the gumbo pages

looka, <lʊ´-kə> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look"; in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans, it is 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, cocktails as cuisine, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community ... and occasionally 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 @ 11:45pm PDT, 1/31/2008

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Buy my New Orleans music box set!

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 (such as the Louisiana Music Factory, because you should be supporting local New Orleans retailers) or via Amazon if you insist.

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

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!

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

January 2008

2007:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2006:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2005:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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.

My Photos on Flickr
My Darlin' New Orleans...

The Flag of The City 
of New Orleans

Shop New Orleans! Visit the stores linked here to do your virtual online shopping in New Orleans. The city needs your money!

Greater N.O. Community Data Center
New Orleans Wiki

Gambit Weekly & The Times-Picayune
Scat Magazine
WDSU-TV (Channel 6, NBC)
WGNO-TV (Channel 26, ABC)
WNOL-TV (Channel 38, WB)
WTUL-FM (91.5, Progressive radio)
WVUE-TV (Channel 8, FOX)
WWL-TV (Channel 4, CBS)
WWNO-FM (89.9, classical, jazz, NPR)
WWOZ-FM (90.7, Best Radio Station in the Universe)
WYES-TV (Channel 12, PBS)


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

2 Millionth Weblog
A Frolic of My Own
Ashley Morris
Blogging New Orleans
Dispatches from Tanganyika
Home of the Groove
Humid City
Library Chronicles
Mellytawn Dreams
Metroblogging N.O.
People Get Ready
Da Po'Blog
Suspect Device Blog
The Third Battle of New Orleans
World Class New Orleans
The Yat Pundit
Your Right Hand Thief
Cocktail hour.

"We are still heartily of the opinion that decent libation supports as many million lives as it threatens; donates pleasure and sparkle to more lives than it shadows; inspires more brilliance in the world of art, music, letters, and common ordinary intelligent conversation, than it dims." -- Charles H. Baker, Jr.

   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 in Jan. 2005.
   Celebrating a true American cultural
   icon: the American Cocktail.
   (Their weblog.)

*     *     *

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 Book Collection
   (Constantly growing)

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

*     *     *

Peychaud's Bitters
   (Indispensible for Sazeracs
   and many other cocktails.
   Order them here.)

Angostura Bitters
   (The gold standard of bitters,
   fortunately available everywhere
   worldwide. Insist on it.)

Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6
   (Complex and spicy orange
   bitters for your Martinis,
   Old Fashioneds and many more.
   Order them here.)

Fee Brothers' Bitters
   (Classic orange bitters,
   peach bitters and a cinnamony
   "Old Fashion" aromatic bitters,
   plus new lemon & grapefruit bitters!)

The Bitter Truth
   (A new brand of bitters
   from Germany: orange, lemon,
   aromatic bitters and more!)

*     *     *

   (The study of booze with Camper English)

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

The Art of Drink:
   An exploration of Spirits & Mixology.
   (Darcy O'Neil)

Bar Mix Master
   (Brad Ellis, New Orleans)

Beachbum Berry:
   (Jeff Berry, world-class expert
   on tropical drinks)

The Cocktail Chronicles
   (Paul Clarke's weblog)

Cocktail Nerd
   (Gabriel Szaszko)

A Dash of Bitters
   (Michael Dietsch)
   (Lauren Clark)

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

DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog

Drink Trader
   (Online magazine for the
   drink trade)

Esquire's Drinks Database
   (Dave Wondrich and
   his forbears)

Happy Hours
   (Beverage industry
   news & insider info)

Imbibe Magazine
   (Celebrating the world in a glass)

Jeff Morgenthaler
   (Bartender/mixologist, Eugene OR)

Jimmy's Cocktail Hour
   (Jimmy Patrick)

Kaiser Penguin
    (Rick Stutz, bringing us cocktails
    and great photographs)

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 Ministry of Rum
   (Everything you always wanted to know)

The Modern Mixologist
   (Tony Abou-Ganim)

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

Mr. Mixer
   (Hundreds of cocktail recipes ...
   in Hungarian. Well, why not?
   Sajnos, nem beszélek magyarul.)

Nat Decants
   (Natalie MacLean)

Off the Presses
   (Robert Simonson)

Oh, Gosh!
   (Jay Hepburn)

Spirit Journal
   (F. Paul Pacult)

Spirits and Cocktails
   (Jamie Boudreau)

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

The Thirstin' Howl
   (John Myers)

Trader Tiki's Booze Blog
   (Blair Reynolds)

Vintage Cocktails
   (Daniel Reichert)

The Wormwood Society
   (Dedicated to promoting accurate,
   current information about absinthe)

Let's eat!

New Orleans:
Culinary Concierge (N.O. food & wine magazine)
Mr. Lake's Non-Pompous New Orleans Food Forum
The New Orleans Menu
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie

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

More food!
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
Chowhound (L.A.)
Food Network
The Global Gourmet
The Hungry Passport site and weblog)
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
Southern Food & Beverages Museum
Southern Foodways Alliance
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
Zagat Guide

In vino veritas.

The Oxford Companion to Wine
Wine Enthsiast
The Wine Spectator
Wine Today
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers

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

Other wine/spirits shops we visit:
Beverage Warehouse, Mar Vista
Wally's Wine & Spirits, Westwood
The Wine House, West L.A.

Reading this month:

In the Land of Cocktails: Recipes and Adventures from the Cocktail Chicks, by Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan.

How's Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture and the Art of Drinking Well, by Eric Felten.

Jude: Level 1, by Julian Gough.

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
Toasted Heretic
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

Talking furniture:

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream

KCSN (Los Angeles)
   Broadcast schedule
   Stream the last "Down Home"
   for 1 week after broadcastk

   Live MP3 audio stream

Bob Walker's New Orleans Radio Shrine
   (A rich history of N.O. radio)
   (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)
Raidió Idirlíon
   (Irish language & music)
Raidió na Gaeltachta
   (Irish language)
RootsWorld's Rootsradio
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
   (Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

In the cinema:
Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (****-1/2)

Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist (***)

Lookin' at da TV:

"Battlestar Galactica"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
"The Simpsons"
"Top Chef"
"Father Ted"


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, 6, 7.)

My photographs at Flickr


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

Suspect Device,
by Greg Peters

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak


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)
Think Progress
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
Franklin Avenue
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
Jesus' General
Making Light
Neil Gaiman's Journal
Not Right About Anything
August J. Pollak
Sadly, No!
This Modern World
Your Right Hand Thief

L.A. Blogs

Friends with pages:

mary katherine
michael p.

The Final Frontier:

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


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site


"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

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.)

LOOKA! Bia agus deoch, ceol agus craic.

 "Eating, drinking and carrying on..."  -- Adelaide Brennan

  Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   Doing a bit of catch-up ... we've been having lots of traditional "comfort cocktails" recently, especially Manhattans, especially when Wes makes them, as his Manhattan-making skills are vast and sublime. We've still been trying "new" ones (even though they may be decades or even a century old) though, and here's one that came to us from Dave Wondrich's stupendous book Imbibe!.

I'd seen this one around before, but the version he includes is the best I've ever seen, and the one that inspired me to try it, and fall in love with it. The original proportion on the brandy and vermouth was equal parts, but I prefer Paul E. Lowe's "fine suggestion" of changing it to 2 parts brandy to 1 part vermouth, as specified in his 1904 tome Drinks as They Are Mixed.

Metropole Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces Cognac.
3/4 ounce dry vermouth.
1/2 teaspoon gum syrup or simple syrup.
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters.
1 dash orange bitters (I used Regans'.)

Combine with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker, stir for at least 30 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry -- a good brandied one, or Luxardo cherry in syrup, not those neon red abominations from the supermarket, please.

This was the house cocktail at the Metropole Hotel, opened in New York a couple of years before the turn of the 19th Century to the 20th. The owners had previously owned another hotel called the Metropolitan, which had its own cocktail as well (for that one, "replace both bitters with 3 dashes of Angostura, cut the Cognac in half and add a barspoon of gum"). The Metropole Cocktail is to the Metropolitan, according to Dave, "as the one hotel was to the other: more or less the same ingredients, but stronger, spicier and definitely flashier, yet not without style."

This one goes in the regular rotation. I've really been enjoying brandy-based cocktails this week, and I'll feature another one tomorrow.

New Cajun/zydeco Grammy category debuts this year.   The end result of Cynthia and Terrance Simien's years-long quest to give Cajun and zydeco musicians a chance to compete for Grammies on their own, instead of being beaten in the folk category by people like Shawn Colvin and Bruce Springsteen, sounded like a great idea on paper. Now that it's finally coming to pass this year there are, of course, attendant controversies. My friend Steve Hochman delves into this in great detail in an excellent article in this month's OffBeat, the roots music magazine from New Orleans. Some wonder if Cajun and zydeco should even be in the same category; although they're both from Louisiana they're quite different -- "[t]o some extent it's as if they put Diana Ross and Iggy Pop competing in a 'Detroit' category." Others wonder about the nomination of a non-Louisianian musician whose music is only marginally Cajun or zydeco, and whose inclusion, some say, is only because she lives and performs in Los Angeles and is therefore more visible to a large percentage of nominators.

Should be interesting to see how it shakes out. I think the Grammies are mostly crap, and they've demonstrated this on a number of occasions throughout the years, but that said I'm rooting for the Pine Leaf Boys.

Edible food-like substances.   Food writer Michael Pollan has a new one out that I've been eager to get (and place upon the Everest-sized pile of to-be-read books ... I swear, I need a Sherpa to navigate to the top of that damned thing), called In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. He was a guest on Evan Kleiman's "Good Food" radio show last week, and listening to him made me want to pick up the book even more.

First off, here's his manifesto. It's only seven words.

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Inclusive of the fact that bacon is a vegetable, we'll move on. (And we all know that a little bacon goes a long way, so I think it fits into the spirit if not the letter of his manifesto.)

By "food" he means "real food," which he differentiates from something he calls "edible food-like substances." Whether something is one or the other is determined by these two criteria:

1. Would my great-grandmother recognize it? The example he gives on the radio show is yogurt. There's actual yogurt, made of milk with certain beneficial bacterial cultures, and then there's Go-GURT® Portable Yogurt Tubes, some of which is actually artifically flavored to taste like cotton candy. You see where he's going with this. My great-grandmothers, Irish and Ninth Ward respectively, would certainly recognize a cup of fresh yogurt, but wouldn't go anywhere near a Go-GURT tube.

2. Read the ingredients. Do you recognize any of them? Can you pronounce them? Do you have any idea what they are or what they're there for? The prime example of this is that appalling "vegan shrimp" I wrote about a couple of months ago. Its three main ingredients -- water, curdlan gum and refined konjac powder -- place it squarely in the category of (barely) edible food-like substances, and I'm not sure it even reaches the bar of "edible." Whole Foods, if they're to be true to their name, should be ashamed of themselves for selling crap like this.

"Mostly plants" doesn't mean "be a vegetarian," of course. "Mostly" could mean 60% (I haven't read the book yet, so I don't know what he means by "mostly"), but it's sensible advice. Except for special occasions, I generally don't eat more than 4 ounces of meat per serving when I'm cooking at home, and I'm entirely satisfied. I cook with fresh, unprocessed ingredients for the most part, my reserve of cans being almost entirely tomato products, beans and the occasional canned soup. It's easy to do. And it's very easy to avoid "edible food-like substances." Just saw "eww" and don't buy them.

Edible food-like substances, part deux.   Here's another example of this. Just when you thought you were grossed out enough by pasteurized process cheese-like food-like subtance that sprays out of a pressurized can ... there are pancakes that spray out of a pressurized can the same way.

Spray-can pancakes.  Ewww.

You simply must watch the demo video. It's revolting.

It's also criminally easy to make pancakes from scratch. It takes maybe three minutes, five tops. Measure and sift 2 cups of flour, add 3 teaspoons of baking powder, a teaspoon of salt and a couple tablespoons of sugar, an egg and a cup and a half of milk. Mix with a mixer or whisk and ladle onto your griddle. Embellish as you like. It's fresh and simple. Jeez.

Edible food-like substances, part tree.   It gets worse. A German manufacturer of food products for hikers and wilderness exploration types has come out with ... a cheeseburger in a can. Yours for only €3.95!

Instructions for preparation: "[S]imply throw the can into a water container over a fire, give it a minute or two, fish it out, open the lid, and eat. With a shelf life of twelve months without requiring refrigeration, the lightweight snack is the ideal fast food treat for the wilderness."

in a can. Ewww. Ewwww.

I'll bet it doesn't look like this when it comes out of the can.

But hey, they'll be worth their weight in gold after the nucular acropolis!

Ardent Spirits.   We need some serious drinking after that assault by (semi- to non-)edible food-like substances. Fortunately Gary and Mardee have a new newsletter out, featuring a taste of a Wild Hibiscus Champagane Cocktail, a scrumptious-looking new one from Jamie Boudreau, plus the requisite fun and silliness we've come to expect from every AS newsletter. Dig in.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   Not rare, not lost or forgotten, not new and exotic ... classic, so much so that it's one you might have overlooked lately, might not have had in a while, and it's time to have one again. Keep it fresh in your mind.

The original recipe for this drink (a classic "New Orleans sour," a direct descendant of the Crusta and sibling of the Margarita) was equal parts of all ingredients, but it works much better if you balance it this way -- this is how our cocktailian bartender friends do it, as does Gary Regan in The Joy of Mixology. If you want it slightly stronger on the Cognac side, 2:1:1/2 is also a good proportion, but I like 'em better this way:

The Sidecar

1-1/2 ounces Cognac.
1 ounce Cointreau.
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Combine with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a curly lemon twist.

I'm not a fan of the sugared rim, but you are of course welcome to do that.

I hadn't had one of these since the Hennessy event a few months ago, and I'd like to have them more often. Thanks as always to my friend René Engel, who bought me one many years ago and turned me on to them. Oh, one more thing ... do not allow anyone to make you a Sidecar with bottled sour mix -- fresh lemon juice ONLY. I've had to fend off any number of attempts in bars, so first I ask if they have fresh lemon juice before I even order one.

Screw Willy Wonka ...   I want a Godiva Golden Ticket!

An all-chocolate room was unveiled in Manhattan on Tuesday . a pre-Valentine's Day creation complete with furniture and artwork made of the sweet stuff.

... [T]he Belgian chocolatier [built it for their] annual Valentine's Day promotion contest. This year, anyone who buys the winning box of chocolates . for $23 and up . may win the chocolate room. It is to be re-created in a suite of Manhattan's Bryant Park Hotel for a pampered getaway weekend for two in May.

The winning box - sold only in North America - will contain a note informing the buyer of his or her good luck.

Hanging in the "living room" was a painting built entirely of multicolored chocolate pieces inspired by Gustav Klimt's painting "The Kiss." Above the dining table was a "canvas" dripping with brown and white chocolate . a takeoff on Jackson Pollock's signature "drip" paintings.

And instead of words, books opened to a mound of chocolates.

But it's lame if you can't lick the walls.

Quote of the day.   When I heard the following line during the State of Screwing the Union Address, I scoffed aloud. So did a writer on Corrente, heading the post "Now that's what I call hypocrisy."

Bush actually said this in his State of the Union address:

We will insure that decisions about your medical care are made in the privacy of your doctor.s office, not in the halls of Congress.

I'll respond with four words: Terri Schiavo, Jane Roe.

(Thanks, Mary!)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why I like the new iPhone 1.1.3 software update.   'Cause I can customize it by putting the really important things right on the home screen.

I like the new iPhone software update

I want ham!!!   Not just any ham -- I want Iberico ham, which is only just now arriving on the shores of this country. I had read about it last year in Peter Kaminsky's wonderful book Pork Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine and Some Great Ways to Cook Them and wanted some ever since. Why? Well, because it's the best ham in the world, bar none, according to everyone who's had it. Why? It's all about the pig, where they live and what they eat.

The animals are built like barrels on slim legs. They have big ears, which stick out like the bill on a baseball cap to shade their eyes from fierce sun, and long snouts, the better for rooting. Iberico pigs are the same color as the stones that are stacked into low walls to divide up the landscape. Many -- but not all -- have black hoofs, thus the popular name, pata negra.

The breed plus its natural habitat, the dehesa, account for the extraordinary quality of the cured ham. The dehesa is a unique ecosystem of rolling meadowland of grass and scrub, interspersed with stands of wild holm and cork oaks, that exists only in the western reaches of Spain. The Iberico breed developed in this habitat, adapting to dry summers of little forage by storing fat infiltrated in the flesh during the acorn season. The people of the dehesa developed a sustainable rural culture based around the pig.

Toward the end of February, clouds scud across the sky and a squall blows in, showering the pigs with snow. They keep on grubbing. This is nearly the end of the montanera fattening period that takes place during the acorn season (October to February). During the montanera the pigs range freely through the dehesa, feeding on fallen acorns, grass, roots, bulbs, herbs. One hog eats about 18 pounds of acorns per day, increasing its weight by almost 50 percent in the final montanera before slaughter. The number of pigs raised is limited by the available food. [...]

At the end of the montanera, the hogs reach an optimum weight of 350 to 400 pounds at 12 to 18 months of age. Ham producers ... are likely to tell you that about 90 percent of what makes superior ham has already been accomplished before the pig is even slaughtered.

The ham is aged for at least 12 months, and is not smoked, soaked or cooked. And what's it like?

Iberico ham

Cardeno selected a ham from the cellar and carried it to the tasting room. He clamped the ham onto a special stand, which supports it for slicing. First he removed thick slabs of outer fat, reserving them to later cover the cut surface to prevent them from drying. Then, using a long, thin slicing knife he cut paper-thin pieces, all with a rim of the unctuous fat, and placed them, overlapping slightly, on a serving plate. The ham was deep rose in color, marbled with streaks of pale fat.

We tasted, first allowing the ham to warm on the tongue, releasing its unique aroma and flavor. It filled the mouth and nose, sweet and subtly nutty, succulent and not in the least salty. Unbelievably delicious.

Acorn-fattened Iberico pig, said Miguel Ullibarri, former director of the Real Iberico consortium, is like an olive tree on four legs. The fat consists of 55 percent oleic acid, the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, and is 70 percent unsaturated fat.

"Hold a piece of Iberico ham fat in your warm palm and it begins to melt. Try that with bacon fat and you'll see the difference. Bacon stays solid," Ullibarri said.

When we go to Spain I'm going to eat this stuff breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Regional pizza styles.   Here's a list. Which is your favorite?

I lean toward New York style, although not the soggy-in-the-middle by-the-slice method that only works if you buy a slice and have it reheated a second time -- that's good, but I like whole pies that have integrity of crispness all the way through. In our neighborhood we're fond of Casa Bianca Pizza Pie (Italian sausage, garlic and spicy green olive), but only for takeout, as we don't like waiting an hour or more or a table. They don't claim to be New York style, and it's been pointed out that they're more like Chicago thin-crust style (I really don't like Chicago style deep dish.) Folliero's in Highland Park is also pretty good.

Oddly enough, until Casa Bianca I used to say that the best pizza I'd ever had was a Sicilian style at a little mom-and-pop pizzeria in Carbondale, Illinois, whose name is lost to the dusty cobwebs of what's left of my memory. Simple, just Italian sausage and mushrooms, but absolutely out of this world. Little short round bald mustachioed accented Italian guy served it to us, and it was perfect. This was in 1980, so who knows if he's still there.

The Cocktail Spirit, with Robert Hess.   You gotta love a cocktail that not only tastes great but also inspires passionate ... er, discussion (although preferably not involving rocks and sharp sticks) as to its proper preparation and the origin of its base spirit. Me, I go for the Peruvian stuff as it's arguably the first to come along, and so I don't get the stink-eye from my Peruvian friends.

The Pisco Sour

A favorite from Peru is becoming an international favorite as well. This luscious drink is easy to make and provides a great introduction to Pisco, a type of brandy made in South America.

I'm insanely jealous that Robert has Amargo Chuncho, the local Peruvian aromatic bitters. My friend's sister was supposed to bring me some from Peru when she came to visit him (I provided the product name and even a picture!) but alas, she brought something completely different (a carob-based syrup used to make another pisco-based cocktail). Oh well, at least I'm the only kid on my block with that stuff ...

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  Thursday, January 24, 2008

Jazzfest 2008 lineup is out!   And a mighty fine lineup it is!

Buckwheat Zydeco, Sheryl Crow, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Burning Spear, Ozomatli with Chali 2na, Lizz Wright, Tab Benoit, Anders Osborne, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Terence Simien & Zydeco Experience, Leo Nocentelli's "Rare Gathering" feat. Bernie Worrell, Doug Wimbish & Will Calhoun, Doyle Bramhall with C.C. Adcock & the Louisiana Marquis, Ellis Marsalis, Paul Porter of the Legendary Christianaires, Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers, Barbara Lynn, Theresa Andersson Group, Banu Gibson & New Orleans Hot Jazz, The Iguanas, The New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Twangorama, Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band, Zydepunks, Vivaz!, Shamarr Allen, Zion Trinity, Otra, Kim Carson, Moov of Martinique, Kustbandet of Sweden, Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Leah Chase, Kumbuka African Drum and Dance Collective, Rosalie "Lady Tambourine" Washington, Jesse McBride, Bonsoir Catin, J. Monque'D Blues Band, Bamboula 2000, Paky Saavedra's Bandido, Jamil Sharif's New Orleans Jazz Professors, Voices of Distinction, Pastor Sean T. Elder & the Mt. Hermon BC Mass Choir, Creole Wild West and Semolian Warriors Mardi Gras Indians, Joe Hall, Rufus "Rip" Wimberly & the Dreamers, Brice Kapel of the Togo, Amina Figarova Group of The Netherlands, Jonno & Bayou Deville, Andrew Hall's Society Brass Band, Real Untouchables Brass Band, June Gardner, Val & Love Alive Fellowship Choir with the Dimensions of Faith, Teatro Alpargata of Argentina, Family Ties and Big Nine Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Hazel & the Delta Ramblers, Smitty Dee's Brass Band, McDonogh #35 Gospel Choir, Gregg Martinez, KeepN it Real and Single Ladies Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs.

Dr. John, Billy Joel, Keyshia Cole, O.A.R., The Count Basie Orchestra feat. Patti Austin, Cowboy Mouth, Cupid, James Cotton, Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Trinitee 5:7, Wayne Toups & Zydecajun, Walter "Wolfman" Washington & the Roadmasters, Harlem Blues and Jazz Band, The Imagination Movers, Ponderosa Stomp Revue feat. Tammy Lynn, Archie Bell, Roy Head, and Dennis Binder, Big Jay McNeely, Warren Storm w/ Willie Tee & the Cypress Band, NewBirth Brass Band, Astral Project, Davell Crawford Singers, Rosie Ledet & the Zydeco Playboys, DJ Bomshell, Eddie Bo, Benjy Davis Project, Paul Sanchez & the Rolling Road Show, Tricia "Teedy" Boutté & Ytre Sul?ens Jass-Ensemble of Norway, Mahogany Brass Band, Germaine Bazzle, Bobby Lounge, Tribute to George Lewis feat. Dr. Michael White and Tommy Sancton, Tribute to Wilson "Willie Tee" and Earl Turbinton, Big Chief Peppy & the Golden Arrows, Sonny Bourg, Big Blue Marble, PJ Morton Band, Hadley Castille, Jeremy & the Zydeco Hot Boyz, Po' Henry & Tookie, Rockie Charles & the Stax of Love, Carol Fran, 101 Runners, The Original Last Straws, Tyronne Foster & the Arc Singers, Young Tuxedo Brass Band, Berklee College of Music Jazz Ensemble, Nine Times and Single Men Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, The Electrifying Crown Seekers, Golden Comanche and Chief Iron Horse & the Black Seminole Mardi Gras Indians, Xavier Jazz Ensemble, Connie Jones' Crescent City Jazz Band, Kayla Woodson with Louisiana Lightning, NORD Crescent City Lights Youth Theater, First Emmanuel BC Choir, The Worship Squad, Unstoppable Gospel Creators, NOCCA Jazz Ensemble, The RRAAMS Drum and Dance, Lady Jetsetters, Dumaine Gang and Divine Ladies Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Red White & Blue Mardi Gras Indians.

Irma Thomas, Tim McGraw, Al Green, Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, Cassandra Wilson, Delbert McClinton, Del McCoury, Pete Fountain, Byron Cage with Kim Burrell, Voices of the Wetlands Allstars, Jeremy Davenport, Gal Holiday & the Honky Tonk Revue, Hot 8 Brass Band, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & the Golden Eagles, Roy Young, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, Nicholas Payton, Davell Crawford's New Orleans R&B Orchestra, Jumpin' Johnny Sansone's Harmonica Revue, The Throw Back Jamm feat. Joe Blakk, UNLV, MC T. Tucker, Dolemite, BustDown, and Cheeky Blakk, Rob Wagner and Hamid Drake, New Orleans Klezmer Allstars, Tim Laughlin, Jo "Cool" Davis, Mamadou Diabate of Mali, Little Freddie King, Jambalaya, Leroy Jones, Willis Prudhomme & Zydeco Express, Wilberforce University Choir, Kenny Bill Stinson, Paulette Wright, Golden Star Hunters Mardi Gras Indians, Egg Yolk Jubilee, Midnite Disturbers, David Egan, Lars Edegran's New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, Furious Five, Untouchables and Big Steppers Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, UNO Jazz Ensemble, Shades of Praise, Michael Ward, Paulin Brothers Brass Band, Lionel Ferbos & the Palm Court Jazz Band, Carrollton Hunters and Flaming Arrows Mardi Gras Indians, Gregg Stafford's Jazz Hounds, Nineveh BC Choir, Jeffery Broussard & the Creole Cowboys, AsheSon, VisionQuest Chorale feat. Maurette Brown Clark, N'Fungola Sibo West African Dance Company, Percussion Inc., Patrice Fisher & Arpa feat. Angel Rios of Honduras, Craig Adams & Higher Dimensions of Praise, Olympia Aid, New Look and The First Division Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Kilts of Many Colours, Percussion Inc., Ninth Ward Navajo and Cherokee Hunters Mardi Gras Indians, Colleen Salley.

Randy Newman, Widespread Panic, Tower of Power, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers, Bettye LaVette, Gene "Duke of Earl" Chandler, Deacon John, Donald Harrison, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Ruby Wilson, Luther Kent & Trickbag, Porter, Batiste, & Stoltz, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band, Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes, The Lee Boys, Fredy Omar con su Banda, Maurice Brown, Lafayette Rhythm Devils, Kirk Joseph's Backyard Groove, Creole Zydeco Farmers, Walter Payton & Filé Gumbo, Music Makers' Relief Foundation's Blues Review featuring Boo Hanks, Macavine Hayes and Eddie Kirkland, Hot Club of New Orleans, Topsy Chapman's Tribute to Dinah Washington, John Ellis feat. Jason Marsalis, New Orleans Rhythm Conspiracy, Philip Manuel's tribute to Nat King Cole, Dukes of Dixieland, Dillard University Jazz Ensemble, Ernie Vincent & the Top Notes, Panorama Jazz Band, Mighty Chariots of Fire, Kerry Grombacher, Codac, Dizzy, Betsy McGovern & the Poor Clares, John Lee & the Heralds of Christ, Mark Braud, Joe Torregano, God's House Westbank Cathedral Choir, Billy Iuso & the Restless Natives, The Melody Clouds, TBC Brass Band, Tony Bazley, Heritage School of Music, Small Souljas Brass Band, The Golden Wings, Red Hawk and Geronimo Hunters Mardi Gras Indians, Culu Children's Traditional African Dance Company, Charles Jackson & the Jackson Travelers, Bon Temp Roulez and VIP Ladies Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Olayella Daste, David & Roselyn, Second Mt. Carmel Gospel Choir, Basin Street Sheiks.

Art Neville, Stevie Wonder, John Prine, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Richard Thompson, The John Butler Trio, John Hammond, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave., Marva Wright & the BMWs, Terence Blanchard & the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Papa Grows Funk, Sunpie's Tribute to Clifton Chenier, Zigaboo Modeliste, The Jackson Southernaires, The Lee Boys, Bonerama, The Bad Plus, John Boutté, Soul Rebels, Ingrid Lucia, Coco Robicheaux & Spiritland, Theryl "Houseman" DeClouet, Chubby Carrier, Bluerunners, Wanda Rouzan, Driskill Mountain Boys, Ann Savoy's Sleepless Knights, New Orleans Jazz Vipers feat. Sophie Lee, Stoney B & Grampa Elliot, Gina Forsyth & the Malvinas, Clive Wilson & the New Orleans Serenaders feat. Butch Thompson, New Wave Brass Band, Tuba Woodshed feat. Matt Perrine and Kirk Joseph, Belton Richard & the Musical Aces, Eve's Lucky Planet, Larry Garner with Henry Gray, Ritmo Caribe?o, New Orleans Jazz Ramblers, Louisiana Repertory Jazz Ensemble, Betty Winn & One A-Chord, Lyle Henderson & Emmanuel, Kid Simmons' Local International Allstars, Pinettes Brass Band, D.L. Menard & the Louisiana Aces, Legacy - the students of Alvin Batiste, Greater Antioch Gospel Choir, New Orleans Mardi Gras Rhythm Indian Section, Ebenezer BC Radio Choir, Loyola University Jazz Ensemble, Casa Samba, The Smooth Family, Eulenspeigel Puppets of Iowa, Original Big Seven and Original Four Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, McMain High School Gospel Choir, Fi Yi Yi & the Mandingo Warriors, New Orleans School of Circus Arts and ISL, Gospel Inspirations of Boutte, Rosedean Choir of South Africa, Scene Boosters and Old N Nu Fellas Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs.

Marcia Ball, Jimmy Buffett, Diana Krall, Steel Pulse, The Roots, Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Bishop Paul S. Morton Sr. & the Greater St. Stephens Mass Choir, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Henry Butler, Aaron Neville's Gospel Soul, John Mooney & Bluesiana, the subdudes, Rockin' Dopsie & the Zydeco Twisters, New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra, Ruthie Foster, Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Savoy Center of Eunice Saturday Cajun Jam, Charmaine Neville, The Dixie Cups, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, James Andrews, Dr. Michael White & the Original Liberty Jazz Band feat. Thais Clark, Lillian Boutt?, Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie, Stephanie Jordan, War Chief Juan & Young Fire, Pine Leaf Boys, Bionik Brown, Treme Brass Band, New Orleans Blues Serenaders, Spencer Bohren, Don Vappie & the Creole Jazz Serenaders, Roddie Romero & the Hub City Allstars, Lil' Buck Sinegal feat. Rudy Richard, Feufollet, Pinstripe Brass Band, Storyville Stompers Brass Band, Tribute to Max Roach feat. Herlin Riley, Jason Marsalis, and Shannon Powell, Tondrae, Chappy, Danza feat. Evan Christopher and Tom McDermott, Beyond Measure, Lil Nathan & the Zydeco Big Timers, Rumba Buena, Rocks of Harmony, Guitar Lightnin' Lee, St. Joseph the Worker Mass Choir, Big Chief Ke Ke & Comanche Hunters and White Cloud Hunters Mardi Gras Indians, Leviticus Gospel Singers, Tulane University Jazz Ensemble, Secondline Jammers, New Generation and Undefeated Divas Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Trouble Nation and Mohawk Hunters Mardi Gras Hunters, Archdiocese of New Orleans Community Choir, Bester Singers, Donald Lewis, Young Guardians of the Flame, Stephen Foster's Mid City Workshop Alumni Ensemble, Westbank Steppers, Valley of the Silent Men and Pigeon Town Steppers Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Golden Blade and Wild Tchoupitoulas Mardi Gras Indians.

The Neville Brothers, Santana, Maze feat. Frankie Beverly, The Raconteurs, Dianne Reeves, Galactic, The Radiators, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, The Derek Trucks Band, Keb' Mo', Rebirth Brass Band, Sonny Landreth, Snooks Eaglin, John P. Kee & the New Life Community Choir, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Tribute to Mahalia Jackson feat. Irma Thomas, Marva Wright and Rachelle Richard, Vernel Bagneris: Jelly Roll & Me, Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys, Ivan Neville & Dumpstaphunk, DJ Captain Charles, Kenny Neal, Sherman Washington & the Zion Harmonizers, Bob French & the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, Elysian Fieldz, The New Orleans Bingo Show!, Benny Grunch & the Bunch, Goldman Thibodeaux & the Lawtell Playboys, Jonathan Batiste, Rotary Downs, George French, Chris Ardoin & Nu Step, Guitar Slim Jr., Grupo Fantasma, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Ovi-G & the Froggies, The Revealers, Pfister Sisters, Salvador Santana Band, William Smith's Tribute to Kid Sheik, Eddie Boh Paris aka Chops, SUBR Jazz Ensemble, Chris Clifton, Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Ensemble, New Orleans Spiritualettes, Zulu Male Ensemble, The Jazz Jam, Tribute to Tuba Fats, Highsteppers Brass Band, Black Eagles, Hardhead Hunters and Apache Hunters Mardi Gras Indians, Lady Rollers and CTC Steppers Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Guyland Leday with Family & Friends Zydeco Band, Young Traditional New Orleans Brass Band, Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries, Wild Apaches, Young Magnolias and Black Feathers Mardi Gras Indians, Original Prince of Wales and the Original New Orleans Lady Buckjumpers Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Tornado Brass Band, Judy Stock, Minister Jai Reed.

Everyone who's anyone, plus a few more, plus the return of Thursday and the return of the Neville Brothers! (Let's feel it and not phone it in, Brother Cyril, okay?)

Amer Boudreau rolling.   Last week my batch of tincture of bitter orange was finally finished stewing, and it looked pretty good. It was tough to photograph, particularly when doing it quickly and sloppily early in the morning while still groggy before dashing off to work, but you at least get an idea of its color:

Tincture of Bitter Orange

Color: Tincture of Bitter Orange

2.5 cups of that stuff mixed with one 750ml bottle of Amaro Ramazzotti, 3 ounces of Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters and 250ml of water is now gently aging in a big jar on my dining room table, the flavors "getting to know one another," as Jamie puts it.

I'll finally be trying a Hoskins with this next week.

The Cocktail Spirit, with Robert Hess.   Although it's not the season in which we usually drink it, we never mind an excuse to bring out those copper mugs.

The Moscow Mule

Dating from the 1940's, the Moscow Mule was probably one of the first drinks to be created in America which specifically used vodka as an ingredient.

It's one of the few things we keep vodka around for too, other than making Vespers or tinctures, or this cocktail we learned from Dave Wondrich. It's a way to enjoy a liqueur's flavor while cutting down on the sweetness.

The Gypsy Cocktail

2 ounces vodka.
1 ounce Bénédictine D.O.M. liqueur.
1 dash Angostura bitters.

Stir with ice for no less than 30 seconds, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This would work for any strongly flavored, herbal liqueur.

Editorial cartoon of the day.   Tom Toles charts the '08 presidential candidates, and pretty much sums it up, spot on.

Presidential Candidates

I'm bummed that Edwards is trailing so badly. I think his message would really catch on if the media weren't so actively ignoring him. The ridiculous Clinton-Obama squabbling makes for better ratings, I guess, and we all know that's what news is all about these days -- not the goddamn issues.

(Speaking of the squabbling ... Hillary and Bill -- espeically Bill -- are really starting to piss me off. Bill's being a butthead.)

Some people are not human.

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  Wednesday, January 23, 2008

RIP, Ennis Del Mar.  

Heath Ledger, 

And Patrick Verona, and Sir William Thatcher, and Sonny Grotowski, and Harry Faversham, and Skip, and Jacob Grimm, and Giacomo Casanova, and The Joker, and especially Heath Ledger.


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  Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cheer up, sleepy Jean.   John Stewart, former member of The Kingston Trio and one of the most prolific folk and pop songwriters of the '60s and '70s, died of an aneurysm last Saturday at age 68.

Many will remember his work with The Kingston Trio, or his 1979 top 10 hit "Gold" (with Stevie Nicks singing background), or one or all of his forty solo albums. I, for one, will best remember him as the writer of this song, in the video below, that's one of the sunniest and catchiest pop songs ever written, and a longtime favorite of mine -- to this day, and in fact the last time we heard it a week or so ago, Wes and I sing along with it at the top of our lungs.

I defy you not to sing along too, and smile.

Here's John's own version of the song, recorded about five months ago, "aged like a fine bourbon." (Thanks to Dawson from MeFi for the post.)

Here's an MP3 of another performance of the song from 2006.

Thanks John, for a great song out of many, and a lifetime of music.

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  Friday, January 18, 2008

Brad's pink houses in the Lower Nine.   Why pink? "Because pink screams the loudest."

I got a chance to drive down to the Lower Ninth Ward to check out Brad Pitt's Pink Project, where temporary pink tent structures, representing houses and lives that were washed away, have been installed in part of the neighborhood where new houses will be built by his "Make It Right" project. It's quite a sight, and although I think a few of those designs are just too weird for words (internationally renowned architects or not), I think it's a fantastic project, and I hope it succeeds.

As I was driving down to the Lower Nine the heavens opened, and there was what seemed to be a near-apocalyptic rainstorm ... not at all atypical for New Orleans. As I drive through the deluge, I thought, "If people from L.A. were faced with rain like this while they were driving, they'd think it was the end of the world." When I got to the Lower Nine the skies were magnificent, and I took some nice shots while driving around and waiting for dusk to fall, so that I could get pictures of the tents lit up.

Pot of Gold

Pot of Gold 2

Green house and roiling sky

will rebuild!  I am New Orleans!

trailer home of Robert L. Green, Sr.

Pink Project

Pink Project at dusk

Pink Project "house"

Pink Project and the Claiborne Avenue Bridge

Check out The Pink Project and the plan to build 150 houses in the Lower Nine at Make It Right NOLA.

The great pasta debate.   The New York Times ran an interesting piece on my favorite pasta dish, pasta all'Amatriciana. I hadn't realized that this dish was so "freighted with controversy."

People in Amatrice say it originated in that central Italian town, as the name implies. But in Rome, about 60 miles away, chefs proudly claim it as their own and say its name has nothing to do with its origins.

In Amatrice, the dish is simply pasta, tomatoes, cured pork and cheese. But Romans include onions and olive oil. Even the type of pasta is in dispute.

After half a dozen plates of it during a recent trip to Italy, one detail became clear: for any pasta all'Amatriciana to be authentic, it must be made with guanciale -- cured, unsmoked pig jowl.

Italians take guanciale for granted, but it.s fairly new to American kitchens. Almost all the recipes in American cookbooks call for ordinary bacon . which is too smoky . or Italian pancetta, which is too lean. Guanciale, which means pillow, a description of its shape, has an especially rich, sweetly porky flavor and a buttery texture.

I've made it with American bacon. It's good. I've made it with pancetta. It's quite good. I've made it with guanciale.

With guanciale, it is beyond compare. It is heaven in a pasta bowl. It is the Great Light of the Cosmos in a thin slice of cured pork jowl.

With all due respect to the people of Amatrice, for me this dish would be woefully incomplete without the thick slivers of red onion and the drizzle of good olive oil. It completes the dish. As for the type of pasta ... I'll use bucatini, because that's the first way I had it and it's more or less traditional. But I'll take it with spaghetti, which also works well ... or even penne, or whatever else you've got.

Guanciale's easy enough to get these days, folks, so do yourself a favor and get some. It really does make a difference, despite the opinion of a certain woefully underinformed food writer, who shall go unnamed, who declares guanciale to be 10% flavor and 90% hype. Pull thy cranium out of thy bottom, sir, and eat some properly prepared. And if you can't taste the difference ... ah well, then I feel sorry for you.

Armandino Batali would be happy to sell you some, and it's not expensive, and a little goes a long way.

Or, you can just make your own.

Let's have another look at that, shall we?

Bucatini all'Amatriciana

Mangiare, mangiare!

The Cocktailian.   In his most recent article for the Chronicle Gary Regan talks to us about Chartreuse, primarily of the green variety, and offers a recipe for one of my favorite green Chartreuse-bearing cocktails, one of which we enjoyed during the first week of the new year.

The Last Word

3/4 ounce gin (we use Tanqueray).
3/4 ounce green Chartreuse.
3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur.
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice.

Shake with ice for about 15 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

We also like the yellow variety of Chartreuse, a little lower in alcohol and a little mellower in flavor (fewer herbs in the mix), which among many other things goes well in a Lemony Snicket Cocktail in the summer and this -- an old, old friend -- in the fall and winter. (Had one of these on a chilly evening recently as well.)

The Widow's Kiss

1-1/2 ounces Calvados (or Laird's Straight Apple Brandy).
3/4 ounce Bénédictine D.O.M.
3/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse.
2 dashes Angostura bitters.

Stir with cracked ice for no less than 30 seconds; strain into a cocktail glass.

If you've read Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh's marvelous book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, you'll remember his wonderful description of this drink:

As the scene opens, you are up in your grandmother's attic opening the dusty steamer trunk she brought from Europe in 1914. You reverently turn back layer upon layer of old lace and brocade ... unveiling a packet of old love letters tied in silk ribbon. Ancient dried rose petals flutter down from between the envelopes.

This is what the Widow's Kiss is like. Sweet, complex and darkly golden, thought-provoking and introspective. It is a cocktail of fall turning toward winter, and it wins Doc's award as the most evocative drink ever. Have one by the fire.

Or in front of the space heater, as the case may be. (We couldn't afford the house with the river rock fireplace.)

Anybody wanna go in on this?   One of the reasons I've been so scarce lately is because I'm embarking on a huge, endlessly time-consuming and relatively expensive project to digitize every CD in my library, throw away the jewel boxes, place the CDs, booklets and tray cards into Jewel Sleeves and store those in 1/4 the space. The fun part of doing this is rediscovering a lot of things I forgot I had, or just forgot having listened to them. The drag of it is ... goddamn, why must I have so many CDs? I'll be doing this until I'm a hundred. (Well, probably not, but still.)

Alas, my puny collection pales in comparision to that of Paul Mawhinney, who has, by his own claims, the world's greatest music collection.

From Thomas Edison to American Idol, it's the complete history of the music that shaped five generations.

3 Million Records
300,000 Compact Discs
More Than 6 Million Song Titles

And now it's all for sale.

[...] Every genre of American music is represented: rock; jazz; country; R&B; blues; new age; Broadway and Hollywood; bluegrass; folk; children's; comedy; Christmas, and more. No other collection in the world -- publicly or privately held -- even comes close.

More than half of the recordings in this incredible collection are NEW, with individual records worth hundreds or thousands of dollars each on the collectibles market. Covering many decades of music, the collection includes 78's, 45 singles and EP's, LP's, and CD's. While there are an estimated 6 million unique recordings, there are also many duplicates, which can be sold to recoup some of the cost of the collection without diminishing the collection's historical value.

Every recording in this amazing collection has been purchased by its owner, Paul Mawhinney, over a period of a half century, and stored in a 16,000 square foot climate - controlled warehouse. Many millions of dollars have been invested in the acquisition and storage of the collection, the estimated value of which is now greater than fifty million dollars.

All I'd need is a 21 terabyte hard drive (or so) to hold it all! Oh, and roughly about 8-1/2 years working full time, 7 days a week, 8 hours a day, to digitize it all ... and that's just the CDs. LPs and 78s will, of course, have to be digitized in real time.

Okay, I'm in for a hundred. Anyone?

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  Thursday, January 17, 2008

Update on Kirk Joseph.   From the latest weekly email from OffBeat, the New Orleans and Louisiana roots music magazine:

Last week, we heard that sousaphone player Kirk Joseph had a heart attack. We've since heard from his wife Venessa that the procedure went well and that he'll be released from the hospital soon, possibly by the time you read this.

That's great news! Get well and stay healthy, Kirk. That'll be boiled seafood instead of fried for a good long time, my friend.

Recipe of the day: Cincinnati Chili.   I don't remember where I had read or heard about this, but as soon as I saw it, I thought ... hey, this sounds really good.

Cincinnatians have their own unique hometown chili, which began as a relatively bland version of the old Texas-style hot dog chili, but then in the early 1920s along came some Greek and Slavic Macedonian immigrants who thought the chili could do with some spices from the old country. Into the chili went cinnamon, cumin, bay, allspice and, oddest and perhaps best of all, unsweetened cocoa. That plus some hot pepper and vinegar and Worcestershire and a few other things and these folks had something going for them.

They scarf down over two million pounds of this stuff every year just in Cincinnati alone, and between that fact and the fascinating list of spices, I just had to try it.

The truly authentic technique for making this chili is a bit counter-intuitive for me. You start with ground beef, finely ground as you can get it (in fact, regrind it yourself with the finest-grind disc in your meat grinder if you have one, or even pulse it in a food processor until it's as finely ground as you can get it without making it into a paste). Then, the technique is not to sauté and brown it, but to ... boil it. This is also done without the addition of onion along with it, raw onions being saved for the end. The chili is almost always served over spaghetti, and is always served with oyster crackers sprinkled around the edge. I couldn't find oyster crackers at my local grocery last night, so I skipped 'em this time. (Next time, Cincinnati, I promise!)

I have to confess that I made a slightly inauthentic batch last night, browning the beef first and finely dicing a medium-sized red onion, because I thought it'd taste better that way. (I also used whole wheat spaghetti, because I'm on Weight Watchers and I saved a point that way. Shut up.) I'll try it the original, authentic way next time, but my inclination is that I'll continue with the browning.

Cincinnatians order their chili by a numbering system that's a bit esoteric to outsiders, so here's the skinny: "One-way" means a bowl of chili, with oyster crackers on the side. Apparently almost nobody does this. Then there's the "Two-way," which is the chili served over spaghetti (again, with the crackers). This seems to be the minimal way that people get this. I haven't been to Cincinnati myself, but in my researches every single photograph of this dish depicted as the "Three-way" at the very least, in which the chili over spaghetti is stopped by a Himalayan-sized mountain of finely grated mild cheddar cheese. I swear, the damn thing is almost half cheese (in fact, the Wikipedia entry on this dish claims the 2 million pounds of chili statistic, as well as 850,000 pounds of Cheddar -- that's a lotta cheese). A "Four-way" adds chopped white onion to the top, and the Cincinnati Chile Pièce de Résistance is the "Five-way," in which red kidney beans are added. According to hardcores, for a Five-way the kidney beans, warmed separately, must be placed on the plate first, then the spaghetti on top, then the chili and cheese and onions. That's a bit compulsive to me, as it's all going to get mixed together anyway, but whatever floats your local boat.

A fun way to serve this is with bowls of onions, cheese and beans, and let everyone fix the dish themselves, their own way. The flavor of this stuff is fantastic, although I had to admit a bit of skepticism in the beginning as I started cooking ("This smells ... kinda weird.") At the end of its long cooking time (at least 90 minutes) though, everything gels into a beautiful oneness.

Wes liked it, said it was "unusual," and said he wouldn't mind having it again, but "I can't imagine this on a hot dog." Well, Cincinnatians can, and a hot dog with Cincinnati chili on top is called a "coney" (after the Island, no doubt); it's served with mustard and onions. I'll try that too.

I looked at about 20 recipes for this dish, and sometimes the kidney beans for the Five-way would also be listed with the option of "or refried beans," although I don't know if that's truly authentic. I had a great idea, though -- instead of the plain old whole kidney beans out of the can, try New Orleans' own Blue Runner Creole Cream-style red beans (or, of course, your own leftover homemade red beans). Those I'd put on the bottom. Man ... that sounds really good.

Here's how I did it. Cincinnatians are welcome to chime in with yea, nay or suggestions.

Cincinnati Chili

1 pound finely ground beef.
1 medium red onion, finely chopped (optional; tasty but inauthentic).
1 clove garlic, minced.
2 cups water.
1 6-ounce can tomato paste.
1 tablespoon chili powder.
1 teaspoon ground allspice.
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
1 teaspoon ground cumin.
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
1/2 teaspoon salt.
1-1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa.
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce.
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar.
1 pound uncooked spaghetti.

Raw white or yellow onion, chopped.
Finely grated mild or shart Cheddar cheese (mountains).
Red kidney beans, warmed.

In a large skillet add the beef, garlic and water. Bring to a boil, breaking up the meat until it's as fine as you can get it. (Optionally sauté the beef and the red onion until just browned, then add the water.) Add the tomato paste and mix until combined, then add everything else (except the spaghetti, of course). Combine thoroughly, bring to a boil then simmer for at least 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. The final consistency of the chili should be a little bit runny, so add a few ounces of hot water a little bit at a time if the chili gets too reduced.

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Ladle the chili over the spaghetti. (Small oval plates are traditional.) Start with the red beans if you're making a Five-way and are an extreme traditionalist. Top with Everest-sized gobs of cheese and chopped onions, or kidney beans on top if you like.

Sorry, no pics ... it was after 9pm, we were hungry and I didn't want to bother. Fortunately lots of my fellow Flickr denizens have photographed their chili, and a classic Five-way should look something like this:

Cincinnati Chili, Five-way
Photo by Scott Beale, reproduced under Creative Commons

Needless to say I didn't put that much cheese, but at home you put on as little or as much as you like. I think the general rule of thumb is not to be timid with the toppings.

I could be really inauthentic and throw some ground pork into the mix, and accompany dinner with a rousing chorus of Vic Damone's "Cincinnati Dancing Pig" ...

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  Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back.   Two weeks of lethargy, lack of motivation and pure laziness seem to be over now. If I have any readers left ... hi!

Here are a few things that kept me occupied over the holidays a few weeks ago:

I had been swapping emails with Chris Hannah, bartender at Arnaud's French 75 Bar, and he had invited me to come by to have him make me one (or three, in this case, as Michael and Louise came along).

boy and his drink

As I have yet to have a Hoskins at any of the places that put them on the menu, this was the first time I've ever been served an original of mine at a bar without having to walk them through it. And to have it be the French 75 Bar, one of the best bars in the city at one of the city's oldest and most venerable Creole restaurants ... well, that was one heck of a Christmas present. Thanks a million, Chris.

Three R?veillons
Three Réveillons are better than one

Monkey speaks his mind
The Monkey speaks his mind (and says, "I want a drink!")

Then it was time for dinner. Arnaud's was long-booked and packed to the rafters, as were so many other restaurants in the Quarter, as this was Christmas Eve. Where would we be able to find a place with good food, open late, that wasn't packed with reserved tables? Our old friends at Coop's Place on Decatur, of course. They were busy but had a table for us, and we kept the fare simple and hearty.

Duck Quesadilla
Duck quesadilla, at Coop's Place

blue cheese burger
Bacon blue cheese burger at Coop's Place

Their duck quesadilla is always terrific, and their burgers ... well, I was in a burgery mood, and this one, huge and thick and medium rare with bacon and blue cheese, hit the spot on that cold Christmas Eve (where nobody promised Broadway was waiting for me).

Earlier I had gone to Mandina's with the folks, and was, as usual, torn between menu selections. I had already had some great fried seafood, and a couple of different hot sausage poor boys, and the pannéed veal (breaded veal cutlets) of my childhood were calling my name. Still, with all the great stuff on Mandina's menu (including their mindblowing hamburger poor boy, as I was in the aforementioned burgery mood), I couldn't decide. When the waiter arrived I used Wes' favorite method, which is to either present him with a choice of two dishes and ask him to pick his favorite, or to just say, "What do you eat here? What's your favorite dish?" Always a tough question at a place like Mandina's, but himself came through like a champion.

"Y'know," the waiter said, "if I were going to eat right now what I'd want is a pannéed veal po-boy, dressed, with some melted mozzarella cheese, and a side dish of marinara sauce for dipping."

Somehow he got inside my head, because that's really exactly what I wanted.

Panneed Veal Poor Boy

Another very good late meal came from our old friends at Ye Olde College Inn on Carrollton, who took great care of me one night when I needed dinner at about 9:30 before heading back to the North Shore.

Oysters en brochette

Grilled Mahi-Mahi topped with Crawfish Etouffee

I started with the classic Oysters en brochette, freshly-shucked oysters, wrapped in bacon, dusted with cornmeal and quickly fried. Oysters, bacon, frying ... how can you go wrong? My entrée was a tad healthier, though -- Grilled mahi-mahi topped with crawfish étouffée, served on seasoned grilled vegetables. Not as heavy as you'd think; in fact, despite the extremely generous serving of crawfish on the top it was a fairly light and refreshing dish, and entirely delicious.

Whoo, no more of that for a while, though. But I'm down 4 pounds since Jan. 2, woooo!

Kirk Joseph in in the hospital.   The master sousaphonist from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Sousafunk Avenue and many other New ORleans music ensembles suffered a massive heart attack last Friday, and needs assistance with his medical bills. Via Mary Katherine, here's a letter from Kirk's wife:


I can't begin to know how to say this to those of you who love Kirk (not more than me), but Kirk had a heart attack yesterday morning. It hurts me to sit here and send this because now I have actually said it. I still cannot believe this.

The cardiologist called me this afternoon to go into more detail about his condition. His heart is operating at 20%... when it should be at 60-80%. There is a blockage somewhere and they have not determined where it is. The doctor also stated he could possibly have another heart attack before they find where the blockage is. He will remain in the hospital until next week.

Hurricane Katrina did most of us in... but now I am tired. I am hurt and devastated by this and I can't break down because I have to stay strong for Kirk. He is in good spirits right now, but very afraid. He wanted me to let you all know that he is okay. I would like for you all to join me in prayer and ask GOD to keep him here and to heal him, (body, soul, mind and spirit). I am not ready to lose him, and I know you all feel the same way.

His hospital bill right now is in excess of $8000 because of all the tests and x-rays, blood workups, EKGs, medicines and all of the specialists that have seen him. They are going to continue to run tests and do an angiogram ASAP. His lungs are still filled with fluid and he is coughing constantly because the air is not getting through to his lungs properly and the blood is not getting to his heart the way it should. He is on an IV, and the EKG machine is hooked up to him to monitor him.

If you would like to send him a card or a donation toward the hospital bill (we would be greatly appreciative as he does not have medical insurance). Kirk is in University Hospital.

Thank you for your continued love and support,

Venessa Joseph
P.O. Box 8852
New Orleans, LA 70182

Kirk's one of the giants of New Orleans music and, as is typical of just about all of them, has no health insurance. Think of Kirk and help him out if you can. And think about the fact that the NUMBER ONE ISSUE in the upcoming presidential election is the one that's entirely in your interest. Either they're for health care for everyone, or they shouldn't be in office.

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  Wednesday, January 2, 2008

First cocktail of 2008.   Manhattan. Rittenhouse bonded rye whiskey, 100 proof. Carpano Antica Formula vermouth. Abbott's Bitters, 1 dash. (Wes was being extravagant.) Luxardo cherry.

The year could hardly get off to a finer start.

First meal of 2008.   Oinkster. Angus beef burger. Gruyère cheese. Bacon. Avocado. Lettuce. Tomatoes (although out of season, meh). Aïoli. Hot mustard. Belgian frites. Chipotle ketchup. Proper Southern iced tea (i.e., no flowery crap in it), no sugar.

All enjoyed enormously, but all the while with the thought, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow yo' ass is back on Weight Watchers ..."

New Year = "Lose 15 pounds, you fat bastard."   Well, I did enjoy the last two weeks of indulgence, and now it's time to pay. I already needed to lose 9 or 10 before, and now it's a hefty 15. Weight Watchers, we start hittin' you pretty hard as of today. Feh.

So of course, on the first day of this resolution, the Day Job kindly provides free "Welcome Back" bagels and cream cheese. Willpower fails. (Two-point can of soup for lunch is the result.)

There will, of course, be interruptions for good meals and the cocktails will be worked in. (Gotta keep all the food pr0n coming, after all.) Figuring out how all this is going to work will be entertaining, at least.

Happy New Year! What soon-to-be-broken resolutions have you made?!

Cocktail blog rolling!   My pal Vidiot, of, has started a new group weblog called Cocktailians. "We're interested in exploring cocktailian culture: cocktail recipes, reviews of drinking establishments, pictures of cocktails, roundups and links to other doings on the other cocktail blogs out there, tidbits of cocktailian history and ephemera, interviews with bartenders, and whatever else we can come up with. Ideas, responses, and comments are most welcome; this is a work in progress, with more features and information on the way, so return visits will be rewarded."

I was pleased as Philadelphia Fish House Punch to be invited to participate, although I had to sheepishly admit that given my time commitments most of my content there would be regurgitated from here. I was assured that that was no problem, and hey, someone who doesn't read this rag might read Cocktailians, so it's always better to have more places to get the word out. There are two other authors so far, with more to come. I'll add it to the "Cocktail Hour" sidebar here, so do check it out sometime!

Venom.   From the "Things-I-Won't-Be-Eating-Much-Of-For-A-While Department" ... another mad soul takes a stab at making a burger out of ground bacon, and kicks it up a few notches with the Bacon Cheese Baconburger. I was hoping he'd have some advice for holding it all together and keeping the patty from falling apart, but alas, no. (A binding agent will be needed in case I'm ever nuts enough to do this again.)

My favorite bit here, though, is this line (and thanks to Michael for sending it on):

"As expected, the first burger was a bit of a disaster. The patty came apart in a few places and was spitting hot grease at me continously. It was like a king cobra defending its territory, only with hot grease instead of venom. Tasty, tasty venom."

Which reminds me of a t-shirt Michael spotted at Jazzfest last year:

Tasty, tasty murder.


December Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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Several of my friends and loved ones (and a few kind strangers) contribute regularly to this weblog, providing links, comments and sometimes lots more. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Mary Herczog, Steve Hochman, Dave Schmerler, Nettie DeAugustine, Diana Schwam, Andy Senasac, Michael Yasui, Steve Gardner, Michael Pemberton, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Eric Labow, Tom Krueger, Greg Beron, Sean Burke, Shari Minton and Barry Enderwick.
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