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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 @ 11:32am PDT, 10/29/2008

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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)

October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
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 (in memoriam)
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.)

Blogging Tales of the Cocktail

*     *     *

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

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

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

*     *     *

Chuck & Wes' Liquor Cabinet
   (Frighteningly large, and would
   never fit in a cabinet)

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!)

Bittermens Bitters
   (Fantastic new small-batch
   bitters company with forth-
   coming products including
   Xocolatl Mole Bitters,
   grapefruit, "tiki" spice,
   and sweet chocolate bitters, wow!)

*     *     *

The Tiki-licious Luau Spirited Dinner, July 17, 2008
   (Eleven dishes of wonder by Chef
   Chris DeBarr, with fabulous
   tropical cocktails by Jeff "Beachbum"
   Berry and Wayne Curtis. Full review
   of the 11-dish, 4-course meal, with
   photos and recipes for all 5 drinks.)

*     *     *

   (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)

   (Seamus Harris, N.Z. & China)

The Cocktail Chronicles
   (Paul Clarke's weblog)
   (Group drinks blog by Vidiot,
   Mr. Bali Hai, Kosmonaut,
   Chico and me).

The Cocktail Circuit
   (Joseph Mailander)

Cocktail Nerd
   (Gabriel Szaszko)

A Dash of Bitters
   (Michael Dietsch)

Dr. Bamboo
   (Craig Mrusek, bring art and
   alcohol together for a
   better tomorrow!)

Drink A Week
   (Alex and Ed)
   (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)

Fine Spirits & Cocktails
   (eGullet's forum)

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)

The Ministry of Rum
   (Everything you always wanted to know)

Le Mixeur
   (The Munat Bros. host
   cocktail gatherings in
   Seattle, and write about them
   here. I'm jealous that I can't go.)

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.)

The Munat Bros.
   (Seattle-based brothers and
   ardent proponents of fine drinking.)

Nat Decants
   (Natalie MacLean)

Off the Presses
   (Robert Simonson)

Oh, Gosh!
   (Jay Hepburn, London)

Rowley's Whiskey Forge
   (Matt Rowley)
   (Matt Robold, The Rum Dood)

Save the Drinkers
   (Kevin Kelpe, Boise, Idaho!)


Spirit Journal
   (F. Paul Pacult)

Spirits and Cocktails
   (Jamie Boudreau)

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

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
Practically Edible
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:

Lisey's Story, by Stephen King.

The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi.

In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan.

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

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 & rick
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 iMac 24" and a G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.5 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

  Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NO ON PROP 8 - Write to Marry Day.   I noticed a Yes on Prop 8 sign on my street today. Sigh.

Fortunately, that neighbor (who perhaps hasn't thought of how this cruel and heartless proposition will directly affect at least six of their neighbors within half a block) is outnumbered signwise by about 6:1.

We have to keep fighting this one until the very last minute.

Today blogs all over California, America and the world are showing their opposition to Proposition 8 on California's ballot, which will eliminate existing constitutional marriage rights for same-sex couples. It's unfair, it's cruel and it's wrong. (How would you like it if someone voted on your marriage? Oh sorry, you can't visit the person you've been with for years in the hospital anymore ... seeya.) Moreover, the Yes campaign is based on lies, fear and on the exploitation of children. Don't let them win.

Equality for all, and equal protection under the law, is what this country is all about.

NO ON 8.

The Cocktail Spirit, with Robert Hess.   It was great to get a chance (albeit an unfortunately brief one) to knock back a couple of great cocktails with Robert at Seven Grand when he was here last week. I've gotten behind on links to his excellent series of cocktail videos, so let's get cracking. We're going to delve into Tikiworld, beginning with a great concoction by the late, great Ray Buhen, whose son and grandson still run one of the best tiki bars in the universe -- Tiki Ti (a mere 10 minutes from my house, yay!). Here's Robert:

The Hula Hula

Ray Buhen was one of the original bartenders for Don The Beachcomber. The Hula Hula was one of Ray's early creations and still proves to be a great drink. I might recommend one for brunch perhaps?

#     #     #

Beach Bum's Own

Bosko Hrnjak is a noted sculptor and is famous for his "Tiki" creations. He once created a Tiki Mug in the likeness of Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, but alas, it had no signature drink to be filled with. The Beachbum himself soon rectified this problem by coming up with this delightful creation.

#     #     #

The Fog Cutter

When preparing to add some Tiki... er... Exotic Cocktails to my site, I asked Jeff "Beachbum" Berry what drink he recommended besides the Mai Tai. This classic "Trader Vic" creation was first on his list. As Trader Vic himself said: "Fog Cutter, hell. After two of these, you won't even see the stuff."

Ah, fond memories of The Fog Cutter. Several years back two good friends and I would regularly visit a now-gone Chinese restaurant in Pacific Palisades called The House of Lee. It was frozen in time in the early 1950s, with that era's Americanized Chinese food on the menu (rumaki and Crab Rangoon too!) and oddly enough really good hamburgers, served by Albert, The World's Most Expressionless Waiter. (Not entirely true -- he was very sympathetic to me when my car, which I had just paid off two weeks before, was demolished by a drunk driver while parked in front of the restaurant. We miss you, Albert!) It also had a great bartender named Tommy, who ran a little tiki bar in the corner and made fantastic tropical cocktails. My usual drink of choice was the Navy Grog, and Chris' was the Fog Cutter. (Michael always got, and still always gets, a Screwdriver. I've given up trying to convert him.) I miss the House of Lee. Good, good times.

Cocktails of the day.   The reason Robert Hess is in town is for some huge Microsoft event (in case you didn't know, that's his day job). My friend Marcos Tello and his cohorts are doing the cocktails for one of the Microsoft events, and as Marcos knew Robert would be in attendance he headed up the evening's cocktail menu with a drink that Robert first brought to most people's attention (including mine). It's a great drink too, perfect for the season, as summer turns into fall, the air becomes crisp and we start getting the jackets and sweaters out of the closet. (Well, except where I live, dammit, where it's going to be 90 frakkin' degrees today. Can we not have some seasons?! I ask you!)

Fallen Leaves
(Created by Charles Schumann)

3/4 ounce Calvados.
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce dry vermouth.
1 dash brandy.
Lemon peel.

Stir with ice for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Squeeze the lemon oil from the peel onto the drink, and garnish with the peel.

Marcos and I were also talking about one of Robert's originals, which he created for a Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Dinner, and which is quite lovely and perfect for the season as well.

The Stargazer Cocktail
(Created by Robert Hess)

1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey.
1-1/2 ounces Lillet blanc.
1 dash Angostura bitters.

Stir with ice for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Here's to ... cooler weather! Soon, please! (Jeez.)

Well, that explains everything.   Your marriage disintegrating? Problems around the world? Why? It's because the gays are getting married.

I knew it!

Psst ... by the way ... NO ON PROP 8!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   My friend Damian Windsor, world-class bartender, is a finalist in Travel + Leisure magazine's Beverage Arts Challenge '08, in which mixologists from around the country compete for a Major Award (hopefully not an Icebat).

Here's Damian's (hopefully) winning entry, which he'll be pouring tonight at Bar Celona in Pasadena from 8pm on. You can also vote for Damian's cocktail at the above link.

Montresor & Fortunato
(Created by Damian Windsor)

1-1/2 ounces Emilio Lustau Amontillado Sherry.
3/4 ounce Grand Marnier.
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth.
1 orange peel.
1 lemon peel.

Combine ingredients with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the orange and lemon peels over the top and discard. Garnish with three Spanish olives on a pick.

Sip and enjoy as you're being bricked up while chained to a granite wall inside a catacomb, for the love of God!

Good luck, Damian!

Lee Dorsey, Allen Toussaint and Barack Obama.   I was wondering how long it would take for someone to do this -- from the beginning I thought it'd be the perfect Obama campaign song, and this made-of-awesome mashup shows why.

Yes We Can

Direct link to download MP3

Major kudos to Tano Sokolow, who madet his remix. Yes we can!!

NO ON PROP 8!   Remember, Californians ... vote NO on Proposition 8. It's writing discrimination into the state constitution (putting aside the fact that amending the state constitution by a 50%-plus-1 direct vote is insane), eliminating existing rights -- how would you like it if strangers voted on your relationship? Not too much, I expect.

If you will or have already voted no, please talk to as many of your family and friends as possible in the next week. Every single vote counts.

I did phonebanking for the No on 8 campaign last night, and will do more tomorrow and through the weekend. So far the results have been hopeful, at least for me -- of the people to whom I got through, it went about 84% no and 16% yes (and the yes people were, at least, very polite). There's no telling what awful lies the Yes campaign will pull in the next week, so talk to people, and contribute or even volunteer if you can.

Gumbobama almost there!!   Twenty people have contributed $1,900 to the Obama Campaign for Change via this weblog, which is fantastic! With one week to go, I'd be thrilled to hit the rather lofty goal I set. If only six readers contributed $100, we'd get there, or two $250s and one $100, or 12 $50s ... ehh, I have to stop doing math now or my brain will start to complain. (I was promised there'd be no math involved.) We're one week away for real hope and change to take root in this country, and the campaign needs every penny they can get before Election Day. Use the thermometer graphic on the upper right corner of the site, or just follow this link. Please contribute!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, October 23, 2008

Winnah! Winnah!   OK, well, I'm generally not one to toot my own horn, but it was a tie for second place. Not too bad. ("What in the world are you talking about?") Oh yeah! This past Saturday was the 4th Annual Los Feliz Invitational Macaroni and Cheese Cookoff Extravaganza! That's a very fancy, highfalutin' name for the party that Sherri and Mitch throw once a year where everyone is encouraged to bring a macaroni and cheese dish, and everyone votes on the winners.

The first year they did it I didn't know them, but Steve went and asked me for the recipe for a yummy Macaroni and Maytag Blue Cheese dish I had made for a Fat Pack gathering. He made it, took it to the party ... and won first place. The following year I got invited myself ... and won first place. (I also received a Major Award.) The third year I came in second, but thought the actual prize was cooler (the Toxic Teddies Ramones Action Figure Set).

I was happy with second place again this year (although honestly I thought my dish was better, heh), tied with a lovely spicy dish containing fresh jalapeños, but as the first prize was another Icebat I was quite pleased with this year's almost-Major Award -- a 32-piece 3D Human Torso Anatomic Puzzle!

Seriously though, in all lack of seriousness, it's all in good fun, and the quality of the dishes has improved dramatically since the first time I went -- that's what it's all about, having fun with good food and being creative. There was tons of that, which is why I enjoy this party so much every year.

The secret of my Mac 'n Cheese success ... well, just make it from scratch, use good cheese and think of good flavor combinations. It couldn't be easier -- I start with the same béchamel every time (milk, or in this case half-and-half, thickened by a roux and seasoned with a bit of dry mustard), in goes the cheese, flavorings and pasta. The sky's the limit.

Here's the dish for this year. Taleggio's a bit expensive, so you can easily substitute Fontina (which I'll probably do next time). You tend to lose a lot of the weight of the Taleggio in these quantities after removing the inedible rind, so you'd need to buy a pound and a half. Use any pasta you like, but this time I chose galletti, which look like elbow macaroni but with a ruffled fringe. (Cue ridiculous singing of "Roni wtih the Fringe on Top" ...)


Pasta Pera
Galletti Pasta with Taleggio Cheese Sauce, Caramelized Pears, Hazelnuts,
Prosciutto di San Daniele and Sweet Onions.

7 tablespoons unsalted butter.
6 tablespoons flour.
1-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard.
4 cups half-and-half.
6 ounces Pinot Grigio white wine.
2 ounces pear eau-de-vie (clear pear brandy).
6 small or 4 medium-large Bartlett pears, cored and thinly sliced.
1/2 medium-large sweet onion, small dice.
About a pound of Taleggio cheese (weight after rind removal), cubed.
1/2 pound prosciutto crudo, sliced 1/8" thick and julienned.
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped.
About 1-1/2 pounds of galletti pasta, or shape of your choice, cooked in salted water and drained.
1 to 1-1/2 cups coarse homemade Italian bread crumbs.
Olive oil.
About 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated.
Salt and pepper to taste.

In a skillet over low heat melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onions and cook slowly for 15 minutes, then raise heat to medium-high and add the pears. Stir and toss contstantly until the pears get a slightly browned edge and begin to soften. Remove from heat.

For the cheese sauce, heat the remaining butter in a large pot until it foams. Add the flour and mustard, whisking until no lumps remain. Add the milk gradually, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil, continuing to whisk constantly, scraping the bottom and edges of the pot so it doesn't stick. (This makes a classic béchamel sauce.) Slowly bring the béchamel to a boil, which is necessary so that it'll thicken properly, whisking all the while. Reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes, whisking frequently, until the sauce is the consistency of very heavy cream (sauce thickly coats the back of a spoon). Slowly add the wine and brandy, whisking until combined. Add the cheese and stir until it's completely melted. Add the pears, onions and hazelnuts and stir to combine. Cook over medium-low heat for a minute or so until the ingredients are warmed through. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Add pasta and cook over low-medium heat, stirring frequently, for another 3-5 minutes.

Pour into a buttered 9x13x2" baking dish. For the bread crumb topping, moisten bread crumbs with a few drizzles of olive oil and toast in a hot skillet until slightly browned. Remove from heat, add the grated cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and toss to combine.

To finish, sprinkle the bread crumb-cheese topping evenly over the pasta, then heat in a 350F oven for 10 minutes so that it firms up a bit. Serve immediately.

I'll definitely do this again, but with less expensive Fontina cheese. The idea for the recipe came from looking through Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page's magnificent new book The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs, just looking through the flavor charts. I knew I was on the right track when I went to Roma Italian Deli to get my ingredients, and Rosario asked me, "So, whatta you makin'?" I told him, and he said, "Sounds beautiful!" I knew I was home free then. :-)

From the fishin' hole to Arnold's.   Ron Howard would like to talk to you about the upcoming election.

Just watch. Trust me. :-)

"There are no pro-America parts of the country and anti-America parts of the country."   A powerful, scalp-tingling speech from Barack Obama yesterday, in Richmond, Virginia.

At a defining moment like this, we don't have the luxury of relying on the same political games, the same political tactics, that we've become accustomed to. This slash-and-burn politics that divides us from one another. The reason why Mark Warner and Tim Kane do well is that they're all about solving problems. They're not about trying to make other people look bad. which the challenges and crises we face right now, we can't afford to divide this country. By race, by class, by region, by who we are, by what policies we support. Let me tell you something, because I know you've been hearing a lot of stuff lately. There are no real parts of the country and fake parts of the country. There are no pro-America parts of the country and anti-America parts of the country. We all love this country. No matter where we live. Or where we come from. There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq and patriots who opposed it; patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women from Virginia and all across America who serve on our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America -- they have served the United States of America.

We have always been at our best when we've had leadership that called us to look past our differences and come together as one nation, as one people; leadership that rallied this entire country to a common purpose . to a higher purpose. And I am running for President of the United States of America because that is the country we need to be right now.

This country and the dream it represents are being tested in a way that we haven't seen in nearly a century. And future generations will judge ours by how we respond to this test. Will they say that this was a time when America lost its way and its purpose? When we allowed the same divisions and fear tactics and our own petty differences to plunge this country into a dark and painful recession?

Or will they say that this was another one of those moments when America overcame? When we battled back from adversity by recognizing that common stake that we have in each other's success?

This is one of those moments. I realize you're cynical and fed up with politics. I understand that you're disappointed and even angry with your leaders. You have every right to be. But despite all of this, I ask of you what's been asked of the American people in times of trial and turmoil throughout our history. I ask you to believe -- to believe in yourselves, in each other, and in the future we can build together.

12 days.

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  Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Palate Food + Wine.   It's been open for a while now, and rapidly became one of the hottest restaurants in town. I'd heard nothing but good things about it, and its chef Octavio Becerra. I'd been wanting to go. What took me so long? My innate procrastination? Budget? Or the fact that it opened in the old Cinnabar space -- our favorite restaurant in the area for both food and cocktails until it closed in '05 -- and that I'd shed a tear upon re-entering the space?

Well, let's not be so melodramatic. I do still miss Cinnabar, but remember that I'm God Emperor of Procrastination too. Steve had his birthday dinner there last Thursday, and off I went ('cept Wes couldn't make it that night, d'oh).

First thing -- the space is bigger than the old Cinnabar. It extends further back, to make room for additional dining space plus the wine bar and retail wine outlet. It also presented one of the (to me) great oddities of the greatly odd liquor licensing laws in Los Angeles (as opposed to those in New Orleans where I grew up, to which Steve referred as "What licensing?"). We were seated in the back room, adjoining the retail / wine bar space but separated by a door. I saw to my delight that there were some good-looking cocktails on the menu, including a Sazerac! A cocktail-making test of mettle! I happily ordered when the server arrived. Here's why I didn't get one.

The restaurant is only licensed to serve hard liquor in the front dining room. That's the space that corresponds to the old Cinnabar space, and in L.A. County liquor license are attached to buildings, not to businesses, or even to specific spaces in the building. Therefore even though it's all the same establishment, the same business, you can serve a cocktail on this side of the wall but not that side, in the same restaurant. (You California people are weird. My great-aunts warned me you would be.) I briefly considered ditching my tablemates to have a cocktail, whereupon I asked what kind of rye the bartender uses. When she returned she informed me that they had been out of rye for a while and were using Maker's Mark. Oh dear. If he's out of rye then he should be using Cognac, or else he should be declining to serve them. That, plus not really wanting to ditch my friends, I ordered wine. We'll sample the cocktails next time. There were a couple of vodka-y originals, but also classics like the La Floridita and Jack Rose, so I'm looking forward to getting a properly licensed table next time.

Palate has lots of great starters, and we dug right in:

Food + Wine, Glendale]  Duck Rillettes

This was Duck Rillettes,, from the "Mason Jars" section of their menu. These selections vary from potted Berkshire pork or poulet to duck or salmon rillettes or olives or ... anything! In case you're not familiar with rillettes (ree-YET), it's meat that's cubed then salted and cooked slowly in fat until it's extremely tender. You can then shred it and put it up in jars along with the fat, and serve it like a spread at room temperature. This particular batch was lovely.


This one was, of course, right up our alley. Mary called it "Porkography," I called it "Porkopolis." The server thought both were funny. The actual name of the dish is Porkfolio -- Prosciutto di San Daniele, speck Alto Adige, Lardo a la maison, and a selection of salumi: peperone, toscano, finocchiona. And crispy bread. We inhaled it.


Something very new to me -- Pickled Apples, from the "Something Pickled" section of their menu. These were fabulous. Other selections, on and off this evening's menu, included peaches (can't wait to try these!), baby carrots, cipolline onions, nectarines and cherries. Of these I've only had pickled carrots before. I can't wait to try some of his other selections, which change frequently.

Cheese Man

One of the additions to the old space, along with the back dining room, wine bar and retail space, is the Cheese Room. They have a lovely and rotating selection of cheeses, and Da Cheese Man gets his own room, composing fabulous cheese plates for everyone all night. We'll see the fruits (and cheeses) of his labor later on.

potatoes with kale and sea salt

The main portion of the menu starts out with some soups, and a few smaller starter-sized courses for between six and eight bucks. One of our number was vegetarian and ordered two vegetable starters, one of which was Roasted Potatoes with Kale and Sea Salt. I didn't get a taste, but it looked yummy.

Confit with Pears

Steve's meal -- Duck Leg Confit with Pears. I didn't get any of this either.

Berkshire Pork Belly with Barley & Oven-dried Grapes

This was my main -- Berkshire Pork Belly with Barley and Oven-Dried Grapes. I ate every speck. The pork belly was terrific, meaty and unctuously fatty and delightfully crispy on the outside, with a lovely porky jus. The chewy barley was a nice alternative to rice and its nutty flavor complemented the pork well. The oven-dried grapes were a great touch too -- halfway between a grape and a raisin (or maybe 1/3 of the way there), still soft but concentrated and tart and just the counterpoint for the pork. Yay!

Beans with Almonds, Swiss Chard & Shallots

This was my vegetable side, which both I and our vegetarian got -- Lima Beans with Almonds, Swiss Chard and Shallots. I had always hated lima beans as a kid. I'm not entirely sure why, probably because they were frozen or canned and thus inferior. I don't think I've had lima beans much, if at all, since childhood. These were great, and topped with a crust of herbed bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano ... best lima beans EVAR! Well, that I'd had in a long time, anyway.

lima beans, in progress

I know, Gromit ... we'll go someplace where there's cheeeeeeeeeeese!

Plate 1!

First plate -- Timanoix (brandy-washed medium-strong semi-soft cow's milk), Époisses (wonderfully stinky & runny marc-washed cow's milk), Tomme Crayeuse (earthy semi-soft cow's milk).

Plate 2!

Second plate -- Bleu de Bocage (FANTASTIC goat's milk blue -- I ran out to the Cheese Store of Silverlake two days later and got a third of a pound of it), Brillat-Savarin (mild soft-ripened cow's milk, sweet triple-cream) and Fleur Verte (herb-coated chevre, goat's milk from France).

Chocolate Pudding

Finally, dessert. I forgot what else was offered that night, but I went for a classic, simple and delicious chocolate pudding, in this case made with 60% cacao Valrhona chocolate (a bit more elevated than what Bill Cosby would serve out of the Jell-O box).

Quick assessment -- we all loved it. Great, simple yet inventive food, fresh and flavorful and not terribly expensive. Wine lovers will have a field day, and provided it's not too difficult to get a table we'll probably be here frequently. It'll never replace Cinnabar in its look, feel or food, but it's really good to know that an excellent restaurant has filled that space.

Maple syrup that I want now.   My good friend Carol at The Hungry Passport told me about a new product this weekend, and I've already got some on the way. This company, among other things, takes Vermont maple syrup and ages it in 12- to 18-year-old single barrel Bourbon whiskey casks. "The barrels are carefully agitated until the honey, charred oak, vanilla and spice notes are imparted into the syrup for a one-of-a-kind natural flavor."

Want. Some. Now. *begins to think of use in cocktails*

Recipe of the day.   Speaking of Carol, on Sunday she brought over some fantastic fudge. Here's how ya make it.

Bacon Walnut Maple Fudge

16 ounces semi-sweet chocolate.
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk.
2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
1 Tablespoon maple extract or maple flavoring.
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted & coarsely chopped.
8 slices of smoked bacon, cooked until crisp, drained & cooled, crumbled.
Coarse sea salt, to taste.

Line 8- or 9-inch square pan with plastic wrap or foil.

Heat milk and chocolate in bain marie (or double boiler) and stir to blend. Then stir in extracts.

Pour about half the mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle bacon evenly over first layer of fudge. Stir walnuts into the rest of the mixture and pour into the pan. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Refrigerate uncovered until fudge is set, about 2 hours. Store any remaining fudge uncovered, as sealing it causes moisture to melt the salt.

If you want to keep critters out of it, you can cover it with a paper towel. I suspect that once people start in it will disappear quickly, so I don't suppose storage will be an issue.

Open mouth. Insert foot.   John Murtha made an idiotic comment the other day about the western part of his state being racist. John McCain seized on that gaffe and tried to glom that onto Obama (because they're both Democrats, so obviously they're the same person) and his supporters (because all of Obama's umpteen-million supporters are John Murtha). To say that he blew it would be quite the understatement.

McCain: You know, I think you may have noticed that Senator Obama's supporters have been saying some pretty nasty things about Western Pennsylvania lately.

Crowd: Booooooooooooooo!!!

McCain: And you know, I couldn't agree with them more! (*creepy smile*)

Crowd: ...

People behind McCain: (WTF?)

McCain: I couldn't disagree with you ... I couldn't agree with you more than the fact that-- Western Pennsylvania is the most patriotic, most god-loving-- most, most patriotic part of America, and this is a great part of the country."

Crowd: Yaaaaaaaay!!!

Sigh. Thirteen more days.

David Sedaris on undecided voters.   From his new piece in The New Yorker.

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. "Can I interest you in the chicken?" she asks. "Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?"

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

I mean, really, what.s to be confused about?

He pretty much nails it.

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  Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Zydecobama ... Oui on peut! Yes we can!   Just posted today, a new zydeco song called "Oui on peut," with music by Dirk Powell, Christine Balfa, Jeffrey Broussard, Zydeco Joe Citizen, Corey "L'il Pop" Ledet, and Linzay Young. Filmed at the Whirlybird in Opelousas, Louisiana.

Louisiana still looks as if it's going to go the other way, but there are a lot of Louisianians doing their part. What about you? Go to, find your local campaign HQ and do some phonebanking over the next couple of weeks. (I will.) Send in your contributions -- we'll need every cent up until the very day of the election. In fact, why not help Looka! meet its $2500 goal by hitting the "Gumbobama" link at the upper right and donate through this site?

Oui, on peut!!

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  Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mixology Monday XXXII: "Guilty Pleasures"   Well, I didn't get a chance to participate in this one. Wes and I were out of town visiting my sister and my adorable nephew Thomas and my adorable brand-new niece Molly, and I didn't have access to my bar. I also complained about not really having any guilty pleasures, not in the way some of my fellow drinkers did. Wes and I put our heads together, and could only really come up with The Gimlet, which I don't think anyone needs to feel guilty over (unless you make them with vodka, I guess!) and a couple of other things I didn't feel sufficiently guilty about.

I probably would have written about a similar one as Paul did in the above link. He likes vodka Gimlets, but when I was in school my drink of choice was the Tequila Gimlet, which my good friend Matt Brown turned me on to. Same deal as with the gin or vodka versions ... I usually make mine 4:1 these days, but I'll add the 3:1 proportions too.

Tequila Gimlet

2 ounces (or 2-1/4 ounces for 3:1) good blanco tequila (I like Milagro, Herradura or Partida).
1/2 ounce (or 3/4 ounce for 3;1) Rose's Lime Cordial.
Lime twist.

Combine with ice and stir like hell for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and optionally garnish with a lime twist.

Of course, back on those less enlightened days I made my Tequila Gimlets with Cuervo Gold, something I wouldn't use today for anything other then possibly disinfecting wounds. (Horrid, godawful mixto mierda1) Use the blancos I recommended, especially the magnificent Partida. I haven't had one of these in ages, but I think these days I'd take a cue from Paul's recipe above and use this variation as he did:

Tequila Gimlet

2 ounces Partida, Herradura or Milagro blanco tequila.
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice.
1/4 ounce Rose's Lime Cordial.

Stir & strain, etc.

The other drink of choice back in those Olden Days (although only briefly), was the one Doug Winship wrote up in his MxMo post ... the dreaded, evil Kamikaze. Now, I suppose it's not intrinsically evil, like the black lump at the end of Time Bandits. However, if I were to see one today, I'd shriek, "Don't touch it! It's evil!"

It's my own stupid fault, of course.

I don't know how I first came across the Kamikaze, but it was certainly inoffensive -- citrusy and sweet (really sweet, given that you're getting Rose's and undoubtedly the cheapest well triple sec). Here's how I made it at the time:

(Chuck's 1986 version)

1-1/2 ounces vodka (cheap).
3/4 ounce triple sec (cheap).
3/4 ounce Rose's Lime Juice (Cordial).

Shake and strain. Chilled cocktail glass? Guffaw! Any receptacle will do.

I hadn't really given the drink's name much thought, until one day I was with a bunch of friends at some bar, and they were taking our drink orders. When they got to me I shouted out, "Kamikaze!" resulting in a spit-take and a "WTF?!" reaction from our friend Hiroki, who was from Japan. The word had a somewhat different connotation for him. When I told him how it was made, he opined that the name sounded appropriate enough.

During that summer of 1985 I got the great idea to throw a Kamikaze Party. Two of my friends, Bob and Shawn, thought it was a great idea too, and contributed their apartment for the debacle occasion. This was a bit surprising, as we'd already had a fairly raucous gathering there the night before -- more on that later. I was put in charge of the "mixology," or what passed for it when I was 23. I procured two 2.5-gallon jugs of drinking water (the kind that look like this), cut holes in the top, dumped out the water, and batched each of them with two-and-a-half gallons of premixed Kamikaze. Not understanding proper mixological principles at the time, I didn't take into account the fact that the shaking or stirring of a cocktail makes the final result about 20-25% water, which is absolutely necessary for flavor, texture and to take the burning edge off the alcohol. Lacking the water made the drink even stronger, of course (but strong was what it was all about in those days, wasn't it?). Once mixed, each container went into the fridge, giving us five gallons of Kamikaze. The jugs had a spigot, and next to the fridge were piles of little 3-ounce Dixie cups. All you had to do was grab a cup, open the fridge, dispense some chilled Kamikaze from the jug, and shoot it back.

That party had almost no survivors. Also, the Kamikaze is the only cocktail that resulted in my passing out next to the toilet (with photographs, of course).

This tends to take the "pleasure" part out of the phrase "guilty pleasure." I haven't touched a Kamikaze in 23 years, 3 months, 26 days and approximately 13 hours.

And this was after the party of the night before. I'll tell y'all about that one tomorrow.

The Podnahcast.   I got a note from Valcour Records, the Cajun and roots music label owned by Joel Savoy, that started, "An Irishman and a Cajun walk into a kitchen ..."

What sounds like a setup for a great joke ends up being an introduction to a new podcast featuring two friends in Louisiana -- Tony Davoren is a displaced Irish musician from the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, and Toby Rodriguez is an artist from Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. As described on Valcour's site:

They first got together over a boudin breakfast sandwich at last years Black Pot Festival. It wasn.t long before the BS was flowing freely and plans were being made. However these ideas and future projects were quickly put on the bottom shelf and the boys reached for the top shelf in favor of another hang-over.

Despite their best efforts the "boys" couldn't help becoming local media stars, and it wasn't long before they were being harassed to create their own radio show. They both failed to impress the powers that be at the local NPR affiliate, KRVS, mainly due to the Irishman's incessant bad language and the Cajun's penchant for public nudity, so plans were made to create their own show that were be a no-holds-barred, free flowing organically creative outlet for the local arts and music scene -- otherwise known as the local drunks.

Podnahcast is essentially a roots music program featuring the best in music from Louisiana and Ireland. Other music is occasionally added to the rue to thicken the pot so its not uncommon to hear some Clash or Soundgarden or, if Toby needs to show off his 80s dance moves, Culture Club. Spice is added in the form of local characters such as "Bird," a Louisiana celebrity at the stove's helm cooking some down home Cajun / Creole food to be devoured later on the air by the live audience and crew.

The whole program is filmed live at Joel Savoy's Cajun cottage in Eunice, LA, which means live music and musicians are in abundance whether the cameras are running or not, so the show's format is gladly broken up with some exquisite local live music. The whole program streams live on their own website and includes a chat-room where listeners can interact live with the Podnahs while watching Video of the room musicians, the slow cooking pot, and all the guests who came to cut up, harass and drink the Podnahs beer and whiskey!

As a Louisianian roots music lover of Irish descent who loves Cajun music, Irish music and drinking ... this is right up my alley.

Here's Episode 1. Set aside a few hours. Just leave it on while you do other stuff. It's worth it. Believe me.

"We got seventeen listeners ... damn, we popular!" "Fuck me, why'd I get involved in this?"

Last night's debate, in a nutshell.   Who knew that the Republican candidate's strategy was formulated 40 years ago?

I always knew The Penguin was a Republican.

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  Friday, October 10, 2008

EMERGENCY: Prop. 8 ahead in polls.   The right-wing, heavily funded by the Catholic and Mormon churches, have been outspending us on ads filled with lies and distortions in a desperate effort to pass the discriminatory Proposition 8 in California, which will eliminate the existing constitutional right of marriage for millions of Californians. Prop. 8 had been losing in the polls by five points, until the Yes ads started running, falsely claiming that churches that refuse to marry same-sex couples will lose their tax-exempt status (NOT TRUE), and that elementary school children will be required to be taught about same-sex marriage in schools (NOT TRUE).

I guess the Catholics and Mormons have forgotten that little bit about "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

Watch the new ad from NO ON 8 that refutes the lies:

And PLEASE contribute to NO ON 8! and stop the lies. We can win this if we get the funding and refute the lies, and we need all the help we can get. Thanks!

Bake for Barack!   For Los Angeles area locals ... It's the "yeast" we can do -- a big bake sale to help "raise dough" for the Obama/Biden ticket. All proceeds will go directly to the campaign, specifically targeting efforts in swing states. Stop by for some delicious cookies, pies, cakes and bread, washed down with lemonade from a genuine kid-run stand (which is great to help get kids see what it's like to contribute to a cause). There should also be a Sarah Palin impersonator -- see if you can get her to answer a direct question!

Where: Montri Auto Repair parking lot: 1701 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026 (near Effie St. and Spaceland)
When: Sunday, October 12th, 10am-2:00pm (Day after tomorrow!)
Why: We must elect Barack Obama our next president!

DONATIONS NEEDED! To contribute baked goods, please email Lauren Malkasian at bakeforbarack (at) gmail (dot) com.


Cocktail of the day.   Still exploring our new bottles of Hayman's Old Tom Gin, and enjoying every drop. Killer Martinezes, lovely Tom Collinses, although we have yet to try it in a Ramos Fizz. (I keep forgetting to get eggs and cream at the store ... next week for sure.) Tonight for inspiration I delved into CocktailDB, and came up with this one. The original recipes called for an ounce each of Old Tom and sweet vermouth, plus a half-ounce of Crème de Violette, with a dash of orange bitters. To my taste (in fact, probably to most contemporary tastes) this seems horribly sweet, but a possibly intriguing flavor combination with the right balance. I decided to increase the gin and vermouth to 1-1/2 ounces each, and reduce the violette to a teaspoon. Then I realized that this basically makes a Martinez with violette swapped out for the maraschino. That sounded interesting.

The Demeanor Cocktail

The Demeanor Cocktail
(Chuck's variation)

1-1/2 ounces Old Tom gin.
1-1/2 ounces sweet vermouth.
1 teaspoon Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette.
1 dash orange bitters.

Combine with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Garnish with a lemon twist.

It was ... well, certainly interesting. Wes found it "viscous," even though the only difference between this and the Martinezes he's been loving recently is the 1 tsp. of violette instead of 1 tsp. of maraschino. We use Maraska maraschino most of the time, which we find to be a bit drier than the Luxardo (which is still excellent), and perhaps he was reacting just to the level of sweetness of the violette combined with the sweet vermouth and the sweetened gin. He thought it was too sweet; "I wouldn't order it again." I think this has promise, although I think it needs more tweaking. I'd try to get a little more vitterness going by using Punt E Mes for the vermouth, and I might even try a London dry gin too. Yay, tinkering is fun!

Have any of y'all tried this one? What do you think?

More solace for more troubled times.   Again via Mary, who's been providing a great deal of solace of late, it's Bacon Fried Chicken. With bacon and chicken served together. Plus bacon grease gravy made with cream, brandy and Tabasco.

C'mon, this is not something from the White Trash Cookbook. This is, in fact, from James Beard's American Cookery, and a recipe used by Beard's father. This is America! (*Cue "Yankee Doodle Dandy" coming out of nowhere, like on "Green Acres," confusing everyone but the speechmaking Oliver Douglas.*)

The Onion does it again!   Late last night my friend Steve sent out this hilarous article from The Onion, which starts off like this, getting a huge laugh:

Palin pre-empts state report, clears self in probe

Trying to head off a potentially embarrassing state ethics report on GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, campaign officials released their own report Thursday that clears her of any wrongdoing.

Turns out it's not from The Onion, though. It's from The Associated Press.

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  Thursday, October 9, 2008

Contribute to Obama '08!   Just a reminder ... to the right there's a box where you can click and contribute to change in America, and help elect Barack Obama president. I'm trying to raise $2,500 before Election Day from Looka! readers, and although we've done well so far (thanks, you eleven!) we've got a ways to go. 36% of the way there, let's make it 100! Gumbobama!

Cocktail of the day.   What to do with my new batch of falernum, what to do? Well, tons! One great, simple thing to do to kind of get outside the box -- i.e., not a rum-based island or tropical-style drink -- is to make this lovely whiskey sour variation in which you just swap out the simple syrup. I can't for the life of me remember who came up with this, but it's a great idea.

Mardi Gras Sour

2 ounces Bourbon or rye whiskey.
1 ounce fresh lemon juice.
3/4 ounce falernum.

Combine ingredients with ice in a shaker and shake the living crap out of it for at least 15 seconds. Strain into a sour glass or a cocktail glass, and garnish with a cherry.

Simple, and very refreshing.

Here's the one we had the other night. It's a signature drink of the island nation of Barbados, whence falernum originated. I understand that this drink was originally made with Barbados rum (which makes perfect sense), but a few years ago Murray Stenson of the Zig Zag in Seattle suggested to Paul Clarke that this drink be made with one particular type of rum, which looks like something you'd pour in your crankcase and seems as if it would pack a powerful wallop ... but makes a stunningly beautiful drink.

Cruzan Black Strap Rum is made not just from regular molasses, as is nost rum, but from blackstrap molasses, which comes from the third boiling of sugar syrup in the sugar making process. Oddly enough, although it has the calories of sugar it's quite good for you, containing vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. (Here's hoping that at least a bit of that carries through to the hooch.) If you're a lover of molasses, particularly sorghum molasses for all you Midwesterners, you'll love this rum. Having watched Wes drizzle Kansas sorghum on his biscuits (which is a bit much even for me), I knew he'd love this stuff too.

I've seen a number of slight variations -- amount of falernum, bitters or not, lime juice or not -- but the drink does seem to gain some wonderful brighness from the addition of fresh lime, and although the bitters have a tendency to be stomped on by this rum you can add a few dashes if you like, enough for the spice to peek through the heavy molasses flavor.

If you're using the homemade Falernum No. 10 posted earlier, a half-ounce works well. With John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum, the consensus seems to be to cut that back to 1/4 ounce, and I agree.

Although the drink might look as if it's made with 10W-40, it contains neither oil nor corn.

Corn 'n Oil

2 ounces Cruzan Black Strap Rum.
1/2 ounce Falernum No. 10.
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters (optional).
2 lime wedges, about 1/4 lime.

Build over ice in an Old Fashioned glass, and you may leave the squeezed lime wedges in the drink. Stir for at least a quarter-minute before serving.

In looking at the Cruzan Rum website, I've learned something new. I've always heard the brand pronounced like "CREW-ZAN," equal stress on the syllables, and pronounced it that way myself. The website features an introduction by the guy who makes the stuff, and he says "CRU-zhin." I had no idea.

Mixology Monday conundrum.   It's coming up in four days, but I'll be out of town, finally visiting my sister's family (and finally meeting my new niece, who's now almost five months old!), and I'm not sure I'll have time to get a drink and a post ready.

I'm having difficulty with the topic, though. Stevi at Two At The Most is hosting, and the topic is "Guilty Pleasures," to wit:

When it's food, we can use the code words "comfort food." No matter how poorly made, filled with chemicals1, or downright bad for you it is, comfort food is wrapped in the glow of happy childhood and you get a pass.

But in the world of cocktail bloggery, we are often pronouncing certain drinks, categories of drinks, and even an entire base spirit to be the sign of a poorly educated drinker's palate. There seems to be no room for comfort cocktails.

October's Mixology Monday will be a tribute to our guilty pleasures. Write about that one cocktail that, no matter how many times you're told it's no good for you, is the one near and dear to your heart. Feel free to celebrate your drink in all its pre-mix glory. Or try to dress it up, show us that when made right, it's a worthy drink, we've just misjudged it.

Problem is ... most of my comfort foods are good. My ultimate comfort dish is Red Beans 'n Rice, and there's no guilt in that whatsoever. As for cocktails, if I think "comfort" I think Old Fashioned and Whiskey Sour, which are the two my dad used to make all the time. Even though Dave Wondrich called the venerable old Whiskey Sour something like the Joe-Sixpack of cocktails, I think it's a damned good drink, no guilt required. Call me a snob, but all of the drinks we like are good and guilt-free!

When I asked Wes for ideas and inspiration he suggested the Whiskey Sour or the Gimlet, but dammit, the Gimlet's good too!

I can think about my Cosmopolitan period back in the mid-'90s, or the stuff I used to drink and suffer from in college (Kamikazes ... ugh). I couldn't classify those as "pleasures," though. In the early '00s we had our flavored vodka and infused vodka period (and I really liked some of the latter), but we haven't made any of those in years.

The other possiblity is another drink from my childhood, the one that'd always be served at my grandparents' house in the Ninth Ward, what they simply called a "Highball." Inevitably that would be a mixture of 7-Up and Seagram's V.O. blended whiskey. Way, way too sweet for me now, but maybe I could gussy one of those up ...

I may or may not be able to think of something by then ... we'll see.

In the meantime, it's going to be a very YouTubey day on Looka!, as you'll see below.

Ukuleles rule!   You know, one doesn't really need to say anything other than, "The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain performs the Theme from 'Shaft.'"

And as a big Kaiser Chiefs fan I was quite chuffed to come across this one as well:

Of course, if we're talking ukuleles, we kinda can't not mention Jake Shimabukuro (who's stupefyingly brilliant):

Hey, my dad had a ukulele and could play "Ain't She Sweet!" Um, and I could play "My Dog Has Fleas."

Keating Economics: John McCain and the Making of a Financial Crisis   If you haven't watched this 13-minute video yet, join the 1,750,275 of your fellow prisoners Americans who have.

The "appalling" McCain/Palin campaign.   These words appeared in a non-bylined editorial in yesterday's New York Times, entitled "Politics of Attack" (emphasis mine).

t is a sorry fact of American political life that campaigns get ugly, often in their final weeks. But Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have been running one of the most appalling campaigns we can remember.

They have gone far beyond the usual fare of quotes taken out of context and distortions of an opponent's record -- into the dark territory of race-baiting and xenophobia. Senator Barack Obama has taken some cheap shots at Mr. McCain, but there is no comparison.

Despite the occasional slip (referring to Mr. Obama's "cronies" and calling him "that one"), Mr. McCain tried to take a higher road in Tuesday night's presidential debate. It was hard to keep track of the number of times he referred to his audience as "my friends."

That would be nineteen times.

But apart from promising to buy up troubled mortgages as president, he offered no real answers for how he plans to solve the country's deep economic crisis. He is unable or unwilling to admit that the Republican assault on regulation was to blame.

Ninety minutes of forced cordiality did not erase the dismal ugliness of his campaign in recent weeks, nor did it leave us with much hope that he would not just return to the same dismal ugliness on Wednesday.

Ms. Palin, in particular, revels in the attack. Her campaign rallies have become spectacles of anger and insult. "This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America," Ms. Palin has taken to saying.

That line follows passages in Ms. Palin's new stump speech in which she twists Mr. Obama's ill-advised but fleeting and long-past association with William Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground and confessed bomber. By the time she's done, she implies that Mr. Obama is right now a close friend of Mr. Ayers . and sympathetic to the violent overthrow of the government. The Democrat, she says, "sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country."

Her demagoguery has elicited some frightening, intolerable responses. A recent Washington Post report said at a rally in Florida this week a man yelled "kill him!" as Ms. Palin delivered that line and others shouted epithets at an African-American member of a TV crew.

Mr. McCain's aides haven't even tried to hide their cynical tactics, saying they were "going negative" in hopes of shifting attention away from the financial crisis . and by implication Mr. McCain's stumbling response.

We certainly expected better from Mr. McCain, who once showed withering contempt for win-at-any-cost politics. He was driven out of the 2000 Republican primaries by this sort of smear, orchestrated by some of the same people who are now running his campaign.

And the tactic of guilt by association is perplexing, since Mr. McCain has his own list of political associates he would rather forget. We were disappointed to see the Obama campaign air an ad (held for just this occasion) reminding voters of Mr. McCain's involvement in the Keating Five savings-and-loan debacle, for which he was reprimanded by the Senate. That episode at least bears on Mr. McCain's claims to be the morally pure candidate and his argument that he alone is capable of doing away with greed, fraud and abuse.

In a way, we should not be surprised that Mr. McCain has stooped so low, since the debate showed once again that he has little else to talk about. He long ago abandoned his signature issues of immigration reform and global warming; his talk of "victory" in Iraq has little to offer a war-weary nation; and his Reagan-inspired ideology of starving government and shredding regulation lies in tatters on Wall Street.

But surely, Mr. McCain and his team can come up with a better answer to that problem than inciting more division, anger and hatred.

Of course, McCain's spokesbots say that this paper has no credibility left.

Alan Rich also nailed it in a brilliant column from last Saturday, about how Sarah Palin is making John McCain increasingly irrelevant, which is very worrisome due to her patently obvious ambitions for the presidency while being "preposterously unprepared" for such a nearly unthinkable event.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Making Your Own Cocktail Ingredents.   Continuing with the World's Most Procrastinatory Tales of the Cocktail Recap by yours truly, God Emperor of Procrastination.

This seminar was one of my favorites, being an extension of the "Lost Ingredients" seminar whose panel I participated in last year, along with Ted Haigh, Paul Clarke, Joe Fee, Eric Seed and Gwydion Stone. Paul moderated the panel this year, which also included Erik Ellestad, Jamie Boudreau and John Deragon, and we got to learn about and try some really tasty stuff.

Paul kicked things off with an old favorite of mine since I first noticed it in Charles H. Baker Jr.'s The Gentleman's Companion; or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask about six years ago. This is the thing to do as soon as strawberries are in season, especially if you're in Louisiana and have access to the Best Strawberries in the World. I usually use a good reposado tequila for this recipe, but next time I think I'll use Partida Blanco. I've become a huge fan of Partida Tequila over the last year, and it's easily my favorite. Fully of fruity, spicy flavors, I think it'd take to strawberries very well. Milagro is a good and less expensive choice.

Tequila por mi Amante
Collected by Charles H. Baker, Jr., Mexico City, 1937

Three pints strawberries
One 750ml bottle of your favorite blanco or reposado tequila

Go to a local farmer's market and buy the best, reddest and most flavorful strawberries that you can. They're right at the peak of their season now. Avoid any strawberries that aren't completely red, particularly those with white "shoulders". Wash, hull and halve the strawberries, quartering the really big ones.

Place into a 2 liter/quart jar with a seal, and cover with a good quality blanco or reposado tequila. (Try Partida or Milagro, or whatever your favorite 100% agave tequila is. Don't use cheapo mixto crapola.)

Allow the strawberries to steep in the tequila for at least two weeks. Every day, when you think about it, give the jar a gentle shake, turning it upside down a few times. After about 2 weeks strain the tequila through several layers of cheesecloth, squeezing all the liquid out of the strawberries. By this point the strawberries will be bleached, lifeless hulls, having given up everything they have to the tequila. Toss them.

Strain the tequila again if necessary. Funnel the gorgeous rose-red infused tequila into a bottle (the same one it came in will work), seal and allow to age for at least three weeks. At the end of the aging period, you can filter it again if there's any sediment at the bottom, or else just pour off the clear spirit and leave the sediment behind.

To serve, pour 3 ounces of the tequila per drink into shaker with ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Serve up with a lime wedge, which you may optionally squeeze into the drink. You may also serve it chilled and neat, or on the rocks, or however you like.

Boy, this stuff is good ... it's become one of the things by which I mark late spring and early summer.

The sad part about the Lost Ingredients seminar last year was that the batch of Paul's lost ingredient was truly lost, and didn't make it to New Orleans. Fortunately we got some this time, along with the latest evolution of the recipe. Falernum, in case you're not familiar with it, is native to Barbados and is a syrup or liqueur, depending on how it's made, infused with lime, almonds, ginger and cloves. There are a few commercially available brands, including John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum (11% alcohol), Fee Bros. West Indian Style Falernum (non-alcoholic) and one from Da Vinci Gourmet (which I don't particularly care for). I stock both Taylor's and Fee's, but I really like this homemade version from Paul Clarke -- just finished a batch of this on Sunday, in fact:

Falernum No. 10
(by Paul Clarke)

6 ounces Wray & Nephew Overproof White Rum (63% abv).
Zest of 9 limes, preferably organic.
50 cloves, toasted.
2 tablespoons blanched slivered almonds, toasted.
1/2 tsp almond extract.
1-1/2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and julienned.
14 ounces rich (2:1) simple syrup, cold preparation.

Zest the limes carefully with a microplane grater, zester or vegetable peeler, making sure to leave all the white pith behind. Toast the cloves in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking frequently, just until they begin to become aromatic, then remove from heat. Toast the almonds, shaking frequently, until they begin to turn light brown, then remove from heat. Add the lime zest, cloves, almonds and ginger to the rum in a pint-sized jar and allow to infuse for 24 hours, shaking occasionally. Strain the infusion through moistened cheesecloth, and squeeze to get every drop of liquid out. Filter if necessary.

To make the simple syrup, add 2 cups sugar and 1 cup cold water to a large jar. Seal the lid and shake like hell until the sugar is completely dissolved. (C'mon, you need the workout.) Measure 14 ounces of syrup (you'll have a little extra); add the rum infusion to the syrup and shake to combine. Store in refrigerator.

The previous version included fresh lime juice, which did give the syrup more brightness and acidity but also cut down on its shelf life. I don't recall version no. 10 including this, but if you want to try it you can add 4.5 ounces of strained lime juice to this, or just add a squeeze of fresh lime to a recipe that calls for falernum.

Erik Ellestad was up next, he of Underhill Lounge and Stomping Through the Savoy, in which he's making every cocktail listed in Harry Craddock's 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, in alphabetical order (although the link will take you to them in beta-alphical order, beginning with his most recent). Now that's a way to learn about vintage cocktails.

Erik offered two ingredients, first of which being something you can otherwise easily obtain, but you'll undoubtedly find the homemade product to be far superior. Orgeat is an almond syrup that's an essential cocktail ingredient, espeically if you like Mai Tais. The main problem you have with orgeat is finding a high quality product, and figuring out how to pronounce it. I don't remember where I first saw this or whose illustration it was -- I'm thinking either Martin Cate or Jeff Berry, but somebody correct me if I'm wrong -- but the best way I've seen to teach someone how to pronounce orgeat properly was this:

OAR-   zsa.

For the thick, it's OAR-zsa, not OAR-zsazsa.

The recipe is from the seminar, although when comparing it to the orgeat recipe on Erik's site I see a discrepancy between the amounts of almond extract to be added. The link says it's 1/4 teaspoon per liter, and my notes say 1/4 ounce. I think my notes are far less trustworthy, and I hope Erik will correct me if I'm wrong. That said, I can't wait to make this, although I think I may end up with a bit more than I might really need. This is why it's good to have cocktailian friends to whom to give stuff!

Underhill Orgeat

550 grams blanched and roughly chopped almonds (and optionally, apricot kernels).
150 grams blanched and finely minced almonds (and optionally, apricot kernels).
3 quarts water.
About 9 pounds sugar.
1 cup brandy or Cognac.
2 teaspoons orange flower water.
1/4 teaspoon ounce per liter natural almond extract. [Corrected. - ct]

To blanch almonds: Buy raw almonds and apricot kernels. (Erik started with about 2 pounds of almonds and 2 ounces of apricot kernels.) Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Quickly bring to a boil over high heat for no longer than 1 minute. Remove from heat and rinse with cold water. Rub the skins off each almond. (That sounds tedious, but Erik recommends putting on some good music, and I recommend getting a helper.)

Using a large chef's knife, roughly chop 550 grams of the almonds, and then finely mince 150 grams of the almonds.

Add the almonds and 600 grams of sugar to a pot. Add 3 quarts of water, then bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cool and let rest for 12 hours. (You can put it in the fridge once it's cooled.)

Strain through several layers of moistened cheesecloth. Even better, Erik recommends a straining bag from a beer homebrewing supply house (try or Northern Brewer).

Wash and sanitize the bottles you'll be using to store your orgeat. If you have a dishwasher with a sanitizing cycle that'll work. Erik washed and rinsed his, then placed them in a cold oven and turned up the temperature to 200°F. Once reaching temperature leave it in for 15 minutes.

Weigh the strained liquid. For every 500 grams of liquid add 700 grams of sugar. (If your mind, like mine, rejects math, get out the calculator.) Put the pot over low heat and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Do NOT bring to a boil! When the sugar is all dissolved, remove from heat and let cool. When cool, add brandy, orange flower water and almond extract.

Pour into the sanitized bottles, seal and store. Keep in the refrigerator once opened.

YIELD: Slightly more than 1 gallon.

Erik added a comment from the recipe's orignator, Francis Xavier: "Real orgeat syrup will split after a few days in a thick, solid white layer of almond powder on top and syrup below. This is normal and happens with quality bought orgeat syrup such as the one I used to buy from Hédiard in Paris. All you need is to insert a skewer in the bottle to break the top layer a bit, close and shake. This is really part of the fun in this product and a hallmark of quality orgeat syrup." Good, 'cause quality orgeat syrup is waht we want.

As if that wasn't enough, Erik's also been working on a version of Swedish Punsch, a lost cocktail ingredient (unless you live in Sweden, from whence it is quite annoyingly no longer exported) called for in a number of classic recipes, and actually pretty damned good all on its own. Swedish punsch was fairly difficult to make on your own due to the lack of availability of its essential ingredient, Batavia arrack, a rum-like cane spirit made from cane juice and fermented Indonesian red rice, with a delightfully smoky character. It's not to be confused with Lebanese arak, which is an anise-flavored grape spirit, or someting else called arrak or arrack from Sri Lanka, which is made from "palm wine," or coconut milk. This is in the cane spirit family, and its recent return to the market under the brand name Batavia Arrack van Oosten from Haus Alpenz is very welcome indeed.

Vintage recipes that'd be close to Swedish punsch can be found in Professor Jerry Thomas' book, The Bon Vivant's Companion -- check the recipes for Arrack Punch and especially United Service Punch. Here's an excellent recipe, even closer to what you might find in Sweden, another large-batch recipe that Erik gave us at Tales:

Swedish Punsch
(Underhill Punsch, Tales version, by Erik Ellestad)

2 750ml bottles El Dorado 5 year Demerara Rum.
1 750ml bottle Batavia Arrack van Oosten.
8 lemons, sliced thin and seeded.
750ml water.
8 teaspoons Yunnan province China black tea.
2 crushed cardamom pods.
4 cups raw sugar.

Put the sliced lemons into a large jar (I use a 3 liter one with a rubber seal), and pour the rum and arrack over the lemons. Close lid and steep for 6 hours.

Heat the water until just below boiling, then steep the tea and cardamom for 6 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer or cheesecloth to remove the tea leaves and cardamom pods. Dissolve the sugar in the hot tea, then cool to room temperature and refrigerate.

After 6 hours pour the rum and arrack off the sliced lemons without squeezing the fruit. Combine the tea syrup and flavored rum, then filter and pour into clean resealable bottles. Age at least overnight.

YIELD: Slightly more than 3 liters.

Enjoy on its own, or as an ingredient whenever Swedish punsch is called for. Dr. Cocktail would have you make this:

The Doctor Cocktail
(Adapted by Ted Haigh)

2 ounces Jamaican rum.
1 ounce Swedish punsch.
1 ounce fresh lime juice.

Shake and strain, garnish with a lime twist.

Next up was Jamie Boudreau, who was hilarious and taught us a great many things. The first of which was, "I'm a lazy bastard." (Iiiiii ... think I might be lazier!) "I'm freakin' lazy!" his slide presentation declared, "but those damned spirit companies (you know who you are) don't make what i want, do make what I want but won't give it to me, and/or charge too much for what I want," hence the inspiration to make your own cocktail ingredients, which adds additional challenges if you're making them in quantity for bar service. However, doing this will advance the quality of your bar service by light-years, and make it truly unique. It's happening more and more nowadays at the best bars, and it's exciting to see.

Jamie handed out the recipe for his excellent Amer Picon replica which even he has now taken to calling "Amer Boudreau" (but was it me who first started calling it that, or him? If it was me, I want royalties! Or at least a drink sometime ...) This is well worth making, as we've discussed before. That said, I can't wait to get my hands on a bottle of the alleged recent reformulation of Torani Amer and do a side-by-side taste test!

Jamie also talked a bit about Swedish punsch (with a slide that said, "Damn you, Eric Seed!" Yes indeed, how dare Eric bring back booze that'll give us more to do?! And taste, mmm.) He also provided another Swedish punsch-containing cocktail recipe for us:

The Biffy Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces gin.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/2 ounce Swedish punsch.

Shake and strain.

There was also some talk about making homemade bitters and other kinds of infusions, and the ever-present problem of how to strain them properly. Coffee filters work, but only if you have between six hours and two days to wait. A Büchner funnel works much better, but Jamie spoke from experience in assuring you you'll end up with hand cramps from pumping. Could there be another way? Yes! A plain ol' Brita water filter is just the thing. It's labor-free, the charcoal in the filtration system doesn't strip away any of the flavor and he feels it integrates the flavors better. And it's cheap.

John Deragon from PDT in New York was up next, talking about and offering tastes of his own version of the venerable and long-defunct Abbott's Bitters (there was an article in the New York Times a while back). He started with this basic recipe from the DrinkBoy forum, and began to document his progress here. I tasted a drop of his Abbott's recreation, and it was pretty damn good, although far more bitter than the vintage Abbott's we have at home. I asked him if he thought the bitter elements might have lost some of their edge in the last 70 years or so, and that's entirely possible. It's a very exciting development, though, and the quest for a recreated Abbott's continues.

Finally we had a presentation from Daniel, one of the bartenders at PDT, who gave us the method for and samples of Don Lee's Bacon Bourbon, which we've talked about here at length. I did get some great tips from my pal Zane Harris from Vessel in Seattle -- use a cast-iron skillet for your bacon fry, and a bacon press if possible, to get the bacon nice and crispy and caramelized, as that'll improve the flavor of the fat you use for your "fat washing" technique.

Lots of fun, lots to learn and lots to play with!

The Fatty Melt.   Serious Eats once again throws something my way that means I won't be losing any weight this week ...

What is it? Well, I have to say I'm likin' the name already, and it'll make more sense when I tell you that a Fatty Melt is ... a hamburger with two grilled cheese sandwiches as its bun.

The Fat Pack weighs in. "Solace for these troubled times," said Mary, who sent it to everyone. "Who's with me?" I am! Are you?

"You know," said Steve, "I almost want to find a reason to dismiss this. But I can't! It could be quite good, and looks great in the photo."

"Look at that tomato in there," said Wes, "bravely trying to convince us that the sandwich won't actually kill us."

It needs bacon, though. And mayonnaise instead of butter on the inside and outside of the cheese sandwich bread, as per our family tradition. A li'l ketchup and Tabasco, maybe? Oh, and onion!

Seriously, I'm game.

Keating Economics: John McCain & the Making of a Financial Crisis.   Watch this, and remember John McCain's part in the largest failure of a financial institution in U.S. history (up until September 2008, that is) -- Charles Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan -- to the tune of $3.4 billion, thanks in part to McCain's intervention.

Alan Rich nails it.   Brilliant column on Saturday, about how Sarah Palin is making John McCain increasingl irrelevant, which is very worrisome due to her patently obvious ambitions for the presidency while being "preposterously unprepared" for such a nearly unthinkable event.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, October 3, 2008

The Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart.   By Aden Nak.

Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart
Click to enlarge.

I counted fifteen times that she either completely ignored the question and didn't answer it or else gave a three- to five-word non-answer and then changed the subject. I also counted ten outright lies (but AmericaBlog counted 18), plus at least nine uses of "maverick," eight "nuculars", four horrid winks and three "darn rights". Oh, and a "doggone it," but no "gosh."

Dan won Palin Bingo diagonally with Alaska, Special Needs, the free Air Space, Hockey Mom and Terrorists. We drank Martinez, Alaska and Remember the Maine cocktails, plus some Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, and per Robb's suggestion we put a bottle of Stoli on top of the TV during the debate, so that we could see Russia from the sofa.

I can see Russia from here!

Biden really, really knew what he was talking about, while at the same time hammered McCain for his positions and plans, and had this great bit that was immediately made into a terrific Obama campaign commercial:

Woohoo, are you ready to start having the value of your employer-provided health care benefits taxed as income? That's an extra $12,000 - 13,000 more to be taxed for most of us who have insurance, not even half of which will be covered by his ludicrous tax credit. That's not a "health care plan," that's a swindle. And that's just for starters.

Palin couldn't help but seem to do well during the debate, due to the extremely low expectations set for her -- all she had to do was show up, speak into the camera and not pass out. She did a great job reciting the talking points from the flash card she'd been working with for the last week (and which she seemed to have with her; she was checking them constantly). But it's obvious that she couldn't really answer most of those questions other than with her robotic recitations from her training sessions. Poor Gov. Palin is in so very far over her head, and is so very far out of her league. That said, now that the punditry has declared that she did a good job and held her own, let's start seeing her do more interviews and talk shows! I want to see her on "Meet the Press" and "Face the Nation" right away, preferably this Sunday.

But it'll never happen. She'll be confined to doing rallies and reading off the prompter, because that's really all she can do.

But if she's elected, she thinks that she needs to expand the role of the vice president beyond even what Cheney's been doing. Nervous yet?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   We're so looking forward to the vice presidential debate tonight. There was really only once choice.

The Alaska Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces gin.
1/2 ounce yellow Chartreuse.

Combine with ice, stir for no less than 30 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a freshly shot and field-dressed moose.

Okay, you can leave out that garnish. I'll ... find another garnish and get back to ya!

Murray said he'd be making this one tonight:

The Snicker Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces gin.
1/2 ounce dry vermouth.
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur.
1/2 teaspoon simple syrup.
1 dash orange bitters.
1 egg white.

Dry shake the ingredients without ice for half a minute, then add the ice and shake for 15 seconds or so. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Hey, that sounds good.

Make-Believe Maverick.   John McCain tells some glowing stories about his own history and life. Tim Dickinson, in the current issue of Rolling Stone, did some digging and talking with people who knew him in school, at the Naval Academy, in the Navy and in the P.O.W. camp, and found something quite different: the real John McCain. Long, but a must-read.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Oink!   Our friend Audrey sent these moan-inducing pictures from her recent trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. Let's start with the one featuring the little shop that would have made my head swivel like Linda Blair in The Exorcist from across the street if I had spotted it:


As you can see, the establishment is called "Oink." That pretty much tells me all I need to know. However, there is an annotation, a subtitle, an explanation of the oink, if you will: "delicious scottish hog roast rolls." My interest is now exponentiall higher. Then, peering inside the window, we see, written on a chalkboard, an even further description of what all this hog roll business is about:

Freshly carved hog roast served in a bread roll with sage and onion stuffing, apple sauce or chilli relish, with crispy cracklings.

Oh ... my.

Then Audrey managed to get a close-up of the meat of the matter:


Niiiiiice piggy. I could just reach into there with a fork and dig in.

There's a tragic ending to the story, though. Audrey didn't get to eat at Oink! The blame falls on an uncooperative dining companion, who was apparently put off by the window display ... to which Audrey had her face plastered for so long that she was apparently asked to move along. I feel her pain.

And I want a hog roll!

The lurking Sugar Bear.   Those of us of a certain age remember kids' breakfast cereals from our younger days, many of which actually had the word "sugar" in the name -- Sugar Smacks, Super Sugar Crisp, and the like. Remember that Frosted Flakes used to be Sugar Frosted Flakes. Now in the days of "healthier" cereals, all that sugar has been dropped from the brand names.

Well, dropped from the brand names, but not from the cereals apparently. Consumer Reports' analysis of kids' cereals shows that some of them are as much as 50% sugar, with very little fiber.

The two worst-rated cereals are Post Golden Crisp and Kellogg's Honey Smacks ... which used to be called Super Sugar Crisp and Sugar Smacks, respectively. "A serving of Honey Smacks has 15 grams of sugar -- 3 more grams than is found in a Dunkin' Donuts glazed doughnut. Golden Crisps has 14 grams of sugar in a 3/4 cup serving and less than 1 gram of fiber." The Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs that kept Calvin all hopped up in his comic strip isn't that much of an exaggeration, it seems.

The cereal I eat these days has almost no sugar and tastes like proper push broom bristles, as it should! (Ehh, dump a bunch of berries and cinnamon on it and who can tell?)

Hey, remember Quisp and Quake? I also remember getting Lucky Charms for breakfast when I was in first grade, until my mom read the packaging and started giving me Instant Breakfast - not quite the same.

September Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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