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 of the reality-based community, movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, 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 @ 12:03pm PDT, 6/30/2005

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A new book featuring the best of food weblogs.

Digital Dish is the first ever compilation volume of the best writing and recipes from food weblogs, and includes essays and recipes contributed by me. Find out more and place an order!

U.S. orders:
Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens

"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more, including a full-size, 80-page book.

Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores, or order from

The box set was the subject of a 15-minute profile on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" on Feb. 6, 2005, and a segment on Wisconsin Public Radio's "To The Best of Our Knowledge" on Apr. 3, 2005. Here are some nice blurbs from the reviews (a tad immodest, I know; I'm not generally one to toot my own horn, but let's face it, I wanna sell some records here.)

*      *      *

"More successfully than any previous compilation, Doctors... captures the sprawling eclecticism, freewheeling fun and constant interplay of tradition and innovation that is at the heart of Crescent City music." -- Keith Spera, New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"... if you DO know someone who's unfortunate enough to have never heard these cuts, press this monumentally adventurous box and its attendant booklet upon them. It's never too late to learn" -- Robert Fontenot, OffBeat magazine, New Orleans

"... the best collection yet of Louisiana music." -- Scott Jordan, The Independent, Lafayette, Louisiana.

"[T]he year's single most awesome package" -- Buddy Blue, San Diego Union-Tribune

"This four-CD box set doesn't miss a Crescent City beat ... For anyone who has enjoyed the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, this is Jazz Fest in a box. ***1/2" -- Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times

"... excellently compiled, wonderfully annotated ... New Orleans fans will know much of this by heart, though they may not remember it sounding so good; those who don't know what it's like to miss New Orleans will quickly understand." -- Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press.

"... a perfect storm when it comes to reissues. This box set is musically exciting, a complete representation of its subject matter, and just plain fun to listen." -- Charlie B. Dahan,

"... one of the best impressions of a city's musical blueprint that you're likely to ever find." -- Zeth Lundy,

"... an unacademic, uncategorized album that suits the city's time-warped party spirit." -- Jon Pareles, The New York Times


"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

-- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901-1909), speaking in 1918

"There ought to be limits to freedom."

-- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999

"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier."

-- George W. Bush, describing what it's like to be governor of Texas, Governing Magazine, July 1998

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

-- George W. Bush,, December 18, 2000

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."

-- George W. Bush, Business Week, July 30, 2001

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

May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005

2004:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2003:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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

You can also donate via the Honor System, if you wish (but they deduct a larger fee from your donation and I keep less).

(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
michael p.
pat and paul
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
   (Comprehensive listings)

Air America Radio
   (Talk radio for the
   rest of us)
Joe Frank
Grateful Dead Radio
   (Streaming complete
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 Internet's most comprehensive
   and indispensible database of
   authenticated cocktail recipes,
   ingredients, reseearch and more.
   By Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)

Museum of the American Cocktail
   Founded by Dale DeGroff and many
   other passionate spirits, Jan. 2005.
   Celebrating a true American cultural
   icon: the American Cocktail.

*     *     *
The Sazerac Cocktail
   (The sine qua non of cocktails,
   and the quintessential New Orleans
   cocktail. Learn to make it.)

The Footloose Cocktail
   (An original by Wes;
   "Wonderful!" - Gary Regan.
   "Very elegant, supremely
   sophisticated" - Daniel Reichert.)

The Hoskins Cocktail
   (An original by Chuck;
   "It's nothing short of a
   masterpiece." - Gary Regan)

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Menu
   (A few things we like to
   drink at home, plus a couple
   we don't, just for fun.)

*     *     *

The Alchemist
   (Paul Harrington)

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

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

The Cocktailian Gazette
   (The monthly newsletter of
   The Museum of the
   American Cocktail.)

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

DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog

Happy Hours
   (Beverage industry
   news & insider info)

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)
   (Ladies United for the
   Preservation of
   Endangered Cocktails)

Fine Spirits & Cocktails
   (eGullet's forum)

The Modern Mixologist
   (Tony Abou-Ganim)

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
   (Sando, LaDove,
   Swanky et al.)

Nat Decants
   (Natalie MacLean)

Spirits Review
   (Chris Carlsson)
   (Beverage Tasting
   Institute journal)

Vintage Cocktails
   (Daniel Reichert)

Let's eat!

Food-related weblogs:
Chocolate and Zucchini
Honest Cuisine
Il Forno
KIPlog's FOODblog
Mise en Place
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie
Sauté Wednesday
Simmer Stock
Tasting Menu
Waiter Rant

More food!
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
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers

Wine shops in our 'hood:
Colorado Wine Co., Eagle Rock
Silverlake Wine, Silverlake
Chronicle Wine Cellar, Pasadena

Reading this month:

The Devil You Know, by Poppy Z. Brite.

Microcosmic God: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. 2, by Theodore Sturgeon.

Ken and Thelma, by Joel L. Fletcher.

McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, edited by Michael Chabon.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

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

Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots

Miles of Music

New Orleans

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

No Depression


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
(My pics therein: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

Chuck's Photo of the Day Archive


The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy

Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
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

by Jonathan Rosenberg

L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

Lulu Eightball,
by Emily Flake

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

by Walt Kelly

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

Meet the Fockers (***)

Lookin' at da TV:

"The West Wing"
"Battlestar Galactica"
"The Sopranos"
"Six Feet Under"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
"The Simpsons"
"Father Ted"
The Food Network


Polly Ticks: (Progressive politics & news)
Daily Kos (My favorite political weblog)
Eschaton (The Mighty Atrios)
Hullaballoo (The Mighty Digby)
Media Matters for America (Debunking right-wing media lies)
Orcinus (David Neiwert)
PostSecret (Secrets sent in via postcards; astonishingly beautiful, funny and sad.)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.)

Borowitz Report
(Political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Fray (Your stories)
Landover Baptist (Better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (Opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (Scarily funny news/satire)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (Read this.) (Not the actual White House, but it should be)

Weblogs I read:

American Leftist
The BradLands
The Carpetbagger Report
Considered Harmful
Creek Running North
Anil Dash
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Franklin Avenue
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
Jesus' General
Mark A. R. Kleiman
The Leaky Cauldron
Letting Loose With the Leptard
Little. Yellow. Different.
Making Light
Mister Pants
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
No More Mr. Nice Guy!
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
Respectful of Otters
Right Hand Thief
Roger "Not That One" Ailes
Ted Rall
Sadly, No!
This Modern World
Whiskey Bar
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?

Matthew's GLB blog portal

L.A. Blogs

My Darlin' New Orleans:

Gambit Weekly


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home:

Library Chronicles
Metroblogging N.O.
Right Hand Thief

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 G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.3 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.)


Bia agus deoch, ceol agus craic.

  Thursday, June 30, 2005

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.   Including, it seems, my car.

Last Friday Wes and I took a trip to Las Vegas. It was meant to be a quickie; nice buffet dinner at Paris on Friday, a fun Saturday bopping around town, a celebratory dinner at our favorite restaurant in the city, and then a Penn & Teller show and back on Sunday after lunch. All that was great.

Unfortunately, we ended up staying a little longer than intended, because Saturday night, as we were stopped in the intersection with a green light, waiting to turn left into the apartment complex where we were staying with friends, our car got hit head-on by a drunk driver.

We're okay. Not a scratch, amazingly enough. My Bug is in critical condition, though.

The guy, Carlos C., was so fucking drunk he could barely walk. After he hit us he took off; I attempted to make a U-turn and chase him, but the Bug said, "Um, no. Critically wounded. Sorry." Oddly enough, he returned to the scene later, just in time to be arrested for DUI and felony hit-and-run, and fortunately we had witnesses lined up to make statements against him.

The Vegas cops were great. About five cars showed up, and once they got there asshole Carlos stopped insisting he wasn't drunk. "Tell the truth. How much have you had to drink tonight?" asked one of the cops. "Four beers," he replied. "Okay. And how much tequila?" Nice.

The future of the car is uncertain. It's been, and will undoubtedly continue to be, a huge hassle. Consequently, I haven't felt much like posting the past few days.

This is my third encounter with a drunk driver, and the third in which I've emerged unscathed. I think my luck is running out, and I'm sick to death of these assholes. If I had anything to say about it, the penalties for doing this would be increased drastically. For instance, I think Carlos should do some hard time for this, and I hope he does. I think he should also spend the next five years taking the bus or bumming rides. Fucking asshole.

Sorry, I'm still in angry mode. Five years paying for a car and keeping it in perfect condition, then some 21-year-old drunken idiot wipes it out, and we're all lucky he didn't wipe any people out (us, especially).

I'll have pictures from Rosemary's later, maybe tomorrow.

What's 'taters', precious?   PO-TAY-TOES! Specifically, potato chips.

Sadly, I left my camera in the car and didn't get a shot of this, but while we were tooling around Vegas last Saturday, we followed the advice of our friends Damon and Sharon and monorailed over to the MGM Grand to visit Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill. We were already having dinner at Rosemary's that night, so this was just a mid-afternoon snack, and a highly recommended one as well.

Accompanied by a proper Martini (Boodles Gin, which I'd never tried and which beat me about the head and shoulders with berry-laden juniper branches, and a healthy proportion of vermouth as if it were 1950), we had ... House-made potato chips drizzled with white truffle oil, with fresh herbs and Maytag blue cheese.

Oh my Gawd.

What's taters, precious? That's precious taters!

The shot heard 'round the world.   'Round the wine world, that is, and shot in the form of four short paragraphs in TIME magazine, almost 30 years ago.

The most significant news story ever written about wine was just four paragraphs long, condensed from a 2,000-word fact file sent by a reporter who had never written about wine before. [...]

The cover story of that issue ... has long been forgotten by most people. Meanwhile, [that other story] -- about French judges choosing a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay from Napa Valley as superior to the best from their mother country in a blind tasting in Paris -- continues to have impact around the world.

Nous sommes désolés. (Actually, we're not.)

Yomigaeru, Aiy-yan ... Cheffff!   Bruce Cole of Sauté Wednesday imagines a highly entertaining would-be Iron Chef battle between Chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry in Yountville, California and Chef Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, U.K.

I would very much like to be a taster at that battle, even though I'm not a giggly actress, lower parliament house member, fortune teller or rosanjin scholar. Man, I wanna try that crab risotto!

Oh, and is it just me, or would y'all also rather watch reruns of the original Japanese "Iron Chef" than new episodes of "Iron Chef America"? The new show's not bad, and way better than that ridiculous spectacle with Shatner a few years back, but it just doesn't have the same spirit, campiness and fun of the original.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Update/edit to the Kuchen Cookin'.   I swear, I've got a memory like a steel ... colander. In all that foodpornorrific wordslinging about our last Fat Pack food gathering, I seem to have left out one crucial element, as Mary pointed out in email this morning, to wit:

"But there is no reference to LARDO??!?! What the---?!"

Moops. I stand corrected.

Moderate Republicans? What moderate Republicans?   Via Atrios, Matt Yglesias points out that the goopers now speaking out about the war -- Hegel, Graham, et al. -- are all hot air and no action:

Look, it's nice that Graham is saying smart, dissenting things about the direction of national policy. But he keeps voting for the policy. Just like Chuck Hagel, Richard Lugar, and the rest of the gang, he has done nothing -- absolutely nothing -- to correct the situation. Instead, he's actively collaborated in generating the problems he cites. The things he claims to regret would have been somewhat mitigated had Graham lost his race to become a U.S. senator. He could help improve the situation tomorrow by resigning his seat and letting Mike Easley appoint a replacement.

A smaller step might be to use his votes on various committees to help restart the process of congressional oversight. But he hasn't done anything like that and he won't. I don't know exactly what's wrong with these people, but they deserve to be attacked more, not less, harshly than your ordinary party-line Republicans. Voting for bad policies you agree with is bad. Voting for bad policies that, when asked, you say are bad is ridiculous. Liberals should direct nothing but scorn at this crew unless and until they start doing something instead of offering nice remarks to film screening audiences.

God forbid any of them should grow a spine and go with their consciences instead of the Republican machine.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Cocktailian.   In last Thursday's edition of Gary Regan's fortnightly column, The Professor, our cocktailian bartender, found that "Scotch adds the smoke that gives Rauch its name."

(This one looks weird. Laphroaig, Mozart and tamarind juice? This one I'll have to try, just to see. I wonder if Godiva is a good substitute for Mozart.)

Bob Mould on downloading music.   Sure, I've downloaded music without paying for it; many if not most of us have. That said, I primarily download stuff I've already paid for but am too lazy to convert from LP to MP3, live odds and ends, and stuff I've ordered online but am too impatient to wait for. What if you had a chance to download the new album (and the comeback album, as far as I'm concerned) from one of your favorite artists, for free?

Seems that's what lots of folks did with Bob Mould's forthcoming album Body of Song, and he's not happy about it. I'm with him on this, and direct this to people who download music thinking they're putting the screws to Big Evil Record Conglomerates:

This past weekend, I was alerted to two websites that are illegally distributing the entirety of my new album. (UPDATE: One site has respectfully removed the content.)

For the record: this project has taken me 3 years (on and off) to complete, with a price tag of around $50,000. Paying musicians, engineers, recording studios, travel costs, mastering, graphic designers, calling in tons of favors. Upgrading equipment, legal and management fees. There was no evil label paying these costs -- I write the checks. I get paid on records sold. This is how I do my business. The price tag doesn't account for my own time and effort, for which I typically get paid fairly well. After 26 years on the job, I have earned my keep.

Now, people I do not know are making my work available for free. I know most fans want to do the right thing, and buy the music. I also know that the temptation to download the album for free is there, because it's my new record, and people have heard good things about it, and they want to hear it as soon as possible.

[...] I totally understand the temptation to download tracks. The part that worries me, and I think it's justified, is that people will forget to pay. Let me draw a distinction between "the real Bob fans" and "the people who gather and trade music freely, without concern for the artists' livelihoods".


Unless you like to work for free, and tell the landlord or mortgage company and all your other bill collectors that gee, you give your work away for free, and so should they ... think about what Bob said.

Speaking of Bob, I've heard the new single, and man, am I glad to hear his new stuff; I can't wait to hear the rest of the album. I must confess, I despised Bob's last album Modulate, and said some harsh things about it. I should have turned some of those sentiments inward and not blamed Bob for making the art he wanted to make. He felt different things driving him and motivating his muse, and felt the need to explore that and try something different. He made art that satisfied him. Was it his fault that I hated it? (Well, that's debatable; I didn't hate it just because it was different, I hated it because I thought it was really bad, and not up to his talents.) All that said, I'm glad his muse has taken him back to a place where he can make music that satisfies him, and I can love it again.

Is your cow-orker a psychopath?   I wasn't aware of the classification of "sub-criminal psychopath", but it sure does explain a lot of things, and explains a few people I've worked with perfectly.

Recess!   Via Wes, who says, "All this fuss over Bolton of course reminds me of the "West Wing" episode in which Bartlet declined to take advantage of a recess appointment, a tactic he felt to be inappropriate and essentially unethical when used simply to get around the Senate. And it pisses me off that Dubya is proclaiming Democrats to be 'obstructionists' when both Papa Bush and Reagan made far more recess appointments than Clinton did, even though he was dealing with a far more resistant Congress." Of course Bartlet felt that; he's a better President than Shrub, and a far better man as well. Too bad his major flaw is that he's fictional.

Turns out that Frist-flop said he wasn't going to schedule another vote, and then voilà, he flopped and said he will. Wonder what nomination will be next? If Shrub follows his pattern of nominating the worst possible person for the job, I can only expect Dr. Jack Kevorkian to be the next Surgeon General.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, June 20, 2005

The Fat Pack cooketh.   We had a Fat Pack gathering this past Saturday, which of course means lots of great food, backsliding on my weight, and being injected with nanobots to scrape the inside of my arteries out. (Okay, no nanobots, actually.)

The idea was to honor Steve's Aunt Hester, who recently passed away at the age of 97. Hester, who wasn't born Jewish but married into a Jewish family, mastered all the family recipes from Steve's great-grandmother and cooked all the classic Jewish dishes like a pro. Particularly memorable in her repertoire was kuchen, a sweet bread baked either plain or filled with a raisin/walnut filling and rolled. We decided to have a culinary wake, and to make three varieties of kuchen: plain, with a raisin/walnut/cinnamon/sugar filling, and an experimental batch filled with semisweet chocolate chips.

Dave had also been wanting to screen his old video of Yosh and Stan Shmenge's "The Last Polka", and I immediately offered to make cabbage rolls and coffee ("Mmmm, mmm, can't be beat!"); just call me Mrs. Vilveyatchke. Wes suggested we also bring along some żubrówka (Polish bison grass vodka, which is one of the most delicious things ever), shotglasses for sipping it straight from the freezer, and apple juice for mixing it into the only cocktail Poles make with it, the Szarłotka or "Apple Tart". Yay, żubrówka!

Of course, as we planned and the "B" word was never mentioned, I had to complicate things by saying, "I know the point of this gathering was for other things, but I'm feeling bereft without bacon. Maybe I'll fry some up just for snacking." Dave agreed to come through with bacon, and then said, "Maybe I'll get some bratwurst too, and wrap some bacon around it." I replied, "Jonathan Swift once wrote, 'When a true genius appears in the world, you will know him by this sign; that he offers to wrap bratwurst with bacon.' Or something like that" And away we went.

(In memory of Hester Nye Schoen, 1907-2005)

This makes a pretty huge batch.

12 cups flour.
3 packages yeast.
3 eggs, beaten.
1 quart whole milk.
3/4 pound butter, divided.
1 cup sugar.
3 teaspoons salt.

Riasins, chopped walnuts or almonds, more sugar for sprinkling the inside, and ground cinnamon. (And chocolate chips!)

Another egg, beaten.

1. Scald milk, add 1/2 pound of the butter and allow to cool until it's warm.

2. Proof the yeast.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add milk/butter mixture and eggs. Stir to combine ingredients.

4. Knead the dough.

5. Place the dough back into the large bowl, cover with a towel and allow to double in volume.

6. Knead in 1/4 pound softened butter. Roll to 1/2 inch thick. Spread with nuts, raisins, cinnamon and sugar. (Make a chocolate one too.) No real measurements, just nice even coverage and generous cinnamon and sugar. Roll up into a log (we rolled it into a something resembling a croissant-chaped banana slug.) Put in a BIG greased pan. Cover with a towel and allow to double.

7. Brush will with the beaten egg. Bake at 375°F for one hour. Test with a wooden skewer; if it comes out clean, the kuchen is done.

Total time with proofing, rising and baking is about 4 hours. We had enough dough to make the cinnamon/raisin one, the chocolate one and a plain one that we baked in a bread loaf pan. Serves many.

The kuchen were fabulous. Cheers, Aunt Hester!

I'm Yosh Shmenge ... and I'm Stan Shmenge!  And we're the Happy Wanderers!

"The Last Polka", which despite being a huge SCTV fan I'd actually never seen, was hilarious, and the concert footage a brilliant parody of "The Last Waltz". We loved The Lemon Twins, too (all three of them).

We ended up skipping the coffee, but my cabbage rolls were a hit. I've loved the Polish gołąbki I've had at Polka, our favorite neighborhood Polish restaurant, but most of the recipes I found online looked kinda bland. I dug one up for a German-style cabbage roll that sounded better; it called for allspice in the red gravy, and I know that allspice is used in Polish cooking (the Polish word is kubaba), so that sounded pretty good. Of course, these cabbage rolls were supposed to be Leutonian, but I did the best I could. Next time I think I'll incorporate a Hungarian touch -- shredding up the leftover cabbage after the rolling leaves are removed, mixing it with an equal quantity of sauerkraut, then putting that on the bottom of the pot, with the cabbage rolls on top, and then the sauce. A combination of German, Polish and Hungarian has got to be as close to Leutonian as we can get.

As it turned out, the cabbage rolls were tasty, but far too ... well, good for us, to be a true Fat Pack dish. I had to supplement it with something, maybe an appetizer. What better thing to provide than a slab of pork fat? Lardo, to be specific, is cured pork fat, ideally imported from Italy. "Made from the layer of fat right under the pig's skin," the same place where we get cracklins, this lardo was cured and seasoned with lots of coarse salt, black pepper and herbs (rosemary was prevalent). It's sliced ultra-thin, then briefly heated in a skillet until transparent and served warm on warm toast. In our case, the toast was made from freshly-baked semolina bread from the Eagle Rock Italian Bakery and Deli, at Colorado and La Roda in the heart of our beloved little town's main drag.

The lardo was fantastic -- porky and salty and silky and smoky and delicious, and on that semolina bread too, madonn'!. The combination couldn't have been more perfect. We left the leftover lardo behind, and it can also be reheated and tossed with some pasta, or used in place of pancetta in dishes that call for it.

That annoying little angel-looking thing materialized over my left shoulder and kept whispering in my ear, "You're eating pure pork fat right now, you know that? Pure. Fucking. Pork. Fat. Fatfatfatfatfat. How many points is that, pray tell? Five points per ounce, that's how much! All saturated fat! How much of that is going to be pasted right onto your jowls and neck and middle and gut and thighs and the interior of your arteries, although for some reason not on that bony little ass of yours? Huh, Mr. Pork Fat?"

I grabbed the rolling pin from the hands of one of the kuchen-makers and batted him across the room, through the closed screen door and into the bug zapper. Annoying little fecker.

Fortunately we also had plenty of fresh fruit -- grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon -- so I didn't feel like such a huge maiale after the lardo ... at first. Then Dave started frying up the fabulous applewood-smoked bacon he got at Whole Foods. (Are there three more beautiful words in the English language than "applewood smoked bacon"? I think not.) We snacked on that as Mary and Nettie worked on the kuchen, then I heated up the cabbage rolls, which went over well. Dave then grilled up the brats, plus some French garlic smoked sausage with Cognac (yum!), all on poppy seed buns accompanied by more bacon. Diana also did a cool cucumber-dill salad, then we had the kuchen for dessert ... and then, a surprise. Dessert after the dessert? What's all this then?

Diana, in an example of true evil genius, decided to make fried raised doughnuts that were stuffed with ... ricotta cheese mixed with ... crumbled bacon.

Oh my.

These were delicious, fantastic, except we kept having problems with them. They didn't cook all the way through, and were still doughy on the inside next to the filling. We figured they were at least twice too big, so the next time we do them they should be small like a hush puppy, with no more than a tablespoon of filling. Or else they should be fried plain and then filled with a piping bag ("Yeah, but I was hoping to avoid the whole piping bag thing," Diana said. Ah well.) It was tough to get a balance between cooked-on-the-inside and not-too-brown-on-the-outside, but we ate them all anyway.

It was after that that I called in the nanobots.

Screenplay excerpt of the day.   FADE IN:

		All four are seated at a booth. The women have
		given their orders and a WAITRESS stands above
		Bobby, waiting for his:
				(looking at his menu)
			I'll have an omelette, no potatoes.
			Give me tomatoes instead, and wheat
			toast instead of rolls.
		The waitress indicates something on the menu with
		the butt of her pencil.
			No substitutions.
			What does that mean? You don't have
			any tomatoes?
			No. We have tomatoes.
			But I can't have any. Is that what
			you mean?
			Only what's on the menu...
				(again, indicating  with
				her pencil)
			A Number Two: Plain omelette. It
			comes with cottage fries and rolls.
			I know what it comes with, but
			that's not what I want.
			I'll come back when you've made up
			your mind...
		She starts to move away and Bobby detains her.
			Wait, I've made up my mind. I want
			a plain omelette, forget the
			tomatoes, don't put potatoes on the
			plate, and give me a side of wheat
			toast and a cup of coffee.
			I'm sorry, we don't have side
			orders of toast. I can give you an
			English muffin or a coffee roll.
			What do you mean, you don't have
			side orders of toast? You make
			sandwiches, don't you?
			Would you like to talk to the
			Hey, mack!
				(to Palm)
			Shut up.
				(to the waitress)
			You have bread, don't you, and a
			toaster of some kind?
			I don't make the rules.
			Okay, I'll make it as easy for you
			as I can. Give me an omelette,
			plain, and a chicken salad sandwich
			on wheat toast -- no butter, no
			mayonnaise, no lettuce -- and a cup
			of coffee.
		She begins writing down his order, repeating it
			One Number Two, and a chicken sal
			san -- hold the butter, the mayo,
			the lettuce -- and a cup of
			coffee... Anything else?
			Now all you have to do is hold the
			chicken, bring me the toast, charge
			me for the sandwich, and you
			haven't broken any rules.
				(challenging him)
			You want me to hold the chicken.
			Yeah. I want you to hold it between
			your knees.
		The other three laugh, and the waitress points to a
		"Right to Refuse" sign above the counter.
			You see that sign, sir?!
		Bobby glances over at it, then back to her.
			You'll all have to leave, I'm not
			taking any more of your smartness
			and your sarcasm!
		He smiles politely at her, then:
			You see this sign?
		He reaches his arm out and "clears" the table for

Hollywood character actress Lorna Thayer, who appeared in many roles over the course of a 40-year career in Hollywood and who played the waitress in this very memorable scene from "Five Easy Pieces", passed away on June 4, as was announced on Friday.

(Even St. Peter ain't gettin' those goddamn tomatoes. No substitutions!)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, June 17, 2005

Jeb Bush is an evil man.   I am speechless.

Gov. Jeb Bush asked a prosecutor Friday to investigate why Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, calling into question how long it took her husband to call 911 after he found her.

In a letter faxed to Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe, Bush said Michael Schiavo testified in a 1992 medical malpractice trial that he found his wife collapsed at 5 a.m., and he said in a 2003 television interview that he found her about 4:30 a.m. He called 911 at 5:40 a.m.

"Between 40 and 70 minutes elapsed before the call was made, and I am aware of no explanation for the delay," Bush wrote. "In light of this new information, I urge you to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome."

Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Friday from The Associated Press. In comments in The Miami Herald, he said Terri Schiavo would not have survived if her husband had not immediately called 911.

"It's absolutely preposterous," Felos said. "If he had waited 70 minutes she would have been dead."

No, actually, I'm not speechless at all. Jeb Bush is scum. This is how he reacts to this week's autopsy results which show him and his idiot ilk to be completely wrong, so he continues and abets the so-called "Christians'" persecution of Michael Schiavo. It's a vendetta, a scapegoat hunt, because they didn't get their way. This is hardly what I'd call Christlike behavior.

Jeb Bush is despicable. He and his ilk have no sense of decency.

Wes points out, "Jeb Bush is grandstanding for the sake of his [right-wing] constituents -- he knows that nothing real can come of this. It is disgusting, but I'm not unhappy to see him so desperate." Armando at dKos says, "Using the power of the State for political retaliation. Shades of Nixon. [Michael] Schiavo should sue." Another dKos diary with excellent comments discusses how blatantly this demonstrates that Jeb Bush is in the pocket of Dobson and the radical religious right-wing theocrats.

A sobering thought from Atrios: "Your family could be next. This is about a minor discrepancy between statements made today and events 15 years ago."

Painting of the day.   I got this in email from Gregg the other day; he unfortunately didn't know the source or the artists. If anyone knows, please do let me know in comments. It's brilliant.

The Mad Tea Party
Click to enlarge

A Republican with a sense of decency.   Also via Kos, "Republican Former Senator John Danforth says no to the Dobson/Bush/Frist Extreme Agenda:

Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.

When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube.

When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors' lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.

We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.

Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.

For us, living the Love Commandment may be at odds with efforts to encapsulate Christianity in a political agenda. We strongly support the separation of church and state, both because that principle is essential to holding together a diverse country, and because the policies of the state always fall short of the demands of faith. Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues.


Distance.   Ah, internecine struggling within the goopers. Love it.

As bad news continues to emerge from Iraq and the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, some Republicans are starting to edge away from the White House on its policies in the war on terror.

The strains were on display yesterday, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Guantanamo Bay to address what Chairman Arlen Specter called the "crazy quilt" system that governs the treatment of about 520 suspected enemy combatants being held there. Mr. Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, called on Congress to set out rules.

More pointedly, Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, warned that if the administration and Congress and the courts can't come up with an effective policy for Guantanamo Bay, "we're going to lose this war if we don't watch it."

Wait a minute, what's all this crazy talk? Why, everything's going peachy keen, according to the Blank Smirk and Puppetmaster Cheney!

'Cept for the fact that Republicans as well as Democrats are talking exit strategy.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The tyranny of the majority.   Here's yet another example of how this country is sliding into one-party rule (the kinda thing we learned was bad back in civics class in high school, using the Soviet Union as an example). Rep. John Conyers is launching hearings into the contents of the "Downing Street Memo", but has to do it at Democratic headquarters because Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner has denied the use of committee hearing rooms on Capitol Hill to all Democrats on the committee.

In December, ranking Democrat John Conyers (Mich.) began holding "forums" -- gatherings with all the trappings of official hearings -- after Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) refused to hold hearings on topics Conyers requested. The forums have been held in smaller committee rooms, often with C-SPAN coverage and formal witness lists.

In a sign of how far relationships on the committee have soured, majority staff recently announced a new policy to deny any request from a committee Democrat for the use of a committee hearing room.

[...] Sean McLaughlin, deputy chief of staff for Sensenbrenner, recently wrote to a minority staffer in more pointed language.

"I'm sitting here watching your 'forum' on C-SPAN," McLaughlin wrote. "Just to let you know, it was your last. Don't bother asking [for a room] again."

So much for our vaunted democracy. This is what Bush wants to export to the entire world?

Hearings begin tomorrow at 1:30pm EDT; C-SPAN will broadcast.

Frist is a quack.   Bill Frist, who still claims to be a medical doctor, did a non-examination "examination" of Terri Schiavo and had the temerity to diagnose her, saying this (via DailyKos):

Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a renowned heart surgeon before becoming Senate majority leader, went to the floor late Thursday night for the second time in 12 hours to argue that Florida doctors had erred in saying Terri Schiavo is in a "persistent vegetative state."

"I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office," he said in a lengthy speech in which he quoted medical texts and standards. "She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli."

Schiavo's autopsy results were released today. Among the findings:

An autopsy on Terri Schiavo backed her husband's contention that she was in a persistent vegetative state, finding that she had massive and irreversible brain damage and was blind, the medical examiner's office said Wednesday. It also found no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused.

[...] "The brain weighed 615 grams, roughly half of the expected weight of a human brain," he said. "This damage was irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons."

I'd like to write this information on the side of a two-by-four and whap it upside the head of all the right-winger idiots who screamed the whole time that she was conscious and not a vegetable, and who hurled appalling insults and false accusations at her poor husband. So much for the Golden Rule.

Wilco were brilliant last night.

At Least That's What You Said
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Far, Far Away
Hell Is Chrome
Handshake Drugs
Company In My Back
Remember the Mountain Bed
Muzzle of Bees
War on War
A Shot in the Arm
Jesus, etc.
I'm The Man Who Loves You
Poor Places

The Late Greats
I'm Always In Love
Heavy Metal Drummer
I'm A Wheel

It was a beautiful night under the California stars (although, unfortunately, they didn't play "California Stars"). The performance was spot-on, and Jeff, who said right off that he wasn't going to be too chatty that night and just play music, was very warm with the audience. He had a couple of sweet moments too: when he dedicated "Mountain Bed" to their guitarist Nels Cline, "who's our hero, and also to Nels' mom, who's Nels' hero." He also had his family up front near the stage ("My five-year-old is asleep now."), and jumped down to have a dance and a cuddle near the end of the main set. Good feelings all around ... except for the four idiots behind me who wouldn't stop talking during most of the set, and who (thank Gawd) left before the encores.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A musical week.   Well, I've been being social, and getting some reading done, and seeing movies, and going out to hear some music. Free content resumes.

Last Saturday night (following a meal of som tum, spicy Thai green papaya salad with dried shrimp, chile, lime juice, onions and cilantro, plus a crispy duck salad and pad kee mow, very spicy wide flat rice noodles with chicken, onions, chiles and holy basil) we headed to Avalon to see OK Go and Kaiser Chiefs; we're big fans of the former, and had only just heard of the latter.

OK Go were brilliant, of course, concentrating on their forthcoming new album (August!) Oh No, plus a few great cuts from their debut. I really liked all the new stuff, both tonight and at their own gig at Spaceland a while back. Incredibly catchy songs, very energetic stage presence, a good sense of humor, and ... oh yes, the Damian-Kulash-is-a-sex-god factor, too. Unfortunately, they only played for 30 minutes (but treated us to a new choreographed encore routine, done to one of their newer songs). Perhaps the reason was the unannounced, unexpected and unwelcome jammed-in-between set from Jason Falkner, which was lame and boring and which we really could have done without.

Kaiser Chiefs were terrific, too. I was completely unfamiliar with their stuff, but heard a lot to like -- very much their own sound, but you could hear the heavy influences from early Jam, some Clash and even a touch of XTC here and there. Ricky Wilson is quite the rock star, too -- pulling the girl out of the audience to dance with her onstage was a nice touch.

And a couple of hours ago, I just got offered an extra ticket to see Wilco tonight, then found out to my surprise that a bunch of my friends will be there as well.

It's been a good week.

Cocktail of the day.   I made it home from work in less than an hour last night (wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles), and we celebrated the lovely, cool evening with the signature cocktail of the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel (as found in the book Meet Me In The Bar: Classic Drinks From America's Historic Hotels).

The Pink Palace

1-1/2 ounces gin.
3/4 ounce Grand Marnier.
Splash of grenadine.
Splash of lemon juice.

Shake vigorously with cracked ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.

And if you shy away from a drink called "The Pink Palace" because of some kind of silly machismo, you're actually a coward. Besides, this drink'll kick your ass.

Parce-que les huîtres (pas ma grand-mère) sont flambées.   I decided to try a dish the other night, one that I'd been looking at for a good while. Chef Kevin Curran created a dish at the now-defunct Flagons and wondered what the flavor elements of a Sazerac cocktail would taste like in a sauce. So he pan-fried some oysters, poured some Sazerac fixins over it and set the whole thing on fire. Voilà ... Oysters Sazerac. I thought it was worth a try.

To prepare, set up a standard three-stage breading station: season some flour with salt, black and red pepper, and do the same with some cornmeal (the recipe called for bread crumbs, but I don't fry oysters in bread crumbs), then mix 2 egg yolks with 1/4 cup of milk. Make a sorta-Sazerac with 3 ounces of Old Overholt, an ounce of Herbsaint and 2 teaspoons of Peychaud's bitters.

Shuck a couple dozen of the biggest, fattest oysters you can find, then roll in flour, dip in yolks/milk and roll in seasoned cornmeal, shaking off excess at each stage. Pan-fry the oysters in a few tablespoons of hot butter until done, then pour the cocktail over it and very carefully set it aflame. (Make sure you use lower-proof whiskey; I used 101-proof Wild Turkey rye, and the flames shot up almost to the ceiling. I guess my eyebrows will grow back before too long.) Shake the pan until the flames go out and most of the liquid reduces down. Then serve 4 oysters for an appetizer portion or 8 for a main course, sprinkled with some chopped green onions and, if you like, napped with a little beurre blanc.

Careful you don't singe your eyebrows off.

They were good, but we were disappointed that they weren't ... well, Sazeracier. Next time I'm going to try deep-frying the oysters, then transferring them to a pan for the flambé and see how that works.

Chef Paul.   Opelousas-born Chef Paul Prudhomme is profiled in the Times-Picayune, with many fascinating comments from himself and a host of local luminaries.

Prudhomme's not a New Orleans chef -- he's Cajun -- but as Poppy pointed out, he's had an amazing impact on New Orleans cuisine, not only for being the first chef to use andouille and tasso in the city, but for all the other great local chefs (from Frank Brigtsen to Greg and Mary Sonnier and more) who trained in his kitchen. Forget all that blackened redfish stuff; it goes far, far beyond that.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, June 7, 2005

If Watergate happened today, with the current Republican-controlled, rubber-stamp Congress, there'd be no Watergate hearings. (Via VidiotNewsweek's Jonathan Alter nails it:

From a distance, Watergate seems like a partisan affair. But that's because we tend to look at it nowadays through red- and blue-tinted glasses. In truth, President Nixon was forced to resign in 1974 by Republicans in Congress like Barry Goldwater, who realized from the so-called smoking-gun tape that he was a crook. This was after the Supreme Court.led by a Nixon appointee.unanimously ruled against him in the tapes case.

But imagine if Nixon were president in this era. After he completed his successful second term, I'd have to write a retrospective column like this:

President Nixon left office in 2005 having proved me and the other "nattering nabobs of negativism" wrong. We thought that his administration was sleazy but we were never able to nail him. Those of us who hoped it would end differently knew we were in trouble when former Nixon media adviser Roger Ailes banned the word "Watergate" from Fox News's coverage and went with the logo "Assault on the Presidency" instead. By that time, the American people figured both sides were just spinning, and a tie always goes to the incumbent.

[...]Whistle-blowers didn't fare much better. With Woodward and Bernstein out of business, the No. 2 man at the FBI, W. Mark Felt, held a press conference to air complaints that the White House and his own boss were impeding the FBI probe. Of course it was only a one-day story, with Ann Coulter predictably screaming that Felt was a "traitor." Rush Limbaugh dubbed Felt "Special Agent Sour Grapes" because he'd been passed over for the top FBI job. Within hours, the media had moved on to the tale of a runaway bride. And because both houses of Congress are controlled by the GOP, there were no "Watergate" hearings to keep the probe going. John Dean and other disgruntled former aides had no place to go.

Read the rest of it. It's depressing, because you know that's exactly how it would go. The even more depressing thing is, what's happening now makes Watergate look like Romper Room, and nobody's doing a goddamn thing about it.

Who will save us now?

Cocktail of the day.   I can't believe I'd never had one of these before.

I'm not sure how many of you cocktailians out there have experienced this, but it goes something like this:

"Bartender, I'd like a Perfect Manhattan, please."

"Pfft," scoffs the bartender. "All my Manhattans are perfect, pal."

This is, of course, providing that you can actually find a bartender who can make any Manhattan, and who knows what bitters are and how to use them. (I sometimes despair.)

Yes yes, Mr. Cocky, I know that you're God's gift to the bartending world, but when I specify certain cocktails as "perfect", what I really mean is that instead of using one or the other type of vermouth, you use equal parts of both. Therefore, a perfect Martini would, instead of a measure of dry vermouth, would use a half-measure each of dry and sweet vermouth. This works really well in a Manhattan, and Wes pleasantly surprised me with this night before last. The crowning touch was to eschew the Angostura bitters for an excellent new product:

Perfect Manhattan

3 ounces Eagle Rare 10-Year-Old Bourbon.
1/2 ounce dry vermouth.
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth.
2 dashes Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6.

Combine with cracked ice, stir for no less than 30 seconds.
Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a cherry.

Last night I made a Fancy-Free Cocktail using Regans', and it was wonderful. I also used a frozen whole sweet dark cherry instead of a neon-red Maraschino cherry, and I'm likin' that idea.

The Top 50 Things Every Foodie Should Do.   From Nigel Slater of The Observer, who asked the likes of Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay (more on him later) and a host of other food writers, chefs and restaurant critics what the holy grails of eating are. I've got a ways to go; here's what I've done so far (my comments in italics):

1. Make toast. Not just any old piece of toast, but that which has been cut thick from a fresh, old-fashioned white loaf. It should be toasted over the hot plate of an Aga, till the cut sides reach only the palest gold, and the crusts have blackened very slightly round the edges. It should be spread with salted (yes, salted) Welsh butter and eaten before some of the butter has had the chance to completely melt.

[I have toast like this almost every time I dine at John O'Groats, on Pico right down from 20th Century-Fox Studios. Artisianal sourdough in a big round loaf, thick hand-cut slices, toasted until blackened around the edges, and rough enough to shred the roof of your mouth. Quite often for lunch The World's Greatest Club Sandwich is framed by slices of this toast, with roasted turkey breast carved off the bone, thick hand-cut slices of nutty Swiss cheese and artisanal applewood-smoked bacon. It is one of my favorite comfort lunches in this city. I haven't had this kind of toast with Welsh butter, but I'll bring some Irish butter along sometime; I'm partial to the Irish variety, meself.]

3. Dismember a chicken. Nigella Lawson says that everyone should do this at least once in their lives. It is actually quite easy when you get the hang of it, and your supper will taste much better for your having had a hand in it, so to speak.

[Aah, this is a cinch. Um, unless she means dismemeber a live chicken, which I've never done. I've had it done for me, though, and even though that chicken was roasted simply with nothing but butter, salt and pepper, it was probably the best roasted chicken I'd ever had.]

6. Dine at The French Laundry. First you must devote yourself to getting through to reservations at this Californian shrine -- put the phone on redial and speakerphone and be prepared to sit there for an hour or more. Then God help you if you actually want a reservation on a specific day at a specific time. The place itself is delightful, situated in a small house that was once a French laundry (the only reminder now is an old-fashioned wooden clothes peg attached to each stiff white linen napkin). The restaurant has a charming, lush garden -- perfect for pre-dinner drinks, and the kitchen is visible through huge windows so you can watch the chefs praying over their minuscule towering creations.

[An hour?! Try five hours, sweetie. Worth it, though, as my one visit to The French Laundry gave me the single best restaurant meal of my life.]

13. Learn how to make a dry Martini. Mr Durack says the perfect ratio is six parts gin to one part vermouth. He's right of course. He says that you pour the gin and vermouth over ice in a chilled shaker, then mix and strain quickly into a chilled martini glass. There are more rules too: any more vermouth and it's a mixed drink. Any less and it's a shot. Anything more than a green olive or a twist of lemon and it's a salad.

[Of course, the perfect ratio is actually seven to one, plus a dash of orange bitters. Of course.]

18. Shuck an oyster. Any excuse to slurp a decent oyster, but Racine's Henry Harris, who has shucked a few in his time, recommends a platter of 'wild native oysters, from a forgotten oyster bed'. He is right, of course, and I come across so many people who say they don't like these delectably slithery, sexy little creatures but, when pressed, have to admit to never having tried one. Yet why do so many of us rank them as one of the all-time greatest food on earth? Do I have to get down on my knees and beg?

[I've shucked some erstas in my time. I tend not to do it all that often, though, as I don't eat raw oysters. I remember shucking some big, beautiful erstas to make a batch of Oysters Gabie, shucking them with a clam knife because I couldn't find my oyster knife (uh oh, here it comes), subsequently gashing my hand open and bleeding all over my favorite Throwing Muses t-shirt. It took a dozen washings to get all the blood out, but man, the dish was great.]

19. Order a Bellini at Harry's Bar in Venice. It is tempting to think that ordering a Bellini at Harry's Bar is the Venetian equivalent of buying a kiss-me-quick hat in Blackpool. It isn't. Everything about Harry's Bar is spot-on, from the napery to the carpaccio. Pity about the prices.

[Um, okay, I'm cheating here. I ordered a Bellini at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. I don't suppose that counts.]

21. Poach a snail. Morgan Meunier of London restaurant Morgan M raves over a particular snail dish served at Lameloise in Burgundy. The chef first poaches the snail to remove its rubbery consistency and then serves it in a sauce made from local wine breaking from the tradition of serving it with garlic. So much for me thinking they taste like bogies in garlic butter then.

[I have poached snails, but not fresh, live ones. Not sure if this counts. Back in high school, our beloved French teacher, Mr. Richard Crosby, made us promise that when we finally went to France, our first meal there would be escargot. That was in eighth, maybe ninth grade. My only trip to France so far was a one-night layover in Paris, on my way to Russia in 1993. I wandered around the Quartier Latin and found a restaurant whose name escapes me, but their awning boasted "Cuisine Française Traditionnelle." That was good enough for me. Although that same restaurant was the place where, later in that same meal, I had my infamous andouillette experience, I began that meal by keeping my promise to Mr. Crosby. The escargot were spectacular.]

25. Sniff a white truffle. Almost every foodie I have ever met goes weak at the knees at the mere mention of white truffles. Gordon Ramsay likes his on scrambled eggs and toasted brioche while several others like theirs shaved over risotto. Me, I am happy just to breathe in their heavenly scent.

["Happy just to breath in their heavenly scent"? Fuck that. I want to eat them too. I had white truffles shaved over risotto on my birthday last year, at Patina. One inhalation of the heavenly perfume, and Wes and I just laughed in glee. Then we devoured them.]

32. Shop till you drop. Terry Durack reckons that the food market at La Boqueria in Barcelona is simply the best in the world. The place is an absolute joy - full of life, colour, movement, bulls' testicles, cod tripe, goose barnacles and tiny, tiny, baby broad beans. And to think I didn't even know that geese could get barnacles.

[Okay, I'm cheating again, but I'm going to do this. This is a wannabe, next-on-the-list item. Next time we leave the country (unless, say, The Bothy Band have a reunion concert in Ireland), we're goin' to Barcelona.]

40. Bake a loaf of bread. Sooner rather than later, you really must bake a loaf of bread. There are few things that feel the same as having taken your own loaf out of the oven, tapped its bottom and heard the tell-tale hollow sound of a perfectly cooked loaf. If your loaf is a true San Francisco-style sourdough then all the better.

[I've done it, but unfortunately I suck at baking.]

47. Kill a pig. Fino, just off London's Charlotte Street is one my favourite places . Sam Hart, the owner enthuses about Matanza, the mid-winter Spanish tradition of killing the village pig then feasting on its offal.

[Okay, I didn't kill the pigs myself, but I stood by and watched as a bunch of Cajun men killed the pigs at various boucheries I've attended in Eunice, Louisiana. "We shoot it in the head at noon," said our host Marc Savoy, "and there's nothin' but bones left by six." This is true. The old-style Cajun boucherie is still around, although it's an endangered species in this era of shrink-wrapped chops. The Savoys and their friends believe in keeping the old traditions alive, when a family got together with friends, butcherd a hog in the backyard and used ever single scrap -- from backbone stew to barbecued pork to boudin, hog's head cheese and, in the old days, gelatin and bone meal too. The boudin I have at the boucheries, made from a pig that had been alive just a couple of hours earlier, is the best ever.

Not sure I'll be able to do all of these (like drinking a $1,941 bottle of 1947 Cheval Blanc), but I'll try.

Come with me if you want to live.   According to a new 300-page study of the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, produced by the National Institute on Standards and Technology, here's what you should do if you find yourself in a similar situation: disobey authority.

Turns out (as we already knew), the people who listened to the security announcements on the P.A. system and the police instructions from calling 911 that told them to stay put and wait for rescue ... died. The people who ignored the advice and left the buildings via elevators or several dozen flights of stairs survived.

We know that US borders are porous, that major targets are largely undefended, and that the multicolor threat alert scheme known affectionately as "the rainbow of doom" is a national joke. Anybody who has been paying attention probably suspects that if we rely on orders from above to protect us, we'll be in terrible shape. But in a networked era, we have increasing opportunities to help ourselves. This is the real source of homeland security: not authoritarian schemes of surveillance and punishment, but multichannel networks of advice, information, and mutual aid.

In other words, next time Homeland Security tells you something stupid, such as stocking up on plastic sheeting and duct tape, ignore them and use your common sense. Oh, and how are Homeland Security doing in their quest to protect us nowadays? Via Billmon at This Modern World:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff also announced last week that the nation's busiest seaports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, will have enough drive-through radiation monitors to screen every container by year's end.

Still, members of Congress and nuclear specialists say some of the efforts -- including creation of a new Domestic Nuclear Detection Office -- suffer from misplaced priorities and rely on detectors so primitive that they can't tell the difference between highly enriched uranium and naturally occurring radiation in cat litter.

[...] Homeland Security also is buying hundreds of radiation detectors to screen 26,000 cargo containers from abroad as they are unloaded at 314 ports each day. More than 500 of the $250,000 machines are at ports around the country. The monitors are notorious for false alarms, set off by innocuous products.

That's $125 million worth of detectors that can't tell the difference between a suitcase nuke and a bag of Gritty Kitty. I feel safer already. (Meow.)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, June 6, 2005

Sore Throat.   The other day I asked who would be this generation's Deep Throat. Bob Harris points out that they've been here all along, out in the open, with no need for a pseudonym, "insiders telling anyone who will listen, on the record, that Bush and his cronies are a gang of incompetents, liars, and criminals."

National Security Advisor Richard Clarke
FBI translator Sibel Edmonds
USAF Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski
Army Spc. Joseph Darby
Mining engineer Jack Spedaro
FBI Special Agent Coleen Rowley
Medicare actuary Richard Foster
CIA Bin Laden expert Michael Scheuer
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill
Ambassador Joe Wilson
U.S. Army General Eric Shinseki
Secretary of the Army Thomas White

It's just that nobody's fucking listening to them.

Billmon, whom I'm so, so happy is back writing regularly again, begins at This Modern World by saying:

Instead of new whistleblowers, a new media and a new generation of journalists willing to tell the truth to the people, maybe what America really needs is a new people.

I mean, what do you do when a democratic majority listens to the truth, hears and understands it, but nevertheless chooses -- out of habit, fear or just plain xenophobic nationalism -- to ignore, or even applaud, the war crimes of its duly elected leaders?

He goes on at the Whiskey Bar:

Even the corporate media, for all its fawning cowardice, hasn't been as derelict as blog rhetoric would paint it. The Watergates of our time have been covered -- yes, timidly and halfheartedly, not to mention incompetently, but not nearly as timid and halfhearted and incompetent as the Nixon-era media establishment, which left the Post hanging out there, almost entirely alone, for almost a year before reluctantly accepting that the original Watergate was a real story that had to be covered.

And they didn't have Fox News, a Republican puppet Congress and a mob of crypto-fascist bloggers breathing down their necks.

No, as I wrote quite early in the Abu Ghraib saga, what's remarkable about our current situation is that "unlike past scandals such as Watergate and Iran-Contra, we already know the essential details of the crime -- the who, what, where, when and how -- even though there hasn't been anything that remotely qualifies as a serious official investigation."

I can think of some specific, institutional reasons for that failure:

  • Bush's crimes are more deeply embedded in his presidential war powers than Nixon's were (although heaven knows Nixon also tried to hide behind those same powers.)

  • One party rule has choked off investigations armed with the subpoena power to go where journalists and the ACLU cannot tread.

  • The administration's cunning use of extra-territoriality and military secrecy has made it vastly harder for any would-be Judge Siricas to pierce the veil of executive privilege.

  • Last but hardly least, the weapons of information warfare in the Bush White House propaganda armory are infinitely more subtle, powerful and effective than the Nixon stonewall. Or, as Salon puts it, "The Bush administration has developed so many ways of manipulating information that anonymous sourcing would now be of little use. Secret 'military' tribunals, indefinite detention without charge, torture, kidnapping, dressing up official press releases as news stories for complicit publishers -- these all make the Watergate coverup seem quaint."

All this may just be a long-winded way of saying that 9/11 changed everything. But it's still hard to escape the conclusion that the American people have had, generally speaking, plenty of opportunities to learn the filthy truth about this administration and this war -- that is, if they were actually interested in the truth, which many of them (up to 51%, judging from the last election) apparently are not.

What is wrong with the people in this country? Do we really believe that 9/11 has changed us that much? Whatever happened to truth, justice and the American way? It seems that nowadays the latter includes almost none of the former.

Galatoire's.   I hadn't been to Galatoire's in a few years, and Wes had never been (which means it's been at least six years), so on our first Sunday in town we met up with our good friends Michael and Louise, and off to Bourbon Street we went.

Galatoire's is one of those hundred-year-old institutions in New Orleans, part of the culinary fabric of the city without having changed much over the years. The traditionalist side of me appreciates that, but the rest of me laughs at some of the aura of the place and its customers -- the ones who grumble when tourist rubes are seated next to them, who bitched and moaned when the restaurant switched from hand-chipped ice from the block to (*gasp*) machine-made ice cubes, the ones who acted as if the sky were falling when their favorite waiter got fired for an alleged incident of sexual harrassment and it just wasn't the same for them without their favorite servant.

But that's all part of the fun of Galatoire's, and you've just gotta make sure you're in the right mood for it all. I'm just about always in the right mood for it, because the food there, old and hoary as it can be, is really, really good. If that's the case, and the service is on the spot, then that's all that really counts, isn't it?

I was a little worried that we'd have to wait -- Galatoire's doesn't take reservations, except for larger parties and then only for the newly renovated and reopened upstairs, where I must confess I didn't want to sit, as I wanted to be in the middle of the action. Turns out that the restaurant was almost full, but there was no wait. I did my bit to participate in the tradition when the hostess asked me if I had a particular waiter. Every other time I'd gone to Galatoire's I'd had John take care of me, an energetic, rambunctious Cajun who lives in Chalmette, and I asked if he was available. He was, of course, and we were immediately shown to one of his tables.

He was just the same, maybe a few more gray hairs (as is the case with us all), and asked the all-important first question: "What kinda cocktails can I get'chall?" I wanted a Sazerac, of course, but made sure to specify it straight up -- you'll get it that way just about everywhere in the city, but for some reason Galatoire's likes to serve them on the rocks. I don't like 'em on the rocks (but I do like my Old Fashioneds that way, and got one of those too, a bit later on). The Sazerac was, big surprise, superb.

As soon as John knew we were mostly locals he dispensed with the very idea of something as gauche as a menu. "What'chall wanna eat tonight?" "What's good?" we asked. He went through a long list of available items, but immediately pushed us toward appetizers, which was fine with us. I knew what I wanted, but he pushed hard for an appetizer smpler plate for us all to share. I resisted a little bit, being a little greedy because I wanted my own serving of what I was looking forward to, dammit, but he wore us down, and to be honest it all sounded pretty damned good.

It was.

So good I could have eaten it all myself.  Almost.

What I wanted was Crabmeat Maison, Galatoire's version of crabmeat ravigote: jumbo lump crabmeat in a lightly seasoned mayonnaise-based dressing with a touch of Creole mustard, capers, green onions and parsley. It's heavenly, with very little to interfere in showcasing the flavor of that crabmeat, one of my favorite things in the whole wide world. I got it, but had to share it with everyone else. (Grump.) There was also Shrimp Maison, which was good but kind of superfluous, plus an excellent Shrimp Rémoulade, which I only faulted because there wasn't enough of it (it's one of the better rémoulades in New Orleans). Finally, there was the one thing that pushed me over to agreeing to get this sampler platter: Oysters en Brochette. Fried oysters and bacon alternating on a skewer, that magical flavor combination. I couldn't resist ... and Gawd, am I glad we got that. I think maybe next time we'll just get the Crabmeat Maison and the Oysters en Brochette, and skip the rest.

John's as wacky as ever, too. At one point he came to the table and said, "I'm gonna ask de lady to pick a number between one and ten." "Seven," Louise replied immediately; she always answers with seven when asked to pick a number between one and ten. "That number," John continued, "will determine how dirty my joke is gonna be ... y'all can stop me if y'all want." Oh no, we weren't about to stop him. Unfortunately, I can't remember the joke (d'oh!), but it was a Boudreaux, Thibodeaux and Clothilde joke, and while it was a tad risqué it wasn't the least bit dirty (although some Catholic mammas and grammaws might've blushed), but it was funny.

Fantastic fish, and mooooore craaaabmeeeeeeat ...

Back to the food ... when John got to this particular entré in his descriptions of the entrées, my eyes lit up. Galatoire's doesn't always have this on the menu, but when they do, it's always fantastic. Grilled Pompano, either with crabmeat or a little meunière sauce ... or both. It's a simple preparation of an amazingly delicious fish, just filleted and grilled, skin on and on the bone for maximum flavor. Even though less is often more, when the offer comes to top something with crabmeat, I can't really resist. There was a little bit of meunière, and I had the crabmeat as more of an accompaniment, and it was gorgeous, gorgeous. Almost all of us ended up getting this.

One thing I wanted to make sure to get was a specialty of the old-line Creole restaurants, Souffléed Potatoes. They're crisp little pillows of potato, twice-fried, the second time in much hotter oil such that it immediately puffs up with air. They're served with a spicy Béarnaise sauce, and are basically God's French Fries. (I know I said that about the fried yuca at Las Cazuelas, but this is the real deal.) They do these at Antoine's and Arnaud's, and although I haven't tried them at the latter I can tell you that they're way, way better at Galatoire's than I've ever had them at Antoine's.

Digging in.
Dip dip dip dip dip dip dip dip ...

Hoo-boy. That's good stuff. Deep-fried, crispy potatoes being dipped into a sauce made from egg yolks and clarified butter. (I'll get my arteries scraped out later.)

There's only one way to finish a meal at Galatoire's (dessert aside, of course), and that's with a cup or three of Café Brûlot. Strong, dark roast black New Orleans coffee and chicory is fortified with brandy and triple sec and set alight, and spiced with orange peel, cinnamon and cloves. It's fabulous, and it will kick your ass. In the old days the long, single-piece orange peel was studded with cloves, and the waiter would pour the flaming liquors down the spiral peel back into the bowl, but apparently that's a bit of a fire hazard these days; that said, he'll still pour a flaming stream of booze from a few feet above the bowl, and drizzle a big flaming cursive letter "G" on your tablecloth (as if that's not a fire hazard). Here's John, in the middle of preparing our Brúlot:

John, pouring flaming liquor on our tablecloth.

Dessert, of course. You can't have a meal this decadent and traditional without a traditional dessert, and one of my all-time favorite comfort desserts was one of the ones he rattled off:

Just a piece of pecan pie, and you that's all I want ...

Pecan pie, actually a reasonably-sized serving, thick and rich and with whole, crunchy pecans, topped with a thick, even richer dark chocolate sauce ... oh my. Heaven.

As much as we might make fun of some of the old-line customers' attitudes toward the place, I'm really glad that a place like Galatoire's still exists, and in fact thrives. It's loud and boisterous, it's never anything less than a lot of fun, the food is, while rarely if ever innovative, always great. It's an institution that hasn't become a sadly pale shadow of its former self, as some institutions have. I'll probably be back next time I'm home, and I'll have a whole feckin' order of Crabmeat Maison to myself, thankyouverynice.

A week and a day after our dinner there, Galatoire's was named Outstanding Restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation. As much as I like the place, and as much as I liked my meal, I must confess I was very surprised. It seems to be a bit of a departure for the Beard Foundation to pick an old-line place like this in favor of the young turks who are constantly innovating. Then you look at the criteria for the award, and it seems to make sense: "The restaurant in the U.S. that serves as a national standard bearer of consistency of quality and excellence in food, atmosphere and service. Restaurant must have been in operation for the past ten years." (Try ten times ten, in this case.) It's great to have a nod to the oldtimers, the places that might not have changed or innovated much in the last several decades but have been turning out terrific meals for the last hundred years. There's a lot to be said for that.

Personal ads.   This post is by Mary, who's guest-blogging today. Here she is:

So the London Review of Books is notorious for its personal ads, which often go something like this: "Don't reply to this ad -- I'll only end up confessing that the thing about having a second book deal was a lie and there is no author tour in the pipeline. Man, 39, just secured second book deal and about to embark on author tour."

You get the idea.

Here's my latest favorite, trimmed because I don't have time for that much transcription:

Warm three tablespoons of olive oil in large pot. Stir in onion and garlic. When onion is softened add peeled tomatoes and their juice. Break up tomatoes as the sauce cooks. While sauce is cooking, mix beef, pork, fennel, salt and pepper together and form into meatballs a little larger than golf balls. When sauce boils, add meatballs. Let sit before stirring to harden meatballs. Bring to a hard boil, then lower flame and cook, partially covered, for 1 hour, stirring deep in pot from time to time. When finished, remove meatballs and chop into small pieces.

Cook lasagne noodles in boiling water. When not quite al dente, stop cooking, drain and lay on a damp towel in preparation for assembling. Preheat oven to 350°F. Using a baking dish about two inches deep, coat bottom of dish sparingly with tomato sauce. Line with layer of lasagne. Dot with ricotta, slices of mozzarella. Sprinkle lightly with grated cheese, spread with sauce, then add chopped meatball. Repeat layers in same order ending the top layer with pasta. Spread this last layer with tomato sauce and grated cheese. Cover pan with foil and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil and cook for additional 30 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

All that, plus I'm great in bed. Woman, 37, Islington. What are you bringing to the negotiating table?

Seriously. I'd call her.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, June 4, 2005

Have a question for the Smirking Shrub?   Ask him yourself, with the Bush Press Conference Response Generator!

Let's give it a try ...

Q: Mr. President, what do you have to say about the so-called "Downing Street Memo", which seems to describe how our government did not believe Iraq was a greater threat than other nations; how intelligence was "fixed" to sell the case for war to the American public; and how your Administration's public assurances of "war as a last resort" were at odds with your privately stated intentions of overthrowing Saddam whatever the cost?

A: (looks around room) It's a dangerous -- it was a dangerous network that we unraveled.

I did contemplate a larger strategy as to how to deal with al Qaeda. Um.

I plan on telling the American people that I've got a plan to win the war on terror.

Let's see here, hold on. You're next.

My God. It's uncannily good.

Rose colored glasses. reports on how G.W. 43's rosy view of the economy doesn't mesh with its public perception:

Ellen Westbrook, an employment counselor in Asheville, North Carolina, says she just rolls her eyes when she hears about how the U.S. economy is strong and getting stronger.

"I've seen 300 manufacturing jobs disappear down here in the last three weeks," she says. "How can I think the economy is good when I am watching high-paying jobs disappear overseas?"

[...] An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted May 12-16 illustrates the gap between Bush and the public: 42 percent of those surveyed said the economy has worsened in the past year, the highest-such reading in two years. For the first time in Bush's presidency, a majority says the economy will be in worse shape a year from now, according to the poll. More than 60 percent say Bush hasn't paid enough attention to record gasoline prices, jobs and health care.

"You can't tell the American people, 'Happy days are here again,' if they're angry about gas prices and afraid for their jobs," says Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who helped devise and sell the "Contract With America" that helped his party take control of Congress in 1994. "They won't believe it."

[...] Democrats say that public anxieties about America's economic course, if they persist, will provide political opportunities in the 2006 elections, in which every House seat and 34 of 100 in the Senate are up for a vote. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers.

"There is a real disconnect between what people see when they turn on their TV and see what Congress is doing, and the problems they are facing at home," says Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, referring to recent congressional sparring over Bush judicial nominations, gay marriage and the case of brain-damaged Florida woman Terri Schiavo.

All things that the people didn't elect Congress to do, which is one of the reasons why their approval rating is about 34% right now.

Hypocrisy, part umpteen.   While Shrub flouts his "culture of life", stating that destroying a life, even a small cluster of human cells, isn't worth saving an established human life, Slate examines those statements up against his claims that executions save lives. Seems that his verve for preserving life never extended to the days when he gleefully signed death warrants, and still hawks the death penalty.

For example:

"Yet the ethics of medicine are not infinitely adaptable. There is at least one bright line: We do not end some lives for the medical benefit of others."

-- George W. Bush, New York Times, August 12, 2001

"During the course of the campaign in 1994 I was asked, 'Do you support the death penalty?' I said I did, if administered fairly and justly. Because I believe it saves lives."

-- Bush, October 17, 2000

Digby put it very well when he said:

[Bush said,] "I made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money to promote science which destroys life in order to save life is -- I'm against that. And therefore, if the bill does that, I will veto it."

Just in case you are confused, using taxpayers' money to destroy this life in order to save lives is evil, but using taxpayers' money to destroy this life in order to save lives is good.

Yep, that's what he thinks. (Follow those links in Digby's quote.)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, June 3, 2005

The Cocktailian.   In this fortnight's edition of Gary Regan's column, The Professor, our cocktailian bartender, finds that "a Negroni waxes lyrical with Liqueur de Poete."

Mmmmmm, doughnuts ...   Believe it or not, today is National Doughnut Day, and in celebration of this truly monumental national holiday, Krispy Kreme stores will be giving every customer a free doughnut of their choice.

Yay! Free doughnuts! This can't be anything but good! Well, except for the 5-10 Weight Watchers points apiece, depending on which doughnut you get, and I'm only really allowed 22 points per day. Aah, feckin' killjoy ...

Eric Z. adds, "I hope everyone has tried the donuts at Bob's Coffee and Donuts at the Farmer's Market [at 3rd and Fairfax]. They are the best."

What New Orleans restaurant are you?   I've always resisted those dopey, dopey quizzes that so many people inexplicably post in their weblogs or journals. What TV show character are you? Which vegetable are you? What shape of animal excrement are you? Sheesh.

Poppy, who declared such quizzes to be "dumbass" and among the worst journaling habits, succumbed and created the What Famous New Orleans Restaurant Are You? quiz. I couldn't resist, and took it. Although she declared it to be "10,000 times more trouble than it was worth," I must confess I got a laugh or three out of it. It was fun taking the quiz multiple times, giving different answers to manipulate the results, which I (as could anyone familiar with the N.O. restuarant scene) was able to do with amusing success.

My initial result?

You are Commander's Palace, a grand old dame
of the Garden District. Traditional yet always
vibrant, you are never afraid of innovation but
you seldom carry it too far. Some locals claim
you have become a tourist trap, but your loyal
patrons know there is no restaurant in town
that treats its regulars with more finesse.

I was able to guide the results to show Marisol, Brennan's (heh), Galatoire's and Antoine's, but I suspect there are more results lurking in there somewhere.

Not from a can!   One of the reasons New Orleans foodies can manipulate the above quiz so easily is that we tend to immediately recognize the dishes, or at least type of dish, that's connected to certain restaurants. For instance, I knew exactly where she was talking about with the "Crispy calves' brains with Madeira sauce and coarse mustard"; it helped that I posted a menu from that restaurant that featured that dish, but it still sounded like the kind of thing you'd get there and almost nowhere else. If I were to have brains anywhere, it'd be from that chef.

I'm still a little wary of brains, though. As I mentioned before, the texture's a bit off-putting for me, even though the method by which we prepared them back in class was pretty good -- poaching the whole brain in a well-seasoned classical courtbouillion, then slicing them crossways, breading them in seasoned bread crumbs and pan-frying the slices. I forget what sauce we made.

As I also mentioned before, if Chef Pete puts that dish in front of me, I'll eat it. (I'll just try to resist the puerile impulse to shriek, "Braaaaaaaaaaainssssss!!", although I probably would murmur, "Send more cops.") If I can get past the texture, I might also take a second thought to the fact that one average-sized serving of brains contains 1,200% of the amount of cholesterol one is supposed to take into one's body in a single day, not a mere 1,000% as I erroneously stated in the earlier post). However, the Banana Cream Pie that Emeril Lagasse's pastry chef Mr. Lou makes contains 85g of fat and 1,600 calories in a single serving -- that's 39 Weight Watchas pernts, y'all -- and I didn't let that stop me. Sweetbreads are pretty high in cholesterol, although not as high as brains, and I love those. Mmmmmm, thymus glands ...

Culinary adventure, that's what it's all about. I eagerly await my first meal at Marisol in August and push the envelope of my adventures as far as I can. That said, you'd have to be nuts to eat brains out of a can.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, June 2, 2005

Edwards: Federal minimum wage "a national disgrace".   Josh Marshall's new collaborative weblog, TPM Cafe, is up and running, and excellent. This week's guest author is none other than the man who should be vice-president, John Edwards, whose most recent article deals with the abysmally low federal minimum wage, and why those on the right who claim a raise would be bad for the economy are just wrong:

A full-time minimum wage worker earns under $11,000 a year - about $5000 less than the poverty line for a family of three. The current minimum wage is just 33% of the average wage of American workers today - the worst ratio since 1949. (Just compare that to the way CEO pay has gone through the roof in the same timeframe.) It's a national disgrace, and the article talks about how states are taking matters into their own hands, and passing increases on their own. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now have minimum wages that are higher than the federal rate.


Lost whispers.   Ova by our house we're huge fans of "Lost", easily the best show on network TV (after "The West Wing"). In digging around after the season finale, I've found a site where some intrepid viewers have transcribed the whispers Sayid and Sawyer heard in the jungle. There's also a website for Oceanic Airlines, whose ill-fated Flight 815 ended up breaking up in mid-air and crashing onto that "lost" island. Dig around, it's interesting.

Jazzfest, Day 2 (Sunday the 24th).   It's actually Day 3 of Fest, but our second day there, and here I am not getting around to writing about it until seven weeks later. I am a lazy bastard, ain't I?

Okay, let's get right down to the food:

Battered and deep-fried softshell crawfish with fried jalapeno slices, dressed, on French

The softshell crawfish poor boy, with battered and deep-fried softshell crawfish (along the lines of softshell crab, you just eat the whole thing), dressed wit' lettuce, tomato, mynez and lil' battered-and-deep-fried jalapeño slices. I add some Crystal to that. Oh Gawd ... this is fantastic. It may even have surpassed the softshell crab poor boys at the Fest for sheer pleasure (the crabs weren't too good last time, and I'm a little reluctant to go back). I'd love to make these for myself, but the only mail-order source I've found charges over two bucks apiece for them. Jeezus.

The stuffed shrimp were pretty good too, a fairly standard yet tasty dish consisting of a crabmeat dressing (sort of like what you'd find in a crab cake) wrapped around a peeled, butterfiled shrimp, coated with bread crumbs and ... wait for it ... of course, deep-fried. The other night we went to a cheesy but fun tiki restaurant in Rosemead called Bahooka, which Wes had remembered from his childhood. Very kitschy and fun atmosphere, mediocre tropical drinks, huge quantities of ribs (which were pretty good), and their own version of stuffed shrimp, which looked almost exactly like the ones at Jazzfest. Same idea, too -- crabmeat dressing around shrimp, breaded, fried. The main difference was that the ones at Fest were divine, beautifully seasoned, and the ones at Bahooka were vile.

Me 'n Melis

That's me 'n my sister Melissa, happy in the beautiful weather, bellies full of tasty food, with myself shamelessly hawking my web wares from The Swag Shop.

It's not all about the food, of course; there's music to be heard! (For some, that's actually the whole point.) We began with one of my favorite local jazz bands, The Hot Club of New Orleans.

Matt Chris
Dave Todd

Next, one of my favorite New Orleans artists, Leigh "Little Queenie" Harris. With here was an amazing band, featuring the trombones from Bonerama, Rebecca Barry on saxophones, Josh Paxton on piano and organ, and I forget who else. Leigh's wonderful, and I ended up putting her on the box set twice, once as Lil' Queenie and the Percoaltors, and one recent solo outing. She can do it all: jazz, blues, R&B, torch songs, rock 'n roll, you name it.

Da band. Rebecca Barry
Joshua Paxton Leigh
Love dem boots, dawlin'!

Next came a sojourn in the Gospel Tent, where everything's pretty much great all the time, no matter when you go, plus it's shady and cool(er), you get to sit down, raise a joyful noise and watch the Wing of Life as well. The group performing here is one of our favorites, and has the oddest name for a gospel group I've ever heard. The Johnson Extension, I'm afraid, sounds less like someone you'd see in church and more like someone you'd see advertising in the back of certain magazines.

The Johnson Extension Wing of Life

Wing of Life, a.k.a. "Wing" for short, is as I understand an organic farmer in Marin County who comes to Jazzfest every year and spends 100% of his time in the Gospel Tent. He has a penchant for odd, frequently scant but celebratory clothing, and dances around the tent the entire time he's there, pausing only to greet people, pose for pictures and take a quick breather. That's one passionate Festgoer.

We wanted to see Dr. John too, but as he was at the big Acura Stage and we didn't get there early to camp out, you can see how far back we were. See that tiny little pointed object between those two banners, about a third of the way from the left of the first picture below? That's the stage. We could hear pretty well, but we really only got to see by looking at the big video screen through the telephoto lens.

We were way, way, way, way, way, way, way in the back. The Day Tripper, as is the case today.

We finished up with BeauSoleil (I'm still not sure at what point the "S" got capitalized), a band I've seen countless times in the last 20 years, and one of the greatest Cajun bands ever. They're not purely traditional (to the consternation of some traditionalists), but their feet are always firmly planted in the tradition as they blend Cajun music with zydeco, jazz, blues and Caribbean sounds, resurrecting nearly-lost old songs and contributing newly composed songs to the Cajun repertoire. We got an additional treat (and a look at their jazz influences) when they were joined onstage by banjoist Don Vappie of the Creole Jazz Serenaders. A great, great set.

Billy Ware and Mike Doucet with Don Vappie Jimmy Breaux and David Doucet

We probably couldn't have asked for a more perfect day at Jazzfest, and we still had a fair bit of time to head over to the Marigny to scrape off the Fair Grounds crud, shower, change and head out with friends to a classic New Orleans restaurant that would one week hence be named, to our surprise, America's outstanding restaurant by the James Beard Foundation.

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