the gumbo pages

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 @ 12:52am PST, 2/28/2002

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Looka! Archive

January 2002

2001:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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tracy and david

Talking furniture:

KCSN (Los Angeles)
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KRVS Radio Acadie
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Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
   (science fiction radio)
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
   (Irish language)
RootsWorld's Rootsradio
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
   (Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Cocktail hour:

The Sazerac Cocktail

CocktailDB (work in progress)

   Cocktail ingredients
   (and substitutions for
   obsolete ingredients)

The Alchemist
   (Paul Harrington)

Ardent Spirits

Bar Asterie

Cocktail Time


La Fée Verte

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails

Let's eat!

New Orleans Menu Daily

Chef Talk Café



Food Network

The Global Gourmet

The Online Chef

Pasta, Risotto & You

Slow Food Int'l. Movement

So. Calif. Farmer's Markets

Zagat Guide


Click here for a new daily recipe from Chef Emeril!
In vino veritas.

The Oxford Companion to Wine

Wally's Wine and Spirits

The Wine House

The Wine Spectator

Wine Today

Now reading:

Black House, by Stephen King and Peter Straub.

Juno & Juliet, by Julian Gough.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

Luka Bloom
La Bottine Souriante
Billy Bragg
Cordelia's Dad
Jay Farrar
Sonny Landreth
Los Lobos
Christy Moore
Nickel Creek
The Old 97s
Anders Osborne
The Proclaimers
Red Meat
Zachary Richard
Paul Sanchez
Marc Savoy
Son Volt
Uncle Tupelo

Miles of Music

No Depression


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

Ansel Adams
Jonathan Fish
Noah Grey
Greg Guirard
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
Herman Leonard
Howard Roffman
J. T. Seaton
Jerry Uelsmann
Gareth Watkins
Brett Weston

The Mirror Project


Bloom County / Outland,
by Berkeley Breathed

Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

The Boondocks,
by Aaron McGruder

Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson

by Garry B. Trudeau

Get Your War On
by David Rees

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

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

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

Films seen recently:

Gosford Park (****)
The Count of Monte Cristo (***)
Brotherhood of the Wolf (**) Black Hawk Down (***-1/2)
Vanilla Sky (*-1/2)
2001: A Space Odyssey (*****)

Lookin' at da TV:

"Six Feet Under"
"The Sopranos"
"The Simpsons"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"The X-Files
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
"Iron Chef"
"Father Ted"
The Food Network

Weblogs I read:

The BradLands
Considered Harmful
David Grenier
Eat, Link and Be Merry
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
Jonno / now
Lake Effect
The Leaky Cauldron
The Making of a Restaurant
Mister Pants
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
The Other Side
Q Daily News
Therapy for the Inner Psycho
Web Queeries
Whim and Vinegar
Wil Wheaton Dot Net
World New York

Matthew's GLB blog portal

<< web loggers >>


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

Must-reads: (Progressive politics & news)
Borowitz Report (Political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (Quotationable)
The Deduct Box (Louisiana politics)
The Fray (your stories)
Landover Baptist (better Christians than YOU!)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (news, opinions, extreme irreverence) The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (news 'n laffs)

The Final Frontier:

ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Spaceflight Now


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site

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!

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

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

(* = superfavorite)

Made with Macintosh

hosted by pair Networks

Déanta:  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.

weblog and (almost) daily blather

  "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

  Thursday, February 28, 2002
Sometimes friends come around, they all sing along.   It's going to be a good month next month.

In 19 days, two weeks from next Tuesday, Columbia/Legacy will release Uncle Tupelo 89/93: An Anthology. (They were my favorite band, in case you hadn't noticed before.)

The tracks have all been completely remastered, and will include material from all four albums, plus singles, live material and one unreleased track. Check out the site and send a MusicGram with an audio clip to someone you love!

Cocktail of the day.   One thing we unfortunately didn't get to do was to meet the Bellagio's "beverage specialist" while were in Vegas. We had a nice chat with our waitress, who was a fellow New Orleanian, and she told us that given our interest in cocktails we should definitely meet Tony Abou-Ganim. He creates all the specialty cocktails for the hotel's bars, and she said he enjoys talking to fellow enthusiasts. Alas, time and group inertia and tiredness intervened, so we didn't get back over there when he was on the premises.

By sheer coincidence, the very day I got back I saw him on Food Network's "Molto Mario" (one of my very favorite shows), eating Mario's food but more importantly, making him a cocktail.

From his appearance on the show I learned that not only does he create cocktails for the bars, but for the hotel's elegant restaurants as well. He created this one for Picasso, one of the five-star dining establishments within the fabulous Bellagio, and named it after its chef, the renowned Spanish chef Julián Serrano. It's a very nice aperitivo, and I bet it'd be spectacular with blood oranges.


1-1/4 ounces vodka
5/8 ounce Limoncello
5/8 ounce Campari
1-1/2 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice

Mix the ingredients over cracked ice in a cocktail shaker,
then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a
spiral twist of lime.

Sling me back home.   While at Petrossian we tried another one that had popped up on their Specialty Cocktails list -- the Singapore Sling, a classic since its invention at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore around 1915.

Trouble is, nobody seems to agree how to make this drink. The recipe I linked to above was not the same as the ingredients listed in Petrossian's menu, and just about every cocktail book I have has a different recipe listed.

If you've ever had and enjoyed one of these, you might be interested in reading "The Origins of the Singapore Sling: Some Facts, Some Fancies", by Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh. It's a fascinating and fairly exhaustive look into the history of this drink, with no less than six different recipes for it. Try 'em all! (I'm particularly interested in tasting the differences between making it with Cherry Heering, a sweet cherry liqueur that some recipes call for, and cherry eau de vie, a dry cherry brandy.)

OK George, make with the friendly bombs.   Noted author, filmmaker and comic actor Terry Jones (yep, he of Monty Python's Flying Circus) offers a few comments about current American foreign policy.

To prevent terrorism by dropping bombs on Iraq is such an obvious idea that I can't think why no one has thought of it before. It's so simple. If only the UK had done something similar in Northern Ireland, we wouldn't be in the mess we are in today.

... Having bombed Dublin and, perhaps, a few IRA training bogs in Tipperary, we could not have afforded to be complacent. We would have had to turn our attention to those states which had supported and funded the IRA terrorists through all these years. The main provider of funds was, of course, the USA, and this would have posed us with a bit of a problem. Where to bomb in America? It's a big place and it's by no means certain that a small country like the UK could afford enough bombs to do the whole job. It's going to cost the US billions to bomb Iraq and a lot of that is empty countryside. America, on the other hand, provides a bewildering number of targets.

Eurovision, what a drag.   There's unrest in "the new little country on the sunny side of the Alps."

It seems that Slovenia (a delightful little country where I spent three fun days about six years ago) has chosen as its Eurovision Song Contest winner a little ditty sung by a trio of drag queens called The Sisters, and now the head of Slovenian Broadcasting is trying to rig the results so that they won't go to the Eurosong finals. It seems he doesn't want drag queens representing his country. Stuff and nonsense. He'd do well to have drag queens representing his country (as would we). You go, girls!

Weird spam.   I've gotten at least a dozen of these over the last week:

Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 07:18:40 -0500
Subject: Thanks For Lunch Mike                    ksvodi


   Thanks again for lunch it was great!

Best regards,


Looking at the full headers and source show no hidden web bugs, no hidden links or tags, nothing. This has got to win the award for the most pointless spam ever, even more so than the looney rantings of that Lavelle guy. Anybody else get one or more of these? And who the hell is Ted Straub, and why does that name sound so familiar?

  Wednesday, February 27, 2002
Cocktail hour!   Well, there were a few of 'em last weekend, actually. We still didn't make it into Red Square to try their Ice Bar (the surface of the bar ice, so you can set your drink on it and keep it cold) or their various batches of vodka infusions ('cause I'm not particularly interested in drinking just plain vodka). I had a Mojito at Rumjungle, since it was next door, and everybody else had a few tasty tropical concoctions from their selection of over 200 rums.

The standout place was, unsurprisingly, the Petrossian Bar in the Bellagio. Quite simply, this bar makes the finest cocktails I have ever had. Their bartenders are the most skilled and knowledgeable I've ever run into, and from the sound of it they are required to take more continuing education courses and seminars than most physicians. From what they were telling me, it's always something -- classes and seminars on wines, single malt Scotches, competitions in which they concoct new cocktail recipes ... top notch.

I started with one of my favorites from the last visit, and one of their signatures -- their own take on the classic Casino Cocktail. There is a bit of departure from the recipe I usually fiond, as they definitely use more than just 1/8 ounce of Maraschino; I can taste it. I didn't get a chance to ask the bartender (because he'd certainly tell me; Michael, our favorite Petrossian bartender from last year, still holds court at the bar in the evening), but I will next time. They also add a delicioius brandied cherry, plus about a teaspoon or two of the brandied cherry juice to the bottom of the drink, which makes it very beautiful as well as tasty.

They have a new one on the specialty menu, which won one of their bartenders a Bronze Medal at the Bacardi Grand Prix in Malaga, Spain; apparently it was the first time an American had placed. It's a long drink called the "430", to celebrate the start of the traditional cocktail hour. I didn't get the proportions of this either, but it's made with Bacardi "O" (their orange-infused rum), Bacardi Tropico (gold rum mixed with "seven exotic fruit juices", a similar type of cordial as Alizé), guava nectar, lemon juice and Campari. Boy, was this good. Guava is a perfect foil for Campari.

On our second visit was the killer, though. I ordered a Manhattan, and I specified the Van Winkle 15-year-old rye that had been the basis of my Sazerac at Rosemary's the night before. Unfortunately, I failed to notice the cost; most standard cocktails there are $9, but a shot of Van Winkle was $12, and according to the tab the cocktail was ... $15.25. (*glaq*)

I don't think I've ever paid so much for a cocktail in my life. I once had a Cosmopolitan at Spago Beverly Hills which probably cost that much; fortunately it was comped, and I was instructed to ask our host for another drink rather than the bartender, and he said that if I didn't "you'll faint when you see the bill". But I digress...

I gasped when I tasted that drink. It was the most superb Manhattan I've ever had. A truly perfect balance between a very fine whiskey, sweet vermouth and just the right amount of bitters. It was exquisite, and the Manhattan leapt to the forefront as one of my favorite cocktails. I've been working on them of late, and getting to like them more and more; the problem is, now that I've had one at Petrossian, I'll be spoiled for life. Will the next one be as good as this?

Quote of the day, part un.   "It's always cocktail hour, somewhere in the world."

-- Wesly Moore

Yeesh, and I felt guilty for ordering a $15.25 cocktail.   Six investment bankers from Barclays went out on the town a while back to celebrate a deal gone well. I have no idea how the meal was, but they certainly drank well. The wines they ordered brought the tab to £44,007 (approximately US$62,490). They paid for the meal out of their own pockets (!), but when they put in to their company for reimbursement as a "business expense", word got out and they got the sack.

Here's how the bill broke down:

1 bottle 1947 Château Petrus, £12,300 (US$17,466)
1 bottle 1945 Château Petrus, £11,600 (US$16,472)
1 bottle 1946 Château Petrus, £9,400 (US$13,348)
1 bottle 1982 Montrachet, £1,400 (US$1,988)

And for dessert? They ordered and emptied a bottle of 100-year-old Chateau D'Yquem (!!).
The cost? £9,200 (US$13,064).

The restaurant was so gobsmacked by this that they comped them the food, which probably came to about 1 or 2% of the bill anyway, even if they ate extravagantly. And this came at a time when, according to another article, "thousands of investment bankers across the City [of London] and on Wall Street were losing their jobs amid a dramatic slowdown in business." It seems that Barclays fired them more for the bad publicity their ostentation engendered, than the actual expense. It also seems to me that these bankers wouldn't have done this if they didn't think they could get away with it.

This unapologetic ketchup consumer draws the line.   I love ketchup. Get over it.

Yeah, I may go out to fine restaurants when I can afford it, blah blah. But I love great food, whether it comes from Spago or from the guy making bacon-wrapped hot dogs outside of Staples Center downtown. And I love ketchup. I'm particular, though; only Heinz ketchup will do. Hunt's doesn't cut it, and the rest of them are even worse. I'm suspicious of anyone who spells it "catsup", too. Ketchup is great mixed with Tabasco as a dip for French fries, then just add some horseradish and lemon juice and you've got the world's best cocktail sauce for dipping shrimp or even crawfish. I use it in barbecue sauces, there's some of it in my Shrimp Creole, I glaze meatloaf with it, and my sisters will point out with great amusement that when we were kids, if I wanted a quick snack, I'd make a ketchup sandwich -- just spread some on a piece of bread to take the edge off a rumblingly hungry tummy. (Nowadays if I do that, I'll generally spike it with some Sriracha sauce or something.)

But here's where I draw the line. Listen up, Heinz 57 -- I will not purchase or use green, purple, pink, orange or "totally teal"-colored ketchup. Ick. Gross.

Goon gone.   Spike Milligan of "The Goon Show", one of Britain's most influential comedians (and a heavy influence on everyone from Peter Sellers to all the members of Monty Python's Flying Circus) has died at the age of 83. It hasn't been a good week for funny people.

Quotes of the day, part deux.   "My father had a profound influence on me. He was a lunatic."

"Are you going to come along quietly, or do I have to use earplugs?"

-- Spike Milligan

They all hate us anyhow, so let's drop the big one now!   The Bush administration come one step closer to adopting Randy Newman's song "Political Science" as official foreign policy by declaring that they are abandoning a long-held policy that the U.S. will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations. What's next? "They don't respect us, so let's surprise them; we'll drop the big one and pulverize them." Yeah, that'll be all moral and ethical when you do that, too.

Mormons on Prozac.   A new study shows that the state of Utah consumes more antidepressant medication than any other, almost doubling the national average. (Egad.) There's been some speculation as to whether or not this has something to do with the fact that 70% of the states population are Mormons.

[Dr. Curtis Canning, president of the Utah Psychiatric Association, said] "In Mormondom, there is a social expectation -- particularly among the females -- to put on a mask, say 'Yes' to everything that comes at her and hide the misery and pain. I call it the 'Mother of Zion' syndrome. You are supposed to be perfect because Mrs. Smith across the street can do it and she has three more kids than you and her hair is always in place. I think the cultural issue is very real. There is the expectation that you should be happy, and if you're not happy, you're failing."

Helen Wright, 71, of Taylorsville, Utah, [who] has been using various antidepressant drugs for 20 years ... says, "I think it's the cultural environment. Most men here would just as soon their wives take pills than bother to delve into the problems, and maybe find out they might have something to do with the problems."

How 'bout a new license plate slogan? "The Stepford State!"

  Tuesday, February 26, 2002
That's all, folks.   While we were out of town in Vegas last weekend, we learned with great sadness that Chuck Jones, one of the great genius artists of the 20th Century, died at the age of 89. As my friend Mary said, "You know, some people should really be exempted from this whole death thing." Amen.

Where to eat in Las Vegas (inexpensively).   Yeah, there are the buffets, and we had a rather good one at the Aladdin (and I won't tell you how many pieces of applewood-smoked bacon I ate ... all right, eight), and they can be great values, particularly when you take advantage of that "all you can eat" idea.

But on this past weekend's trip to Vegas, the greatest culinary experience for the least amount of money was at the fabulous Capriotti's, a family-run and -owned business with stores all over Delaware (their home turf), a few in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and a whole bunch of then in Las Vegas. I was never much of a fan of East Coast sandwiches (that whole hoagie-grinder-sub thing; I'm a poor boy man), but lemme tell ya, these folks have it down.

If you're on the Strip, head to the one just north of the main Strip area, at 322 W. Sahara. Doubtless their regular "Subs" on their menu are fine, but what you need to do is go directly for their "Cap's Specials". The one I had been looking forward to (being a born-again roast beef poor boy boy and all) is the "Slaw Be Jo", with buttery-soft and intensely beefy roast beef debris (dry though, not in gravy, but tender as all get out) piled up on a loaf that looks like a large poor boy loaf but has the consistency of Italian bread. Tangy cole slaw is then piled on, then Russian dressing (very East Coast, and not something I'm used to, but yummy), Provolone cheese and mayo. This is heavenly. I bought another one to go, had half of it when we got back to Pasadena last night and I'm eating the other half as I write.

We were with six friends and ordered a platter with several different sandwiches, so I got to try plenty of their offeriongs. My second-favorite was the "Bobbie", which is basically Thanksgiving dinner in a sandwich -- oven-roasted turkey (none of this processed crap; these folks roast their own beef and turkey daily), cranberry sauce, and stuffing. Cornbread stuffing on a sandwich. Brilliant. Bread within bread, for an extra carbohydrate kick; not quite the Schedule I kick you get with a fried potato poor boy, but great nonetheless. Good, whole-berry cranberry sauce, too.

Excellent Italian sub as well, plus you can get Genoa salami, cappacola, hot pastrami, meatball and cheese steaks (none of which we got a chance to try this trip, other than the Italian), but we'll save those for next time. The truly amazing thing about Capriotti's is not only the extremely high quality of their ingredients, but the sheer size of these monstrous sandwiches. The "small" is nine inches, more than enough for one, and the prices for those are about $6.50. The "medium", advertised at 12 inches but I know they're bigger than that, go for between $7 and $7.75. Then there's the "large", a Gargantuan concoction that's a full 20" in length and would feed at least two people, probably three, for 11 bucks. Best deal in Vegas (or Wilmington, or wherever) if you ask me.

Where to eat in Las Vegas (higher end).   Hotel shmotel. Sure, you've got great restaurants in the major hotels, headed by great chefs. This time, though, the finest meal we had in Vegas was well off the Strip, in a little mall and not a fancy hotel.

Rosemary's Restaurant is at 8125 W. Sahara, a good 20 minutes west of the Strip, and it's there very deliberately. The idea behind this place was to avoid the hotels, and to open a world-class fine dining establishment that primarily catered to locals, so that the locals would be able to go out for a great meal with impeccable service and not have to get sucked into the morass of glitz, neon and gridlock traffic that is Las Vegas Boulevard amidst all the big hotels and casinos. Good idea, y'all.

Founder-chefs Wendy and Michael Jordan have some impressive resumés: between the two of them, they've cooked in Emeril's, NOLA, Bayona and Peristyle in New Orleans, four of the city's top restaurants. They've taken their considerable talents and all the skills and ideas they gathered at those places and put them all into the glorious menu at Rosemary's, where every single thing we tasted was spectacular -- creative flavor combinations and presentations, perfectly prepared, plus things we'd never seen before. To name one, each and every dish on the menu not only had a recommended wine for accompaniment, but a recommended beer as well, everything from Trappist ales to Sierra Nevada to Pilsner Urquell to the most amazing beer I've ever had: a dessert beer from Belgium called Lindemans Framboise Lambic, with a delicate fizz and an intense raspberry taste that made my beloved Abita Purple Haze pale in comparison (although to be fair, they're apples and oranges).

They got off to a roaring start. Given the New Orleans cred of the restaurant and its chefs, I boldly ordered a Sazerac. The waiter (who did a fine job that evening) wasn't familiar with it, but checked with the bar and was assured that they could make one. My mind was open, my trust level high. Turns out that both were surpassed. The Sazerac which I was served was better than almost any Sazerac I'd ever had in New Orleans. The reasons? An expert bartender who told me later that she'd lived and worked there for years, plus a top-notch base for the drink -- Old Rip Van Winkle 15-year-old rye, which I'd never tasted before. Sazerac lovers, seek out and find this rye! It'll likely be easier to find than the Sazerac brand 18-year-old. I was sold right away by that superb cocktail.

As it turned out, each one of the eight of us at the table ordered a different appetizer and a different entrée, and we all put selfishness and greediness aside to let everyone taste everything. That was easy, because we were so excited about the food that we wanted everyone else to experience it all as well. I started with sweetbreads (which is a favorite starter of mine), cooked crisp on the outside and buttery on the inside, atop a thin slice of brioche, garlic spinach and a generous dose of shiitake mushrooms in a caramelized shallot reduction sauce. Intense, gorgeous ... I sopped up every drop of that sauce with the excellent rolls they kept bringing.

After tasting other starters though, I almost wished I had an unlimited stomach capacity, as they were all so good. The dry aged beef carpaccio with Maytag blue cheese was astonishing. Oddly enough, I had never had carpaccio before, but I'm getting it again here next time. It almost melted on my tongue, and was perfect with the arugula and Granny Smith apple salad, candied walnuts and port wine drizzles. It was even more delicate than fine prosciutto, with a flavor almost as intense. Wes had my other favorite, the cornmeal-fried oysters (how can you go wrong?) with jalapeño tartar sauce and "Grandma's pickles". The sauce wasn't too piquante, and my only complaint on the pickles was that we would have liked more of them. They had a nice balance of sweet (like my grandma's pickles) and tartness; not as sweet as bread-and-butter, but not as tart as dill.

I was incredibly torn over the entré menu; I would have been happy with anything on it. Finally, the one that looked the most fascinating (and least potentially fattening) was the Crispy Skin Striped Bass with an andouille, baby shrimp and fingerling potato hash, hushpuppies and a Creole meunière sauce. It was a huge fillet of fish, and it was exactly as described -- I've never had fish with skin this crispy, almost smoky, almost like paper-thin bacon. The "hash" was fantastic, as you can imagine, and one taste of the meuniè sauce prompted me to say, "Oh well, so much for the non-fattening part!" I didn't care, though, as it was wonderful too. The hushpuppies were a tiny bit too dense for my taste, but that was only the most minor of quibbles. Oddly enough, I tasted Wes' dish -- Pan Seared Honey Glazed Salmon with Granny Smith apple cabbage slaw, port wine syrup, candied walnuts and walnut vinaigrette, and declared it to be the best piece of salmon I'd ever had -- well, perhaps tied with the little pavé of salmon I'd had at the French Laundry, but this one was three times bigger. As much as I was loving my dish, I was kinda wishing I had gotten Wes' dish. When he tasted mine, despite how much he loved the salmon, wished he had gotten the sea bass. We were nice and traded a few more bites.

Another standout was a side dish we ordered, available a la carte but also part of one of the appetizers -- Maytag blue cheese slaw. Maytag blue cheese, one of my very favorite blues and perhaps my favorite American artisanal cheese, was all over this menu and that's fine with me. The slaw was one of those dishes where you take one bite and just say "Oh, GAWD!". The recipe for the appetizer, Hugo's Texas BBQ Shrimp with Maytag Blue Cheese Slaw is on the restaurant's web site, and I'll write to them as ask if they'll let me put the slaw recipe up over here. There must be slaw for everyone. Slaw to the world!

Everyone moaned in pleasure over their various dishes, including another "this is the best piece of fish I've ever had in my life" from Steve at the other end of the table, referring to the evening special he'd ordered -- Grilled Gulf Escolar on a bed of julienne vegetables with a red bell pepper coulis and a picholine olive compound butter and quenelles of goat cheese mousse. (Good Gawd.) Other winners were the Grilled Pork Chop with Hoppin' John and a Creole mustard reduction sauce, a Grilled Veal Chop with cheese grits, sizzled leeks and a wild mushroom ragout and Seared Sea Scallops with parsnip potato purée, parsnip strips, crispy prosciutto and an apple cider beurre blanc. There were little bread plates with tastes of everyone's dinner practically flying around the table throughout the entire meal.

Then came dessert. Oh, dessert. A chocolate soufflé made with Callebaut chocolate, plus a gravy boat of Callebaut chocolate sauce (house-made, of course). A chocolate pot de crème that was the best example of which I'd ever had. A coconut bread pudding that made our heads spin. Delicious house-made sorbets (lemon, mixed berry and vodka-grapefruit). All this, paired with a large bottle of that wonderful Lindemans raspberry Lambic.

When they asked at the end of the meal if they could do anything else for us, I was tempted to ask for eight wheelbarrows to get us out to the car, but somehow we managed to make it on our own power. When in Vegas, skip all of the hotel restaurants and eat here first. Then you can eat at Picasso or Olives or Aureole or any of the others. You deserve Rosemary's, and they deserve you.

Where to eat at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.   Why, Commander's Palace, of course.

You're greeted from afar by the awning (it's that color; those of you who've been to the main restaurant in New Orleans know what I mean). You're greeted at the door by maitre'd Santino, an Italian New Orleanian of the classic mold, and either of his two assistants Tommy or David (nice Jesuit boys both). You hear the accents. You smell the food. I'm home.

It's obviously not the same layout (no Garden Room, for instance), the menu's a bit more limited and the prices might be a tad higher, but other than that it's the same Commander's I know and love (made even more comforting by the generously large Sazerac they made me).

Commander's Vegas recently had a personnel shift -- Tory McPhail, their former executive chef, is now exec chef at the main restaurant in New Orleans, replacing the late Jamie Shannon. Former Chef de Cuisine Carlos Guia, a native of Venezuela with New Orleans family ties, recently stepped up to the executive chef position in Las Vegas. He's another in a long line of chefs from elsewhere who've been "Creolized" by the Brennans, and before joining their restaurant empire had worked at Le Bernardin and under André Soltner at Lutèce.

I don't recall being faced with such a difficult decision over what to get at my last several visits to Commander's back home; there were about eight entrée choices plus the special, and they all looked great. I decided to go for their Soups 1-1-1, a demitasse cup serving of each of the three soups of the day: their always-amazing turtle soup au sherry; the gumbo du jour, which that day was cochon de lait, Cajun-style roast suckling pig; and their soup du jour, a cream of cauliflower with applewood-smoked bacon (three of my favorite words). All were superb.

After much agonizing, I went for the beef tournedos. Two good-sized little filets served with some cornmeal-fried oysters napped with a light remoulade sauce, plus a huge serving of horseradish-laced smashed purple Peruvian potatoes, grilled baby asparagus and a Creole mustard and Steen's cane syrup reduction sauce. Oh yeah. Wes started with a classic Jamie Shannon dish, Tasso Shrimp with Five-Pepper Jelly and Crystal Hot Sauce Beurre Blanc, a spectacular dish, followed by a monstrous lamb shank that immediately fell off the huge bone as he began to eat.

We ordered tons of desserts -- the legendary Bread Pudding Soufflé with Whiskey Sauce; a pecan tart; a lovely crême brulée, spread thin on a large plate with lots and lots of caramelized sugar on top; a blackberry trifle ... oh my, I lost track. With Commander's now joining Emeril's Fish House and Delmonico in Vegas, y you can dine like a well-heeled New Orleanian even if you can't make it all the way to the Crescent City (which, as Jonno pointed out, is not actually pronounced "Nawlins" unless you're a tourist or Frank Davis).

Embarrassing dessert of the week.   As we were staying at the Aladdin where Commander's is located, we decided to try another of the hotel's restaurants, Elements. I'm not sure if it's hotel-run or an outside group like Commander's, but most of the meal was quite good. They have a rather strange combination of a higher-end selection of "surf and turf" -- lots of seafood and prime cuts of beef -- plus a sushi bar. I had an excellent foie gras preparation for a starter, and an excellent filet mignon topped with foie gras with a black truffle sauce for the entrée. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their entrées as well, although there was a raised eyebrow or two at the occasionally spotty service (we had a fairly late reservation and got the feeling toward the end that we were being rushed out).

Where they failed was with the dessert. We were fascinated by something they called "Chocolate Sushi", and when they brought it out it was one of the most delightful and clever dessert presentations I'd seen in recent memory. The outer "nori" wrapping of the sushi was chocolate, and the filling was rice pudding in place of the sushi rice and a center filling of various diced fresh fruit. There were "chopsticks" that had been piped out using similar cookie dough as for langues du chat, and a little chocolate cup for dipping into the "soy sauce", which was made of chocolate. Just gorgeous. The problem began when we actually tasted it.

The "nori" tasted like a not-nearly-as-flavorful Tootsie roll that had been rolled thin, the rice pudding had very little flavor itself, and the death blow was when Mary yelled across the table, "Chuck!! Stick your spoon in that sauce and tell me it's not Hershey's Syrup!"

It was, shockingly and without a doubt, Hershey's Syrup. Fine if you're a kid making chocolate milk, not fine if you're in a high-end restaurant paying a pretty penny for what purports to be an elegant dessert. Bad, bad, bad.

  Friday, February 22, 2002
Takin' four days off.   Me 'n Wes and six friends are converging on Las Vegas today, for about 3 and a quarter days of eating (Commander's Palace, Rosemary's, and more), drinking (the fabulous Petrossian Bar in the Bellagio, where there are Cable Cars, Bellissimos and many other cocktails with our names on them), plus an evening with Blue Man Group and, if we're lucky, the Liberace Museum! See y'all Tuesday.

  Thursday, February 21, 2002
What a waste of good gumbo.   Y'know ... I remember a time when a container of gumbo would have had to have been rotting for two weeks before it could clear a whole building. I'll bet this particular batch was fresh and perfectly good. Pity.

Cocktail of the week.   Well, you know me ... more like cocktail of the year, cocktail of a lifetime, but I'll stop my blathering now. I'm pleased and a bit surprised to see that HotWired have not yet killed the most excellent Paul Harrington's Cocktail web site, and is still doing "Drink of the Week" rotations. This week's drink is the mighty Sazerac, and y'all know how I feel about that one.

If you're interested in the subject of fine, quality cocktails, you need to start perusing this site at once. Then, you need to seek out and find Mr. Harrington's wonderful and mind-bogglingly out-of-print book Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century. I found my copy via, and it shouldn't be terribly difficult to obtain. Cheers!

Holy bejeebies.   This just in from Sean: Apparently Pacifica Network News, who provide news not only to Pacifica-owned radio stations but to many, many more community radio stations, is going off the air.

After more than twenty years on the air, the Pacifica Network News ends its broadcast, purportedly for financial reasons. Pacifica Network News Anchor Josephine Reed speaks with Pacifica Network News Senior Correspondent Don Rush and Marc Cooper, host of Radio Nation, a show on Pacifica station KPFK in Los Angeles, about the history of Pacifica and what its demise means for progressive community radio. [RealAudio link]
This is bad. Not that I'm hugely critical of NPR, but it leaves NPR as the only decent choice for a radio news service. It's not as independent as it thinks it is, but on the bright side, at least it's still not owned by a huge conglomerate.

Hell readies a room.   This news story and commentary, which I read in this morning's "Morning Fix", left me slack-jawed with astonishment.

Sen. Jesse Helms actually said, in public, and no one immediately slapped him with a large brick or ripped out his tiny heart with their bare hands and squeezed it like a sponge to prove it was full of poisonous black oozing slug-slime, that he was ashamed he had not done more to fight the worldwide AIDS epidemic and promised to keep it on his agenda until he leaves office next year. "I have been too lax too long in doing something really significant about AIDS," Helms told hundreds of Christian AIDS activists gathered for a conference in Washington, because that's pretty much what they wanted to hear.

"I have been a rampant misogynistic gay-bashing homophobic chunk of ultra-conservative bile for upwards of 30 years and it's high time I made a couple token gestures to you sinful rainbow Liza-lovin' homos so you don't kill me right here and now, some small and obviously desperate plea to the universe in a futile attempt to slightly appease the angry demons currently gnawing at what remains of my shriveled soul before I die, so I can hopefully avoid eternal damnation and repeated viewings of 'Mama's Family' in hell, though I'm sure it's already way, way too late for that," he should've added, in a pained whisper.

Quote of the day.   "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy."

-- Sen. Jesse Helms, in a comment typical of his constant opposition to any kinds of AIDS research funding, while lashing out at the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS bill in 1988.

  Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Crap, crap, crapola!   Every now and again I do something monumentally stupid, and this is one of those times. Apparently I seem to have erased most of my January 2002 Looka! archive. It managed not to get backed up on either the server or on my Mac, and all I have left is a fragment, from the 23rd to the 31st. Google managed not to spider and cache it, either.

*growl*  Um, I don't suppose anyone has my January edition in their cache anywhere, do they?

UPDATE -- 3:38pm. Saved! As it turns out, this once sad tale has two heroes -- Wes somehow managed to pull it out of Google (which was very uncooperative when I tried; thanks hawt! *mwah!*) and Damien sent a perfectly intact copy from his OmniWeb cache ... many thanks to him as well. (Hmm. Maybe I oughta start running OS X after all.)

Cocktail of the day.   Back, by special request. (Thanks, Chris.) It's been a while since I've posted anything on this subject.

I read a book on aperitifs recently and found some excellent recipes for pastis cocktails. I'm a big pastis fan -- the anise-flavored spirits such as Herbsaint, Ricard, Pernod, et al. -- and it's a great way to sit back, prime your taste buds for your meal, and basically feel civilized.

There's still ritual involved with it, left over from the days of the absintheurs, which I also enjoy. (If you have any, you could of course use absinthe as well.) The narrow, heavy-bottomed glass, the pitcher of cold water, the slotted spoon and sugar cube if it needs sugar, the pouring, the clouding-up ... it's fun. They say that pastis epitomizes the south of France, and Provence in particular. I could say that a pastis drink immediately transports me back there ... um, 'cept I've never been. Yet.

The excellent book Aperitif, by Georgeanne Brennan, has introduced me to three variations on classic pastis which she learned about from neighbors while living in Provence. They all have an ounce of pastis and 4 - 5 ounces of cold water in common, but are all flavored with different sweetened syrups -- almond, grenadine and mint. This produces vibrant colors in these drinks as well, and their names, particularly "The Tomato" and "The Parrot", refer to their color rather than anything having to do with their flavor. (I'm not sure I'd want a parrot-flavored cocktail anyway.) My favorite so far is La Mauresque, although I have yet to try Le Perroquet.

These are all very common in Provence, so if you ever go there you can order these at the village café and sound like you know what you're talking about, instead of sounding like a dumb foreigner.

La Mauresque
Pour one ounce of pastis into the glass, followed by 1 tablespoon of orgeat syrup (you can substitute almond syrup), then pour in about 4 ounces of cold water, and an ice cube or two if you like. Stir and serve.

La Tomate
Pour one ounce of pastis into the glass, followed by 1 tablespoon of grenadine, then pour in about 4 ounces of cold water, and an ice cube or two if you like. Stir and serve.

Le Perroquet
Pour one ounce of pastis into the glass, followed by 1 tablespoon of green mint syrup, then pour in about 4 ounces of cold water, and an ice cube or two if you like. Stir and serve.

Mo' Abita!   Oh yeah ... Greg reminds me that Beverage Warehouse at 4935 McConnell Ave #21 in Culver City also carries Abita Beer, and is having a Mardi Gras special on Abita all this month!

Well, they say that tall plate presentations are popular again...   or "architectural" presentations, where you go for height. "Very Charlie Trotter," said one of the chefs I studied under in school. However, nobody said anything about erect presentations:

Pfizer [Pharmaceuticals) is threatening trendy New York restaurants Chicama and Sabor with legal action if they don't remove a seafood dish called Viagra Ceviche from their menus.

The dish -- which contains mussels, shrimp and clams but no Viagra, a drug prescribed for erectile dysfunction in men -- has been a popular fixture on the restaurants' menus for two years, owing to its "uplifting" side effects.

Sabor head chef John Soler said that the name sprang from the meal's ability to double as an aphrodisiac.

Waitaminnit, bra. How can it be an aphrodisiac if it ain't got no erstas in it?! (Thanks, Doc!)

  Tuesday, February 19, 2002
Okay, so I had a day off.   Presidential holiday and all, so lazy Chuck didn't do an entry. (Obligatory interjection from Wes: "Some of us had to work today!") Now, where was I?

Hee hee heeeee!   Guffaw of the day:  Enron's new voice mail menu. (Thanks, Mike!)

Pop dat Abita!   What an embarrassment of riches. Just within a few weeks I now find not one, not two but three places to get my favorite home state microbrew, Abita Beer, right here in El Lay.

1. Trader Joe's. Yep, my favorite little grocery chain has started to carry three types of Abita -- Amber Ale, Turbo Dog and Purple Haze. It's a little over six bucks a six-pack, which is a very good price; it really is an import, sorta. Just remember the one annoying thing about Trader Joe's -- never fall in love with anything there that's not a store brand, because they often have limited supplies, or else they just stop carrying a product. Even if Abita suddenly disappears from Trader Joe's due to their inconsistency, there's always ...

2. Galco's Soda Pop Stop, York Blvd. at Avenue 57, Highland Park. As I mentioned a while back, Galco's carries all three now too. It's more expensive there, about $8.50 a six-pack, but they might end up having it more consistenly than Trader Joe's.

3. Father's Office, a bar at 1018 Montana in Santa Monica.  Also as mentioned before, both Amber and Turbo Dog ... on tap! *boggle*

Galco's also carries the other varieties of Dixie Beer -- Crimson Voodoo and Blackened Voodoo. Those are both okay, but I'm more of an Abita fan. Dixie created those beers to compete, as their traditional lager, produced for eons in New Orleans, is pretty bad. I don't know if they still make it with river water, but sometimes a Dixie used to taste like whatever they had spilled into the river that week. It's a good thing to drink on a hot day after ya mow da lawn, but it has very little body or flavor.

Mardi Gras: A French word meaning "No Parade".   I remember when I was a wee laddie of 15 and a huge fan of a hilarious new show called "Saturday Night Live" ('member, way back when the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players ruled the roost and the show didn't suck yet?), they decided to do a ready for prime time Live Broadcast from my very own hometown of New Orleans. I was excited about everything that was planned, including a live performance by The Meters, and a Mardi Gras parade (Bacchus, as I recall) broadcast on national TV (still fairly rare in those days). I was such a huge SNL fan that I even blew off the parade (and the Fonz was the King!) so I could see the show (this being the olden days, before VCRs). As it was planned, it was going to be a great show.

Of course, my beloved New Orleans being what it is, it was a huge disaster.

The show's lone New Orleans native was shut out of the program. One of the city's hottest musical groups didn't even get to perform. A special guest star, sleep-deprived with no script, went blank on air. A cast member got caught in a "group grope." Its biggest star threatened to boycott the episode. Power outages threatened skits. And despite two key players poised to provide laugh-out-loud parade commentary throughout the episode, the parade never showed -- nearly causing a riot.

That's what you get for putting on during Mardi Gras: pure bedlam.


Oh well, I have fond memories of it anyway, including Randy Newman blowing a raspberry at everyone who was offended by "Short People". (From Gambit Weekly in New Orleans, link via Matt).

Bite me,   British Telecom.

  Friday, February 15, 2002
Queasy Sick Wonderful.   What it means to love records. Alec Hanley Bemis writes in the LA Weekly about the fabulous, Gargantuan new record store, Amoeba Music Hollywood (and my new favorite; sorry Rhino, but the King is dead, long live the King), and the impulse to acquire. I know this pain. 3,700 CDs, 1500 LPs, at least 250 45rpm singles. Try moving these sometime. Music is masochism.

If you are a collector, you've chosen to love an open set, a puzzle with an infinite number of pieces. If you are a record collector, you've chosen to love vibrating air, or temporality, or a memory of a work of art. You are a doomed soul. You will never be satisfied.


Hooray! Doing the right thing, for a change.   The IOC have given the well-deserved gold medal in figure skating to that brilliant and adorable Canadian pair who wuz robbed (robbed, I tell ya!) of their gold by a crooked fink of a judge, who needs to be frozen into the ice and have a Zamboni driven over her repeatedly.

Now all we need to do is have the Westminster Kennel Club take "Best of Show" back from that ridiculous hedge clipping and give it to the ridgeback, who deserved it in the first place.

Endless party.   My friend Rick Cornell has written a great article on the currents and origins of the"Americana" music scene in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area, including many musicians whose fame has spread far beyond North Carolina. Chip Robinson, the Backsliders, Caitlin Cary, Whiskeytown, Thad Cockrell, Six String Drag and more. (If you're a fan, surely you've heard some of these names.)

I love the article's opener, too, quoting another friend: "I've been a fan of Americana since it was 'called' Bruce Springsteen."

Be real!   The Austin Chronicle weighs in on a forthcoming album I can't wait to hear: The Bottle Rockets' "Songs of Sahm", all covers of tunes by Sir Douglas.

  Thursday, February 14, 2002
Time for a jam with the Big Bopper.   Country music legend Waylon Jennings has died at the age of 64.

Most folks have probably forgotten that he was a protegé of Buddy Holly in the mid 1950s, and that it was he who gave up his seat on the plane to the Big Bopper, who died in the subsequent crash with Holly and Richie Valens. Thanks for everything, Waylon.

Uncle Tupelo 101.   Here's an early review of the forthcoming release "Uncle Tupelo 89/93: An Anthology", to be released by Columbia/Legacy on March 19.

Finally! I get to do a radio show again!   After weeks of being pre-empted for basketball games, I'm back on the air as of tonight, and I think that's it for the pre-emptions.

Even though Carnival's over, it's already Lent, and we should be sick of all this stuff by now, I'm doing a Mardi Gras music special tonight 'cause dammit, I didn't get to do one last week. Tune in for great stuff from Professor Longhair, Earl King, The Wild Tchoupitoulas, The Wild Magnolias, Indians of the Nation, The Meters, The Neville Brothers, The Balfa Brothers, The Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, Les Quatres Vieux Garçons, A. J. Loria, and Beausoleil, who are performing tonight at 8pm at Throop Church in Pasadena.

Joyeux anniversaire, Mike Doucet!   My favorite Cajun fiddler, lead singer of BeauSoleil, turns 51 today. Incidentally, BeauSoleil are playing tonight in Pasadena at Throop Church, as part of the Acoustic Music Series. It'll probably be sold out, but I happen to know that a friend of mine has two extra tickets that she'll probably be selling out front ...

He really should have been beheaded.   Lest you think it's weird for me to be linking to two sports stories in as many days ... no, I haven't been taken over by some kind of sports-fan-pod-people. Greg B. sent me this article, full of all kinds of sports-type stuff I really couldn't give a crap about, except for one very interesting tidbit he knew I'd dig (hyperlinks mine):

No doubt the hot topic in the ol' bag is All-Star weekend. Personally, my highlight was walking around Philadelphia Saturday night and going by Morimoto, a new restaurant opened by the chef of the same name. As I was passing it, I happened to see Food Channel chef Bobby Flay walking out. Iron Chef fans will recognize the irony of seeing Flay come out of Morimoto's restaurant. The rest of you are wondering what the heck I am talking about. Skip it, trust me.
Flay was there to submit to an ancient Japanese apology ritual, in which he bows in supplication and respect, is smacked repeatedly on the buttocks with the flat side of a samurai sword, then made to shout "I'm a lame, arrogant boor who contaminates his work surface!" and twirl in a pirouette while Chef Morimoto throws fish offal at his head.

  Wednesday, February 13, 2002
Awrite, awrite, it's all ovuh.   Go sober up and get ya ashes.

I have a hangover, although it's a food hangover. Lemme tell ya something ... sometime you gotta make roast beef po-boys, even if you can't get perfect po-boy bread. It was so good we were all moaning. Who knew that roast beef could be so good? (I considered it somewhat of an abomination as I was growing up.) Make some horseradish mayonnaise to put on the po-boys to make 'em even better.

We also flipped back and forth between Olympic figure skating and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. I can't believe that stupid miniature poodle that looked like some kind of froofy coiffured toy won Best of Show (I kept hearing Fred Willard's voice in my head), and I can't believe that nice Canadian skating couple got so totally screwed out of their gold medal. Bah!

Not quite, bra.   With the Super Bowl in New Orleans comes a glut of sports fans (which is okay, y'all spend y'all's money) but worse than that ... sports reporters. Specifically, sports reporters attempting to write about something other than sports (bad idea). Here's one guy from ESPN (you know, the sports network with a child named after it) who doesn't seem to have left Bourbon Street for more than ten minutes (during Carnival, no less), yet sums up the entirety of the city and its cultcha based on what he saw there. No bra, there ain't no strip joints or sex clubs in my momma's neighorhood.

Now, for people who really don't get it ...   some frighteningly uptight and joyless people who won't allow themselves to have any fun whatsoever, and apparently don't want anyone else to, either.

So, Boudreaux an' Thibodaux got theyselves a job captainin' a tugboat ...   an' Boudreaux says, "Mais Thibodaux! Look up dere! Dey got a bridge 'cross da river! An I can see in de bridgehouse ... de bridgekeeper's asleep! It ain't goin' up!" So Thibodaux says, "Mais, don' worry Boudreaux! We'll just go under it!"

  Tuesday, February 12, 2002  ::  Mardi Gras!
Happy Mardi Gras, y'all!   Wherever you are, celebrate in some way today! Even if it's just having a po-boy or a bowl of gumbo ... or a batch of duck and andouille jambalaya, recipe courtesy of Chef Emeril.

In New Orleans, revelry ensues as the Quarter goes wild, and parades roll throughout the city. There's revelry in Acadiana as well, of an entirely different sort as masked riders on Le Courir de Mardi Gras ride through the countryside, fueled on boudin and beer, seeking ingredients for the big gumbo tonight. In New Orleans, being that it's a city of culture, people don't have to go to work on Mardi Gras Day. Unfortunately, the city where I currently live isn't quite as civilized. I couldn't think of many things more depressing than spending the day cooped up in a windowless office, so today I'm playing hooky.

I just got back from Le Pain du Jour, a superb bakery in Santa Monica which makes the best baguettes in the city, and the closest thing I've found to New Orleans-style French bread for po-boys. Lunchtime will be an adventure with Mary and Meredith, where we'll head out to Stevie's on the Strip for some Creole food, and then wherever else we might feel like heading. And tonight for dinner ... well, I've been preparing for this for a few days now.

On Saturday I made four pounds of fresh Creole hot sausage and about six quarts of brown beef stock. Last night I took a five-pound shoulder roast, cut slits in it, stuffed the slits with salt pork, garlic, onions and black pepper, seared that puppy in some bacon drippings, added onions, celery, carrots and more garlic, parsley, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, a few marrow bones, a cup of 1997 Frog's Leap Cabernet and about three quarts of that beef stock, and let that sucker braise for about four hours, after which I sliced the roast (it fell almost completely apart into that wonderful shredded beef that Mother's Restaurant on Poydras Street calls "debris"), and then I covered it with about a quart and a half of that gravy and let it sit in the fridge all night.

Hot sausage po-boys with cheese, and roast beef po-boys, dressed, with horseradish mayonnaise. That, plus some Turbo Dog that I'll pick up at Galco's later on ... and I can't think of a better Mardi Gras meal.

If you're stuck in an office anyway, at least get some good music in your ears. Tune in to WWOZ, or Radio Free New Orleans' perfect, fabulous Mardi Gras Music Special, hosted by Ron Cuccia and introduced with a burst of mellifluous poetry. Here's a little bit more about what Ron has to say about the world's greatest holiday:

One of our greatest differences from the rest of America is that in New Orleans, the Protestant work ethic has met its match in the Mardi Gras play ethic.

The Protestant work ethic says that you earn fun. The Mardi Gras play ethic says that fun is free. The Protestant work ethic says that you have to work all week long before you can have fun on the weekend; fun is a reward for being good. The Mardi Gras play ethic says that fun is good, good being, a healthy way to be, a happy state of existence. It's feeling good, just because you feel good.

Yeah you rite, bra.

If you're out in the Quarter today and you run into a bunch of people dressed as saints (specifically, saints that have Louisiana parishes named after them), some of them are friends of mine. Give St. John the Pabstist a hug for me (dat saint likes dat Blue Ribbon beer, yeah), and St. Tammany Fae Bakker while you're at it. And if you run into Jonno and Richard, let them give you a hug.

Foods of Fat Tuesday.   It ain't just in New Orleans, y'know. There are Carnival traditions all over the world, and many of them have their own unique traditional foods; it ain't always King Cake. They eat pancakes in parts of the Midwest, in a tradition that apparently began in England; sweet pastries in Italy; a jambalaya-like rice dish called pelau in Trinidad; feijoada washed down with caipirinhas in Rio; crêpes in France, and much more.

Sun Nin Fy Lok! Gung Hay Fat Choy!   Well, in Cantonese, anyway; I know more Cantonese speakers than I do Mandarin speakers. But for all you Mandarin speakers ... Xin Nien Kuai Le! Gong Xi Fa Cai! (New Year Happiness! Wishing You Prosperity!)

So this year Mardi Gras and Chinese New Year have fallen on the same day. How cool is that? What can we do in the interest of cultural co-celebration? How 'bout Chinese Barbecue Pork Po-Boys? Hot Sausage Shiu Mai? Or maybe go to China Blossom on the West Bank and getting Fried Soft-Shell Crab in a Ginger-Crawfish Sauce ... oh man.

  Monday, February 11, 2002  ::  Lundi Gras
I want a well-mixed cocktail, not a performance.   Someone emailed me yesterday via my contact form, identifying himself as "Underworld Gourmet" (presumably not any relation to the Underground Gourmet, Richard Collin). I wanted to reply, but as he didn't provide a return email address, I have to reply here. His question/coment was regarding my favorite cocktail, the Sazerac, he says:

Read your escellent [sic] article on Sazeracs -- but isn't there something you forgot? The way to coat the inside of the glass is to put the bitters in the glass, and then toss it high in the air, catching it (prefarably [sic], but not necessarily) behind you. This is the way it's traditionally done at the Sazerac Bar.
(Actually, it's the Herbsaint with which they coat the glass, not bitters.)

Well, I'm sad to say that right now the legendary Sazerac Bar at the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans (a beautiful and historic bar where I really enjoy hanging out) makes just about the worst Sazerac cocktails in the city. Sure, they put on a good show, throwing the glass up in the air until it reaches (or even hits) the ceiling and catching it (occasionally, but not necessarily) behind the bartender's back. Impressive, impressive, *clap*clap*clap* ... the tourists love it. Too bad the drinks taste like crap.

The bartenders at the Sazerac make so many of their signature cocktails that they have started premixing them. They take sugar syrup and add the bitters to that, so all they have to do is put on their show, squirt some of their mix into the glass, add the whiskey, stir, put in the twist, and they're ready to serve. Thing is, these guys are putting way too much of that syrup into the drink, making it overly sweet, no matter how much they swear the proportions are correct. The last several visits have ended up with my having Sazeracs that were mediocre to terrible. (Last time I went there, the bartender was a putz as well.)

What makes this particularly silly is that this only saves one step -- the shaking of four dashes of bitters into the glass. He still has to coat the glass (and throw it up in the air like a performing monkey), he still has to put the syrup in, he still has to put the whiskey in, he still has to stir it with ice and strain it into the glass, he still has to twist the lemon peel. It saves maybe five seconds. And adding the bitters by hand assures that you get the correct amount in the drink.

This is what I want from a bartender, especially in New Orleans -- I want a properly mixed cocktail, well-made, professionally made and served with courtesy. I don't want a show. I'm not impressed if you throw the glass up in the air, and then make me a bad drink. (I collect glassware. You do that with one of our vintage Roosevelt Hotel Sazerac glasses and I'll kick your ass.) Bartenders, if you want to be Tom Cruise in "Cocktail", by all means, go ahead and make your performance into a faux-"tradition". I'll just go get my Sazeracs from another bar.

Any day now, I shall be re-released.   There are big plans for the 25th anniversary of the release of one of my favorite concert films of all time -- The Band's "The Last Waltz". "A $60 four-CD box set arrives on Rhino Records April 16 with remixed tracks and unreleased material, including two jams and performances by EmmylouHarris, Van Morrison and Muddy Waters.

"The Last Waltz" special-edition DVD ($25), due May 7 on MGM Entertainment, delivers storyboards, artwork, the movie trailer, TV ads, new interviews with Martin Scorsese and Robbie Robertson, and never-before-seen footage of The Band with Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and others. Key players weigh in during two full-length audio commentaries." Woo!

Snakes will be snakes.   Morford was in rare form in this morning's "Fix". It's one of those situations where your horrified and sorry that a guy died, but the columnist's description makes you laugh anyway.

A 10-foot-long Burmese python killed its owner by coiling so tightly around him that the man could not breathe. "He was handling the snake and showing it to someone when the snake wrapped around his chest," said Rory Chetelat, spokesman for the Aurora Fire Department, near Denver. Firefighters said the owner was a big man in his 40s. The snake weighed 75 to 80 pounds. Six firefighters and police officers were needed to remove the snake and free the man.

"Look, six years of dead frozen mice, living in a glass tank the size of a small refrigerator, denying my very nature, and I finally get a chance to coil around something big and meaty and not very bright, you think I'm gonna pass that up?" said the snake, in that cool snake lingo, hanging there from a large branch, looking totally cool in 100% snakeskin. "I mean hello, I'm a friggin' Burmese python, fer chrissakes. This is what I do, you know?" he added, just before slithering up to a cute female reporter like some sort of limbless scaly reptile and asking her back to his tank so they could "reenact the fall of man."

Bad idea of the day.   Why you shouldn't put your Palm Pilot in the oven. I'm assuming the same thing goes for Handspring Visors, which is what I have; it runs on the same OS, after all.

Email of the day.   "Matt" writes in with the subject line of "drug test":

I drank a shot of absynthe [sic] on friday, I have a drug test tomorrow, can I fail the drug test due to the shot of absynthe?
Oh dude ... you are so going to jail. In fact, they're gonna put you UNDER the jail. I'd get my affairs in order, if'n I were you.

An open letter to George W. Bush,   by Michael Moore. Sometimes he's a little much for me, but he's right on the money here. Sorry for the long excerpt (of an even longer letter), but I think this needs to be read by everybody, and Bush's relationship with Kenneth "Kenny Boy" Lay needs to be widely reported in the media. Bush must answer for this.

Kenny has always been there for you. You needed a way to fly around to all the primaries and campaign stops in the 2000 election -- so Kenny gave you his corporate jet. Did you tell the voters when you arrived in each city that the bird you flew in on was from a billionaire who was secretly conspiring to give the bird to all his employees and investors? He flew you around America on the Enron company jet, and for that favor you touched down on tarmac after tarmac to tell your fellow citizens that you were "going to restore dignity to the White House, the people's house." You said this standing in front of an Enron jet!

Man, you loved Lay so much, you not only affectionately referred to him as "Kenny Boy," you interrupted an important campaign trip in April, 2000, to fly back to Houston for the Astros opening day at the new Enron Field -- just so you could watch Kenny Boy Lay throw out the first pitch. How sentimental!

I mean, you loved this man so intensely that, when you were awarded a set of keys the Supreme Court had made for you so you could live in the White House, you invited Kenny Boy to set up shop -- at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue! He interviewed those who would hold high-level Energy Department positions in your administration.

You not only let Kenny Boy decide who would head the regulatory agency that oversaw Enron, you let him hand-pick the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Harvey Pitt -- a former lawyer for his accountant, Arthur Andersen! Kenny and the boys at Andersen also worked to make sure that accounting firms would be exempt from numerous regulations and would not be held liable for any "funny bookkeeping" (don't you wish you were this forward-thinking?).

The rest of Kenny Boy's time was spent next door with his old buddy, Dick Cheney (Enron and Halliburton, as you'll recall, got the big contracts from your dad to "rebuild" Kuwait after the Gulf War). Lay and Dick formed an "energy task force" (Operation Enduring Graft) which put together the country's new "energy policy." This policy then went on to shut down every light bulb and juicer in the state of California. And guess who made out like bandits while "trading" the energy California was in desperate need of? Kenny Boy and Enron! No wonder Big Dick doesn't want to turn over the files about those special meetings with Lay!

The only thing that surprises me more than all the Enron henchmen who ended up in your cabinet and administration is how our lazy media just rolled over and didn't report it. The list of Enron people on your payroll is impressive. Lawrence Lindsey, your chief economic advisor? A former advisor at Enron! Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill? Former CEO of Alcoa, whose lobbying firm, Vinson and Elkins, was the #3 contributor to the your campaign! Who is Vinson and Elkins? The law firm representing Enron! Who is Alcoa? The top polluter in Texas. Thomas White, the Secretary of the Army? A former vice-chair of Enron Energy! Robert Zoellick, your Federal Trade Representative? A former advisor at Enron! Karl Rove, your main man at the White House? He owned a quarter-million dollars of Enron stock.

Then there's the Enron lawyer you have nominated to be a federal judge in Texas, the Enron lobbyist who is your chair of the Republican Party, the two Enron officials who now work for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and the wife of Texas Senator Phil Gramm who sits on Enron's board. And there's the aforementioned Mr. Pitt, the former Arthur Andersen attorney whose job it is now as SEC head to oversee the stock markets. George, it never stops! My fingers are getting tired typing all this up -- and there's lots more.


  Friday, February 8, 2002
Record 75 million Americans now pretending that they own their own homes.   (via SatireWire) Low Interest Rates Help Many Fulfill The American (Banker's) Dream: Showing no ill effects from a weak economy, housing numbers released by the National Association of Realtors today showed that a record 75 million Americans are now participating in the mass self-delusion that they, and not their banks, actually own their homes ...

Heeheeheeeee ... heehee ... heh. Um. Ahem.

(This'd be a little less painful if it weren't true that rates are still at an all-time low and it's a great time to buy, and if the mortgage broker hadn't just told me that I'm now allowed to buy a house. Yeesh.)

Friiiied onion riiiings!   (BeFORE ya drive me nuts, t'ree French breads, Tujagues recipe ... for da crawfish dey caught in Arabi.)

No, it's not Christmas, despite my invocation of the 12 Yats thereof. The infamous song does pop into my head whenever I think of onion rings now, though ... and there's a great onion rings thread happening right now on Chowhound, one of my favorite places on the net.

I love onion rings. Yeah, I know, they're bad for me, just put a cork in it. Unfortunately, lots of places that serve onion rings serve those frozen, machine-made things that taste like they're breaded with gravel. Few places approach the quality of the rings at, say, Liuzza's (the best in the world, as far as I can think of) or even Popeye's (described by my old friend George as "an intensely religious experience"). They're really easy to make, so there's no excuse for restaurants not making their own. It's pretty easy for the home cook, too ... so indulge every once in a while.

Some basic tips:

No special onions: white or yellow work fine.

Floured rings don't hold up well after frying, but the result is delicious.

Work fast with thinly-cut rings, shaking them in a bag with seasoned flour.

Fry up in 350 degree oil.

Don't crowd your pan.

Drain on a rack or paper towels.

For breaded rings, soak in milk, shake in flour, dip into some beaten egg and roll in panko crumbs.

For battered rings, use a tempura batter made with beer.

  Thursday, February 7, 2002
"Some guy I used to write with."   Jay Bennett, guitarist, keyboardist, composer and former member of Wilco, talks about his new musical projects, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot along with a few mentions of why he left Wilco. He sounds like he's being a gentleman but there's stuff he's leaving unsaid ... hrmm.

I'm always happy to answer questions.   As I was watching Food Network (one of my favorite channels) this morning, the McCormick Company (you know them, spices and extracts and packets of stuff) posed a question to me via one of their commercials, which asked "How do you make the gravy just right?"

Good question, McCormick people. Thanks for asking. Well, first off, you don't make the gravy out of a fecking envelope.

That other cinematic perfectionist.   Ever wonder what happened to Michael Cimino? Besides Stanley Kubrick, he's the other director referred to as an unrelenting perfectionist, filming at a "killingly slow" pace, "walking around adjusting the hats of all his cowboy extras, and filming 52 takes of Kris Kristofferson cracking a bullwhip."

The main difference is that Michael Cimino has somewhere around 1/1000th the talent of Stanley Kubrick.

The man who took home an Oscar for the "God Bless America"-singing film "The Deer Hunter" and then made the "unqualified disaster" of "Heaven's Gate", the film that took a studio down, is the subject of a new interview in The New York Observer. In this interview, the director also reveals himself to be an unqualified jackass and nutball, viciously trashes Francis Coppola, Peter Zinner, Vilmos Zsigmond, Oliver Stone and many other people far more talented than he; compares himself to André Gide, James Joyce, William Faulkner, William Styron, Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Vladimir Nabokov and Leo Tolstoy, and by implication compares his work to that of all these artists; equates his experience making "Heaven's Gate" and its aftermath to that of women who are victims of rape, refers to them as "professional victims" and so trivializes these women ... oy.

Wish him into the cornfield, Anthony.

The Axis of Just-As-Evil.   Bitter after being snubbed for membership in the "Axis of Evil", Libya, China and Syria today announced that they had formed the "Axis of Just as Evil" which they said would be way eviler than that stupid Iran-Iraq-North Korea axis President Bush warned of in his State of the Union address. (Thanks for this one, Dave!)

  Wednesday, February 6, 2002
Beating swords into bigger swords.   The Guardian takes a look at the appalling budget George W. Bush has submitted to Congress, specifically at the increase in military spending, and why that might be.

Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, defended the the 11% increase in Pentagon expenditure yesterday, telling the Senate armed services committee that it was necessary to compensate for "a decade of overuse and underfunding", and to prepare for future wars beyond the current anti-terrorist campaign.

However, a breakdown of the budget figures suggests that relatively little of the $379bn (£266bn) planned spending for 2003 is directly relevant to the requirements of combating shadowy terrorist groups such as al-Qaida.

A far greater proportion of the defence budget will go towards "big ticket" weapon systems designed for the large-scale conventional battles envisaged during the cold war. They had been facing the axe under the "military transformation" initially planned by George Bush and Mr Rumsfeld.

Another controversial weapon given a reprieve in Monday's budget is the Crusader artillery system, a hefty mobile gun which critics said might have performed well in big land battles against Soviet tanks, but which is too heavy to be rapidly deployed in far-flung corners of the globe.

Paul Krugman, a liberal economist, argued in yesterday's New York Times: "The military build-up seems to have little to do with the actual threat, unless you think that al-Qaida's next move will be a frontal assault by several heavy armoured divisions."

According to Steven Kosiak, an analyst at the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the total 2003 defence budget will be 11% higher than the average military expenditure during the cold war. By 2007, under the Bush plan, defence spending will be 20% higher than average cold war levels.

In the current political atmosphere, Congress is unlikely to question the defence budget and may even insist on boosting it further. Among the big winners will be the defence contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and United Defence, which makes the crusader.

[emphasis mine] The majority stake in United Defence is owned by the Carlyle Group, an investment company which employs George Bush, the president's father, and the former British prime minister John Major as lobbyists to open doors in the US and abroad. The elder Mr Bush has converted speaking fees into Carlyle stock, and stands to benefit considerably from the Crusader's reprieve.

This administration makes me sick.

55 Theses.   Eric Lichtenfeld remembers film school, and muses on how grand it would be to be a film professor these days. He's come up with a list of 55 rules and guidelines for students, scholars and makers of movies (the latter of which should be required to read and sign off on these before being allowed to start shooting). "Now go nail these to the multiplex doors", he says ... and hit the studios too, while you're at it.

Super Bowl redux.   So I kept hearing that there was some kind of football game taking place in my hometown last Sunday (very poorly timed, if you ask me; it was the same weekend as the mayoral election, as well as the penultimate Carnival weekend). My friend Mary suggested an "anti-Super Bowl party", which included lots of hanging out and having fun talking and cooking, keeping the game on mute and occasionally un-muting in order to scrutinize the commercials. We even gave up on that after we realized that most of the commercials really sucked (that girl from Kentwood should really just go away, and I too thought that "mlife" was an insurance thing rather than a wireless thing). Off to the market we went, and a few of us headed into the kitchen to get busy for dinner.

Bianca, who apparently hasn't spent more than five minutes in front of a stove in her entire life, made an absolutely stunning spaghetti alla puttanesca, the legendary pasta with "whore's sauce" with tomatoes, black olives, garlic, capers and anchovies. If you don't think you can cook, you can probably cook this; it's "easy peasy", as the delicious Jamie Oliver would say. It's delicious, too -- the lovely salty bite of the capers and olives, the pungency of the garlic ... and don't be afraid of the anchovies. They just kinda melt into the whole thing. We got our recipe from the excellent Saveur Italian Cookbook, but the one above should work just as well. You could throw this together in ten minutes.

My turn in the kitchen took a little longer, but it was worth the wait. I had a special request to make crabmeat cheesecake with pecan crust, a fabulous dish from the Palace Café in New Orleans. The crust had to be made from scratch, chilled, baked, chilled again, then the filling (itself luckily easy to make) poured into the crust (with Hayley the Golden Retriever ever-present to lick up anything that I glopped on the floor), baked for 30 minutes then chilled again. This, plus I didn't know how to operate Mary and Steve's fancy oven, and as it turned out it was sitting in a cold oven the entire time I thought it was baking. *sigh* We ended up having cheesecake (with creamy spicy mushroom sauce) at 10:30pm, but we all nearly passed out after the first bite. Jesus GAWD. This is why the Palace Café is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. If you want to impress, make this dish at your next dinner party. It only takes a quarter of a pound of crabmeat, so it won't break your budget (I'd up that to six ounces or so, me.)

Oh, I heard that that game was exciting. Oh well. What's for dessert? (Nutter Butters and Breyer's Chocolate Rainbow ice cream ... five layers of five different chocolate flavors! Milk, bittersweet, white, mocha and gianduja! Wheeee!)

  Tuesday, February 5, 2002
Best albums of 2001.   In my humble opinion, of course. I knew I was forgetting something; I had had this list made since the first week of January, and forgot to post it. Fairly soon I'll have a slightly more annotated version of the list, with purchasing links and all, as I've had in the past. For now, though, the meat of the matter. I've stopped listing them in any kind of numerical order, so I'll just pick my #1 favorite record of the year, and list the rest alphabetically:

#1: Chuck's Album of the Year
Anders Osborne - Ash Wednesday Blues

Blind Boys of Alabama - Spirit of the Century
Luka Bloom - Keeper of the Flame
Spencer Bohren - Carry the Word
Thad Cockrell & the Starlite Country Band - Stack of Dreams
Dr. John - Creole Moon
Tim Eriksen - Tim Eriksen
Jay Farrar - Sebastopol
Tom McRae - Tom McRae
Buddy & Julie Miller - Buddy & Julie Miller
Scott Miller & the Commonwealth - Thus Always to Tyrants
The Old 97s - Satellite Rides
Poullard, Poullard & Garnier - Poullard, Poullard & Garnier
Red Meat - Alameda County Line
Zachary Richard - Coeur Fidele
Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys - Happytown
Kermit Ruffins - 1533 St. Philip St.
Rufus Wainwright - Poses
Gillian Welch - Time (The Revelator)
Pete Yorn - musicforthemorningafter

Andy Irvine - Way Out Yonder
Marcia Ball - Presumed Innocent
Beausoleil - Looking Back Tomorrow
La Bottine Souriante - Cordial
Karan Casey - The Winds Begin to Sing
Dervish - Midsummer's Night
John Doyle - Evening Comes Early
Bob Dylan - "Love and Theft"
Ginny Hawker - Letters from My Father
Frog Holler - Idiots
Paddy Keenan & Tommy O'Sullivan - The Long Grazing Acre
Chris Knight - A Pretty Good Guy
Del McCoury Band - Del and the Boys
Bruce Robison - Country Sunshine
Songcatcher - Original Soundtrack
Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes - Sunpie
Zydeco Joe - JackRabbit

Donal Lunny - Journey: The Best of Donal Lunny

Any questions? Just ask!

  Monday, February 4, 2002
*gasp* ... A redesign!   The other day I got an unexplainable hankering to redesign the site's main page for the first time in ... um, (mumblety-mumble) years.

I wanted all the links to the site's main sections to be available "above the fold", without having to scroll anywhere, and I wanted to get rid of all that talky exposition, which for a while now has seemed a bit amateurish, and very 1995. It's gone now, and I feel better.

It could still use lots more, but I'm happy for the moment. What do you think?

Bombs, bombs and more bombs. (What? Education? Pfft.)   From today's "Morning Fix":

President Bush sent Congress a rather embarrassing $2.13 trillion budget Monday that naturally hurls up billions in new spending for the war on terrorism and homeland security but would cut scores of other programs from highway spending to environmental projects and elimination of hundreds of education and health projects, mostly in an overall effort to protect Shrub's most prized economic achievement: that massive, totally unnecessary, pro-corporate $1.35 trillion, 10-year tax cut. Two major reductions involve tax relief for corporations and higher-income individuals that are part of his economic stimulus program, as well as part of his "make my dad's friends happy" program, not to mention a huge part of his WASP mafia dues. "Please ignore the deep and sinister laughter coming from President Cheney's bunker," said one White House tour guide, as schoolchildren scampered by, terrified, each and every one suffering that sad sinking feeling that their very souls were being sucked dry and that they'd better pray their tiny asses off if they want to enjoy any sort of tolerable [life, after how] blatantly and heartlessly these poisoned lizard-men have sold them out.
And who said irony was dead?   Direct from our You've-gotta-be-feckin'-kidding-me department comes this delightful tidbit ... it seems that George W. Bush and Tony Blair have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The man who nominated them is reportedly not, in fact, a member of the writing staff of The Onion or any other political satirist, but is a right-wing member of the Norwegian Parliament who is apparently serious.

  Friday, February 1, 2002
Timpano alla Famiglia Tucci.   If you're like me, you saw the wonderful Campbell Scott/Stanley Tucci film "Big Night", it became one of your all-time favorite movies, and you want to cook the dishes that Primo cooked in the film. Well, take your best shot.

Joan Tropiano Tucci, mother of Stanley Tucci, and and Gianni Scappin, who taught Stanley how to cook for his performance as Secondo in "Big Night", wrote a terrific cookbook a few years back -- Cucina e Famiglia: Two Italian Families Share Their Stories, Recipes, and Traditions, in which they bring you over 200 of their favorite Italian family recipes, including the Tuccis family recipe for the gargantuan timpano, the same recipe for the one that was made in the film.

First, you're going to need the right kind of container in which to bake it, particularly if you want it to come out as well as the one in the film. Contact CGS International at (800) 777-0747 and tell them you need to order their 6-quart enamelware bowl. Now, on to making the dish ... the timpano itself, a giant drum of thin dough filled with ziti and meatballs and all sorts of other wonderful stuff; the ragú, the thick, meat-based tomato sauce just the way the Tuccis make it; and finally the luscious polpette, or meatballs, that go inside the timpano (you can make these on their own, too).

Buon appetito!

Get yer sody pop right here!   We visited our friends Gregory and Paul the other night, hung out and had fun and for dinner ordered in a couple of pizzas. When Greg called out from the kitchen asking what we wanted to drink, and we hollered back, "Whatcha got?", he replied, "Well, we've got Tommyknocker's Key Lime Cream, Kickapoo Joy Juice, Moxie, and Bundaberg Lemon-Lime and Bitters!"

That elicited quite the puzzled looks and "What the feck?" from ourselves.

Turns out that earlier that day they had gone to a nifty little grocery/deli in Highland Park called Galco's Old World Grocery, now known on the web as the Soda Pop Stop. They carry hundreds of different kinds of soda pop from around the country and around the world, and almost as many different kinds of beer. (In fact, I was absolutely thrilled to find my hometown product, Abita Beer, there at Galco's; it was the first time I'd seen it anywhere in Los Angeles. Amber, Turbodog and Purple Haze!)

It's very, very difficult to avoid dropping at least fifty or more bucks there, which can be done without even trying hard. The scariest thing I saw was dual pricing on cases of various sodas ... you could save 20% on cases if you had a "case card". (Uh oh.)

The girl running the checkout line was very nice and very friendly, and matter-of-factly predicted when we'd be back. "I'll give you two weeks," she said. "One, if you start giving this stuff away to friends." I think she's right.

My current favorite is an Australian soft drink called Bundaberg Lemon Lime and Bitters, which is one of the best soft drinks I've ever had. Yum! And to think I'd given up soda ...

Why I enjoy reading Neil Gaiman's weblog.   Well, it's only one of many reasons (including the fact that he's one of my very favorite writers), but it's a good example. He doesn't have permalinks, so I'll quote it in its entirety.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

Yesterday I got a juicer. I dropped apples and celery and carrots and such into the top and watched everything that went in at the top turn into juice and pulp. Vegetables you could drink. "This is fun," I thought.

I woke up from dreams this morning, in which my interest in juicing had led me to experiment with other things you could juice, and in which I had begun to juice books and photographs. I was mildly surprised to find that you could extract the essential essence from any book or picture in the form of a juice, removing the pulp. "Why has no-one else thought of this?" I wondered, as I turned several thick novels I've not had time to read into half a cup of pleasant-tasting liquid I could drink in moments. "I'll probably get a medal for discovering this."

And I woke up, half-disappointed, half-amused.

Shameless hucksterism.   Well, with a new month, one more into a new year, I thought it high time to remind all my patient and intrepid readers that there's Gumbo Pages swag for sale -- t-shirts, mugs, caps and the like, all of which help support this site. The designs are based on the famous street-name tiles from the sidewalks of New Orleans, so indulge your Crescent City nostalgia while remembering your mostest favoritest web site. Do some shopping! (The coolest item of them all is the large mug ... they're beautiful. I love mine, and everyone in my extended family got one for Christmas a year ago.)

If you don't want any tchotchkes but feel compelled to help out, there's a tip jar in here as well. My undying thanks go out to everyone who stuffed a buck or three in there over the last year. This damned thing just about broke even with the server fees! If you're feeling generous, philanthropic, or just guilty over getting cool recipes 'n stuff for free (kinda like public radio ... I'm a mean on-air public radio pitchman, don't forget). How 'bout maybe ponying up all those leftover punt, marks, francs, drachma, lira and the like that you've got lying around in your drawer after the changeover to the euro? (Um, actually, how 'bout just a dollar or three? Thanks!)

I am pointing a gub at you. Abt natural.   Never underestimate the importance of good handwriting.

Quote of the day.   "'Star Wars' is adolescent nonsense; 'Close Encounters' is obscurantist drivel; 'Star Trek' can turn your brains to purée of bat guano; and the greatest science fiction series of all time is 'Doctor Who'! And I'll take you all on, one-by-one or all in a bunch to back it up!"

-- Harlan Ellison

January Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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.
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