looka, <'lu-k&> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look", in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans; usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.
2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news, movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, Macs, politics, humor, reviews, rants, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.
Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting. If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.
Page last tweaked @ 11:10am PST, 12/24/2003
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1999: Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
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KCSN (Los Angeles)
"Down Home" playlist
Live MP3 audio stream
Subscribe to the
"Down Home" weekly
playlist email service
WWOZ (New Orleans)
Live audio stream
Grateful Dead Radio
(Streaming complete shows!)
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
KRVS Radio Acadie
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
(Science fiction radio)
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
(Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)
The Sazerac Cocktail
(A work in progress;
Martin Doudoroff &
Alcohol (and how to mix it)
(Gary & Mardee Regan)
DrinkBoy and the
Community for the
(Robert Hess, et al.)
DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog
La Fée Verte
(All about absinthe
from Kallisti et al.)
Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
Swanky et al.)
New Orleans Menu Daily
The Making of a Restaurant
Mise en Place
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
The Global Gourmet
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
In vino veritas.
Reading this month:
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, by Al Franken.
The Joy of Mixology, by Gary Regan.
Best Food Writing 2003, edited by Holly Hughes.
Listen to music!
Chuck's current album recommendations
La Bottine Souriante
The Old 97s
The Red Stick Ramblers
Miles of Music
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
San Francisco Celtic Music & Arts Festival
Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV
Long Beach Bayou Festival
Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA
A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
J. T. Seaton
The Mirror Project
Bloom County / Outland,
by Berkeley Breathed
Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley
by Aaron McGruder
Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson
by Garry B. Trudeau
Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley
Get Your War On
by David Rees
L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz
by Peter Blegvad
by Al Capp
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner
by Ted Rall
This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow
Xquzyphyr & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak
Films seen this year:
Lookin' at da TV:
Weblogs I read:
The Carpetbagger Report
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
The Leaky Cauldron
Little. Yellow. Different.
More Like This
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
This Modern World
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?
Matthew's GLB blog portal
New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.
AlterNet.org (progressive politics & news)
Borowitz Report (political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Daily Mis-lead
The Deduct Box (Louisiana politics)
The Fray (your stories)
Izzle Pfaff! (my favorite webjournal)
Landover Baptist (better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (news, opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (news 'n laffs)
Whitehouse.org (not the actual White House, but it should be)
The Final Frontier:
Déanta: This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple iBook 2001 running MacOS X 10.2 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)
"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
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
War Is Over (If You Want It). A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year / Let's hope it's a good one, without any fear.
Love, John and Yoko (and Chuck).
P.S. -- I'll be on holiday through the first Monday in January. I might see you here before then, but I might not, too. Those severely jonesing for free content are invited to go take a walk outside, smell the Douglas firs, have a snowball fight with some kids, read a book, hang out with loved ones, drink warm alcoholic beverages, and generally eschew the use of the computer. (I'll be doing three or two of those things, plus working on my 4,000+ word section of the liner notes for the New Orleans box set, which are due January 5.) Happy Krimble and a Merry Goo Year.
Tom and Jerry, part deux. Thanks to some on-the-spot advice from Dr. Cocktail, I have some further annotations to the Tom and Jerry batter recipe -- first off, you should probably double the sugar, at least. The batter should also be the consistency of cake batter, so don't just fold the sweetened egg yolks into the beaten whites like I did. Whip the hell out of it until you have a nice, thick batter. Also, put a couple of heaping tablespoons in each cup. That'll make you a very lovely drink.
Franksenstein's Monster. A recent cartoon by Tom Tomorrow, regarding Gen. Tommy Franks' appalling speculation that one more terrorist attack on the U. S. would result in the suspension of the Constitution and the advent of martial law.
Where no punk band has gone before ... Punks and geeks? Isn't that a little contradictory? No matter ... No Kill I is the world's first (and, please God, only) Star Trek punk band.
[We're] the only existing Star Trek band as far as I know. Don't ask me why, because I sure as hell don't know, but we were a Hogan's Heroes band for a little while. Shows are usually pretty out of control what with the booze and the destruction and the flames and the costumes and the fights and the blood and the gore and the spitting.Now that sounds more like a punk band. Don't miss their lyrics page, including the seasonally-themed ditty "The Kirk that Killed Christmas".
From a show at the Capital Garage, "That wasn't even funny, they're just a bunch of drunks."
He misses the Christmas Fan Club records, apparently. Yes kiddies, NORAD is still tracking the flight of Santa Claus from the North Pole to all your chimnied houses. There's an extra-special treat this year, though ... the Honorary Santa Tracker is none other than former Beatle Ringo Starr, who'll do just about anything for a buck (or a few coppers) these days. (I heard one of Ringo's Christmas songs on KCSN's "Meet the Beatles" last Sunday ... it was ... um, horrid. Fortunately, the rest of the show was great, including all the aforementioned Beatles Christmas recordings.)
The 12 STDs of Christmas. Um ... can't say too much about this, really, except that it's feckin' hilarious, that they're called STIs in Britain and that it's most definitely not safe for work or children. (Thanks, Dan!)
[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, December 19, 2003
Happy Hanukkah! A joyous Festival of Lights to all who celebrate it. A word of advice to non-Jews: if you're invited to a Hanukkah party, do not furtively look around to see if anyone's watching and then proceed to light your cigarette with one of the burning candles on the menorah.
(I witnessed this at a party several years back. Later on we told some Jewish friends about this incident, and the reaction was near-universal: "HAHAHAHA HA HA HA! OH MAN! HEEHEEHEE ... hee hee ... Heh ... ha .. huh ... um ... (*face falls*) ... that's kind of offensive, actually.")
"Well, I'm back." And I'm ready to see "The Return of the King" again, soon. It's one of those films for which you just don't have enough adjectives. Furthermore, when you add it onto the other two films, I think we'll end up with another rare occurrence in my life -- the list of my all-time favorite films will have to be amended soon.
Yesterday morning I rode up the elevator with a cow-orker who asked me what I did the night before. "I went to see 'The Return of the King!' I said excitedly. "Hey, so did I! I hated it," he said. "Nothing but a bunch of sentimental hogwash.
I blinked, then looked at him, waiting for him to reach under his chin to pull off his incredibly lifelike rubber human mask to reveal his true, hideous face, and to hear him begin to speak in Martian ("AAACK! ACKACKACK! AAAK ACK ACK!"), Klingon, Orcish, what have you. As he did not, I still had to wonder what planet he was indeed from.
Oh well, De gustibus non disputandum est, I suppose.
The Cocktailian. Gary Regan's fortnightly visit with The Professor brings us The Bentley, first described by Harry Craddock of London's Savoy Hotel in 1930. As a holiday bonus, we get another recipe from Harry's current successor Salim Khoury.
Winston Smith: White House employee? You've all read Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. (If you haven't, stop reading this, clear your schedule and read it now; you have a major gap in your education.) Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth (The Party's propaganda ministry, which was in the business of creating lies), and his job is to edit old newspaper articles so that they jibe with the party's current needs. "He who controls the past controls the future," I believe the line went.
From The Daily Mislead:
White House Covers Tracks by Removing InformationI find it hard to believe that even a Republican wouldn't be disturbed by parallels with Orwell in the behavior of an administration he or she voted for.
December 18, 2003
In a high-tech cover-up, the Washington Post this morning reports the White House is actively scrubbing government websites clean of any of its own previous statements that have now proven to be untrue. Specifically, on April 23, 2003, the president sent his top international aid official on national television to reassure the public that the cost of war and reconstruction in Iraq would be modest. USAID Director Andrew Natsios, echoing other Administration officials, told Nightline that, "In terms of the American taxpayers contribution, [$1.7 billion] is it for the US. The American part of this will be $1.7 billion. We have no plans for any further-on funding for this."
The president has requested more than $166 billion in funding for the war and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan this year. But instead of admitting that he misled the nation about the cost of war, the president has allowed the State Department "to purge the comments by Natsios from the State Department's Web site. The transcript, and links to it, have vanished." (The link where the transcript existed until it caused embarrassment was here).
When confronted with the dishonest whitewash, the administration decided to lie. A Bush spokesman said the administration was forced to remove the statements because, "there was going to be a cost" charged by ABC for keeping the transcript on the government's site. But as the Post notes, "other government Web sites, including the State and Defense departments, routinely post interview transcripts, even from 'Nightline,'" and according to ABC News, "there is no cost."
"The official language of California will now be Swedish..." The Associated Press report that "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared California in a fiscal crisis Thursday and invoked emergency powers so he could impose $150 million in spending cuts without the Legislature's approval." Ah, one-man rule. Gotta love it. Legislature? We don't need no steenkeeng legislature! (Dreaming of dictators again, I suppose.)
[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzumishi krimpatul. Finally, it's here. The preciousssssssssss.
I've been waiting a year for this. Two years, really. To prepare, on Sunday we watched the DVD of the extended version of "The Two Towers", which is pretty friggin' magnificent. (Unfortunately, we weren't able to get into the marathon screenings at the Arclight.) I'm trying to have too many preconcieved notions, and it's been hard to avoid hearing all the rave reviews, but that said, I don't think I've been this excited about a movie in many, many years.
There was a dopey little bit on NPR this morning (so dopey, in fact, that they seem to have declined to link to it on the web site) where a few "Star Wars" fans voice their dissatisfaction with "Lord of the Rings", coming up with criticisms that didn't go very much farther than "I just don't like it," "it doesn't do it for me," "'Star Wars' characters are much better characters" and "the 'Star Wars' films are the ones that will really be remembered in 50 years, not 'Lord of the Rings.'"
Well, I enjoyed the first two "Star Wars" movies very much (that's the ones that came out when I was in high school and early college, not "Episodes I and II"). However, I think I can safely say (and will quite likely be able to say with conviction after tonight) that that latter assertion is completely absurd. "The Lord of the Rings" films are the films that George Lucas wishes he could have made, but unfortunately isn't capable of making.
One barrel, one Bourbon. There's an excellent article in the Los Angeles Times Food Section today about the rise of single-barrel Bourbons. Even better, the four Bourbons they tasted are ones that I haven't tried yet, and this'll help give me a little push in their direction.
Elijah Craig has been on my list, but the one I've really been wanting to try is Michter's. They make a Bourbon, something called "American Whiskey" plus a rye that Martin from CocktailDB said was out of this world. It's been exceedingly difficult to find out here, at least until I went to the excellent Wine and Spirits Depot in Van Nuys, which has a great whiskey section in general but also has what's perhaps the best selection of single-malt Scots whiskys in this half of the country.
We've been enjoying the Eagle Rare 10 Year Old lately, a Bourbon that still has some of the expected caramelly undertones but is also nicely spicy, leaning toward rye territory (we really like it in Manhattans, and it made an excellent Chas the other night, playing well off the Bénédictine and amaretto). Eagle Rare also make a 17 year old that I've really been keen to try; perhaps I'll pick up a bottle of that stuff in a few weeks when I'm at Martin Wine Cellar to stock up on Sazerac 18 Year Old Rye. (We keep a stockpile of that wonderful stuff.)
Liar, liar, pants on fire. Here's today's interesting and completely unsurprising little tidbit from a Florida senator:
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday the Bush administration last year told him and other senators that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction, but they had the means to deliver them to East Coast cities.Um, that would be ... a lie. There was no such evidence.
Nelson, D-Tallahassee, said about 75 senators got that news during a classified briefing before last October's congressional vote authorizing the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Nelson voted in favor of using military force.
Nelson said he couldn't reveal who in the administration gave the briefing.One day, I hope he does reveal it, where it will be taken down as evidence at trial.
Quote of the day. From ABC's interview with George W. Bush, conducted by Diane Sawyer:
SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction, as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still --A full transcript of this part of the interview is avaiable at Liberal Oasis, who also comment:
BUSH: So what's the difference?
[F]or about five minutes, Sawyer pressed Dubya on the question of the Phantom WMD harder than anyone has, perhaps harder than anyone has pressed him on anything since 9/11.Follow the above link and read the entire transcript.
And in response, Dubya was defensive and evasive, clinging tightly to his talking points.
Judging from the wire reports of the interview, it doesn't look like anyone in the mainstream media is going to pick up on the fact that when faced with such questions, Bush has no good direct response.
The wires focused on Bush's call for the death penalty for Saddam, and his remarks on gay marriage, which had varying interpretations.
That's not surprising. In both those cases, Bush said something new, hence it is "news" by traditional standards.
Evading questions with old talking points doesn't meet that standard.
[ Link to today's entries ]
Monday, December 15, 2003
Cocktail of the day. We thoroughly enjoyed this one last Friday evening, and it's one that comes to us via Robert "DrinkBoy" Hess. It was created by one of Robert's local bartenders, Murray Stenson, at the Zig Zag Café in Seattle. I recommend a good, spicy Bourbon like Eagle Rare 10 Year Old for this one. (I like the name, too.)
ChasComing soon, a variation on the Hoskins.
1-1/4 ounces Bourbon whiskey.
1/8 ounce Bénédictine D.O.M.
1/8 ounce amaretto.
1/8 ounce Cointreau.
1/8 ounce orange Curaçao.
Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with an orange twist.
Let It Snow. The New Yorker brings us a new wintertime story by David Sedaris.
News flash: Not by me, nor by The Onion, but from an unknown reporter ...
(UPDATE: It's from The Borowitz Report. Andy is a riot, as ever!)
SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS GORE'S ENDORSEMENT OF DEANEr, no.
Transfers Nod to Bush in 5-4 Decision
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Just moments after former Vice President Al Gore endorsed former Vermont Governor Howard Dean for President in Harlem yesterday, the Supreme Court overturned his endorsement by a 5-4 margin.
The Court, finding the former Vice President's endorsement of Mr. Dean unconstitutional, transferred his endorsement to President George W. Bush instead.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said, "There's really no explanation necessary: we're the Supreme Court, and if you don't like it, you can stick it where the moon don't shine."
While some Democrats howled that the Court was inappropriately politicizing itself with its controversial decision, Mr. Gore accepted the ruling, saying, "After four minutes of partisan wrangling over this matter, it is time for us to move on."
Mr. Gore expressed some regret that his endorsement had been transferred from Mr. Dean to Mr. Bush, but added, "It'll be nice to be on the winning side for a change."
[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, December 12, 2003
Eat your heart out, MTV USA. This morning my friend Dule sent me a link to a weird but funny little Flash animation done to an extremely catchy and contagious song by Punjabi pop sensation Daler Mehndi called "Tunak Tunak Tun". As amusing as the Flash animation was, it doesn't hold a candle to the original video, featuring Daler himself, for sheer entertainment value. Not that I watch MTV anymore, but I'll bet that a video this wacky and entertaining hasn't been seen on the American version of that channel in ages (too bad we don't get MTV Asia over here).
If you're intrigued, here's more on Daler Mehndi, four more of his music videos, more on Punjabi music (Punjab is famous for its traditional folk and pop music) and culture, and last but not least ... an MP3 of the song (plus a remix, no less)".
Okay, ready? Everybody dance! "Tunak tunak tun, tunak tunak tun, tunak tunak tun, DA DA DA!" (Thanks, Dule! Except for the fact that this song will be stuck in my head for at least a month ...)
AAACK! ACK ACK AAAACK ACKACK! Get your Slim Whitman records ready ... because Mars Attacks!
In 1962, Topps released the bubble-gum cards known as "Mars Attacks". They were the creation of Len Brown and Woody Gelman. They were painted by the famous pulp-comic artist, Norm Saunders. Presented here, for the first time on the Web, are scanned reproductions of their genius...As kitschy as they are, I didn't realize how dark and gory these cards were as well. No wonder all the parents went nuts (had I been old enough at the time I would have loved them, and my mom would have had a conniption fit). It's also fun to see how many scenes Tim Burton took directly from the cards for the movie, too.
Heed this advice, Dems. Apparently I'm not the only one spreading this sage advice for Democratic presidential candidates from Atrios, but one more certainly couldn't hurt:
Stop ceding the goddamn debate. Who here thinks Howard Dean can beat Bush? Why Ted, you ignorant slut, Fred Flintstone could take Bush with Barney Rubble as his campaign manager. Wesley Clark should stop saying that he needs to be the nominee because someone needs to be able to match Bush at foreign policy. What Clark should say is that Joey Tribiani could match Bush at foreign policy, though he, Clark, has the most experience. Stop acknowledging that Bush is strong on anything. He's a big loser. He's a miserable failure. He's lost 3 million jobs. He got us into a screwed up war. Our soldiers are being killed by terrorists. The Middle East is a mess. Afghanistan is a mess. OBL is alive. Hussein is alive.Patrick offers some additional comments.
Bush is not an unbeatable monolith. He's only the incumbent, and an incumbent's ass can be kicked out of office after one term too, just like his daddy was.
[ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Cocktail of the day. Nope, it's not a cartoon cat and mouse, and it wasn't even named after them (although I have to wonder if they were named after it.) It's the Tom and Jerry, a frothy, spiced eggnoggy concontion which is something you should turn into a holiday tradition.
Professor Jerry Thomas, our first great cocktailian bartender and the first to write a book about his craft (1862's How to Mix Drinks; or, The Bon-Vivant's Companion), created this drink in the 1850s, and it remained a favorite for almost a century. In fact, several companies made custom Tom and Jerry serving bowls and mugs (check eBay; there are always several sets for sale. Homer Laughlin made one of my favorite designs.) Sadly, no one seems to have heard of Tom and Jerrys much anymore, and it's about time that changed.
There are a number of recipes floating about, more or less the same. Gary Regan of Ardent Spirits (and the author of the fabulous new book The Joy of Mixology) offers an all-in-one mix you ladle from a bowl, but the traditional method is to make a batter, then add spirits. Since some folks are a little leery of a raw egg batter, I'll include both recipes here.
Tom and JerryThanks a million to Dr. Cocktail for serving these at his holiday party last year; I'm stealing this idea from him and making it an annual holiday tradition at our house.
Batter for 12 drinks:
12 eggs, separated.
3/4 cup sugar.
A touch of cinnamon, allspice and ground cloves, to taste.
12 ounces añejo rum.
12 ounces brandy.
Very hot water or milk.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar to the egg yolks and beat until thin and ribbony. Fold the whites into the yolks, then add a few pinches of cinnamon, allspice and cloves to taste.
To serve, preheat your mugs with hot water or keep in a warm oven. For each drink add one heaping tablespoon of batter, 1 ounce rum, 1 ounce of brandy, then fill with nearly-boiling water or milk. Top with a grating of fresh nutmeg.
Makes 12 drinks.
Tom and Jerry
Premixed, "cooked" version
12 eggs, separated.
1-1/2 cups sugar.
1 teaspoon baking soda.
. 9 cups milk.
3 cups añejo rum.
3/4 cup brandy.
A touch of cinnamon, allspice and ground cloves, to taste.
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
1. In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, 1-1/4 cups of the sugar, and the baking soda. Whisk until the mixture is creamy and thick.
2. Pour the milk into a large saucepan over moderate heat. Warm the milk until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and the milk is steaming hot.
3. Very gradually add some of the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture to warm it. Whisk continuously until all of the milk is incorporated. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and set it over low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens just enough to lightly coat a spoon or until a thermometer reaches 160° to 165°F. Remove the pan from the heat and continue whisking for 2 minutes.
4. Stir in the rum and brandy, then add a few pinches of cinnamon, allspice and clove, to taste.
5. In a clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. Sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
6. Ladle the Tom & Jerrys into warmed mugs and sprinkle each serving with a touch of freshly grated nutmeg.
Makes about 24 six-ounce drinks.
Mmmmm, panforte. Never heard of it? Chances are you've probably had it, or at least something like it. Italian panforte, also called Siena cake after the city where it's a specialty, is a dense, flat concoction with honey, hazelnuts, almonds, candied citron and citrus peel, cocoa and spices, with only a small amount of flour to hold it all together. It's chewy and yummy and better than fruitcake by a light year.
Our friend Carol Penn-Romine, a student at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena and doing her externshiip at the Los Angeles Times' test kitchen, has come up with a lovely variation on traditional panforte, featuring all locally-grown dried fruits and nuts, plus the "haunting floral note" of cardamom. Her California Farmers' Market Panforte was published in the Food Section yesterday (yay, Carol!), so amaze yourself, your family and friends with a pan or two of these scrumptions sweets.
Deconstructing Christmas music. You love it, you hate it (at least if you hear it played before Thanksgiving). You hear it sung by carolers, you hear it sung by everyone from Elvis to Ella to Alvin and the Chipmunks. You hear Muzak versions in every elevator, department store and supermarket practically from Hallowe'en until Twelfth Night. You have your favorites, and you have ones you loathe.
Tris McCall offers a lengthy and amusing analysis of all the Christmas music that brings smiles and scowls to your face. Don you now your gay apparel (don't forget to zhuzh your couture), and dive in. (Thanks, Steve!)
Not private, not even there. Someone writing from the University of Idaho posits the extraordinary theory that Idaho does not actually exist. (Come to think of it, I've never met anyone from there either.)
[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Okay, so "tomorrow" became a week. Sorry. I've been busy.
Still in command. One of the best restaurants in New Orleans has become, over the last few years, one of the best restaurants in Las Vegas too. Commander's Palace, next to the Aladdin Hotel in the Dessert Passage shopping complex, brings great New Orleans food and elegance to the loud, gaudy, noisy Strip ... and has been embraced by Vegas locals as well as tourists.
While were in Vegas after Thanksgiving, Wes took me to Commander's for my birthday, and he really couldn't have done any better (ain't nothin' like makin' dis boy feel at home, nuh-uh). After being greeted at the door by Santino Perrelli, just abou my favorite maitre d' anywhere, we sat down to yet another spectacular meal.
I know, I know ... foie gras two days in a row! It's rich, it's decadent, it's pure fat. Ehh, it's also my birthday and we're on vacation, two rationalizations that pretty much roll over any practical concerns. Seared Sonoma Valley Foie Gras with Pistachio-Crusted Black Mission Fig Bread Pudding (good God) port wine-honey reduction sauce and pistachio oil. It's gotten to the point where my favorite foie gras presentations include some kind of bread pudding or pain perdu,, and this one might have been better than the last. It'd be difficult to decide a contest between this one and the one from the previous night at Rosemary's ...
Wes couldn't go wrong with the Soups 1-1-1-, a signature Commander's starter offering demitasse-sized servings of the soup du jour, gumbo du jour and their incomparable Turtle Soup (about which nothing more need be said, except it's what former New Orleans food critic Richard "Underground Gourmet" Collin would have called "a Platonic dish", representing utter perfection). The gumbo was a beautifully seasoned Louisiana seafood gumbo, with plenty of shrimp, crab and oysters, and the soup du jour was a Cream of asparagus, artichoke and fennel with a perfect balance between the flavors, none overpowering the other but one getting lost either.
On to the entrées -- after my typical indecision I went for one of the specials, which is always a good bet at Commander's: Pan-roasted monkfish served over warm heirloom fingerling potatoes, served with warm honey-tangerine ceviche-marinated day boat Nantucket Bay scallops, a (huge) grilled wild Madagascar saltwater prawn with a citrus beurre blanc. Monkfish, "the poor man's lobster", is one of my very favorites, and went along beautifully with everything else in this dish. Wes, our resident duck fanatic, went with Pan-seared Sonoma Valley duck breast with roasted garlic-stuffed confit duck leg, chanterelle mushroom risotto, asparagus and reduced natural jus. As great as the breast was -- gotta love a meat that comes with its own bacon! (i.e., that crispy smoky skin) -- that garlicky crispy buttery confit duck leg was just absolutely out of this world. There was nothing left but a legbone after we were done.
Along with the meal came their recommended wine pairings and an other great wine discovery for me (built, as the road to being a wine lover is, one bottle at a time) -- Cosentino Chardonnay 2000, which was rich and fruity, not too oaky and full of the notes of "pineapple, pear and vanilla ... greeted with baked apple" as described by the winemaker. I'm most certainly buying more of this. Wes enjoyed a Chateau Potelle Paso Robles Zinfandel 2000 -- spicy, tannic with black cherry and blackberry fruit. Yum.
We've been getting into the habit of splitting desserts, which probably isn't a bad idea. The special dessert that night was a Bourbon-spiked chocolate mousse, layered with a hazelnut-cocoa nib florentine cookie, Bourbon Chantilly cream, dark chocolate sauce and hazelnut croquant. Fantastic. Good thing we split it, or I wouldn't have been able to inhale.
On the way out Santino tried on my black fedora, then wandered back into the restaurant, accosting waiters and busboys and given them a little bit of Michael Corleone impressions, showered us with sugary pralines, then back out into the chill night air and a long walk down the strip to help work this meal off. Commander's is a must-visit at least once when you go to Vegas, and you might end up being a regular when you're in town. Just make sure you call far enough in advance, so you don't get edged out by the locals (who reportedly filled the place on Thanksgiving Day).
On da foist day o' Christmas, my true love baked for me ... Okay, lest we get me started with The 12 Yats of Christmas, we'll go for a slightly sweeter version. Cook's Illustrated has a dozen foolproof holiday cookie recipes to keep your family and friends' sweet teeth buzzing, at their new Cookie Help site. (I can't wait for those macaroons, me.)
Is anyone really surprised by this? Governor Weightlifter, who hasn't even been in office for a month, has already declared he will break two of his main campaign promises -- his "personal guarantee" that cities and counties would be compensated for the loss of "car tax" revenue, and also reversed his declaration not to cut public school and health care spending.
During his campaign, free from any kind of annoying details or plans, he promised to deal with the budget problems, told us we shouldn't worry about the car tax revenue, and said he wouldn't cut spending for education. As my friend Mary said this morning, "we who did not vote for him said, 'You can't.' Now he says 'I can't.'"
One friend of ours who works in public health said this morning that they'll now be losing over $4 million to the Health Fund between now and June, and that she'll have to reduce services and cut 22% of her staff. Clinics will have to be closed, there will be reduced access to prescription drugs for people with life-threatening diseases, hundreds of layoffs, and a lot more.
Great. What can he do? Well, if we're besieged by a T-1000 model Terminator, we're in great hands. Otherwise, looks like we're just as fucked as we were when Davis was governor, if not more so. Big surprise, it turns out that Schwarzenegger really didn't have any idea how to be governor after all.
Let me see if I've got this right. (Contributed by Wes.) So... France, Germany and Russia, who famously and not, it seems, coincidentally opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, are not permitted to bid on the $18.6 billion in Iraqi reconstruction contracts, but they are supposed to forgive (or restructure) Iraq's debt to them. It's not only unethical and mean-spirited, but also possibly illegal as well. Is that pretty much it?
Your tax dollars at work. In other truly shocking news, "the United States government is paying the Halliburton Company an average of $2.64 a gallon to import gasoline and other fuel to Iraq from Kuwait, more than twice what others are paying to truck in Kuwaiti fuel, government documents show."
Nice work, Dick. Was that all part of that secret Energy Task Force plan you still won't tell anyone about?
[ Link to today's entries ]
Tuesday, December 2, 2003
Vegas, baby! I'm really getting to enjoy going to Las Vegas. I've embraced the cheeze and the kitsch, I can successfully ignore pretty much all aspects of gambling ('cause I don't gamble) and I see the city for what it is, in one big way ... a great town for food and drink.
We didn't get to any shows this time (Penn and Teller plus Cirque du Soleil's "O" are on the list for next time), but we did get to two great restaurants, both of which we'd been to before. If Rosemary's Restaurant were in L.A., we'd be there almost weekly if we could afford it. If it were in New Orleans (where both of its married couple chef-owners worked and trained) it'd be one of the best restaurants in a great restaurant city. I love, love, love this place.
Although the food is fantastic, it's not just the food. It's one of those rare restaurants where the service is not just good, it's perfect. Hosts, bartenders and servers are extremely friendly, knowledgable, efficient and do all this without being the least bit obtrusive. Drinks from the bar are flawless. Atmosphere is charming, relatively quiet and very pleasant. Then there's the food ...
Rosemary's have added an eye-popping deal to their menu -- choose any three dishes for a prix-fixe of $39.95, with a $10 surcharge only for the foie gras and bison rib-eye dishes. I hope they continue with this, because we all saved an average of about $5 this way, making dessert almost free. This is a tremendous deal, particularly with some of the pricier menu items.
Of course, since it was a special occasion meal, traveling out of state to meet friends for the weekend, I had to start with the Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, served with Brioche French Toast, Orange Brulée, Quince Marmalade and Cranberry Reduction. The combination of those additional flavors with the foie gras was fantastic -- additional richness (as if you needed any) from the brioche, plus the sweetness of the quince balancing well with the tartness of the citrus and cranberry. Woooh. As usual, Rosemary's offers a wine and beer pairing for each course on the menu (which is amazing, and a lot farther than most restaurants go); I got the accompanying Andrew Rich "Ice Wine" Gewurztraminer, 2000 which was, as to be expected, a perfect match.
Wes got the Crispy Veal Sweetbreads with French Green Lentils, Bacon Leek Relish and Sherry-Mustard Butter Sauce, which was part of a seven-way tie for my second choice ("This thing is half the size of my head!" he exclaimed at his rather generous portion size). Michael opted for a dish we all loved last time (and I hope it's still on the menu when we return): Dry Aged Beef Carpaccio topped with Maytag Blue Cheese, with Arugula and Granny Smith Apple Salad, Candied Walnuts and Port Wine Drizzles. Good good good good good. Louise got the Salmon Tartare with Watercress, Saffron Sauce and Caraway Crackers, also Gargantuan. She ate her fill, we all had some, and there was still some left over.
Oh, I nearly forgot. After we ordered twelve different dishes, our server said, "Okay, this looks great, and it looks like you're only missing one important thing ..." Apparently we'd regret it if we got out of there without trying a new starter item, the Twice-Baked Parmesan Soufflé with Wild Mushroom Ragout. We caved, and ordered one for the table, about two or three bites each. I'm very glad she suggested it.
I would have been very happy with any one of the ten entrée items (plus one entrée special) on the menu, and choosing a dish at Rosemary's tends to be the only bad part of the experience there. It's so damned difficult to decide, because they all look so great. I've also had the experience of tasting each and every one of the dishes my seven dining companions ordered on our first visit there, and each and every one was out of this world. This is the first restaurant I've been to where I'm going to begin to insist that they provide a spinner we can flick and spin to help decide. Anyway, my imagined spin ended up pointing at Herb-Crusted Veal Tenderloin with Maytag Blue Cheese Bread Pudding, Apple Smoked Bacon, Sunflower Sprouts and a Madeira Veal Jus, with which I chose the beer selection: Chimay Cinq Cents Draft. Pure heaven. The veal was perfect, slightly crisp on the outside, rosy on the inside and tender as butter, and combined with that bread pudding ... I just chewed and moaned. Other dishes at the table were the Creole Seared Sea Scallops with Pumpkin, Crispy Prosciutto Orzo, Sizzled Leeks and Spiced Mustard Butter Sauce (four large scallops that didn't look like enough, but were, of course, more than enough), BBQ Glazed Wild Salmon with Green Beans, Bacon and Frisée Salad, Gilled Green Onions and Crispy Pancetta and Rosemary Braised Lamb Shank with "Heaven and Earth" (an apple-potato mixture), Gremolata and Red Wine Braising Juices. There was much moaning, in fact, and with the size of that shank it looked like 'Weez had a nice big piece of lamb for breakfast the next day.
One wouldn't think we'd have room for dessert (we kind of didn't), but there's always room for dessert. Coconut Bread Pudding with Coconut Sorbet, Toasted Almonds and Dark Chocolate Sauce was mine, and superb it was (although I had to leave the last bite, as I had absolutely no more room in my tummy for food). Michael got the tasty and alliterative Seasonal Selection of Sorbets (which in this case were cranberry, raspberry and prickly pear), Wes got the Rustic Pear Tart with Cinnamon Ice Cream (I think; by that time my brains were in serious food-coma mode) and I think Louise passed on dessert. To deal the final death blow of kindness, they brought us a little plate of lagniappe desserts: warm pecan-crusted chocolate truffles, crispy peanut butter buckeyes and little lemon bars, four each. I just couldn't. I took them back to the hotel and had them for breakfast the next morning.
All that food, wine and beer, plus a 23% tip, came out to an average of about $87.50 per person. That is a great deal, counting into it the cozy, intimate atmosphere and three-and-one-half hours very well-spent. As great as many of the high-end restaurants on Las Vegas' famed "Strip" are, my hearty recommendation, as always, is to head off the strip about 15 or 20 minutes and go to Rosemary's, at 8125 W. Sahara Boulevard. They've opened a new, flashy, glitzy location in the Rio, but make the effort to go to the original; the food's the same, but the latter has the aforementioned atmosphere that's worth the trip.
(Tomorrow, a recap of dinner at Commander's Palace, another Las Vegas must-stop, as it is in New Orleans.)
Treason's greetings. That's gotta be Headline of the Year, as taken from this Slate article about the recent Republican TV ads which distort the Democrats' views by calling them "soft on terrorism" and claiming they're "attacking the president for attacking terrorists," when in fact they're criticizing Bush for not attacking terrorists.
Specifically, they've faulted him for attacking Iraq and pretending that this was a blow against terrorism when the evidence indicates that Saddam Hussein gave no more support to al-Qaida -- and in some cases, less support -- than other regimes did. Meanwhile, Osama Bin Laden remains at large.I predict this move will backfire.
Quote of the year? CNN report that "a comment made last year by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was awarded the 'Foot In Mouth' prize [yesterday] by Britain's Plain English Campaign." (Thanks, Wes!) The winning utterance ...
Reports that say something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know.I don't know about that.
The Amazing Disappearing Bodies. Plastered all over the weekend's headlines were claims of "54 Insurgents Killed in Firefight with U.S. Forces", or similar wording. Interesting how they came up with that body count (as well as claiming 22 enemy wounded) when it turns out that there were no bodies left behind to count.
Wrecked cars and bullet-riddled shopfronts testified to the battle. But in the streets of Samarra yesterday there was little evidence of what the Americans described as the biggest engagement since the end of the Iraqi war.Go ahead, make the claim. God knows we need some good news from this war. (No need to go through any annoying confirmation of this news, though ... just announce it! Oh, and forget all the lessons you learned in Vietnam, too.)
US forces insisted they had killed 54 Iraqi attackers after two of their armoured convoys came under co-ordinated attack while delivering new currency to local banks on Sunday. But local people and a hospital doctor reported only eight dead, who they insisted were mainly civilians, including an Iranian pilgrim.
It was impossible to reconcile the two versions of the battle. The US military acknowledged that the death toll was estimated -- rather than confirmed -- on the debriefings of soldiers and no bodies had been collected.
Thou shalt not bear false witness. The Vatican celebrated World AIDS Day by releasing a five-page statement on their anti-condom stance, which I consider to be morally reprehensible in the context of modern society, right on the heels of their appalling lie that condoms do not prevent AIDS infection.
There was an interesting post on MetaFilter regarding the AIDS prevention lie, to wit:
To be even fairer to the Catholic Church, I am in the middle of making a programme about the next Pope's agenda (for BBC Radio 4) and no one I have spoken to has even attempted to defend its position on condoms. These people include the editor of an important Catholic weekly, a former master general of the Dominicans, a very senior European nun, an important American nun who works as a nurse/midwife. There [are] an American right winger and a cardinal still to come, so one of them will [probably] say something in favour. But most of the educated Catholics know their church's position is a shameful lie, which may not long survive the current pope.Let us pray that it doesn't.
The Vatican seems increasingly out of touch not only with most rank-and-file Catholics but with the modern world as a whole. If it continues in such a manner, it will be at its own peril.
[ Link to today's entries ]
Monday, December 1, 2003
World AIDS Day. A few things to think about this first day of December.
Is Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to kill my friends? Surely not intentionally, but I have a few friends who are HIV positive, and who now may have to think of the looming possibilities of the Governor of California cutting funding for AIDS drug assistance:"Only with attrition?" So, only when someone dies does another dying person get on the list? As one friend of mine, who's on medication and who recently became unemployed put it, "Nope, sorry, the people of California didn't want to pay any extra vehicle registration fees, which means we have to come up with the money to pay cops and firefighters that the VRF usually covers, so we have to make up that money from somewhere else. Would you like to be buried or cremated?"
Schwarzenegger, in the first detailed list of how he wants to trim the state budget, has suggested capping enrollment in a program that provides drugs to AIDS patients, reducing fees to doctors who treat state-insured poor families and ending state money for music and art programs for the developmentally disabled.
"Who decides who gets life-saving drugs and who doesn't?" asked Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, regarding the proposal to create a waiting list for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Schwarzenegger proposes freezing enrollment in the program after Jan. 1 and allowing enrollees only with attrition in the program.
This is just a proposal, so if this issue is important to you, call the Governor's office. In fact, you can speak to the Constituent Affairs department, and if you like ask for a nice young man named Jack Steele, who seemed to be geniunely affected by the first phone call he took on this issue. (916) 445-2841. Call your California state legislators as well, and tell them that health care is not an area that's appropriate for budget-trimming. Surely there's more true waste elsewhere.
November Looka! entries have been permanently archived.
Several of my friends and loved ones (and a few kind strangers) contribute regularly to this weblog. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Andy Senasac, Michael Yasui, Steve Gardner, Michael Pemberton, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Eric Labow, Tom Krueger, Greg Beron, Sean Burke, Shari Minton and Barry Enderwick.
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