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 @ 10:20am PDT, 2/29/2008

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Vote for change!

Barack Obama for President

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)

February 2008
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)
   (Group drinks blog by Vidiot,
   Mr. Bali Hai, Kosmonaut,
   Chico and me).

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, of
   Vessel in Seattle.)

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:

Duma Key, by Stephen King.

Old Man's War, by John Scalzi.

Mister B. Gone, by Clive Barker.

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)
Atonement (****)
No Country for Old Men (****)
Juno (***-1/2)

Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist (***)
Eastern Promises (***-1/2)
Omagh (***-1/2)
Transformers (**-1/2)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (**-1/2)
Across the Universe (***-1/2)
Sicko (****)
Michael Clayton (****)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (****-1/2)

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

  Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Bissextile Day!   Calm down, don't get excited, it has nothing to do with bisexual textiles. (?)

It is, of course (as if I had heard it before yesterday), the name of the day added during leap year. Wes and I took the day off and are going to Long Beach to see Star Trek: The Tour, and will spend the day revelling in geekiness. Diana says there's even someplace down in L.B. where we can get a decent drink. (We'll see about that.)

Must. Have. Now.   Salad is good for you ... especially when it's in a BACON CUP!

Quite the lovely deconstructed BLT. Sheer genius (and, in my opinion, more useful and practical than the bacon mat.

We loved the opening line: "I had an occasion calling for bacon-themed food." Steve replied, "Gosh, I think we call that occasion 'life.'"

Liquor project of the day.   This came from the current issue of Saveur magazine, and intrigued me -- I'd never thought of the flavors of oranges and coffee going together, and in combination with rum it made me go "Hmm." It also involves arcane ritual, which I always find appealing.

The story behind the concoction goes like this:

In 1884 the British missionary Rev. G. A. Shaw wrote that a traveler arriving alte in a village in Madagascar "will be distressed and horrified to find that the demon of the rum barrel has been [there] before him." The observation was likely sour grapes on Shaw's part, since his well-documented habit of taking over the largest hut in town, even if it meant displacing its owners, surely guaranteed that no nightcap was ever placed before him. That was his loss, because, in the African island nation of Madagascar, they know what to do with rum: namely, customize it with local ingredients, from pineapples and cinnamon to vanilla beans and litchis.

Now, here's how you go about making one. Where does the number and ritual come from? No idea (although it's undoubtedly left over from the French influence in Madagascar. This appears to be a Malagasy adaptation of a homemade liqueur in France called "Quarante Quatre" (44), which is sometimes made with cloves. However, I'm briefly reminded of one of the funniest episodes ever of "Malcolm in the MIddle," one of my favorite comedy programs ever. Lois (Jane Kaczmarek) is attempting to bond with her horridly unpleasant mother (Cloris Leachman), joining her and all the other old ladies of the Old Country in making a gigantic traditional pastry for some saint's feast day back home. The thing's enormous, and has dozens of layers, each one representing some battle or whatever. Apparently on layer 38 Lois got the exact number of raisins wrong, and her mother loudly demanded that the start the entire pastry over again. Lois protested; "What difference does it make if there are 126 raisins or 127? It's going to taste exactly the same!" Her mother shrieked, "IT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO TASTE GOOD, IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE DIFFICULT TO MAKE!!"

Well, I digress a bit, but this made me think of that scene, although I suspect that this cordial will not only be a bit of a pain to make, but will also taste great.

The 44 Cordial

1 liter white rum (I'd use Cruzan or 10 Cane).
1 large navel orange.
44 coffee beans.
44 teaspoons of sugar (a little less than 1 scant cup).

Using a sharp paring knife make 44 slits all over the orange. Stuff a coffee bean into each slit. In a large widemouthed jar, add the 44 teaspoons of sugar and the rum; stir to dissolve. Add the orange and seal the jar. Keep it in a cool, dark place, agitating it occasionally, for 44 days. Then remove the orange and discard; strain the liqueur through cheesecloth and bottle. Store in the freezer until ready to drink.

According to Saveur, "the Malagasy version is best sipped neat or over ice, preceded by a toast to the Reverend Shaw."

Last night's "Down Home" is up.   You have a week to stream stream the show and listen at your leisure. This week featuring Brian Stoltz, OK Go, Bonerama, Leigh Harris & Larry Sieberth, The New Orleans Social Club featuring Dr. John, John Mooney & Bluesiana, Egg Yolk Jubilee, The Radiators, The Neville Brothers, Big Sam's Funky Nation, John Williams & Dean Magraw, Phil Cornish, the brand new album from Punch Brothers (Chris Thile's post-Nickel Creek project), Battlefield Band (playing at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica on March 7), a solo album from Battlefield Band fiddler Alasdair White, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The New Orleans Jazz Vipers, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Clarence Garlow, The Mello Joy Boys, John Delafose and James Andrews with The Andrews Family. Enjoy!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   The results are in! The winner of this month's Raiders of the Lost Cocktail is ... not the drink I submitted. (D'oh.)

I liked it better than Paul did, but here was his observation:

I really wanted to like the Pisco-Apricot Tropical, from Charles Baker's The South American Gentleman's Companion. Fortunately, I'm accustomed to disappointment, so the fact that the drink didn't work out wasn't too much of a shock.

Ouch. :-) Here's where I messed up, though ... Paul made another observation:

Apricot brandy and pineapple -- who knew the combination could be so tasty? If you see these two flavors together in a recipe, go for it.

The other version of the Pisco-Apricot Tropicál that Baker listed as a variation added a pony of pineapple juice to the first recipe. We tried that one later and liked it a lot better. Unfortunately, thanks to my having waited until the last minute (again) I had already submitted the other one, so I blew it. I do still recommend the pineapply version, so give it a shot and see what yez think.

The one Paul chose as the winner, though, was absolutely sublime and blew both Pisco-Apricot Tropicáls out of the water. We made them last night and loved them, and the drink will most definitely be added to our regular rotation. (Fair play to yez, Jay and Charlie!) I particularly recommend Rothman & Winter's Orchard Apricot in this drink.


1-1/2 ounces gin.
1-1/2 ounces dry vermouth.
1/2 ounce apricot brandy.
1/2 ounce Cointreau.

Stir with ice for at least 30 seconds, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
No garnish.

The original recipe in the Savoy Cocktail Book called for a half-jigger of each of the liqueurs, and Jay toned that down to a half pony. I haven't tried the original version yet, but I will in fact take Paul's word for it that it's better, as I prefer drier cocktails; a full jigger of liqueurs might be a bit much for me, given my typical tastes. The use of the R&W apricot also lends a bit of extra dryness while not compromising on flavor (in fact, its flavor is exquisite).

The only problem with this recipe is that it makes a really big drink, bigger than we usually like to make. What I ended up doing was increasing the recipe by 50%, using 2-1/4 ounces each of gin and vermouth, and 3/4 ounce each for the liqueurs. This made two perfectly-sized drinks for Wes and me.

I'm glad I finally got a chance to participate in RotLC,and I'm looking forward to the next one. This time I'll get my butt in gear earlier, do more digging and see if I can come up with the winner!

New R.E.M. single.   "Supernatural Superserious," from the forthcoming album Accelerate, due out April 1. Hey, it's pretty good!

Super salumi.   Culinate features an interview with Armandino Batali (Mario's dad), maker of fine pork products.

Breaking News: Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early.   It's all over.

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

(God, I love The Onion.)

D'oh, damn you New York!   Why do youse guys have this and not us?! What really catches the eye here is the menu, which includes this dish (emphasis mine):

A Smooth Indulgence
Chocolate Bread Pudding

Our take on a classic chocolate custard dessert, topped with vanilla crème anglaise. (For those looking for a new experience, ask for our bacon crème anglaise.)

I'll be making my own version of this soon. Must. Have. Now ...

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, February 25, 2008

Comhghairdeas! Go maire sibh, Glen agus Mar!   Er, congratulations Glen and Mar!

In case you were living under a rock last night, or just couldn't be bothered with an otherwise mostly boring-as-shite Oscar telecast, Irish musician Glen Hansard and his musical partner and now girlfriend, Czech musician Markéta Irglová (who perform together as The Swell Season), won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Falling Slowly," from the film Once, one of my favorite films of the year.

Here's the video of the performance of the song.

I was hoping that the three Disney songs would cancel each other out, and apparently they did. I'm sure they were perfectly good songs in the context of the movie, but they didn't do a lot for me as standalones. (That said, I do want to see Enchanted; our friend Rick has been raving about it.) Not only do I love "Falling Slowly" as a song, it really is the musical/narrative heart of the film. It's a great example of using music to tell a story.

When they won (after being introduced earlier by a "chuffed" fellow Irishman, Colin Farrell), it was by far the sweetest and most satisfying moment of the show. Glen's speech was humble, and you could tell he was gobsmacked, completely overwhelmed. Then, in an outrage, the orchestra cut Mar off before she could speak! Everybody at the Oscar party booed. Jon Stewart brought her back out after the ad break, saying "Enjoy your moment." I'm not sure who to credit for that, but we picked Jon. However, the AP reported that credit went to producer Gil Cates, who said "the show director was looking down and queued the music when Hansard finished speaking. 'She was accidentally played off. No one wanted to play her off. ... I asked her to come back. I asked Jon to please bring her back. It was a very emotional moment.'" Mar said, "When I went backstage, they said they were going to have me go back out. It was great to get that chance, and I'm very grateful to them for doing that."

She gave a terrific speech. Watch:

Reaction seems to have been overwhelmingly positive, and as the Los Angeles Times said, "The right song won, and hopefully it brings more viewers to "Once," and more listeners to the Swell Season." The Irish Times reported:

Hansard and Irglova were among the night's most popular winners, loudly cheered and applauded when, introduced by Colin Farrell, they performed the song with passion and to the accompaniment of a 120-piece orchestra, and again when John Travolta presented them with their Oscars. When it was announced that they had won, Hansard and Irglova clasped their hands to their faces in shock, and he hugged his mother, before the duo went on stage to collect their Academy Awards.

"Go raibh míle míle maith agat," Hansard said.

"This is mad. We shot this on two Handicams in three weeks for 100 grand. We never thought we would be up here tonight."

He concluded with the exhortation, "Make art. Make art."

They were also congratulated by An tUachtarán Mary McAleese, the President of Ireland, but perhaps in an even bigger nod, "got a congratulatory text message from Bono, which 'is one of the biggest things that can happen to an Irishman, he said, describing the U2 lead singer as "the chieftain of our country.'" (Bono for Taoiseach!)

RTÉ reported:

Of his Oscars speech, Hansard said: "I don't know what I said, I can't remember a thing about it, to be honest - it was all such a blur. And I forgot to thank John Carney [Once director], which totally wrecked my head afterwards."

Asked about his future plans, Hansard said: "I'm looking forward to just taking a break, going home. I'm looking forward to having a few pints with my friends and celebrating this thing... putting the golden man on a bar and having a night out."

He continued: "We'll probably do a bit of a tour over here in America in the next couple of months. I'd like to think we'll play a few gigs in Ireland... but basically getting back to music. I mean, acting's not really my thing."

Of the Oscar success of Once, he added: "It's like when you get off a roller coaster and you're dizzy for a few hours. Well, this whole experience has been two years of a roller coaster for us. I guess it's going to take us a few months to come down off it and I'm just looking forward to the quiet time after all of this."

[More from RTÉ here.]

Sigh, Swell Season and Frames gigs may be tougher to get into now. Good on 'em!

I was talking to a friend in Ireland last night, trying to gauge the local reaction. I speculated that it'd be either "Feckin' deadly! Oscar for Ireland! Brilliant! Pints all 'round!" or "Jaysis, now his feckin' head'll never fit through the feckin' door ..." or somewhere in between. She laughed and said, "Spot on!" but really it's more the former. Everyone's very happy about it, and for once, Oscar did well in that category.

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  Friday, February 22, 2008

Allons à Scott, Louisiane, pour honorer un grand homme ...   From New Orleans musician Ben Sandmel (thanks Ben!) comes word on a wonderful event in Scott, Louisiana this weekend, honoring a man who's made unparalleled contributions to Louisana French-Acadian culture. Here's more from a diary on DailyKos:

Throughout much of the 20th century, the culture of French Louisiana was in decline, Shunned and shamed, native speakers of the Acadian patois chose to let their language and traditions lapse. Schoolchildren were forbidden to speak French in 1916, and the last surviving French journal, L'Abeille, published its last issue in 1917.

In the last decades of the century, scholars, artists and musicians began to reverse this decline, sparking the "Acadian Renaissance." Central to those efforts was the work of Richard Guidry, bilingual education programs coordinator for the Louisiana State Department of Education from 1981 until he retired.

Guidry's influential book C'est P'us Pareil was only one small part of his efforts to re-legitimize Acadian French as an accepted dialect in the French-speaking world. Musician Zachary Richard, himself a scholar and advocate of Acadian culture and language, has repeatedly praised Guidry's efforts to revive French Louisiana.

After retiring from the Department of Education, Guidry experienced some health setbacks. Several surgeries were required due to spinal stenosis and heart disease. Expenses have piled up.

This Sunday, at Bourque's Social Club, 1012 St. Mary St. in Scott, La. (about 5 mi. west of Lafayette -- here's a map), there will be a benefit for Guidry from noon to 6 pm, starring Richard, D.L. Menard, the Pine Leaf Boys and other legends of Cajun music.

If you are in or near South Louisiana, come on out to support one of the great unsung heroes of the Acadian Renaissance.

If you can't make it to Scott this weekend but would like to help out Mr. Guidry, there is an account set up for him at Rayne State Bank. Checks should be made out to "Un Coup de Main, #1257007" and sent to Un Coup de Main (A Helping Hand), c/o E. Bonin, 100 Washitta Rd., Lafayette, LA 70501. Merci.

Ben adds:

Zachary Richard, D. L. Menard and the Pine Leaf Boys are among the artists performing at [the] benefit ... [which] will raise funds to help defray medical expenses incurred by Mr. Guidry, a leader in the movement to preserve French culture and language in Louisiana. He devoted his professional life to preserving this heritage, and is considered a patriarch of the French immersion program in Louisiana. Guidry retired from the state Department of Education after serving as the Bilingual Education Programs Coordinator. He has written several literary works in Cajun French and Creole, and has created nationally-recognized language curricula.

Tickets are $15 and available at the door only. There will be food, prizes and of course ... "beverages."

"Beverages," i.e. the beer that's closest on hand. :-)

Head on out to Scott, help a great man and pass a good time, y'all!

Passed on, two icons of Louisiana culture.   Rest in peace ...

Preservation Hall's John Brunious dead at 67

Trumpeter John Brunious, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's leader and senior member, died Tuesday in Orlando, Fla., after suffering an apparent heart attack. He was 67.

Mr. Brunious joined Preservation Hall around 1987, after substituting for longtime trumpeter Percy Humphrey. With his shock of white hair and the traditional white shirt and black pants of old-school New Orleans jazz bands, Mr. Brunious tutored rapt tourists on jazz funerals, second-lines and dirges before launching into "Just a Closer Walk With Thee."

But he was not a strict traditionalist. He learned traditional jazz as a child from his father, John Brunious Sr., then focused on bebop and rhythm & blues as a young man.

Mr. Brunious' trumpet and voice are featured on many latter day Preservation Hall recordings. He sings lead on "Last Chance to Dance," the final song on the CD that accompanied the Hall's 2007 limited edition box set, "Made In New Orleans."

Mr. Brunious grew up in the 7th Ward. His father arranged songs for the likes of Count Basie. At St. Augustine High School, Mr. Brunious performed the difficult "Flight of the Bumblebee" for his junior recital. [...]

Mr. Brunious endured the wrath of Hurricane Katrina and the botched response to its aftermath. As the storm approached, he hunkered down in his first-floor apartment on Elysian Fields Avenue in Gentilly. After the levees broke, he plunged into the rising floodwaters to save, ironically enough, his boat. He hoped to secure the boat and its new motor before they floated away.

As the water reached his 8-foot ceiling, Mr. Brunious escaped to a second floor apartment. Eventually, a passing boat rescued him. He joined thousands of storm victims at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

For five days, he survived on minimal food and water, and slept outside on a chair. Finally, officials put him on a bus bound for Conway, Ark.

Jaffe located Mr. Brunious via the Red Cross and arranged to fly him to New York. He received treatment for burns on his face and shoulders; a doctor surmised he contacted acid from a car battery in the floodwaters.

Mr. Brunious was unable to perform at Preservation Hall's first post-Katrina concert in New York because of a severe cough, another byproduct of polluted floodwaters. But on Sept. 20, 2005, he joined the band at Radio City Music Hall for a triumphant set at the "Big Apple to the Big Easy" benefit.

And ...

Irvan J. Perez: Singer worked to preserve the Isleños language

Irvan J. Perez, whose haunting a cappella songs in the disappearing Isle?os language told tales of fishing, trapping and life in the swamps of southern Louisiana, died after a heart attack Jan. 8 at Tulane University Medical Center in New Orleans. He was 85.

Perez, a 1991 winner of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, sang decimas, distinctive narrative songs in 10-line stanzas. Some of the songs date from the Middle Ages and others Perez wrote to preserve his community's unusual history.

Perez was a descendant of Canary Islanders who settled in the St. Bernard Parish swamplands of Louisiana in the late 1700s.

He was considered the best singer of decimas in the Americas and one of the world's few remaining speakers of the Isleños dialect, a combination of 18th-century maritime Spanish, antiquated formal Spanish and snippets of Louisiana's Cajun French.

Known as "Pooka," Perez had a high, fluttery tenor voice perfect for singing decimas from 16th-century Spain and 20th-century Louisiana. The decimas offered advice from those who survived hurricanes, unfaithful lovers and hard times.

"If you ever heard Irvan's singing, you'd never forget it," said Allison Pe?a, a cultural anthropologist at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Last night's "Down Home" up for streaming.   As always, accessible here, the 2/21/08 show features John Boutté, The Neville Brothers, Anders Osborne, Dr. John, Frankie Ford, Huey "Piano" Smith & the Clowns, OK GO & Bonerama, Woodenhead, Jelly Roll Morton, Tuba Fats' Chosen Few Jazzmen, Nicholas Payton, Kid Ory's Creole Jazz Band, Cuarenta y Cinco, Los Lobos, Gillian Welch, Gram Parsons, The Balfa Brothers, Clifton Chenier, Nathan Abshire, Cedric Watson & Corey Ledet, Déanta, Pierce Turner, Bill Jones, De Danann, Leola Manning, Son House, Lightnin' Hopkins and Lucille Bogan. Not a bad show a-tall!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   I came across this one the Flickr photostream of Joerg Meyer, a bartender in Hamburg, Germany. This is the house cocktail at the bar where he works behind the stick, Le Lion - Bar de Paris, and Wes and I found it to be a delightful apéritif. (Joerg's original metric measurements, which I converted for non-metric hardheads like me, are provided in parentheses.)

Le Coquetiez de Lion
("The Lion Cocktail", Bar le Lion, Hamburg)

1-3/4 ounces (5 cl) Lillet blanc.
1 ounce (3 cl) gin, 47% ABV. (They don't specify, but we used Junipero.)
5 dashes Peychaud's bitters.

Stir with ice for 30 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lime twist.

Now that we have a drink, let's drink to something ...

Worst. President. Ever.   It's not just the Comic Book Guy who says so. It's the American people.

George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has dropped to a new low in American Research Group polling ... [a]mong all Americans, 19% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 77% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 14% approve and 79% disapprove.

To add some specifics ... this new rating is the lowest ever (as in EVER), for as long as they've been keeping track of presidential approval ratings, making George W. Bush the most unpopular president in American history.

The Attytood blog from the Philadelphia Daily News elaborates:

Worse than Richard Nixon in the days before he resigned in disgrace during Watergate, worse than Jimmy Carter during the Iran hostage crisis, much worse than Bill Clinton when he was impeached. Just as Roger Bannister raced through what once seemed the unreachable 4-minute mile, Bush has burst through a barrier once also thought impossible, below the 20-percent mark.

Nixon, as he was hounded out of office in August 1974, never dipped below the mid-20s.

Clinton low: 36 percent, May 1993 (early missteps like Zoe Baird)

George H.W. Bush low: 29 percent, August 1992 (recession)

Reagan low: 35 percent, January 1983 (recession)

Carter low: 28 percent, July 1979 (high gas prices)

Ford low: 37 percent, January 1975 (economy, Nixon pardon)

Nixon low: 23 percent, January 1974 (Watergate)

Johnson low: 35 percent, August 1968 (Vietnam)

Lowest ever? That would be Harry Truman during the Korean War, in February 1952, at 22 percent.

And so now George W. Bush has shattered a record that has stood for 55 long years, and there's not any one reason. It's everything, although I suspect that liberals would more likely say Iraq and torture, conservatives would say immigration and runaway spending, and everyone would now say the economy.

It takes more than unpopularity to become the worst president ever, but this may be the straw that broke the camel's back on that front. It should remind us all what the 2008 election is all about, and it's not about Hillary's wardrobe or an off-the-cuff remark or who is the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan.

It's only about who can undo the damage of the last eight years. It's amazing so many people wanted such a difficult task.

Why the frak is he still even in office? (Because the population of this country, by and large, are appallingly apathetic. I think this may be starting to change.)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, February 15, 2008

Raiders of the Lost Cocktail: Apricot Brandy.   This is the first time I've managed to get my lazy, absentminded, procrastinatory ass in gear and participate in what is now the third installment of Raiders of the Lost Cocktail,, run by the folks over at The Spirit World. The general idea behind it is this: "While we are certain there are great new cocktails yet to be discovered, we are equally certain there are great old cocktails that have been lost to the vagaries of time and chance. Some have been recovered by the new masters, but many have not. They are out there, in books and magazines, but they are at risk..."

Raiders of the Lost Cocktail

I started digging through my old books (almost at the last minute of course, I being me) and started by escewing ones that lots of people probably already have, such as the Savoy Cocktail book. Given that I'd pulled out Charles Baker earlier this week he was still fresh in my mind, but lots of people already have his Gentleman's Companion, but I'll bet not quite as many people have his subsequent tomes, The South American Gentleman's Companion, Being an Exotic Drinking Book Or, Up & Down the Andes with Jigger, Beaker & Flask.

Our usual standard for apricot brandy (that is, sweet apricot liqueur with a brandy base, not a clear eau-de-vie or distillate of apricots, such as Hungarian barackpalinka or the outstanding Blume Marillen) is Marie Brizard's most excellent Apry, but lately we've been enjoying the relatively new product by Rothman & Winter from Austria (and imported by our pal Eric Seed of Haus Alpenz), called Orchard Apricot. It's slightly lower in alcohol than Apry (24% as opposed to 30%) and slightly less sweet (I forget the brix, and don't have my refractometer handy ... actually, come to think of it, I don't have a refractometer), so you might have to adjust the balance in your cocktails to your own preferences when using it. While it doesn't have quite as much alcohol or sugar, what it does have is a deep, rich, wonderful flavor of apricots!

In the book I found three contenders, and last night Wes and I had a tasting of two. We passed the glasses back and forth, tasted, swished them around, wrinkled and furrowed our brows, and declared that we had two good cocktails but only one clear winner. Here's the one that came out on top, plus the runner-up and a special bonus cocktail (one you've perhaps seen before but richly deserves another view), all featuring lovely lovely apricot brandy.

The PISCO-APRICOT TROPICÁLS, an Exotic Pair of Cocktails which May be Served Frozen, or Shaken as a Standard Cocktail, from Lima Country Club, Lima Peru.

If you have been able to rat-out a crock of this charming and fragrant Peruvian Grape Brandy, see Shopping Index, try these 2 to vary the Pisco Sour listed on Page 143.

2 oz Pisco Brandy
1/4 to 1/2 pony Garnier's Apricot liqueur.
Juice 1/2 small lime.
Small dash Angostura.

Eitiher put in pre-chilled electric mixer with fine ice and serve in big champagne cocktail glass in frozen form, or shake with big ice and strain into chilled stemmed cocktail glass.

Or use same ingredients and routine, only adding 1 pony of ripe pineapple juice to the mix -- whether frozen or shaken and strained. GArnish this last with thin stick of ripe pineapple.

These also may be further varied by using some other cordial than Apricot liqueur, such as: White Curaçao, Cointreau, Maraschino, peach liqueur or either type of Chartreuse. Miguel was the head bar-boy's name. These were 2 of his specialties. Hope he's still there if you should stay, as we did, at this lovely Club.

Well, chances are that by now Miguel is mixing at that Great Bar in the Sky, where all the liquor is premium, there's cold running fresh fruit juices on tap and no such thing as sour mix or Pucker schnapps. Here's how we did Miguel's first concoction, and it's my official entry in Raiders of the Lost Cocktail:

Pisco-Apricot Tropicál

2 ounces pisco.
1/2 ounce apricot brandy.
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice.
1 dash Angostura bitters.

Combine in a shaker with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lime wheel.

The runner-up was still a fine drink, though, again in Charles' words:

HERE'S another Brandy Business from the AMERICAN CLUB Bar in Buenos Aires, & Called a BRANDY MIST.

We lunched here 1 spring day with a group of expatriated men from the States, and upon hearing our mild wail upon the lack of mixed drinks of Latin creation to be found along the Rive Plate, this was suggested -- was tested-out upon the spot. And accepted.

Pack an Old Fashioned Cocktail glass -- with lip already rubbed with a sprig of crushed mint -- with fine ice; hit it with 1 dash of Angostura and/or orange bitters. Now add 2 oz. really good Cognac brandy, not just any cheap California brand, 1/2 pony of veritable P. Garnier imported Peach Liqueur. Stir gently until chilled and garnish with 1 nice sprig of green mint which has been dipped into powdered sugar to give it a sparkling pleasantly frosted look. Garnier's Apricotine will also work, our donor advised us -- Apricotine, of course, being a superfine apricot-flavored liqueur distilled and made in Enghien-les-Bains, France.

Or, if you're too lazy to read the Bard's prose:

Brandy Mist

2 ounces Cognac.
1/2 ounce apricot brandy.
1 dash Angostura bitters.
1 dash orange bitters.
2 mint sprigs.
Superfine sugar.

Rub the lip of an Old Fashioned glass with a sprig of crushed mint, then fill with crushed ice. Add the Cognac, apricot brandy and bitters, and stir for 20-30 seconds. Take the second mint sprig, moisten it and dip in the superfine sugar, and garnish with the frosted mint sprig.

While we did like this drink, the apricot didn't shine quite as much, and Wes felt that the mint might have been a bit of a problem; although we like mint, it seemed as if it was fighting with the apricot a bit. I might actually increase the apricot to 3/4 ounce next time I make this, especially if using the lower-alcohol and -sugar R&W brand, and see how it goes. Mint-fighting or not, I think this one does deserve more tries.

Now, for a third special bonus drink, which is one of my very favorite drinks featuring apricot brandy. It didn't quite fit in with the rules, as it's not a vintage cocktail but a new one, and although it was published (in this case in the San Francisco Chronicle, it's not really lost, only not well-known enough yet. Plus, the Chronicle version left out a key ingredent, due to its lack of commercial availability at the time. This ingredient won't be a problem for dedicated cocktail geeks, though, and said ingredient will be commercially available from Haus Alpenz, in the form of St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, very soon. It was created by my friend Daniel Reichert, and although I've posted it a couple of times of the past few years it's most certainly worth posting again, as it's absolutely lovely. Make sure you sing its namesake song as you enjoy it, and Dan reminds us that summer is not the only time for drinking rum; it's a lovely soul-warmer in the wintertime too.

Jamaica Farewell
(Created by Daniel Reichert)

2 ounces Appleton Estate VX rum.
3/4 ounce apricot brandy (Dan specifies Marie Brizard Apry).
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice.
1 teaspoon pimento dram.
2 dashes Angostura bitters.

Shake with cracked ice and strain into a cocktail glass; garnish with a lime wedge.

In his article Gary Regan suggests kicking up this drink with Appleton Estate 21-year-old rum, and that'll certainly make it more special. However, to make it truly special ... that teaspoon of pimento liqueur transforms the drink, lifts it be an exponent or two and carries you off to the beaches of Montego Bay. Don't leave it out.

Any other good cocktail ideas using apricot brandy? Leave 'em in the comments!

Last night's edtion of "Down Home."   Y'know, I'm not one to toot my own horn, but I was really happy with the radio show I did last night. In fact, I thought it was particularly good, and I also thought that the first two sets were better than anything that's been played in a long time on that radio station I used to be on. I was a bit frustrated by the fact that I had to wonder if anyone was listening; the only call I got was from the one guy who calls every week. So I'd like to get as many of you to listen to it as possible, and hopefully get you into the habit of listening to it on demand.

You can stream last night's show here for 7 more days, until it's replaced by next week's show, and sometime in the next week I think you should. I featured the new digital-only EP by OK Go and Bonerama, "You're Not Alone", which is brilliant and from which 100% of the proceeds will go towards relief for homeless musicans in New Orleans and toward building a new Habitat for Humanity house for Al "Carnival Time" Johnson who lost his Lower Ninth Ward home at 2349 Tennessee St. and everything in it (and who sings lead vocals on a scalp-tingling version of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" on the EP and on last night's show); also other tracks from Bonerama and Al, plus Marcia Ball, Sidney Bechet, Lucien Barbarin, Louis Prima, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Michael Doucet, Feufollet, Clifton Chenier, Christy Moore, Dónal Lunny, Chris Smither, Josh Ritter and more, including the first-ever Grammy winner in the brand-new Cajun and zydeco category, Terrance Simien! Tons of great music, please do check it out.

(As always, thanks a million to Sean for hosting the show!)

I want one.   And it is not "vile," it's awesome. They're missing a bet, though ... they also need a runner that looks like a strip of bacon. I've already got the perfect place for it.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Val and Tines Day!  

Val! Tines!

(Well, maybe not Val so much. Not quite "Top Gun" these days.)

Okay, no, wait. That's not what it's all about, is it? People have vastly different feelings about today. Some, as various friends said in email today, "loathe what Valentine's Day has become, an occasion all but specifically designed to make people feel bad," or "Frackin' consumer holiday, to the max. About nothing but SPEND, SPEND, SPEND!" The romantic idealists among us just prefer to think it's all about love, showing love unconditionally and publicly, to the person you love, and not giving a damn who thinks what. (And if you love someone, you oughta be able to marry them.)

It's also about appallingly cute pictures, like this:

Valentine Pig!

Yes, she loves her little baconlet. (Thanks, Mary!)

It's all about fine candy, too. Mmmmmmm, Vosges, Recchiuti, Sucré, Leonidas ...

You can love your city and its music and its people, too. Here's a wonderful video produced by Preservation Hall Films and Ben Jaffe, shot on the street of the French Quarter and featuring vocalist Clint Maedgen and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band performing "I Can't Give You Anything But Love."

And it's also about the birthdays of Cajun musician Michael Doucet (Happy Birthday, Mike!) and my old friend Matt Brown's little boy Teo (Happy Birthday, Teo!).

All you need is love.

Homeless New Orleanians and Gulf Coast residents screwed by FEMA again.   First victimized by the loss of their homes due to the failure of the federal government-built levees, and now screwed TWICE by FEMA.

CDC tests confirm FEMA trailers are toxic
Agency to relocate Gulf Coast residents because of formaldehyde fumes

More than two years after residents of FEMA trailers deployed along the Mississippi Gulf Coast began complaining of breathing difficulties, nosebleeds and persistent headaches, U.S. health officials announced Thursday that long-awaited government tests found potentially hazardous levels of toxic formaldehyde gas in both travel trailers and mobile homes provided by the agency.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which requested the testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it would work aggressively to relocate all residents of the temporary housing as soon as possible.

Levels of formaldehyde gas in 519 trailer and mobile homes tested by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Louisiana and Mississippi were -- on average -- about five times what people are exposed to in most modern homes, the CDC reported. In some trailers, the levels were nearly 40 times customary exposure levels, raising fears that residents could suffer respiratory problems and potentially other long-term health effects, it said.

At a news conference Thursday in New Orleans, CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency to relocate residents before summer, when heat would be expected to cause the formaldehyde levels to increase, with priority given to families with children, elderly people or anyone with asthma or other chronic conditions.

Jesus weeping Christ on crutches ... we have GOT to get this government out of power!!

Cocktail of the day.   "Hey, do we have any cherry brandy?"

Thus came the request from Wes as he was digging for last night's libation, and the answer was indeed yes, we're usually never without the Cherry Heering (or kirsch, if that's what he mean, which it wasn't). We still haven't replaced our most recently drained 1.75l bottle of Maker's Mark, so our new bottle of Bulleit Bourbon stepped in. Properly equipped, then he was off.

This one came out of Gary Regan's The Joy of Mixology, and is an adaptation of one that initially came from the Bard of Cocktails, the great Charles H. Baker Jr. and his classic The Gentleman's Companion, or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask. Both Wes and I are trying to recall whether Gary specified Bourbon or listed it as "Bourbon or rye" (will double-check later), but we think it's the former. Having looked up Baker's original rendernig of the recipe we see he specifies it as a rye cocktail and are eager to try that version. That said, when Gary makes adaptive changes it's usually for a very good reason -- balance and flavor being two big ones. Wes thinks that Bourbon might actually be his preference here, but we'll see.

I like everything about this drink but its name, which refers to the "Gulf of Tonkin incident" of the Spanish-American War in 1898, in which our country capitalized on an explosion of unknown origin aboard the USS Maine and blamed it on Spain as a pretext for starting a war. (All this shit sounds sadly familiar, doesn't it? Sigh.)

A little Googling revealed that the drink is also called "McKinley's Delight," which I prefer actually, and we speculated that it might have become a Bourbon drink when rye fell out of favor during Prohibition. Take two coming soon, but in the meantime here's the version we thoroughly enjoyed last night.

McKinley's Delight
(a.k.a. "Remember the Maine")

2 ounces Bourbon.
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce cherry brandy (like Cherry Heering).
2 dashes absinthe or pastis (or slightly less, to taste).
1 dash Angostura bitters.

Combine with ice in a mixing glass and stir for no less than 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish is specified in the recipe, but given the flavor profile of this drink a Luxardo cherry or brandied cherry would not be inappropriate.

Here's Charles Baker's version, from The Gentleman's Companion:

REMEMBER the MAINE, a Hazy Memory of a Night in Havana during the Unpleasantnesses of 1933, when Each Swallow Was Punctuated witih Bombs Going Off on the Prado, or the Sound of 3" Shells Being Fired at the Hotel NACIONAL, then Haven for Certain Anti-Revolutionary Officers.

Treat this one with the respect it deserves, gentlemen. Take a tall bar glass and toss in 3 lumps of ice. Onto this foundation donate the following in order given: 1 jigger good rye whiskey, 1/2 jigger Italian vermouth, 1 to 2 tsp of cherry brandy, 1/2 tsp absinthe or Pernod Veritas. Stir briskly in clock-wise fashion -- this makes it sea-going, presumably! -- turn into a big chilled saucer champagne glass, twisting a curl of green lime or lemon peel over the top.

Mighty, mighty good.

UPDATE: But even better is this!

McKinley's Delight
(Closer to Baker's version)

2 ounces Rittenhouse 100 proof bonded rye whiskey.
3/4 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth.
2 teaspoons Cherry Heering.
1/2 teaspoon absinthe.

Stir with ice for 30 seconds and strain. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

Bourbon shmourbon. This one needs the rye, most definitely.

Des Moines is the new Mecca!   Who'd'a thunk it? But why, why? Here's why:

Bacon. Bringin' it home. Makin' it.

The very word drips with money, sex, pork fat - three things that spin the world.

So when Brooks Reynolds was asked the question Des Moines always asks itself - "What does Des Moines need?" - this is what he said:

"A festival for bacon."

Thus, the High Life Lounge will hold its first Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival March 1, National Pig Day, attracting bacon lovers from California and Arizona along with a Pittsburgh bacon blogger.

Oh man ... too late for this year, but if this becomes an annual event and outgrows that one bar, we are so going. (Then again, there's something to be said for the wackiness of travelling cross-country to attend a bacon festival at a bar.)

I think my favorite line in the article is this: "Split the vein of an Iowan and bacon drippings ooze out." I could grow to love these people. Author Mike Kilen goes on:

Bacon evokes memories of weekend mornings when, like summer days at the grill, dad found his culinary place, flipping thin slices of meat, calling out to the primal man.

Bacon is about sustained attention in a click-happy TV-remote-and-computer-mouse world. It must be forked, flipped, watched. It must not be under- or overdone. It must be honored.

Bacon is about our state's history, when hungry country folk needed meat in their bellies to chore.

Bacon is the underdog, in the shadow of the Iowa chop and thick beef steak, a hardworking food for the fearless.

I think someone needs to write a bacon anthem. I might just get to work on that.

Surreal music video of the day.   From, of all places, "The Lawrence Welk Show." In it, a couple who look like they stepped right out of a Southern Baptist church in 1970 (he in a white suit, she in a doll dress) sing a cover of the biggest hit song by Brewer and Shipley ... aaaaaaaand I don't think they quite understand the lyrics.

A one, an' a two ...

Yes Lawrence, a "modern spiritual" indeed. Hey, don't bogart that sacrament ...

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  Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   I've been researching cocktails for inclusion in this month's Raiders of the Lost Cocktail, in which both dusty, lesser-used ingredients plus vintage cocktails in which to use them are resurrected from dusty old cocktail books. This month's theme ingredient ("Kyo no tema ... KORE DESU!!") is apricot brandy (i.e., apricot liqueur, not dry eaux-de-vie like barackpalinka).

I came across this one in both The Café Royal Cocktail Book from 1937 as well as the venerable Savoy Cocktail Book, but decided to go with the slightly tweaked proportions I found at While it was nice, and perfectly pleasant and I'd recommend it, it didn't grab me enough to submit it to Raiders on Friday. I have a couple of other contenders that I think I'll go with, though, and we'll see those on Friday. In the meantime ...

The Western Rose

1-1/4 ounces gin.
1/2 ounce dry vermouth.
1/2 ounce apricot brandy.
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.

Combine with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Lemon twist garnish.

The gin we used was Plymouth, the vermouth Noilly Prat, the apricot liqueur Rothman and Winter Orchard Apricot.

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  Monday, February 11, 2008

Ughhh.   Being sick sucks. I sure hope you don't get whatever crud it was that I had in addition to the strep (fatigue, aches, head = phlegm factory, constant coughing and generally feeling like utter crap), but apparently it's going around. Wash your hands frequently!

Mixology Monday XXIV: Variations   This month's theme suited me fairly well, as I had a couple of drinks on standby that fit the theme quite well, to wit -- "your variation of a classic recipe, or compare several variations of the same recipe, or anything really," as detailed by this month's host Jimmy Patrick of Jimmy's Cocktail Hour. Mixology Monday XXIV: Variations Here's one I've mentioned in here before, but as it's one of my favorite recent variations I thought I'd give it another go. Sorry to flog this one again, but being sick for the last week left me little opportunity for experimentation, alas.

Several years ago, someone emailed me a recipe for a cocktail along with a story. According to the story, Rat Pack denizen Peter Lawford was fond of drinking one particular cocktail, and any Vegas bartender who didn't know it would end up having Lawford talk him through it. Whether it was his own invention or not was unclear, but I have yet to find a reference to it anywhere, or to the Lawford story. The cocktail had a very simple recipe:


2 ounces gin.
1 ounce Cointreau.
2 dashes pastis.

Rinse the glass with pastis and discard excess. Combine remaining ingredients with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds. Garnish with an orange peel.

Wesly and I tried it and rather liked it, and we credit the Preview Cocktail for being a big factor in moving us toward an appreciation of the joys of gin.

After our 2004 trip to Ireland to see Planxty, I started thinking about how some of those flavors would work with whiskey, and after a bit of experimentation came up with this one. Use a good, spicy orange bitters like Regans' (and I'd love to try this with Angostura Orange Bitters, if they'd hurry up and release them over here!). Mix it up and raise your glass to Van the Man. It's a long way to Buffalo, and a long long way to Belfast city too ...

St. Dominic's Preview

2 ounces Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey.
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier.
2 dashes orange bitters.
2 dashes Herbsaint, Pernod or other pastis.

Dash the pastis into a chilled cocktail glass and swirl around to coat. Discard the excess (or leave it in, if you like). Combine remaining ingredients in a mixing glass and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into the pastis-coated glass, and garnish with a curly orange twist.

One more that I'd flogged a couple of times on the blog before too -- as long as I'm lazily blogflogging cocktails we might as well toss this one back into the pond. In fact, it came up again here about four months ago, but perhaps the MxMO post might give it an opportunity to make it out to more readers than the handful of ya's who hang out here.

It's a pretty durn good drink, I think, and ended up becoming a favorite of one particular country and Western musician who visited our place once. Guys in his line of work might think such a drink to be "girly," yet after finishing his first and raving about it, he asked for two more. Yee-haw!

The original recipe came from a book I found on antique cocktail shakers, and I was taken with the name -- Tiger Lillet. (I'm always up for an awful pun.) The name was great, but something about the recipe looked a bit strange. They listed it as "1/3 Lillet, 1/3 Van der Hum, 1/6 Maraschino syrup." Hmm, well, that's only 5/6 of a drink. And "Maraschino syrup"? Do they mean that red crap in the jar of "maraschino" cherries? Or did they mean a true cherry syrup? Fortunately some digging on the web revealed the actual recipe, which was the winner of the World Cocktail Championship in London in 1952, created by a barman known to history only as "Mr. J. Jones." (Oh yeah, that guy!) Here's Mr. Jones' original:

Tiger Lillet

1/3 Lillet.
1/3 Van der Hum.
1/6 Dry Vermouth.
1/6 Maraschino.

Stir and strain. Serve with small piece of orange peel.

That looks a LOT better, and it's clear that Mr. Jones meant maraschino liqueur. However, at the time, I couldn't find any Van der Hum, which is a South African tangerine-spice liqueuer based on brandy, and at the time I really wasn't a fan of dry vermouth at all. I started tinkering, substituting for the Van der Hum a tangerine liqueur that I did have on hand, taking out the vermouth and adding something to give it a bit more oomph. I also needed a good name that was just as punny. Inspiration finally struck for the name, which came from someone I've oved and admired for a very long time and whose work has given me a great deal of enjoyment since childhood. And that's the truttthhhhhh.

The Lillet Tomlin

Offer your guests a gracious hello!

Then combine in a mixing glass:

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

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass, then garnish with a brandied cherry and an orange wheel. Garnish additionally with two ringy-dingys and serve to the party to which you are speaking.

I managed to get this drink as close as two degrees of separation from its namesake. An old friend of mine was working as camera operator on a film starring Miss Tomlin a while back, and I gave him the recipe and the story behind it and asked him if he could pass it on to her. He did! She was "fascinated," very flattered and told him to thank me, but unfortunately this did not result in an invitation for me to come to the set and mix one for her. Sigh.

OK, I promise not to post this one again for a long time. Happy Mixlogy Monday!

First ever Cajun and Zydeco Grammy award!   Not that I usually give two craps about the Grammies (in which they do things like have Keely Smith singing with Kid Rock, who's not fit to was her nylons), but this was potentially important for Louisiana music, and has been the culmination of a years-long quest by Terrance Simien and his wife Cynthia to see Cajun and zydeco musicians (despite the fact that, as many people have pointed out, they really are two separate genres of Louisiana music) recognized in their own category rather than being up against the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan and Shawn Colvin, which actually didn't make any sense.

So even though the ones I was pulling for -- The Pine Leaf Boys -- didn't win (d'oh), I suppose the winner was appropriate enough. Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience won for their album Live! Worldwide ... congratulations, Terrance!

Speaking of the Pine Leaf Boys ...   NPR did a terrific profile on the Boys last Thursday.

The group's members range in age from 21 to 27. They came together in 2004, when accordion player Wilson Savoy and guitarist Jon Bertrand rented a house in Lafayette, La. Soon, four of the five band members were living under one roof.

The Pine Leaf Boys' members sing exclusively in French, yet all of them learned it later in life. Savoy says that a lot of young musicians from the area have been going to Quebec lately to attend French immersion classes. "I find that this generation that we are part of -- early 20s -- are almost repairing what was almost a dying culture and dying language from the generation before us," Savoy says.

Along with the Lost Bayou Ramblers, the Red Stick Ramblers, and several other local bands, the Pine Leaf Boys belong to a new wave of young Cajun acts who spice up the music of their ancestors.

And yes, the story does go into details on what four 20something musicians living under one roof does to creat ... a mess. (I can only imagine.)

Could it be the best blog EVER?   This weekend Mary stumbled across ... I ❤ Bacon!

The first page worth of posts alone is fabulous -- wild boar bacon, with a bacon taste rating system! Plus they talk about the new phenom that is Bacon Salt, which I'll get to myself soon. Check it out!

City Park resurgent!   One of the many sad stories in the aftermath of the government-enabled flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was the near-loss of New Orleans' City Park. I loved going there when I was a kid, and didn't go nearly often enough as an adult.

Dad and Chuck, Summer 1965

That's my dad and me, in City Park, mumblety-three years ago.

I'm thrilled to read that "[a]fter being inundated during Hurricane Katrina, the park is experiencing a revival fueled by nearly $70 million from federal, state and city governments."

Signs of renewal are everywhere at City Park.

Work crews are putting finishing touches on a remodeled concession stand inside the shuttered Casino building. Heavy equipment is rumbling across battered fairways of the north golf course, preparing for a late-spring reopening. New bleachers are going up at Pan American Stadium.

Visitors soon will see more: a new -- and far bigger -- Ferris wheel at the amusement park, a rebuilt tennis complex, sidewalk repairs, new landscaping near the New Orleans Museum of Art and a massive replanting of Couturie Forest.

By mid-2009, access to the park also should improve as road repairs proceed along Marconi Drive, Wisner Boulevard and Harrison Avenue.

Two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina flooding left City Park a tattered wasteland, New Orleans' high-profile swath of green space is experiencing a revival. The flurry of building and repair projects is unlike anything the 1,300-acre park has seen since a massive work force dug lagoons and built bridges and buildings during the Depression, turning City Park into a regional attraction.

"There is no doubt that the park has never had this level of infrastructure and project investment since that time," City Park Director Bob Becker said.

Yay! I can't wait to see it done!

You've seen the Obama video ...   now it's McCain's turn.

These are brilliant. The first one's funny, the second one will make you mad, and both of them will make you yearn for and work hard for the crushing defeat of John McCain in November, via the landslide loss he and his party richly deserve.

And in the meantime, all of us who are Democrats need to write to the national Democratic party on the issue of the superdelegates. They're the Democratic governors, legislators and other party officials who are given votes at the convention but are not pledged to support the candidate that wins the most delegates via your votes. As John Aravosis said, wondering why these people even get a vote, "Oh that's right, they were created to steal the election in case the party thought your choice was stupid."

Let them know that they need to reel in these superdelegates, and if the superdelegates were to throw the nomination to the candidate who had fewer delegates by popular vote, then the result of that can be summed up in two words: "President McCain." And in an even potentially scarier scenario, "Vice President Huckabee."

UPDATE, 5pm: Via AmericaBlog: Anti-McCain Obama parody hits nearly 200k viewers in one day. John A., referring to the first of the two videos above: "This doesn't happen. It's nearly impossible to get that many viewers in one day on YouTube without putting on black eyeliner and crying. I've been talking to my friends in town who make these kind of videos for a living, and they said that it's very hard to break even 40,000 views TOTAL on a political video on YouTube, let alone 200,000 in one day."


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  Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bleh.   Sick for the last two days, including Mardi Gras. Strep throat. Difficulty swallowing, and when I do it's like swallowing broken glass. Fun fun fun.

I'm on antibiotics as of today, and they're already kicking in, but that means ... no alcohol for 10 days!

/me cries.

<voice="Livia Soprano"> "Oh, poor you!" </voice>

UPDATE, 7:46pm: Yay! I love the Internets!

Expert: Dr Alan Galbraith
Date: 4/15/2005
Subject: Alcohol and amoxicillin

Does alcohol kill the antibiotic in your body if you drink alcohol while taking it?

There is no reason whatsoever that alcohol cannot be drunk while on amoxycillin or for most antibiotics. I do not know where this urban myth came from but it is very widespread even amongst some of the medical profession. There is only one group of commonly used drugs which are antibiotics in the wider sense of this term that may cause unpleasant adverse effects when taken with alcohol. These are the imidazoles, of which metronidazole (Flagyl) is the commonest in use.

It stings my throat a bit, but 'tis a small price to pay for how much better it makes me feel. For medicinal purposes, indeed.

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  Saturday, February 2, 2007

My greatest achievement?   Today, I gave my nephew Thomas his first taste ... of bacon.

He loved it! (He loved my red beans, too.)


Yes we can.   Possibly the most inspirational political video I've ever seen, certainly in recent memory.

Yes, we can! (Vote.)

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  Friday, February 1, 2008

Happy Birthday, Thomas!!!   My amazing, stupdendous nephew turns one year old today (good Gawd, I can't believe it's been a year already!), and as you read this I'm either winging my way to see him or already there. The birthday party is tomorrow -- I'm making red beans 'n rice, his mom's making roast beef debris po-boys, and our sister's making crabmeat Mornay. Mmmmmm. This kid's gonna know good, proper food. In fact, he already does -- you should have seen him put away everything from the Christmas dinner table, albeit mashed up and in small quantities. He loved it all, from turkey to lamb to sweet potatoes, asparagus, corn pudding, stuffing, rice and gravy ... although he seemed particularly enamored of the Cheetos someone gave him. (Sigh.) He doesn't like lentils, apparently, but I'll give him that one.

I'm also thinking about doing a punch, maybe Philadelphia Fish House Punch ... although we'll end up with some tipsy parents watching all those kids.

Posting may be scarce until next Tuesday at the earliest, although as I'll be bored stiff while my brother-in-law is glued to the TV for some big sporting event this weekend, I might have time for something. Then again, I'll likely be entertaining myself by playing with Thomas if he's not napping.

No pictures to post, alas, as his mom doesn't want pictures of him on the Internetsss. However, those of you whom I know personally have have Flickr accounts should be able to see a set of photos of him, which are marked for family and friends only.

I love you, Bean! Seeya in a lil' while!

Cocktail of the day.   This one came from about fifty clicks of the "Random Recipe" button on CocktailDB, which is what it took to finally find something that made me go "Hmmm!"

We've been on a bit of a brandy cocktail kick this week, and this one fit right in. It's also a Chartreuse cocktail, and the world needs more Chartreuse cocktails (in this case the yellow variety). The original recipe called for an ounce of brandy, but that left the drink a bit sweet for my taste; I rebalanced it by adding another half-ounce of brandy, and that worked much better for me. Your mileage may vary.

The Smart Alec Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces Cognac.
3/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse.
3/4 ounce Cointreau.
1 dash orange bitters.

Combine with ice in a mixing glass and stir for at least 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish specified.

I'm sure you could tweak the ingredients or add a bit more to come up with a Why You Little Smart Ass Bastard I Oughta... Cocktail, but I haven't given that any thought as yet.

The future of action figures.   Although he's probably a bit young yet, I should get these for Thomas. The heck with all this Transformers and whatever-all action figures kids are playing with these days ... we all know that what they really want to be doing is to be staging epic battles between Mr. Bacon and Monsieur Tofu.

I keel you!

I'm not sure why Monsieur Tofu is French, as tofu is not a particularly French food, to say the least. Funny moustache and bad attitude, I guess.

"I keel you!" "I wrap you!"

(Thanks, Carol!)

January Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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