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. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news, movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, Macs, politics, humor, reviews, rants, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

Page last tweaked @ 11:57am PDT, 6/26/2003

If you like, you are welcome to send e-mail to the author.
Search this site:

Looka! Archive
(99 and 44/100% link rot)

May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003

2002:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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.

How to donate to this site:

Your donations keep this site going. PayPal's the best way, just click the button below, and thanks!

You can also use Amazon, if you wish (but they deduct a fee from your donation and I keep less):

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More

(Also, here's a shameless link to my Amazon Wish List.)

Buy stuff!

You can get Gumbo Pages designs on T-shirts, mugs and mousepads at The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!

Friends with pages:

mary katherine
pat and paul
roxi and merck
tracy and david

Talking furniture:

KCSN (Los Angeles)
   Broadcast schedule
   "Down Home" playlist
   Live MP3 audio stream

   Subscribe to the
   "Down Home" weekly
   playlist email service

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream

Grateful Dead Radio
   (Streaming complete shows!)
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
   (Freedom, CA)
KRVS Radio Acadie
   (Lafayette, LA)
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

   (A work in progress;
   Martin Doudoroff &
   Ted Haigh)

The Alchemist
   (Paul Harrington)

Alcohol (and how to mix it)
   (David Wondrich)

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

Bar Asterie
   (Martin Doudoroff)

DrinkBoy and the
   Community for the
   Cultured Cocktail
   (Robert Hess, et al.)

DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails

Let's eat!

New Orleans Menu Daily

Food-related weblogs:
Hacking Food
Honest Cuisine
KIPlog's FOODblog
The Making of a Restaurant
Mise en Place
Sauté Wednesday
Simmer Stock
Tasting Menu

à la carte
Chef Talk Café
Food Network
The Global Gourmet
A Muse for Cooks
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

Reading this month:

Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing for Gourmet, edited by Ruth Reichl.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J. K. Rowling.

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
The Red Stick Ramblers
The Reivers
Zachary Richard
Paul Sanchez
Marc Savoy
Son Volt
Richard Thompson
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

Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley

Get Your War On
by David Rees

L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz

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 Xquzyphyr & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

The Pianist (****-1/2) Chicago (****)

Lookin' at da TV:

"Six Feet Under"
"The Sopranos"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
"Odyssey 5"
"The Simpsons"
"Iron Chef"
"Father Ted"
The Food Network

Weblogs I read:

The BradLands
The Carpetbagger Report
Considered Harmful
Anil Dash
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
The Leaky Cauldron
Little. Yellow. Different.
Making Light
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
Q Daily News
This Modern World
Web Queeries
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?

Matthew's GLB blog portal

L.A. Blogs


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)
Izzle Pfaff! (my favorite webjournal)
Landover Baptist (better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (news, opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (news 'n laffs) (not the actual White House, but it should be)

The Final Frontier:

Astronomy Pic of the Day
ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Spaceflight Now


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site

Made with Macintosh

Hosted by pair Networks

Déanta:  This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple iBook 2001 running MacOS X 10.2 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)

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, June 26, 2003
Six to three.   With quite a solid majority, the Supreme Court has made a long-overdue ruling that it is unconstitutional for government to legislate what goes on between consenting adults in private homes, on grounds of privacy and equal protection under the law.

Predictably the dissenters were Renquist, Thomas and Scalia (although one would think, wouldn't one, that government interference in people's private lives would be an issue true conseratives would support), and Scalia -- the growling, mouth-foaming pit bull of the Court -- took the unusual step of reading his (rather loathsome) dissent from the bench. "Today's opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda ... One of the most revealing statements in today's opinion is the Court's grim warning that the criminalization of homosexual conduct is 'an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres.' It is clear from this that the Court has taken sides in the culture war," he said, adding magnanimously that he has "nothing against homosexuals."

"I think that any sexual act other than two married straight people joylessly and mechanically plugging away in the missionary position solely for the purpose of procreation is icky icky icky, and therefore should be illegal, because I say so, and that anyone else who thinks its icky should be allowed to discriminate, even though we don't call it that," Scalia didn't add but probably thought. Note that although the "anti-sodomy" laws of thirteen states have been struck down and Scalia's dissent focused on "openly homosexual conduct", nine of those states -- Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia -- regulated private consensual sexual conduct between heterosexuals as well. This ruling impacts every American's freedom, not just gay Americans.

(Incidentally, since we've been talking about amazing survey results recently, a FindLaw survey has found that two-thirds of the American public cannot name one single Supreme Court justice. Given the impact that they have on our lives, I think it's amazing that approximately 189,373,750 Americans doesn't even know one of their names.)


The Cocktailian.   Today the Professor takes up for the much-maligned Cosmopolitan, pointing out that if you look at its ingredients and proportions, it's a Classic.

The reason why most Cosmopolitans suck, however, is that shitty ingredients are used. Plain, bottom-shelf vodka; cheap, low-proof, overly sweet triple sec; and bottled Rose's Lime cordial (I hesitate to call it "juice"). Not to knock Rose's completely; I always keep some on hand for Gimlets, for which it is essential. However, it's wrong for almost every other cocktail that calls for lime juice ... which, of course, comes out of a lime, not a bottle.

Several years ago I had one of the best restaurant meals of my life at Spago Beverly Hills, and before that meal I had the best Cosmopolitan I'd ever had. All they did was use a top-quality citrus vodka, Cointreau rather than the $5/liter cheap sweet triple sec, and fresh squeezed lime juice. That drink was great. A Cosmo made with Fleischmann's vodka, Hiram Walker triple sec and Rose's lime juice tastes like crap. It's that easy, folks.


Go buy some rose geraniums.   Our friend Steve, "The Garden Guru", grows lots of rose geraniums in his backyard and from them makes the most lovely herbal syrup I may have ever tasted. Beautiful when drizzled over fruit (sliced nectarines and blackberries, as the Times Food Section suggested the other day) or used to sweeten lemonade or even tea, it's easy to make and a gorgeous flavor that I predict you'll find to be a revelation.

Rose Geranium Syrup

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped rose geranium leaves

In a small saucepan, stir the water and sugar over low heat until the sugar begins to dissolve, then raise heat and bring the syrup to a boil and cook until all the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat, add the rose geranium leaves and steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer and let cool. Store in the refrigerator in a clean (preferably scalded) bottle with a resealable top.

You can do this with any herb -- basil, black peppercorns (superb with strawberries), lemon verbena (fabulous with figs, they say), rosemary. If you want to use an herb syrup to flavor a dessert sorbet, increase the sugar to 1:1 proportion (if its an intermezzo sorbet, I suspect you could leave it at 2:1). I've made a terrific blood orange and rosemary sorbet that I can heartily recommend.


Gee, Falwell, Robertson and Dobson were right!   It's already happening all over small-town America! (From a "news report" recently received in email:)


PEORIA (Amalgamated Press) -- John and Kathy Fleming, happily married for 18 years and the proud parents of three heterosexual children, woke up this morning to discover that the predictions of Christian leaders about the consequences of gay couples being allowed to marry had come true: Their own marriage was destroyed.

"Our Pastor said this would happen if homosexuals started marrying legally," sniffled Kathy, "and he was right. When I woke up this morning, my wedding ring had vanished!"

"Mine too," said a teary-eyed John. "Not only that, but when I looked for our wedding license in my file drawer, all I found was a pile of ashes. All the pictures in our wedding album are charred and blackened. And now I have this insatiable urge to go to a gay bar and pick up a man!"

Kathy, like her former husband, also finds herself suddenly desiring same-sex acts. "I used to feel so wonderful when John made love to me," she said, "but now just the thought of him sticking his 'thing' in me makes me sick...all I want to do is snuggle up to some nice woman's breasts." Kathy added that she had already contacted a lawyer to file for divorce from John.


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, June 25, 2003
He don't know his ass from a hole in the ground ...  
Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a TV show
With some smart-ass New York Jew,
And the Jew laughed at Lester Maddox,
And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox too.

-- from the song "Rednecks", by Randy Newman

Lester Maddox, former governor (!) of Georgia and perhaps the last of the old-time ardent segregationists, died today at age 87 (I must confess I didn't know he was still alive). He gained initial fame and notoriety by barring black people from his fried chicken restaurant with axe handles (and sold autographed axe handles to his white customers as well), then closed and sold his restaurant rather than admit black people under a just-signed integration law. After this he ran for governor; neither candidate got a majority, and under a quirk of Georgia elections law the runoff was held in the legislature, where he won.

One gets the impression that the only reason he was ever lauded by anyone was that he wasn't as bad as people thought he'd be once in the governor's mansion, and appointed blacks to state jobs. Still, for someone whose views were as vile as his, let us say that we hope his kind will one day die out completely.


The virtues of liqueurs.   Teresa wrote a lovely piece about home liqueur-making today, perfectly Pavlovian in the way it immediately made my saliva start to flow. Citrus zest and vanilla bean with nutmeg (which I will immediately try with orange zest and will label "Nielsen Hayden's Nectar" when I bottle it), plus a glorious-sounding herb liqueur she put up in the summer of 2000. Check the comments section for her exhaustively detailed method for making blackberry liqueur.

As much as I've done with fruit-infused spirits (I have raspberry and blackberry vodkas currently again in my pantry, and it's time for another batch of Tequila por mi Amante, i.e. strawberry-infused reposado tequila), I have yet to attempt making liqueurs. It's more a problem with procrastination than anything else, but given how industrious I've been with growing things of late (tomatoes are looking good), I think I may try to be equally industrious when it comes to making liqueurs. The one I've been wanting to try is a version of the now-defunct Forbidden Fruit liqueur, which was a brandy-based liqueur flavored with grapefruit and honey. I found a decent-looking recipe in a liqueur-making book, and I've been fortunate enough to be given a taste from a vintage bottle of Forbidden Fruit, so I have something to go on.

You should really try this. Although it's time-consuming (aging, etc.) it's easy and very rewarding.


Muffulettas in the Times.   There's a great article on picnic sandwiches in the Los Angeles Times Food Section today, including a pretty impressive-looking muffuletta recipe, although not quite authentic. Real muffs don't use semolina bread, but a round seeded Italian loaf that's specially made. I do like semolina bread, but I'd recommend any good Italian bread as a substitute. Also, they left off the sliced mozzarella as well.

Of course, I must take this opportunity to plug the muffuletta recipe that appears on this site; the nice lady who provided it to me claims that it was given to her by a member of the family who originated the muffuletta sandwich and that it's as authentic as it gets.


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 24, 2003
My favorite pasta dish?   It's a tough call, but it might just have to be bucatini all'amatriciana. It can be spaghetti, linguine, even penne, etc. ... but dressed with a simple sauce made of pancetta (unsmoked Italian bacon; if you're lucky and you can find guanciale, that's how it's most authentically made), sautéed thick slices of red onion and garlic, red pepper, a little tomato sauce and parsley, topped with a grating of real pecorino Romano cheese. Simple, hearty, easy to make and absolutely delicious.

What's your favorite pasta dish? Got a recipe?


Ah, but there's a catch.   In this corner: a 72-ounce steak (that's 4.5 pounds), butterflied top sirloin, cooked medium and weighing in at 5,200 calories (enough meat for 8-12 people). If you finish it, along with side dishes of baked potato, salad, shrimp cocktail and dinner roll, in one hour, it's free. If you don't, it's $50.

In that corner: a 135-pound woman, 5'6" tall, aged 26 years and very, very determined (despite the fact that this task has caused huge, football player-sized men to collapse and throw up).



Very interesting.   Gen. Wesley Clark, speaking on "Meet the Press" (transcript here):

GEN. CLARK: ... There was an immediate determination right after 9/11 that Saddam Hussein was one of the keys to winning the war on terror. Whether it was the need just to strike out or whether he was a linchpin in this, there was a concerted effort during the fall of 2001 starting immediately after 9/11 to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein.

TIM RUSSERT: By who? Who did that?

GEN. CLARK: Well, it came from the White House, it came from people around the White House. It came from all over. I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, "You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein." I said, "But -- I'm willing to say it but what's your evidence?" And I never got any evidence. And these were people who had -- Middle East think tanks and people like this and it was a lot of pressure to connect this and there were a lot of assumptions made. But I never personally saw the evidence and didn't talk to anybody who had the evidence to make that connection.

Why didn't the national media pick up on this? This is awfully clear evidence that the administration decided long ago to invade Iraq, and decided to use 9/11 to further their agenda within hours.

Um, no.   I don't think so.

Wes put it very well: "I can't begin to count the number of my own body parts that are cringing in self-defense." Besides, it can interfere with the enjoyment of food, up to and including a loss of the sense of taste. Also, presumably it's possible one of these people might actually have to interview for a real job one day.

Looney tunes.


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, June 20, 2003
Un bal 'cadien ce soir!   Tonight the Long Beach Bayou Festival kicks off a weekend of Cajun and zydeco music with the "Jamboree Feast and Dance" at the Queen Mary Events Park, 7:00 p.m. to Midnight. Louisiana musicians and various chefs will cook up Cajun and Creole dishes, give cooking demonstrations, and then pick up their musical instruments for a non-stop jam session. The Red Stick Ramblers' fiddle duo, Joel Savoy and Linzay Young, will serve up sauce piquante -- a chicken and sausage dish in a red sauce over rice, while the Creole Farmers' John Warren will make gumbo. New Orleans Cookery will make crabcakes, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, Cajun stew and red beans. The dance and jam session will bring together three Creole and Cajun bands participating in the weekend festival, and the musical public is invited to bring their instruments and jam as well.

Allons danser!


Harry Potter Day is tomorrow! (Finally!)   Y'know, every now and again it's really fun and life-affirming to get excited over somethng as if you were a little kid. I'm excited about the fact that if all goes well, a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will be delivered by our mailman tomorrow.

If things continue as they did with the last book, this'll be just as much for adults as for kids. I did enjoy the first two Potter books, enjoyed the third even more, but Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was a wonderful, complex book not at all undeserving of the Hugo Award it won. Let's hope she keeps up the magic with Number Five.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I'm excited about tomorrow but not so excited that I plan to fight my way through the mobs of kids at the bookstore; this time I ordered it from Amazon, who promised to deliver it on release day.)


Vote early!   The folks at (whom I've always liked) are running a straw poll/"early primary" for the nine current Democratic presidential candidates for '04. If any of the candidates gets over 50% of the vote, they'll endorse him to their 1.4 million+ membership (and if none does, presumably there'll be a runoff).

It least, it'll be fun. At best, it could help gather enough votes to make a difference. Voting will begin next Tuesday, June 24, and will last for 48 hours. It's also set up for one person, one vote, so head on over and register to vote in the straw poll.


Hillary! Hilllllaaarrry! Booga-booga-booga!   This bit from "writer/comedian/radio guy" Adam Felber is hilarious (and would be more so if it weren't so close to being true).


If a liberal says: How are yet another round of tax cuts for the rich going to help the economy, especially when we're ballooning the deficit, cutting vital services, and putting an insurmountable financial burden on state and local governments who are then forced to raise taxes themselves?
You reply: The money belongs to the people. Maybe President Hillary won't see it that way, but she's not President yet! Tell her to put that in her book! [laugh]


While you're at it, don't miss his Transcript of Ayad Futayyih Khalifa al-Rawi's 1st Interrogation, too.


Attention!   The management would like to apologize for the excessive number of exclamation points in today's topic headers! We promise that it'll probably never happen again! (Well, it might not!)


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, June 19, 2003
Laissez les bons temps rouler!   This weekend brings us the Long Beach Bayou Festival, the 15th incarnation of what began in 1988 as the Los Angeles Cajun and Zydeco Festival, then held at the John Anson Ford Theatre. It was fun, and it still is. In fact, I still have my T-shirt from that first festival. (Um, it seems to have ... shrunk a bit.)

Nowadays the festival takes place at the Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach, and will do so once more this Saturday and Sunday. They've got a terrific lineup once again, this year featuring The Red Stick Ramblers, not purely a Cajun band but certainly one of the best bands out of Louisiana these days. They describe their sound as "authentic Cajun gypsy swing", seamlessly blending the Cajun music of their native southwest Louisiana with Western swing and 1920s "hot club" style jazz as well as "tradition-inspired originals". The sound is driven by the twin fiddles of vocalist Linzay Young and Joel Savoy (also of the Savoy Family Cajun Band), guitarist and "confirmed Djangophile" Chaz Justus and mandolinist Josh Caffery. Great for listening and dancing, so don't miss their Los Angeles area debut.

Also on the bill is my old pal Bruce Daigrepont and his band. (Bruce is a great singer, songwriter and accordionist, one of my favorite Cajun musicians, and the earliest inspiration for me to do Cajun radio programming back from his days as the host of WWOZ's Cajun show back in the '80s.

Rounding out the headliners is a return visit from Geno Delafose and French Rockin' Boogie, for my money the best band in zydeco today. Back, as they say, by popular demand, Geno put on a great show at the recent Simi Valley Cajun and Zydeco Festival, so if you missed him last time, there's no excuse this time. Also performing are The Creole Farmers and Thomas "Big Hat" Fields, plus tomorrow night there'll be a Jamboree Feast and Dance featuring Bruce, the Ramblers and the Creole Farmers plus local guest artists, a jam session (usually lasting until the wee hours back at the hotel) and tons of great Cajun food.

If you're in the Los Angeles area, you know what you need to be doing for at least one day this weekend. Yeah you rite.


Quote of the day.   "We'll be proposing legislation that will protect the right of churches and religious organizations to sanctify marriage as they define it. At the same time, we will ensure that our legislation includes and legally recognize the union of same-sex marriage."

-- Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, June 17, 2003.

Wow. Have I ever mentioned that Canada rocks? Break out the Molson's, ketchup-flavoured potato chips and Smarties!


Beyond "boiled dinner".   Irish cuisine has had a long uphill struggle (part of the problem being that they inherited a lot of their cooking from the English). Pub grub, chipper vans and the deadly and ubiquitous "boiled dinner" (which would actually benefit greatly from being renamed "simmered dinner"; it can be quite lovely, but far too many Irish home cooks interpret the "boiled" part far too literally).

Thing is, the basic food in Ireland is really great. I've had the best-tasting chicken, salmon, milk and butter of my entire life in that country; they've got an amazing bounty of natural ingredients available to them. I still remember two meals I had as a guest in different homes in Ireland: Mary Burgess cooked me a salmon steak that was fresh-caught, brushed with butter and seasoned only with a little salt and pepper; it was heaven. Jo Aldridge cooked a chicken that had been wandering around earlier that day, with carrots straight out of the garden. It was the finest chicken I've had to this day.

Even as long ago as my last visit to Ireland (1992, argh!), the food was starting to get better. I avoided the chipper vans (well, most of the time) and every single restaurant meal I had on the trip was perfectly fine, and sometimes quite good, including my bizarre experience not hating (in fact, adoring) Tante Zoe's Creole and Cajun Cuisine in Dublin (!) and an Indian restaurant in Galway where I had a fiery lamb vindaloo. In the ensuing 11 years, and with the "Celtic Tiger" explosion of the Irish economy, it's apparently been getting better and better.

I love reading about restaurants like The Black Oak in Miltown Malbay, County Clare (home of the Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy, or Willie Clancy Summer School, one of the premier events of the traditional Irish music year). Far from boiled dinner or "boiled bacon and cabbage", this place features the local bounty of ingredients in dishes like fresh crab tartlette with mango and Armagnac sauce, or rhubarb sorbet and rack of Irish lamb crusted with apricot and mint over a rum-and-chile-infused ratatouille. Jaaayyysis ... I know where I want to eat the next time I'm in Clare (and that visit is long, long overdue).


We are the champ-ions!   Not to say that basic Irish cuisine is bad, mind you; much of it is quite good. Oddly enough, in three visits to Ireland that totalled almost ten weeks spent in the country and as a guest in many homes, I was never served what has been called "the quintessential Irish potato dish" -- champ. In fact, I never had it until I watched the ever-fabulous Jamie Oliver prepare it (and he's English.) As John Thorne explains in the above-linked article, there are many variations of champ (where greens and/or onion family vegetables) are infused into the hot milk used to make the mashed potatoes), but the one that's most traditional, done with scallions (green onions) was the one I tried. It's difficult for me to imagine making plain old mashed potatoes ever again.

Scallion Champ

6 big Russet or 8 medium-large Yukon Gold potatoes.
1-1/2 cups of milk.
1 bunch scallions, chopped.
Lots of butter.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Peel the potatoes and dice into 1-1/2-2" cubes. Cook in boiling salted water for about 15-20 minutes, or until just tender enough to stick a fork through them. Drain and mash with a potato masher (a ricer is too fine for this; you want a little texture in your mash).

While the spuds are boiling trim the roots from the scallions; thinly slice the white parts, then chop the green part in 1/4" slices. Combine them with the milk in a small saucepan, bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer; cook for 5 minutes, then remove from heat to let infuse for a while.

Add the scallions and their infused milk to the potatoes and combine. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons of butter and mix until the butter is melted and thoroughly mixed in. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

If you're serving the whole table from a big bowl, make an indentation in the middle and throw in what Jamie would call "a huge knob of butter", 3 or 4 tablespoons, and let it melt before serving. If you're dishing out individual servings, do the same but with less butter. (I suppose this step is optional, but boy is it good.)

When Jamie prepared the dish he added the tender leaves from the center of a bunch of celery, plus some watercress to the scallion-milk infusion. The other methods John describes include adding chives, parsley, peas, nettles, etc. Try 'em, see what you like. I love the scallion version, though. As the Irish would say, it's gorgeous!


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Mmmm, andouille.   That's good, meaty, spicy Louisiana-style andouille, not French andouillette.

Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo.  Andouille-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary Butter Glaze.  Savory Shrimp and Andouille Cheesecake.  Grilled Beef, Andouille and Blue Cheese Roulade.  Jacob's World-Famous Andouille from LaPlace, Louisiana, the Andouille Capital of the World.  Andouille, the long-haired miniature Dachshund. (Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)

Eat more andouille.


"Car-B-Que"?   Taking a long road trip? Don't want to pack sandwiches or be stuck with fast food chain restaurants at every exit? Make a roast beef while you drive! (This is brilliantly wacked.)


Worst. Drink. Ever.   From the "What Canadian crackhead thought this one up?" Department...

'Member Orbitz? Not the travel company with the ubiquitous pop-up ads that are even worse than those of NetFlix, but that god-awful early '90s soft drink from Canada with "bizarre gelatinous balls" suspended in it. 'Member now? Vile vile vile. That one. My old roommate used to rave about this stuff, but after tasting a sip and nearly spitting it back into the bottle from whence it came, I decided that I'd prefer drinking crab juice, or even Mountain Dew, to this stuff.

The retroCRUSH web site has an appreciation of the most truly bizarre soft drink ever (danger, at least three highly obnoxious pop-up on this page; get your blocker turned on). My second-favorite bit from the article was the excerpted reviews from BEVnet on what this stuff actually tasted like:

On Vanilla Orange, they write, "One of the worst tasting beverages that we have ever had. It is really impossible to enjoy a beverage that has little balls floating in it. Orange Vanilla flavored Orbitz does not really have a defined taste. They seem to be banking on its looks to get people to buy it. Stay away from this beverage."

Regarding Raspberry Citus, they write, "It tastes like water that came out of a vase used for flowers... the balls make it even worse."

On Blueberry Melon Strawberry, "This is the worst tasting drink with balls in it I've had since that time I was tea-bagged in college!"

[And, from a soc.motss posting:] "'The liquid part of this beverage is lightly sweatened (sic) and has a nice berry flavor. The balls, on the other hand, don't really have any taste.' Mmm, sweaty balls."

All right, I sense a motif here.

My favorite part -- when the author used a vintage bottle of Orbitz to attempt to make a cocktail:

I decided to use the "everything tastes good with gin" philosophy that has brought me so far in life. Sure, ORBITZ tastes sickeningly sweet and flat, even when brand new, so perhaps that life giving nectar of gin would spice it up! Ladies and gentlemen, I proceeded to make perhaps the only ORBITZ MARTINI this millenium has ever seen!

After giving the martini a vigorous shake, I was impressed that the yellow blobs o' mystery goo remained intact; however, the added element of the gin molecule destroyed the viscosity and they all sat at the bottom of the glass. It looked like some bizarre salmon roe martini. Needless to say, I tried a sip, and it tasted like crap.

Gick. Almost, but not quite, as disgusting as the StinkyMeat Project.


Not from The Onion.   You really couldn't make up this stuff if you tried. Who would believe it?

Bush Blasts 'Revisionist Historians' on Iraq

President Bush countered those questioning his justification for the invasion of Iraq on Monday, dismissing "revisionist historians" and saying Washington acted to counter a persistent threat.

"Now there are some who would like to rewrite history; revisionist historians is what I like to call them," Bush said in a speech to New Jersey business leaders.

Lyn pointed out a brilliant use of strikeover when this was posted on MetaFilter:  "... dismissing "revisionist historians" and saying Washington acted to counter an imminenta persistent threat." Hee.


Oceania is at war with Eurasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.   I love the term used in this headline (emphasis in excerpt mine):

War poll uncovers fact gap
Many mistakenly believe U.S. found WMDs in Iraq.

WASHINGTON - A third of the American public believes U.S. forces have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, according to a recent poll. Twenty-two percent said Iraq actually used chemical or biological weapons.

But such weapons have not been found in Iraq and were not used.

Before the war, half of those polled in a survey said Iraqis were among the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001. But most of the Sept. 11 terrorists were Saudis; none was an Iraqi.

The results startled even the pollsters who conducted and analyzed the surveys. How could so many people be so wrong about information that has dominated news coverage for almost two years?


One-third of the Why do these people believe such things? Mass stupidity? Mass hysteria? All the crap that's coming out of the telescreens? It's truly astonishing.

Bob Harris, posting on Tom Tomorrow's excellent weblog, puts these figures into perspective. It also turns out that, according to a national poll, of Americans over 18 years of age:

65% couldn't describe the basic facts about Watergate
56% think in war, the media should support the government over questioning it
48% say the news media acted responsibly during the Clinton Wars
45% characterized Watergate as "just politics"
43% attended religious services in the previous 7 days
40% believe the media was biased in favor of Bill Clinton
35% say the government should not fund stem cell research
34% think Rock and Roll has had an overall negative impact on America
33% believe a wife should "submit herself graciously" to a husband
30% say the Bible is the "actual word of God" to be taken literally
29% think people will be "more likely" to afford college for their kids in 2020
28% disapprove of labor unions on principle
28% say the government should have the right to control news reports
27% believe divorce is "morally wrong"
26% thought various disasters in 1999 might "foreshadow the wrath of God"
26% think grade-school teachers should be allowed to spank their kids
24% describe themselves as interested in what celebrities think
21% told a pollster they'd never met that they had cheated in a relationship
21% say justice was served in the O.J. Simpson case
20% approve of the how the Catholic Church handles pedophilia
20% believe that the killing of civilians in Vietnam was "relatively rare"
15% were upset at Diana Spencer's death like "someone you knew"
12% think the United States should have a British-style royal family
11% stockpiled food and water in advance of Y2K
11% think "Titanic" was the best American movie of the 20th century
11% would like "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" as their personal physician
10% would eat a rat or an insect on a "reality" TV show
10% think it's advantageous to be a woman in American society
10% believe Oswald acted alone
10% say they are "very likely" to become rich someday
8% could not name a single TV network
8% fear they are "very likely" to be shot or badly hurt by a stranger
7% think Elvis is possibly still alive
6% say Garth Brooks is the best male singer of the 20th century
5% are very afraid of thunder and lightning
5% would be "more likely" to buy food labeled as genetically modified
3% wanted to see the questions on "Millionaire" become less difficult
Oh my.


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 17, 2003
June is bursting out all over,   particularly in our backyard.

Fruit is beginning to pop up on some of the trees in the back, ones that we had been wondering "hey, what kind of tree is this?" about. Seems we have a white peach tree! Two of them, actually, one of which, seemingly out of nowhere, has fist-sized peaches on it. The one next to it has at least two dozen little fuzzy green proto-peaches on it. Who knew?!

Some of the tree we knew about when we bought the place, of course, but the rest have been nice surprises. So far the fruit tree roll call includes figs ("biggest and best I've ever had", say some of the neighbors, shamelessly dropping hints), pomegranates, lemons, limes, oranges, peaches and loquats. There's also a huge, nearly 8' plant that we thought was an artichoke when it was a seedling (a mere 4 months ago) but turns out to be a cardoon.

Herbwise, I've got Italian, Thai and cinnamon basil going; English thyme, rosemary and oregano. I had some cilantro, but it was completely devoured by snails within 48 hours. (Bastards. I'm already planning my revenge. If I were French enough, they'd all end up in a garlic-butter sauce.)

Tomatowise, I've got three going -- Lemon Boy, Dinner Plate (closest to Creole tomatoes I could find) and Roma. The jalapeño and serrano chile seedlings are doing well too.

If I don't manage to kill all these plants, it'll be a bloody miracle.


"You are great. I am great."   Actor William Marshall has died, aged 78. A semi-generation of kids and stoned adults remember him as the King of Cartoons on "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" ("Let the car-TOONS ... begin!"); a generation of Trekkies remember him as Dr. Richard Daystrom, inventor of the duotronic computers that run Starfleet starships, as well as the ill-fated "multitronic" and quite mad computer M5 ("You can't do that! You'll destroy the M5!"). Many others remember him as the title character of "Blacula", a blaxploitation film for which Marshall refused to play the character as a drooling imbecile, but instead played him with the dignity with which he infused each of his roles, from the aforementioned to Othello to his tour de force portrayal of Frederick Douglass.

Lots of people are mentioning the great Gregory Peck and Hume Cronyn, both of whom were actors I adored. They say these celebrity deaths happen in threes, and I'm sure Mr. Marshall was the third. He was a wonderful actor, regal, commanding, and I wanted to help make sure he got his due.


A waltz toward fame.   Interesting article about singer and songwriter Caitlin Cary, my favorite of the former members of Whiskeytown. It seems her fame has gotten a boost from the fact that Joan Baez is covering one of her songs (one so personal that Catlin wonders why that song was chosen as a cover). My friend Michael commented, regarding Caitlin's reaction to the cover, that "no one should be surprised that Joan Baez would 'take all the joy out' of whatever song she was covering.'"

It's nice for her to get more recognition, but given a little more time I think Caitlin might've done just fine on her own in the fame department. Her new album is lovely.

Speaking of Whiskeytown, it looks as if a partial band reunion is afoot, with a very interesting choice of bassist.


Oceania is at war with Eastasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.   I'm in the middle of re-reading George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four after stumbling upon an online edition of it (I would think it would still be under copyright, no?). It's even bleaker, more depressing and frightening than I remember (it's been many years). Follow the link; I think it's time we all reread it.


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, June 13, 2003  ::  (Boo!)
Bartenders who don't care.   It's endemic, I'm afraid. Robert writes about an unfortunate experience with a bartender who not only didn't know how to make a Mai Tai properly, but didn't seem to care, either. Ironically, this was at a bar/restaurant that was recently featured on "Food Finds" on the Food Network as a place renowned for its cocktails.

Imagine going to an Italian restaurant, ordering a classic dish like spaghetti with marinara sauce and meatballs, and having the chef send out spaghetti with brown gravy and Vienna sausages. That's the feeling I get when I hear a tale of an indifferent bartender saying that a Mai Tai is "just light and dark rum and a buncha juices."

As many others besides myself have ranted about, there are too many bartenders out there who take a two-week course and are then unleashed upon an imbibing public who are expected to spend between $6-10 for a cocktail. I don't think anybody would want to eat at a restaurant where the chef/cooks have only had a two-week cheffing class, and at today's cocktail prices I expect a little more from a bartender. I don't necessarily expect him to know who Trader Vic was, but I expect a professional bartender to know how to make all the classic cocktails, not just all the current trendy ones that have names like dirty jokes. If we're going to start thinking of cocktails as a cuisine, we're all going to have to start expecting more from our bartenders, starting with the request that they actually care a little bit about what they do.

Do you have trouble getting a well-mixed drink when you go out? Do you practially adopt good bartenders into your family when you're lucky enough to find one? Are you tired of paying $8 for poorly mixed cocktails?


Danger, Will Robinson!   No, it's not a giant, marauding, talking carrot, but a scary website to which a friend directed me yesterday: Sardinian bitter honey! Cipolline onions pickled in balsamic vinegar! Pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika)! This could get dangerously expensive.

Fortunately, I don't have to avail myself of their excellent selection of cheeses (which'll get expensive with overnight cold shipping charges), due to my proximity to Chris Pollan's fabulous Cheese Store of Silverlake (a mere 12 minutes away!). Actually, I have yet to make it there since its recent opening; I've really got to get over there. Mmmm, Manchego, aged Gouda, Cashel Blue, Pont l'Eveque, Stracchino ... (hmm, that place is dangerous, too).


Now that's classy.   The waxwork model of Britney Spears at Madame Tussaud's in London is being outfitted with a pair of inflatable, throbbing breasts that will pulsate in time to her dancing.

According to a Mme. Tussaud's spokesperson, this thrilling upgrade is the latest by the museum to make its wax figures "not just visual but tactile."

"Brad Pitt has got a squeezable (latex) bum, but Britney would be the first with heaving bosoms," added the spokeswoman.


Guys, come quick! I found some big rocks!   It appears that after visiting 230 alleged hiding places, U.S. military units engaged in the search for weapons of mass destruction have ... *ahem* ... run out of places to look. They're now being given time off or being assigned to other duties.

I hope somebody loses his job over this.


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, June 12, 2003
Boy, am I asking for it.   Okay kids, an experiment. Because to this day I write, code and edit this weblog entirely by hand, there's been no comments/discussion system as there is with sites that have a content management system (Movable Type, Blogger, et al.). For some reason -- masochism, I suspect -- I've decided to use the QuickTopic system to add the opportunity to comment on and discuss certain posts. If people start using it (and not abusing it), I'll keep it. If it proves to be a disaster, it'll go away.

If you think you might be inclined to use it, c'mon in and say hey .

Pthhbblpthpt!   Yep, that's a Bronx Cheer; I've always been highly amused by representations of such in print, most likely due to a childlikeish streak that lurks in many of us. (Pthbbpt!)

However, as you may or may not know, the Bronx is a lot more than just a cheer, or a borough of New York, or the home of a nifty zoo. It's a venerable old cocktail, one that deserves to be quaffed nowadays. Today's edition of Gary Regan's column "The Cocktailian" tells us many nifty stories about the Bull and Bear Bar at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where this drink was created (as well as the Rob Roy and the Bobbie Burns), and which saw "Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill, and Bat Masterson quaffing cocktails way back when the old place was on the site of today's Empire State Building."

Bronx Cocktail

2 ounces gin.
1/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce dry vermouth.
1 ounce fresh orange juice.
1 to 2 dashes orange bitters.
1 orange twist, for garnish

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Add the garnish.


"Nope, I think I'm gonna barf!"   Nope, not from too many Bronx cocktails; Marge just has morning sickness. "Well, that passed! Now I'm hungry!"

Paul Berczeller of the Guardian tells the story of Takako Konishi, a 28-year-old woman who travelled from Tokyo to Bismarck, North Dakota, in order to find the millions of dollars of ransom cash that Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) buried in the snow at the end of the Coen Brothers' film "Fargo," because it was, according to the opening title card, based on a true story. But it wasn't a true story, it was made up, as many locals had supposedly told her. Takako didn't heed them, and ended up freezing to death in the snow. Or so the story went; however, as usual, there was a lot more to it.

Joyeux anniversaire, CamWorld!   Cameron Barrett's weblog Camworld turns six years old today. I can count Cam as one of my "blogfathers"; along with The Brad, Cam was half of the early inspiration to start a weblog of my own, almost four years ago. Looka! -- bastard son of The Bradlands and CamWorld!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Cocktail of the day, redux.   I try to avoid rerunning these, since I want to keep a steady stream of new (at least to someone) cocktails going. However, in honor of the fact that tonight Wes and I are seeing Lily Tomlin in "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe", and since it's been almost three years since I last posted this cocktail, I figure it's time to see it again.

It's a semi-original, based on ideas I got from a recipe in an old cocktail book for a drink based on Lillet (the spicy, citrusy herbal aperitif wine) and a relatively obscure South African tangering liqueur called the "Tiger Lillet"; I borrowed a couple of ingredients as well as a punny title, tweaked for a day or two and came up with a drink named in honor of one of my favorite comedians/actresses/performers of all time. She's fabulous, I can't wait to see her show, and I hope to be able to mix this drink and serve it to her one day.

Lillet Tomlin

1 ounce Lillet.
1 ounce Mandarine Napoleon.
1/2 ounce Cognac.
1/2 ounce Maraschino liqueur.

Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry WITH STEM, and a thin slice of orange perched on the rim of the glass.

Garnish additionally with two ringy-dingys and serve to the party to whom you are speaking.

It's been a long three years since that original post. In it I said, "I do not like vermouth of any kind." Good lord, I said that? Nowadays I happily quaff Manhattans (one of my very favorite cocktails), Negronis, Hearsts, and just the other night Wes and I happily quaffed Martinis (in a gin:vermouth ratio of 7:1) before dinner.

The evolution of one's palate is a good thing.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Saddam's lawn mower = WMD!   Try as I might to avoid stealing links from Patrick, I sometimes can't help myself because they're always so damned good. This pair of purloined links starts with the teaser page from the forthcoming issue of (*cough*) The National Review...

As the hunt goes on, there are some simple truths that many seem to be forgetting: 1) At one time, Saddam had enough chemical weapons and toxins to annihilate the eastern United States...
... and follows with the following observation from Gene Healy:

Umm, yeah. I guess that's true, given the right method of delivery. Like say, if everyone in the Eastern United States conveniently agreed to sit in front of their houses and apartment buildings and wait patiently for Mukhabarat agents to come by and spritz them individually with VX, then sure, he could "annihilate the eastern United States." By the same logic, Hussein might have been able to kill everyone in Washington D.C. with a single Ford Explorer, if we'd only be kind enough to lie down next to each other strung out along I-95 and let him run us over.

Jesus, is it so important to justify the war that you have to print stuff this patently stupid?

It continues with a soundbite by George W. Bush that I heard on the radio today, pledging that he was "absolutely convinced" he'd find "the evidence of Iraq's weapons programs." In his continuing crusade to ram his bullshit down our throats, now it seems that it's no longer necessary to actually find "weapons of mass destruction;" apparently now "weapons programs" will do. (I'm glad this was noticed, as it's today's headline in the L.A. Times.) So does that mean that all we get to justify this are those two empty trailers that might have been used by people who sat around and thought about making chemical weapons? Jesus.

The death of American radio.   I wrote it off years ago, but New York Times writer Brent Staples takes a look at the current, sad horrific state of American commercial radio, "so bad as to be unlistenable and is unlikely to improve anytime soon." It's only going to get worse with the recent FCC decision to allow more media conglomeration.

I grew up glued to radio and was present at the creation of legendary album-format stations like WMMR in Philadelphia and WXRT in Chicago. These stations played rich blends of rock, pop and jazz, and sometimes featured local bands. (This wide-ranging format enriched the collective musical taste and paid dividends by producing ever more varied strains of popular music.) Commercials were typically kept to between 8 and 12 minutes per hour, and 20 minutes or more could pass before the announcer broke in to give the station's call letters.

This format was profitable, but not on the money-raining scale required since Wall Street got wise to the radio game. Faced with pressure from investors and more corporate debt than some nations, the megacompanies that acquire a hundred stations each must squeeze every cent out of every link in the chain. They do this by dismissing the local staff and loading up squalling commercials and promotional spots that can take up as much as 30 minutes per hour during morning "drive time."

As Staples suggests, if you want decent music, you have to program it yourself, with your own CD player. Even with all the good public radio stations in L.A., I find myself listening to them less and to my iPod more. Once I get the 30GB model I covet, I'll be able to listen to the music on my iPod during my daily commutes for approximately 7-1/2 months without repeating a song. Who needs radio when you can do that?

New "propaganda" posters and book!   Micah Wright, writer and artist who's the creator of that fabulous batch of "remixed propaganda" posters (where World War II-era posters are rewritten to reflect today's disturbing times) now has a book out of 45 of the best of them -- Back the Attack: Remixed War Propaganda is out from Seven Stories Press with a foreward by Kurt Vonnegut. This is a must-get. Don't forget to check the links above, as he's got a pile of great new posters, most of which are for sale I have three in my office, and I'm running out of room; I'll have to alternate them, I suppose.

"All my wife wanted was vegetables."   A family out to dinner at Sizzler (their first mistake), the Atkins diet, a requested substitution, rude service, a complaint to the manager and the World's Worst (and Stupidest) Waiter ends with a vandalized house and three arrests. (They even left him a tip, sheesh.)

Recruiting underage drinkers.   A link to an interesting article which Doc posted on the DrinkBoy community message board, which he introduces thusly:

"The backbone of this group of ours is one that cares passionately about well-crafted exemplary cocktails with superb balance; cocktails which push past the initial tendency to disguise liquor with over-use of sugars and fruits. We all have experienced, however, these latter unfortunate trends as par-for-the-course in mainstream cocktail production and have become old hands at working around it.

Distillers, importers, and distributors have hardly been our comrades in this. They, by and large, play to and develop profitable clientele based on these very markets ... the new drinker, the young drinker, the unsophisticated drinker. [T]he following article (not an easy read but worth it) [is] by an industry vet basically lambasting, again, distillers, importers, and distributors for taking this approach. I was surprised and delighted. Will it change anything? Perhaps not, but it certainly enhanced MY awareness."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, June 6, 2003
John W. Dean: Missing WMDs scandal "could make Watergate pale by comparison."   Former Richard M. Nixon White House Counsel John Dean, who presumably knows a few things about what constitutes scandals and impeachable offenses, finally says what needs to be said about the current occupant of Mr. Nixon's old Oval Office.

President George W. Bush has got a very serious problem. Before asking Congress for a Joint Resolution authorizing the use of American military forces in Iraq, he made a number of unequivocal statements about the reason the United States needed to pursue the most radical actions any nation can undertake - acts of war against another nation.

Now it is clear that many of his statements appear to be false. In the past, Bush's White House has been very good at sweeping ugly issues like this under the carpet, and out of sight. But it is not clear that they will be able to make the question of what happened to Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) go away - unless, perhaps, they start another war.

... In the three decades since Watergate, this is the first potential scandal I have seen that could make Watergate pale by comparison. If the Bush Administration intentionally manipulated or misrepresented intelligence to get Congress to authorize, and the public to support, military action to take control of Iraq, then that would be a monstrous misdeed.

As I remarked in an earlier column, this Administration may be due for a scandal. While Bush narrowly escaped being dragged into Enron, it was not, in any event, his doing. But the war in Iraq is all Bush's doing, and it is appropriate that he be held accountable.

To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."

It's important to recall that when Richard Nixon resigned, he was about to be impeached by the House of Representatives for misusing the CIA and FBI. After Watergate, all presidents are on notice that manipulating or misusing any agency of the executive branch improperly is a serious abuse of presidential power.

Not to mention a serious abuse of non-presidential power, such as when Tom DeLay misused the Department of Homeland Security to find Texas Democrats who had left their state assembly to prevent a quorum. I'd like to see his ass on a barbecue grill very soon as well.

I'd sure love an early birthday present next year -- George W. Bush's resignation in the face of impeachment, before the 2004 elections. As Keanu might say, "Whoa."

Bring back a venerable dessert!   I got a nice email from Christopher today, who said that he really missed the Cherries Jubilee that his late, beloved mom used to make for him as a child (damn, I never got flaming liquor desserts as a child; Christopher's mom was cool). He was having difficulty finding it anywhere, and it seems to have fallen off most dessert menus as being too old-fashioned. That's a shame, because it's simple to make and really damned good.

I've had it at Galatoire's in the French Quarter, where it never seems to have fallen off the menu and where our waiter John would take the flaming brandy in the ladle and write a cursive capital letter "G" on the tablecloth before pouring it over the ice cream. I wouldn't recommend this at home, but it's still impressive to guests (or family too) when you make any kind of flaming dessert. This one's my second-favorite after Bananas Foster.

Cherries Jubilee

2 pounds fresh pitted dark Bing cherries
1-1/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons cherry jelly (substitute redcurrant)
1 teaspoon arrowroot (with 2 teaspoons water)
6 tablespoons Kirschwasser (clear dry cherry brandy)
Vanilla bean ice cream (optional)

In a saucepan combine the cherries, sugar and water. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the cherries soften and a syrup forms. Add the jelly, stir to combine, then cook another 5 minutes on low. Mix the arrowroot with the 2 teaspoons water and add to the cherries off the heat, then cook a few more minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens.

For Auguste Escoffier's original version (created in 1887 in honor of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee), divide the mixture into 6 ramekins, pour a tablespoon of kirsch onto each one and light. For a more modern version, add all of the kirsch to the cherries mixture, light and while still flaming serve over scoops of vanilla bean ice cream.

Are we secure yet?   I don't know, Zippy. All I know is that the intrepid Department of Homeland Security spares no effort and expense in finding only the best qualified people in the land to protect us from the scourge of terrorism that they keep orange-alerting and telling us about. (Via Electrolite)

A senior official in the Department of Homeland Security evidently got her Ph.D from a diploma mill.

Writes WashingtonTechnology, a division of Post Newsweek Tech Media:

Laura L. Callahan, now senior director in the office of department CIO Steven Cooper, states on her professional biography that she "holds a Ph.D. in Computer Information Systems from Hamilton University." Callahan, who is also president of the Association for Federal IRM and a member of the CIO Council, is commonly called by the title "Dr."

Callahan's resume says she began her civil service career in 1984. Before joining HSD, she was deputy CIO at the Labor Department.

Hamilton University, according to an Internet search, is located in Evanston, Wyoming. It is affiliated with and supported by Faith in the Order of Nature Fellowship Church, also in Evanston. The state of Wyoming does not license Hamilton because it claims a religious exemption. Oregon has identified Hamilton University as a diploma mill unaccredited by any organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Callahan could not be reached for comment after repeated calls to her office.

Faith In The Order of Nature Fellowship Church.

Faith In The Order of Nature Fellowship Church.

As a character in a Stephen King novel once said, "Jesus H. jumped-up Christ in a chariot-driven sidecar." Gee, who knew it was so easy to get a big job at DHS? With my actual Master's degree, I could get work there and be running the place in no time flat. Hey, can she perform weddings too, as with the Universal Life Church "ordination" you can get from that little ad in the back of Rolling Stone? That'd be cool!

Bush and the Tyranny of the Rich.   Michael Kinsley in Slate talks about George W. Bush's return to the class war:

The recently enacted tax bill is such a shocking and brazen gift for the wealthy that it is hard to describe in anything short of these cartoon-Marxist terms. After two Bush tax cuts, consider how we now burden people at the bottom and at the top of the economic ladder.

A minimum-wage worker today must pay the FICA payroll tax of 15 percent (if you include the employer's share, as economists agree you should) on the very first dollar she earns. If she has children, she may qualify for an earned income tax credit, but she may not. If she works hard and moves up the income scale, she'll soon be paying another 15 percent in income tax. You might call this "double taxation," but President Bush doesn't.

Our minimum-wage worker most likely falls into one of the unadvertised holes in the Bush something-for-everyone tax cut. There is nothing in it for her. This gap around the minimum wage was supposedly inadvertent, and Republicans on Capitol Hill were eager to correct it. But Republican congressional straw boss Tom DeLay said incredibly that he would only allow the alleged correction as part of yet another big tax cut with more goodies for the serious income brackets.


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, June 5, 2003
Cocktail of the day.   Or, "Playing with CocktailDB".

Doc and Martin and been doing an amazing job with CocktailDB, and the rewritten and revamped version of what's up is only a hint as to what it'll finally become. I decided to do a little playing, entering an ingredient and seeing what cocktails come up from the database.

I entered "Cherry Heering", the lovely Danish cherry liqueur that seems to be currently unavailable in the States due to lack of a distributor. I was lucky enough to find a dusty old bottle at Dorignac's in Metairie and snapped it up. It's not just for before- or after-dinner sipping, or for Singapore Slings and pousse cafés ... I punched it in, 27 recipes came up, and this one sounded the most interesting. I have no idea what it'll taste like, but it looks intriguing, so I'll try it tonight and let you know tomorrow if it's any good (try it yourself first, if you're adventurous and if you've got a bottle of Heering in the back of your bar). Besides, what the world needs now is more rye cocktails.

If you don't have Heering, I suppose a "cherry-flavored brandy" or other sweet cherry liqueur could be substituted, but not a clear eau-de-vie. Hmm ... but kirschwasser would make this cocktail delightfully dry. Or would it be too dry? Hmm. Into the laboratory we go ...

The High Hat Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey. (6/10)
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice. (2/10)
1/2 ounce Cherry Heering. (2/10)

Shake in iced cocktail shaker and strain.
Garnish with a cherry.

Quotes of the day (and a weblog added to my daily reads).   The most excellent Tom Tomorrow has now got me reading Billmon's excellently-entitled weblog, The Whiskey Bar, from which today's series of quotes are taken:


"First -- and this is really the overarching principle -- the United States seeks to liberate Iraq, not occupy Iraq . . . If the President should decide to use force, let me assure you again that the United States would be committed to liberating the people of Iraq, not becoming an occupation force."
-- Paul Wolfowitz, Speech to Iraqi-American Community, February 23, 2003.


"We will leave Iraq completely in the hands of Iraqis as quickly as possible."
-- Condoleeza Rice, Press Briefing, April 4, 2003


Question: When do you think there might be a government in place, even a provisional government in place in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: I don't know.
-- Sec'y. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Infinity Radio Town Hall, May 29, 2003.

There are tons more in his compendium, each more progressively mind-boggling; read them all here.

Oh, that prescient Comedy Central.   A few years ago a friend of mine told me about a Comedy Central promo featuring lookalikes of Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg; in it, she was dispensing advice to him (presumably as a visitor at the time), and according to my dim memory her lines went something like this:

"... and you can save the blueberry pie filling from the prison mess hall and use it to make lovely paints for the wall of your cell. And remember, don't let anyone make you their bitch -- you make them your bitch."

Looks like Martha might just have an opportunity to dispense such advice for real -- to potential fellow inmates. A $400 million hit to her business, loss of her CEO position and if she's found guilty, potential jail time ... all to save a $46,000 loss on one stock. And she's a billionaire for whom that would have been pocket change. Sheesh.

She says she didn't do it. This should all prove very interesting. (Hey, why aren't they going after Kenneth Lay and his pus-dripping, hellbound ilk the same way they're going after Martha? By comparison, what she did was small potatoes.)

Hey, can we call in the F-18s to shoot them down?   From the Don't You People Have Anything Better And More Constructive To Do Department comes comes today's You've-Gotta-Be-Kidding story:

Christian Group Wants Disney's No-Fly Zone Down For Gay Days

ORLANDO, FLA. -- The airspace above Walt Disney World has been free of aircraft since March, when the government said the resort was a terrorism target of symbolic value. But a Christian organization that wants to send banner-towing planes over the theme park during this week's Gay Days festivities believes the no-fly zone equals no free speech.

The Virginia-based Family Policy Network seeks to preach during Gay Days "the truth that Christ can set them free from the sin of homosexuality," according to the organization's Web site.

Part of FPN's outreach program, said FPN president Joe Glover, would be planes pulling banners reading: "JESUS CHRIST: HOPE FOR HOMOSEXUALS.COM." The same banner was flown in 2001 without incident, FPN said.

But Federal Aviation Administration restrictions now prohibit aircraft from flying within 3,000 feet of ground level or within three nautical miles of the resort, located about 25 miles southwest of Orlando. No-fly zones also cover Disney parks in Anaheim, Calif.

These people would do far more for humanity if they just worked in a soup kitchen, volunteered in a hospital or dug latrines in Africa, or something. They seem to have a burning need to have a Boogeyman to be against in order to make their faith seem meaningful. Jesus.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, June 4, 2003
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.   Soft shell craaaaaabs ...

On French. Dressed. One of the best poor boys ever. Or fry one up and serve it atop linguine with tomato-Parmesan sauce into which you've folded about 3/4 pound of lump crabmeat. Or go find a Japanese restaurant that makes one of my favorite sushi rolls, the spider roll.

Or heck, it it any way you can.

A pisco pissing contest.   Okay, that was a really wretched headline. I apologize.

Peru and Chile are coming to blows over who really owns pisco, the clear grape brandy that's Peru's national drink but is also produced and consumed in Chile. Peru seems to want an appellation controllée, but that remains to be seen. The French managed to get "champagne" under their control as a French denomination, but will Peru or Chile prevail? Will either? For these and the answers to other burning questions (such as, "Ya want a drink?"): read the article, find a bottle of pisco at your favorite spirits emporium, make yourself a delightfully tart Pisco Sour, and explore some other pisco cocktails.

Death knell of the Swag Shop?   Yeah, I've got Cafe Press shop like everyone else, and it begs one question: "Does anybody really want to buy any of this crap?"

Not too many, apparently. In 2-1/2 years only ten people (not counting myself) have bought Gumbo Pages swag (mugs, t-shits, etc.) Four of them are people I know personally. Not such a good sales record.

Cafe Press have changed their rules such that one needs to make $25 in commissions every six months or they'll either close the shop, and/or assess a prohibitively high "administrative fee". Since I have exactly $6 in my account at the moment from my whopping two customers in 2002 (and none so far this year), either or both of those eventualities look rather likely.

Since people are lining up around the block to not buy my mugs and t-shirts, I've decided to add a few other products for people to clamor to not buy as well -- tote bags, hats, stickers and postcards! It's your last chance, folks. When they're gone, they're gone. Logo notwithstanding, they're actually very good, well-made mugs and bags and stuff. Hey, you need a tote bag, right?

I can hear it now. "Who does this gobshite think he is? Does he really think we want this stuff?" I know, I'm a lousy salesman. When I had to sell those awful "World's Greatest Chocolate" candy bars (the very name of which is a lie, incidentally) to raise money for the band in high school, my door-to-door sales pitch quickly degenerated to this:  *knock*knock* ... [door opens] ... "Hi. Um ... you don't want to buy any of this band candy, do you?"   "No."   "Ah. I thought not. Well, sorry to have bothered you. Goodbye."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 3, 2003
Yes, but it's still très difficile to get a reservation.   Chef Thomas Keller's restaurant The French Laundry, where I had the greatest meal of my life, finally has their own slick new website.

So is that right-hand column "The Noble Fats"?   Andrew Plotkin has created The Periodic Table of Dessert: A Scientific and Rigorous approach to patisserie -- in Full Color. As he explains, "You've seen those charts that say, like, "Periodic Table of the Vegetables" or "Periodic Table of the Sausages"? They annoy me. Because they're not periodic. They have no vertical or horizontal correspondences. The actual periodic table of chemical elements has structure -- that's why it's cool."

That it is. Geeky food chemistry humor, I love it! Hey, you can buy a poster, too.

Lies, damned lies and the Bush Administration.   From Paul Krugman in today's New York Times. You need to read this.

The mystery of Iraq's missing weapons of mass destruction has become a lot less mysterious. Recent reports in major British newspapers and three major American news magazines, based on leaks from angry intelligence officials, back up the sources who told my colleague Nicholas Kristof that the Bush administration "grossly manipulated intelligence" about W.M.D.'s.

And anyone who talks about an "intelligence failure" is missing the point. The problem lay not with intelligence professionals, but with the Bush and Blair administrations. They wanted a war, so they demanded reports supporting their case, while dismissing contrary evidence.

"[S]pin" is far too mild a word for what the Bush administration does, all the time. Suggestions that the public was manipulated into supporting an Iraq war gain credibility from the fact that misrepresentation and deception are standard operating procedure for this administration, which -- to an extent never before seen in U.S. history -- systematically and brazenly distorts the facts.

[...] It's no answer to say that Saddam was a murderous tyrant. I could point out that many of the neoconservatives who fomented this war were nonchalant, or worse, about mass murders by Central American death squads in the 1980's. But the important point is that this isn't about Saddam: it's about us. The public was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history -- worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra. Indeed, the idea that we were deceived into war makes many commentators so uncomfortable that they refuse to admit the possibility.

But here's the thought that should make those commentators really uncomfortable. Suppose that this administration did con us into war. And suppose that it is not held accountable for its deceptions, so Mr. Bush can fight what [veteran British war correspondent Max] Hastings calls a "khaki election" next year. In that case, our political system has become utterly, and perhaps irrevocably, corrupted.

"Why Rumsfeld is Wrong."   Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who resigned over the Iraq War, discusses his resignation and why it appears that he's been vindicated in his views that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

I was never in any doubt about the brutality of the Saddam Hussein's regime, but neither government [the United States or Britain] ever based its case for invasion on brutality -- because that's simply no basis in international law for going to war just to change a regime. If we do decide that we are going to go to war to remove brutal regimes then we have a very busy time in front of us. We are not proposing to intervene to relieve the people of Zimbabwe of the repressive rule of President [Robert] Mugabe. We are not proposing to intervene in Burma where the military junta has run the country for longer than Saddam Hussein. We have allowed more people to be killed in the Congo civil war than were ever killed inside Iraq. If you are going to decide that brutality is a reason for military intervention, it must be a decision that is [made] multilaterally by an international forum. You cannot have individual nations such as the U.K. or the U.S. deciding for themselves which ones they are going to pick on next. One important reason is that if you accept that principle that countries can invade countries where you disapprove of the regime, the next time it may not be the U.S. or the U.K. that acts on that principle.
[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, June 2, 2003
Boker's Bitters, redux.   A few days ago I linked to a fine article about a modern recreation of the century-old Boker's Bitters, which were the bitters used in the original Manhattan cocktail and one of the earliest aromatic bitters used in cocktails in general. The online version neglected to print the actual ingredients, only the instructions, so I went to a newsstand today and for the very first time purchased an issue of Men's Journal. (The magazine was practically dripping with testosterone, so much that it stained my fingers.) Fortunately, it was redeemed by an excellent photo of Andy Roddick, plus the instructions for your next bitters-making adventure!

Try to get bitter (Seville) orange peel if you can, either from an herbalist or a Middle Eastern grocery. Try getting your quassia, catechu and malva from places like Alchemy Works or Tenzing Momo. Or, if you have an herb shop or witchcraft emporium in your neighborhood, go for it.

H & H's Aromatic Bitters
(based upon an 1896 recipe for Boker's Bitters,
refined by Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh)

3/4 ounce quassia chips
1/2 ounce cardamom seeds
1 ounce dried orange peel
3 pieces star anise
3 cloves
3/4 ounce black catechu
1 small piece ginger root, bruised
1/2 ounce whole dried malva flowers
1 750-ml bottle Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey, 101 proof
2 pints water

Toast the quassia, cardamom, orange peel, anise and cloves in a hot, dry pan until they become quite fragrant, about 3 minutes (don't let them burn or smoke). Add these spices plus the catechu and ginger to a bottle of Wild Turkey Rye (a liter-sized jar with a hinged lid and rubber seal, or a Mason jar, is best).

Allow to steep for two weeks. On the penultimate day, steep the malva flowers overnight in the water, then strain and reserve the colored water.

Strain the whiskey infusion through several layers of cheesecloth. Add the malva water, then decant into small shaker bottles (save your empty Angostura or Worcestershire bottles).

Return to Rocky and Carlo's.   It's the working class New Orleans Italian experience. It's in Chalmette. What more can one say, and where does one begin?

Rocky and Carlo's is a venerable, beloved, and quite insane little greasy spoon on St. Bernard Highway down in Da Parish in Chalmette, and I grew up eating there. It was a place for family outings, just as much for the local color as for the food. Incredibly crowded for lunch and dinner, especially on weekends, and the line waiting at the steam tables snakes through the tables in the dining area. Described by someone I can't remember as "barely controlled chaos", Rocky and Carlo's features lots of yelling amongst the staff, in Chalmette-inflected English as well as Italian, lots of hugely overstuffed po-boys, Italian delights like meatballs, spaghetti and braciole drenched in that delightful marinara that New Orleanians call "red gravy", foot-long tubules of macaroni baked with wheels of cheese, barrels of butter and henhouses full of eggs (with red gravy on top if you want). In short, it's hell, and it's heaven.

I probably hadn't been to Rocky and Carlo's in 25 years, since I graduated from high school. I'd been meaning to take friends from L.A. there when they visited, but we never quite got around to going there. Over the last four years I'd been telling Wes about the place too -- "We've really gotta make a point to get over there sometime!" -- but we never got around to it either. Well, until this last visit home, at least.

Still the same, across from the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery. Still with the "LADIES INVITED" sign in the window. Practically deserted, though, because when we found time to go it was nearly 10pm on a Monday night -- not exactly prime dinner hours. Fortunately, they're open until 11:30pm (it's a bar as well), and they still had some food left. I had wondered if the clientele was still at the same level as it once was, due to the fact that they had, um, well, a wee bit of an outbreak a while back, with many illnesses and one death allegedly traced back to an alleged pan of stuffed peppers, allegedly from Rocky and Carlo's. That's tough for any business to overcome, but from what I've heard they seem to have bounced back. Well, mostly. "Y'all are going to Rocky and Carlo's? That's brave!" said at least two people after we told them we were going there.

In the evenings, the king of the establishment is Rocky himself, Rocco Tommaseo, who is 87 years of age and who came over on the boat from Sicily as a young man. He runs the register (and only he), and he prepares a good deal of the food as well -- at his own well-measured pace. He was assisted that evening by at least four white-jeaned, jewelry-bedecked, high-coiffed, gum-cracking, sassy and scowling Chalmette girls whose back-and-forth shouts tended to favor the word "Rock-EEE! ROCK-y!" as they yelled at/to him.

There were only two other diners in the whole joint, and we were the sole focus of Rocky's attention when he waited on us. "What y'all want?" he asked. We surveyed the menu (on signs above the serving area) and what was left at the steam table, which was not much. Most of what was still there looked as if it had been sitting there since dinnertime, which it probably had been. As I'm not fond of hours-old steam table food, we decided that poor boys would be the way to go. Roast beef, please, and gravy. Large; we'll split it. A large order of the famous macaroni and cheese and ... a wop salad.

(Look, don't get all PC on me, that's what they call it there, for God's sake!)

We declined to order the stuffed peppers.

Slowly, meticulously, Rocky assembled our poor boy. At first I was tempted to shout to him, "No, we only want one!" until I realized that the Gargantuan sandwich was only meant for one. It was easily twenty inches long, full of thinly-sliced roast beef, and drenched with gravy from the bubbling gravy pot before it was dressed (that's lettuce, tomato, mynez, pickle). Meanwhile, one of the sassy Chalmette girls ladled what appeared to be two pounds of mac and cheese onto a plate, then assembled the (small, thank Gawd) wop salad.

"Whatchu want to drink? You want a beer?" asked Rocky. Then I said a really, really dumb thing. "You have Abita?" I asked. He gave me an utterly confused look, as if I had asked him for a bottle of Hogsmeade Butterbeer, or Klingon Blood Wine, or something. "No!" he said, as if admonishing a small child. "We got Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller, Miller Lite." You're in Chalmette, you idiot.

We settled at a table in the bar, and quickly realized that the humongous, dripping sandwich was going to be very difficult to split from only one plate. I headed back to the serving area and after finally catching the eye of one of the sassy Chalmette girls asked if I could have an extra plate. She gave me a look as if I had asked her, "Hey, my dog's got a bowel impaction. Would you mind coming over and cleaning him out for me?" With immense disgust registering on her face, she reached down, grabbed a plate and held it out to me at arm's length as she stared off into the distance at a right angle from where I was standing. Well, that showed me.

The poor boy was magnificent, tender, dripping, beefy, yummy. The mac and cheese was Death on a Plate, but what a way to go. I had forgotten to ask for red gravy on top, but after the Plate Incident I was a bit reticent; oh well, I'll get red gravy next time. The wop salad was perfect -- crunchy, garlicky, tangy, olive-y.

Perhaps the highlight of the evening came when a local came into the bar and ordered something to go from one of the sassy Chalmette girls. This girl, perhaps the sassiest, sported not one, not two, but three hickeys on her neck (called "passion marks" in New Orleans, and in Chalmetian English pronounced "PASH'n MAWK"). I missed this completely, but fortunately Wes overheard. He didn't hear what the man ordered, but he heard the sassy Chalmette girl's response, which became the quote of the day, the quote of the entire visit, and currently the Quote of the Month:

"How ya want dat cooked? Fried, or deep-fried?
What a perfect summation of Rocky and Carlo's, and indeed of New Orleans food in general (even if you're out in Da Parish). The only thing wrong with my long-overdue return to Rocky and Carlo's was that it was so empty when we were there. When we go back, we'll make sure to go during lunch on a Saturday or Sunday, to get the truest experience of the chaos and cacophony that is the true Rocky and Carlo's experience.

May Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

[ Link to today's entries ]

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, Sean Burke, 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
This page is best viewed with your eyes, reading words.  
This site ©1994-2003 by Chuck Taggart.
All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
This means that you may not copy my writing onto other web pages or anywhere else without my specific written permission. (Quotes of short passages, properly attributed, may be considered fair use.) If you do copy my work, it's called "stealing".

People who steal my stuff will be étoufféed and served to Dr. Lecter, with a nice Chianti. (I'm serious. Just don't do it. Thanks.)

Listed on BlogShares