubya: Dump him. Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker calls for Ashcroft's dismissal.
1240 East 9th Street
Cleveland, OH 44199
Dear The Honorable Senator George Voinovich,
You might not remember, but last January, I wrote to let you know that I thought that the lame duck Senator Ashcroft, hot off his crushing defeat at the hands of Missouri's voters -- despite running opposite a dead man while possessing many advantages of incumbency, was an extraordinarily bad choice for the country's top law enforcer. I suggested to you that while the nonvoters might not think this decision of yours to support this man in assuming the office of Attorney General would make much difference in their lives, I would endeavor, come 2002, to suggest to them ways in which it does.
Boy, do I have my work cut out for me, eh? As is painfully obvious to anyone of a Middle Eastern complexion, civil liberties are now simply too dear to be respected here in the land of the free. Are you, senator, in favor of taping attorney/client conversations? Military tribunals? Domestic surveillance? There is something to frighten everyone in that package, and I've been reminding everyone I speak with whose vote enabled him to assume the position. That would be you.
I was thinking you might want to apologize to me and the rest of your constituents for the damage Ashcroft is doing to the Constitution. You wrote to tell me that while you appreciated my views, Ashcroft had shown himself to be a man of his word, someone who would enforce the laws of the United States as written. This view has proven wrong. We are coming up on an election year, I'm sure you are aware. Are you willing to take responsibility for your vote to confirm J. Edgar Ashcroft and reinstate the Cointelpro? Do you personally support such policies? Ohio's registered voters want to know. You gave him to us, now what are you going to do about it?
Wednesday, December 5, 2001
Further proof of Florida's looniness and one more reason to cede them to Cuba.
Carolyn Risher, the mayor of the town of Inglis, Florida (and apparently a nutball who also doesn't seem to have heard of the United States Constitution and the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights) has issued a proclamation banishing Satan from the town's limits. It was published on town stationery and bears an official seal.
Here is the text of this official government proclamation from the town of Inglis (pop. 1241):
Be it known from this day forward that Satan, ruler of darkness, giver of evil, destroyer of what is good and just, is not now, nor ever again will be, a part of this town of Inglis. Satan is hereby declared powerless, no longer ruling over, nor influencing, our citizens.Satan declined to be interviewed for this story, but was observed in the backyard of one of Inglis' four bars, laughing hysterically while reclining on a chaise longue and fanning himself with a copy of the Bill of Rights that Mayor Risher apparently kept in her outhouse for use when there were no more corncobs or pages in her Sears and Roebuck catalogue.
In the past, Satan has caused division, animosity, hate, confusion, ungodly acts on our youth, and discord among our friends and loved ones. NO LONGER!
The body of Jesus Christ, those citizens cleansed by the Blood of the Lamb, hereby join together to bind the forces of evil in the Holy Name of Jesus. We have taken our town back for the Kingdom of God. We are taking everything back that the devil ever stole from us. We will never again be deceived by satanic and demonic forces.
As blood-bought children of God, we exercise our authority over the devil in Jesus' name. By that authority, and through His Blessed Name, we command all satanic and demonic forces to cease their activities and depart the town of Inglis.
As the Mayor of Inglis, duly elected by the citizens of this town, and appointed by God to this position of leadership, I proclaim victory over Satan, freedom for our citizens, and liberty to worship our Creator and Heavenly Father, the God of Israel. I take this action in accordance with the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-18.
Signed and sealed this 5th Day of November, 2001
Carolyn Risher, Mayor
Sally McCranie, Town Clerk
Reveillon menu of the day. Oh my ... ees deefeecult! So I have one night to do a Reveillon meal while I'm home, and we've narrowed it down to four choices. It's still an agonizing decision. It all looks so good.
Third choice is one of my favorite places in town, The Palace Café, in the old Werlein's for Music building on Canal Street. It's a Brennan family restaurant, which is usually as good an indicator of high quality as necessary. After Commander's Palace, it's probably my favorite Brennan restaurant (and arguably the most beautiful). You get any choice of entrée for a total price of $38.
As much as I was leaning toward the Pelican Club, there are two things on this menu that enchant me -- the mention of the magic word "crabmeat", and ... that dessert. Oh my.
Game Confit Salad
Rabbit and duckling confit with greens, citrus and
fig brioche croutons in a foie gras vinaigrette
Smoked Fish Napoleon
House smoked gulf fish layered with caviar,
with a caper ravigote sauce
Oyster Dome Soup
Plump oysters in a rich velouté, covered in pastry and baked golden
Whole Roasted Fish
Whole roasted gulf fish filled with shrimp and vegetables,
with a Creole courtbouillon sauce
Stuffed Double Cut Pork Chop
A thick-cut pork chop filled with house-made
apple sausage and sweet and sour potato salad,
topped with Vidalia onion marmalade
Blue crabmeat, onion, peppers and celery in a
seafood bchamel, with julienne vegetables and
sour cream-green onion potato croquettes
Miniature Gingerbread House filled with Pumpkin Pie Mousse
Sorry, no Hedwig for you. You can have your own owl only if you're a wizard (it's your postal pickup and delivery service, too). But if you're a Muggle like the rest of us, you can pretty much forget about having an owl as a pet.
Happy 100th birthday, Walt Disney!
Tuesday, December 4, 2001
Moo indeed. Apparently there are some doctors who think drinking milk is bad for you. (Well, it certainly is if you're lactose intolerant, which it seems that most of the people on this planet are.) Me ... well, I don't drink it daily, but don't be tellin' me I can't have my butter and cream sauces (in moderation, of course). Not to mention the odd Suissesse and Ramos Gin Fizz here and there.
Reveillon menu of the day. This one's from one of my favorite places in town, The Pelican Club, at 312 Exchange Alley in the French Quarter. They're serving Reveillon from December 1 - 24, including Chrismas Eve and adding a special New Year's Eve seating as well. Call (504) 523-1504 for reservations.
Turtle and Alligator Soup
Served with sherry
Cream of Oyster, Mirliton and Tasso Soup
Roasted Sweetbreads with Apple-Smoked Bacon and Truffle Au Jus
Served with creamed leeks and artichokes
Jumbo Gulf Shrimp in a Bloody Mary Tomato Aspic
Served with an eight herb ravigote, golden caviar and Boston red leaf lettuce
Arugula, Spinach and Watercress Salad
Served with Gorgonzola cheese, toasted pine nuts and
golden currants in a sun dried tomato vinaigrette
Gulf fish, scallops, shrimp, mussels, clams and lobster.
Served with a Cajun risotto, barbecue shrimp sauce
and baby vegetables
Double Cut Venison Chop
With apple-smoked bacon, pan-roasted butternut squash
and a blackcurrant port sauce
Confit of Duckling and Pan Roasted Duck Breast
With a molasses cane vinegar and Louisiana navel orange sauce.
Served with pecan rice, sweet potatoes and baby vegetables
Brandy and Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
Coconut Cream Pie
Louisiana Citrus Cheesecake
Monday, December 3, 2001
Reveillon is on! New Orleans has a new spin on a venerable old tradition -- the Reveillon at Christmas time. Here's the description from the New Orleans Menu Daily:
If there is a season for feasting, this is it.I'm looking forward to having at least one Reveillon meal during my time back home this Christmas. The one at the Hunt Room in the Monteleone Hotel looks pretty darned good ...
Beginning this past Saturday and running through Christmas, 29 restaurants around town offer their Reveillon menus. After over a decade, the Reveillon is now among the top two or three food events of the year. And one geared as much to local tastes as to those of visitors.
It's even affordable. Almost all of the Reveillon dinners qualify as first-class bargains.
The Reveillon is an interesting part of New Orleans culinary history. In the 1800s, if you went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, you were required to fast from the previous midnight. So after Midnight Mass everyone was starving. And the best hosts held huge feasts. The word "reveillon" means "awakening," an appropriate word for a big meal at two in the morning.
The current version of the Reveillon runs on a different schedule. It's served during normal dinner hours only. The menus are similar to those of the wine dinners you see around town, except that wine isn't included (except for perhaps a glass or two here and there.) Although it began eight years ago as an exclusively French Quarter event, the Reveillon has now moved beyond those borders to include dinners at restaurants throughout the area.
The typical Reveillon menu is a complete dinner of four to six courses, chosen with the season in mind. So you see roast goose, fresh egg nog, pheasant and other game birds, and many unusual desserts. Most of the menus offer choices in some or all of the courses.
Choice ofIn fact, all of 'em look pretty damn good. You can check them all out at the French Quarter Festivals site ... there's a complete listing of all the menus from restaurants participating in the Reveillon this year.
Grilled Portabella Mushroom Napoleon
Layers of grilled portabella and
Crabmeat, crab and fennel sauce
Parcel of Venison
With dried figs and cranberries sweet Merlot sauce
Mixture of six wild greens, blackbread croutons
With a roasted tomato vinaigrette
Smoked Duck and Andouille Minestrone
With ditali pasta
Prime Veal Porterhouse
With shrimp and chanterelles cognac sauce
Grilled Salmon Filet
On a warm, fennel, cucumber and spring onion salad
With caper and dill sauce
Tournedos of Beef Bienville
Petit beef filet on shrimp and wild mushroom croutin
Shrimp and shallot sauce
Plum and Almond Tarte
With vanilla sauce
White Chocolate and Hazelnut Bread Pudding
With praline sauce
Being published is good! Although having your third paragraph lopped off is bad. In any case, Wes got a letter published in the L. A. Times Travel section. Yay!
"Portrait of a Leg End", coming soon? It seems that the late George Harrison had an almost-completed album in the can.
<voice="Church Lady">Could it beeeeee ... Sa-TAN?</voice> The Edinburgh Dungeon, an attraction in Scotland that "features the lives of Scotland's most macabre crimes and criminals, including the Galloway cannibal Sawney Bean and bodysnatchers Burke and Hare." Their current attraction -- "Satan's Grotto" (rather than the usual Santa's), featuring "elves impaled on spikes and robins roasting on an open fire while Santa gently boils in a witch's cauldron". It's run by a marketing company, although I can't imagine what they're marketing.
The manager of the attraction calls it "just harmless fun", but religious authorities are, predictably, appalled. The whole thing sounds like a pretty stupid idea, actually. I may get sick of Christmas music, but I don't necessarily need to see elves impaled on spikes.
November Looka! entries have been permanently archived.
Friday, November 30, 2001
All things must pass ... (*sigh*) George Harrison died last night.
It's so true it can happen to you all; there,Thank you, George.
Knock and it will open wide,
And it only takes time
'Til love comes to everyone.
Live Broadcast: Freddy Cole and Zim Ngqawana - TONIGHT! 6pm PST/8pm CST From WWOZ: Jazz Journey, sponsored by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation in conjunction with the University of New Orleans Department of Music/Jazz Studies and Department of Research and Sponsored Programs present "A South African Exchange" at 8 pm from UNO Performing Arts Recital Hall. The cast will be Freddy Cole leading on piano and vocals, Gerald Byrd on Guitar, Curtis Boyd on drums, Zackary Pride on bass, then a second set with Zim Ngqawana leading on sax, Hotep Idris Galeta on piano, Troy Davis on drums, and Roland Guerin on bass.
To listen on the Internet: http://www.broadcast.com/radio/Jazz/WWOZ.
Big, strong SUV, worth every penny. From the "Morning Fix": The Ford Explorer, in low-speed crash tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said. The 2002 Explorer sustained $5,432 worth of damage in four tests conducted at a wimpy little 5 mph, earning the institute's lowest rating for bumper performance.
In contrast, my 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle, in 5 mph crash tests with its front and rear bumpers ... bounced. There was no discernible damage other than possible paint scratches.
Morford, of course, continues ... "In similar tests, nearly every SUV on the market was shown to be a gimmick-thick marketing ploy to give testosterone-impaired owners the false impression of rugged manliness when in fact they're wimpier than a Honda Civic and handle like tanks and roll incredibly easily and explode and kill people and are uglier than a Pacer and have less cargo room than your average station wagon and suck gas and pollute and damage roads and hog parking but aren't they all so cute with their little American flags on their antenna?"
"Lynne Cheney Sucks Souls Dry" I've got the day off and I'm lazy this morning, but the "Morning Fix" continues to enlighten and entertain as ever, so I thought I'd share another one.
Noted homophobe and adorable ultra-right-wing dragon lady Lynne Cheney said that Americans know too little about their country and the ideals on which it was founded, even as they fight in Afghanistan to defend both from foreign threats.
The loveably unappealing wife of VP Dick Cheney stressed the importance of teaching U.S. history during a speech at Princeton University attended by several hundred vaguely nauseated people. Mrs. Cheney is best known for fighting Reagan's cute little culture wars in the '80s and killing National History Standards legislation in 1994 because she thought it focused too much on women and minorities and not enough on white men.
She is also known for denying that she has an openly lesbian daughter and for being sort of morally repugnant to most sentient beings with active souls and beating hearts.
Wednesday, November 28, 2001
Enough already! Chef Jean-Louis Palladin died yesterday of lung cancer at age 55. He was a heavy smoker.
Unfortunately, it's been a while since anyone's been able to taste his cooking, as the Rio Hotel in Vegas were kind enough to close his restaurant Napa while he was sick, leaving a man with a terminal disease with no source of income. They damn well better have taken care of him.
Wes and I had the pleasure and delight to dine in his fine restaurant last March, and it was a memorable meal. Here's a reprint of my tale of the meal as posted in a previous Looka! edition.
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.Email of the day. I have a fan in Portugal!
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.
From: Pedro Miguel Leitão <firstname.lastname@example.org>(What's the Portuguese word for "straitjacket"?)
To: Chuck Taggart
Date: Fri, 23 Nov 2001 16:33:04 -0000
are you crazy? what a stupid site is yours?go on...so fucking
stupid...nobody understand your stupid ideas...wingnut hope to see you
Tuesday, November 27, 2001
Jamie's greatest hits. In yesterday's New Orleans Menu Daily, Tom Fitzmorris eulogized the late Jamie Shannon, and offered his choices for Jamie's ten best dishes ever.
PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE: JAMIE'S GREATEST HITSRemember Jamie soon by making this dish. Aside from the latest Commander's Palace cookbook, start your next special meal with this fabulous appetizer, also courtesy of yesterday's New Orleans Menu Daily.
These are the best dishes from Jamie's hand, in my opinion. And I know I missed a bunch of them--you'd have to eat at Commander's once or twice a week to keep up with the guy.
1. Salt-baked whole fish. I'll never forget the first time I had this, at the chef's table in the kitchen. A whole red snapper was hidden under a pile of kosher salt and baked -- and that was about it. No sauce. Nothing but the essence of the fish itself. Not salty a bit -- just juicy.
2, 3, and 4. Chef Jamie's Special Lunch. It was about twice the price of the standard Commander's lunch, and worth every penny. Example: Seared foie gras (this was before everybody was serving it), crab cakes made of solid crabmeat held together in a hash-brown ring until serving, and real shortcake with strawberries.
5. Lyonnaise fish. A trout fillet covered with what amounted to oniony, fine hash browns. Perhaps the most lasting legacy of the chef, now on the permanent menu.
6. Air-dried duck. Jamie was fascinated by an ancient approach to game: let it hang for days until it becomes naturally tender. They did this with chickens, too, to great effect.
7. Crab and corn johnny cakes topped with caviar. Simple. Great.
8. Seafood gumbo. Jamie used to make a style of gumbo that employed such beautiful, big seafoods that it was more like a seafood platter with gumbo sauce at the bottom of the plate. A meal in itself.
9. Buttermilk fried frogs' legs. Jamie loved frogs' legs, and put a lot of work into obtaining them. The idea for the buttermilk marinade -- common in fried chicken recipes -- was inspired.
10. Speckled-belly goose gumbo. I don't think they ever used that kind of goose in the restaurant, but the idea was inspired by the success of one of Jamie's hunting trips.
Jamie Shannon's Tasso ShrimpiPod in hand. Well, I couldn't wait. I gathered up my birthday money from various relatives (which helped take the sting off the price), kicked in the rest and got one.
Jamie Shannon's reign as chef at Commander's brought many good dishes to the menu, and this is one of the best. It looks simple: three shrimp on a minimal sauce. But it explodes with flavor. The tasso is a Cajun-style ham cured to be very spicy, smoky, and salty. It's used more as a seasoning than as a meat.
Make the beurre blanc first and keep it warm. You can make your own pepper jelly using Commander's recipe, or use a prepared pepper jelly.
Crystal Beurre Blanc:
1 tablespoon Crystal Hot Sauce
Pinch of chopped garlic
Pinch of chopped shallots (or onion)
1 teaspoon whipping cream
6 tablespoons softened butter
1. In a pan over medium-low heat, saute garlic and shallots in a little butter for a minute. Add Crystal Hot Sauce and bring to a boil. Cook until very little liquid is left. Add cream and cook about one more minute.
2. Lower heat to almost nothing and whisk in the softened butter, a little at a time, until it takes on a creamy consistency.
Commander's Five-Pepper Jelly:
1 each red, yellow, and green bell peppers
1 jalapeño pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 oz. honey
6 oz. white vinegar
1. Remove seeds and inner membrane from bell peppers and jalapeño, and cut into small dice.
2. Dissolve honey into vinegar in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce until sticky.
3. Add the peppers and cook until the peppers are soft. Add salt to taste.
4. Pack what will not be used immediately in sterilized canning jars in the standard way.
12 jumbo shrimp (shelled and deveined)
2 oz. spicy tasso, sliced into matchstick-size pieces
1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
Vegetable oil for frying
12 pickled okra
1. Cut a slit down the back of each shrimp and insert a strip of tasso. Close the slit with a toothpick.
2. Mix the salt into the flour in a broad bowl. Dust the shrimp with the seasoned flour.
3. In a skillet, fry the shrimp in oil heated to about 375 degrees. Drain.
4. Place the cooked shrimp in a bowl with about 2 oz. of the Crystal beurre blanc. Toss to coat.
5. Spread a thin film of pepper jelly on the bottom of a small dish and arrange three shrimp on each plate. Place pickled okra between each and serve.
YIELD: Four appetizer servings.
It's grrrrrreat! So far the only complaint I have with it is its lack of a case or belt clip, but the third parties are already lining up to provide exactly that. I've been fine-tuning my playlist which will eventually include everything from Uncle Tupelo (their entire recorded output excluding boots) to Cordelia's Dad (all their albums too), plus a bunch of new stuff I want to listen to, all the way to a carefully selected cross-section of the best of New Orleans, Cajun and zydeco music. I'm up to about 875 songs so far, with room for maybe 250 more.
I never quite got it when I saw the ads that featured the iPod at "actual size", or when people said it was the size of a deck of cards. "Tarot cards, maybe," I thought. Nope. It's tiny. It sounds great. It doesn't skip. I've never needed to use it to the point where the battery would even be half-drained. It's incredibly easy to use. It's beautiful. And once I'm finished filling it up I'll be able to carry about 75 hours of music ... just as they say, in my pocket.
The guy at the Apple Store in Glendale said they were selling "briskly", and that they had no worries about running out of them. "We've got about ten thousand of them in the back," he said. "I'm not kidding. They're stacked floor to ceiling."
If you balk at the price ($399), think about the fact that if you were to buy its tiny 5GB hard drive as a separate component for your machine, it'd cost you that much all by itself. Plus I suspect that Apple will gradually reveal that the iPod has far more capability than as "just" the best MP3 player out there. Remember that it's also usable as a portable FireWire drive, and runs on an OS that has full PDA capabilities (address/phone book, appointments, to do list, etc.). Could be interesting.
Email of the day. From someone calling him- or herself "Tater":
Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2001 10:59:27 -0500Hee hee heeeeeeee. Thanks for making my morning, Tater.
To: Chuck Taggart
I guess I have to give you some credit. I made your gumbo for our right wing fundamentalist bible study a couple of weeks ago. It went well with our discussion regarding sins like non-missionary position, non-hetero sex and drinking alcohol. I told them you were from N.O. and now lived in L.A. They agreed with my fears that you are probably the anti-Christ (or will at least father it). At least someone related to something so evil can actually cook. Maybe the food will be good if I don't make it to that great McDonald's in the sky.
It was very, very good gumbo -- especially for my first time making roux (except for the sub-par oysters which is all we can reasonably get in Bubbalon/Atlanta). I passed the recipe along and, assuming my friends Falwell-approved-family-friendly ISP lets them onto your site, you should have some visitors.
As far as a donation, I mailed a nice check in your name to the Falwell Harry Potter is the Devil campaign (formerly known as the "Teletubbies will send you directly to Hayell" fund).
Hope all is well on the left coast.
Quote of the day. Speaking of making someone's morning ... this happened yesterday. I had gotten into the elevator at work to head up to my office, but before it got to my floor it stopped and started heading back to the ground floor. I guess I hadn't pressed the button hard enough. I got off before it went all the way back to the lobby and caught the next up-bound elevator. One of my cow-orkers was inside.
Cow-orker: Chuck! What the hell are you doing on that floor?You're welcome, Jim. Any old time.
Me: The stupid elevator kidnapped me! I was trying to go up, and it started going down on me!
Me: Boy, that didn't come out right at ALL.
Cow-orker (after laughing hysterically along with a woman from another company who was also in the elevator, and wiping tears from his eyes): Thanks for making my morning.
Monday, November 26, 2001
Thanks for some of the best meals I've ever had. Jamie Shannon, executive chef of Commander's Palace restaurant in New Orleans, died of cancer on Friday. He was only 40, and from what I'd heard everyone (including himself) thought he was getting better.
Several of my friends and loved ones (and a few kind strangers) contribute regularly to this weblog. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Andy Senasac, Michael Yasui, Steve Gardner, Michael Pemberton, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Eric Labow, Tom Krueger, Greg Beron, Shari Minton and Barry Enderwick.
chuq's links | the gumbo pages
creole and cajun recipe page | search this site
chuck taggart | email chuck (at) gumbopages (dot) com
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