looka, <'lu-k&> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look", in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans; usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.
2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community, movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.
Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting. If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.
If you like, you are welcome to send e-mail to the author. Your comments on each post are also welcome; however, right-wing trolls are about as welcome as a boil on my arse. Search this site:
Digital Dish is the first ever compilation volume of the best writing and recipes from food weblogs, and includes essays and recipes contributed by me. Find out more and place an order!
U.S. orders: Non-U.S.: "Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more, including a full-size, 80-page book.
Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores, or order from BarnesAndNoble.com.
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, AllAboutJazz.com
"... one of the best impressions of a city's musical blueprint that you're likely to ever find." -- Zeth Lundy, PopMatters.com
"... an unacademic, uncategorized album that suits the city's time-warped party spirit." -- Jon Pareles, The New York Times
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
-- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901-1909), speaking in 1918
"There ought to be limits to freedom."
-- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999
"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier."
-- George W. Bush, describing what it's like to be governor of Texas, Governing Magazine, July 1998
"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
-- George W. Bush, CNN.com, 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
(99 and 44/100% link rot)
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.
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"Down Home" playlist
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Subscribe to the
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Live audio stream
Air America Radio
(Talk radio for the
rest of us)
Grateful Dead Radio
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 Internet's most comprehensive
and indispensible database of
authenticated cocktail recipes,
ingredients, reseearch and more.
By Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)
Museum of the American Cocktail
Founded by Dale DeGroff and many
other passionate spirits, Jan. 2005.
Celebrating a true American cultural
icon: the American Cocktail.
* * *The Sazerac Cocktail
(The sine qua non of cocktails,
and the quintessential New Orleans
cocktail. Learn to make it.)
The Footloose Cocktail
(An original by Wes;
"Wonderful!" - Gary Regan.
"Very elegant, supremely
sophisticated" - Daniel Reichert.)
The Hoskins Cocktail
(An original by Chuck;
"It's nothing short of a
masterpiece." - Gary Regan)
Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Menu
(A few things we like to
drink at home, plus a couple
we don't, just for fun.)
* * *The Alchemist
Alcohol (and how to mix it)
(Gary & Mardee Regan)
The Cocktail Chronicles
(Paul Clarke's weblog)
The Cocktailian Gazette
(The monthly newsletter of
The Museum of the
DrinkBoy and the
Community for the
(Robert Hess, et al.)
DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog
news & insider info)
La Fée Verte
(All about absinthe
from Kallisti et al.)
(Ladies United for the
Fine Spirits & Cocktails
Martini Republic: Drinks
(featuring posts by Dr. Cocktail!)
The Modern Mixologist
Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
Swanky et al.)
Chocolate and Zucchini
Mise en Place
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie
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.
The Oxford Companion to Wine
Wally's Wine and Spirits
The Wine House
The Wine Spectator
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers
Wine shops in our 'hood:
Colorado Wine Co., Eagle Rock
Silverlake Wine, Silverlake
Chronicle Wine Cellar, Pasadena
Reading this month:
The Devil You Know, by Poppy Z. Brite.
Microcosmic God: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. 2, by Theodore Sturgeon.
Ken and Thelma, by Joel L. Fletcher.
McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, edited by Michael Chabon.
Listen to music!
Chuck's current album recommendations
La Bottine Souriante
The Old 97s
The Red Stick Ramblers
Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots
Miles of Music
New Orleans Bands.net
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage 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
(My pics therein: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)
Chuck's Photo of the Day Archive
The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy
Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed
Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley
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
by Al Capp
by Emily Flake
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner
by Walt Kelly
by Ted Rall
This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow
XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak
Films seen this year:
Meet the Fockers (***)
Lookin' at da TV:
"The West Wing"
"Six Feet Under"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
The Food Network
AlterNet.org (Progressive politics & news)
Daily Kos (My favorite political weblog)
Eschaton (The Mighty Atrios)
Hullaballoo (The Mighty Digby)
Media Matters for America (Debunking right-wing media lies)
Orcinus (David Neiwert)
PostSecret (Secrets sent in via postcards; astonishingly beautiful, funny and sad.)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.)
Borowitz Report (Political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Fray (Your stories)
Landover Baptist (Better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (Opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (Scarily funny news/satire)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (Read this.)
Whitehouse.org (Not the actual White House, but it should be)
Weblogs I read:
The Carpetbagger Report
Creek Running North
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
Mark A. R. Kleiman
The Leaky Cauldron
Letting Loose With the Leptard
Little. Yellow. Different.
More Like This
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
No More Mr. Nice Guy!
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
Respectful of Otters
Right Hand Thief
Roger "Not That One" Ailes
This Modern World
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?
Matthew's GLB blog portal
My Darlin' New Orleans: The Final Frontier:
Déanta: This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.3 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)
Friday, July 29, 2005
The Cocktailian. In today's edition of Gary Regan's fortnightly column, The Professor, our cocktailian bartender, makes a cocktail good enough for Gatsby to love -- the Seelbach Cocktail.
I love this drink. Anything that has fourteen dashes of bitters in it (Angostura and Peychaud's!) has got to be worth a look!
Quote of the week. This is the judge in the case of Ahmed Ressam, the "Millennium Bomber" who planned to set off a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport but was caught at the Canadian border before he could do any harm. He was convicted and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
The message I would hope to convey in today's sentencing is two-fold: First, that we have the resolve in this country to deal with the subject of terrorism and people who engage in it should be prepared to sacrifice a major portion of their life in confinement.
Secondly, though, I would like to convey the message that our system works. We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, or detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant, or deny him the right to counsel, or invoke any proceedings beyond those guaranteed by or contrary to the United States Constitution.
I would suggest that the message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart. We can deal with the threats to our national security without denying the accused fundamental constitutional protections.
Despite the fact that Mr. Ressam is not an American citizen and despite the fact that he entered this country intent upon killing American citizens, he received an effective, vigorous defense, and the opportunity to have his guilt or innocence determined by a jury of 12 ordinary citizens.
Most importantly, all of this occurred in the sunlight of a public trial. There were no secret proceedings, no indefinite detention, no denial of counsel.
The tragedy of September 11th shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism. Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete. This is a Constitution for which men and women have died and continue to die and which has made us a model among nations. If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.
It is my sworn duty, and as long as there is breath in my body I'll perform it, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
-- U.S. Western District Judge John Coughenour
This is a real American, as distinct from those assholes who are currently in power.[ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, July 28, 2005
New cocktailian weblog. Well, it's not brand-sparkling new -- it's already been around for two whole months now -- but new to me and maybe to you too. Paul Clarke in Seattle, who was kind enough to leave some nice comments 'round these parts of late, has a site called The Cocktail Chronicles, tracing his own journey through the delightful alchemy of mixing spirits, liqueurs, wines, bitters and juices. Check it out daily -- there's great stuff in there.
Cocktail of the day. From the aforementioned weblog, and one of Paul's original creations. He was responding to a challenge on the eGullet Fine Spirits & Cocktails Forum to come up with a good drink containing limoncello. While it's a fine digestivo by itself, it seems to have been neglected as a potential ingredient in classic cocktails. Paul came up with this one, named because it took him so long to post his drink at the forum (yeesh, sounds like me).
It's mighty tasty, and a relative of a Dr. Cocktail creation called the Lemony Snicket Cocktail, also containing limoncello. It kicked our butts, too. "Jeez, hang onto the handrail going down the stairs!".
The Procrastination Cocktail
2 ounces Bombay gin (regular, not Sapphire).
3/4 ounce Noilly Prat dry vermouth.
3/4 ounce limoncello.
Dash of green Chartreuse.
Stir with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with lemon peel.
I didn't have a spare dasher bottle handy, so I did a tiny splash of Chartreuse into the shaker for two drinks. I'm not sure if this is more than what Paul would have used, but it tasted pretty darn good to us.
The downward spiral continues. Lots of great contributions from Wes today, beginning with this ... declassified memos (.pdf) show that there were objections by military Judge Advocate Generals to extreme interrogation methods. Here are articles from The Washington Post and The New York Times.
The documents include one written by the deputy judge advocate general of the Air Force, Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives, advising the task force that several of the "more extreme interrogation techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law" as well as military law.
General Rives added that many other countries were likely to disagree with the reasoning used by Justice Department lawyers about immunity from prosecution. Instead, he said, the use of many of the interrogation techniques "puts the interrogators and the chain of command at risk of criminal accusations abroad."
Any such crimes, he said, could be prosecuted in other nations' courts, international courts or the International Criminal Court, a body the United States does not formally participate in or recognize.
Other senior military lawyers warned in tones of sharp concern that aggressive interrogation techniques would endanger American soldiers taken prisoner and also diminish the country's standing as a leader in "the moral high road" approach to the laws of war.
The memorandums provide the most complete record to date of how uniformed military lawyers were frequently the chief dissenters as government officials formulated interrogation policies.
The fact that we now have military lawyers objection to a policy of abuse wrought by civilian leaders is a depressing indication of how far we've sunk. No administration to date has disgraced our country before the whole world quite like this, have they?
Oh yeah, he's conservative. Or so finds the New York Times, regarding John Roberts. (Via Wes.) Imagine our surprise.
The early 1980's were a heady time for conservatives in Washington.
Ronald Reagan was president, and after years on the outside, some of the strongest voices in the conservative movement - men like Edwin Meese III, James G. Watt, William Bradford Reynolds and Theodore B. Olson - were in high positions in the government and were determined to reverse what they believed to be years of liberal policies in areas like civil rights, environmental protection, criminal law and immigration.
John G. Roberts, a young lawyer in the Justice Department in 1981 and 1982 and on the White House counsel's staff from 1982 to 1986, held positions too junior for him to set policy in those days. But his internal memorandums, some of which have become public in recent days, reveal a philosophy every bit as conservative as that of the policy makers on the front lines of the Reagan revolution and give more definition to his image than was apparent in the first days after President Bush picked him to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court.
On almost every issue he dealt with where there were basically two sides, one more conservative than the other, the documents from the National Archives and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library show that Judge Roberts, now of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, advocated the more conservative course. Sometimes, he took positions even more conservative than those of his prominent superiors.
He favored less government enforcement of civil rights laws rather than more. He criticized court decisions that required a thick wall between church and state. He took the side of prosecutors over criminal defendants. He maintained that the role of the courts should be limited and the president's powers enhanced.
Read on, it gets worse when you start looking at his opinions. If he's confirmed, and if Bush puts another one like him on the court after Rehnquist, get ready to step fifty years back in time.
Energy flap. Why delay an EPA report covering things like automobile fuel efficiency? Maybe because it makes your energy bill look bad.
With Congress poised for a final vote on the energy bill, the Environmental Protection Agency made an 11th-hour decision Tuesday to delay the planned release of an annual report on fuel economy.
But a copy of the report, embargoed for publication Wednesday, was sent to The New York Times by a member of the E.P.A. communications staff just minutes before the decision was made to delay it until next week. The contents of the report show that loopholes in American fuel economy regulations have allowed automakers to produce cars and trucks that are significantly less fuel-efficient, on average, than they were in the late 1980's.
Releasing the report this week would have been inopportune for the Bush administration, its critics said, because it would have come on the eve of a final vote in Congress on energy legislation six years in the making. The bill, as it stands, largely ignores auto mileage regulations.
The executive summary of the copy of the report obtained by The Times acknowledges that "fuel economy is directly related to energy security," because consumer cars and trucks account for about 40 percent of the nation's oil consumption. But trends highlighted in the report show that carmakers are not making progress in improving fuel economy, and environmentalists say the energy bill will do little to prod them.
"Something's fishy when the Bush administration delays a report showing no improvement in fuel economy until after passage of their energy bill, which fails to improve fuel economy," said Daniel Becker, the Sierra Club's top global warming strategist. "It's disturbing that despite high gas prices, an oil war and growing concern about global warming pollution, most automakers are failing to improve fuel.
I despise these people.[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, July 22, 2005
Cocktail of the day. Promoted from the comments section, this was contributed by cocktailian bartender extraordinaire Murray Stenson, of the Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle. Murray said, "Monday you mentioned Chartreuse, Tuesday you mentioned rye ... why not try this one? It has become popular at the Zig Zag." We did. Wow!
The Diamondback Cocktail
1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey.
3/4 ounce green Chartreuse.
3/4 ounce Applejack.
Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
No garnish. From Bottoms Up, by Ted Saucier.
This was really, really good; complex, sublime, beautifully balanced. Wes said that he found it a very summery cocktail, much to his surprise, given the ingredients. I loved it, and was immediately curious to try it again with yellow Chartreuse. Murray said in other topic's comments section that they've tried a Green Diamondback, Yellow Diamondback and even a green/yellow combination with success. "'Sublime' is a perfect description," he said. Why thank you; 'twas the first word that popped into my head. And thanks for sending the recipe, too!
In Search of John Roberts. Via Wes, an interesting op-ed piece in yesterday's New York Times.
[S]enators should forget about the government briefs Mr. Roberts signed about Roe v. Wade, school prayer and other hot button issues. It's clearly not fair to hold him accountable for defending the George H. W. Bush administration's official positions. After all, that was, at the time, his job.
Instead, the Senate should explore Judge Roberts's judicial philosophy and temperament. He has been on the appellate court for only two years, however, so clues in his judicial record are necessarily sparse.
But based on his record throughout his career, he does not appear to be a rigid Constitutional "originalist" in the tradition of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. These men believe that the Constitution should be strictly interpreted in light of its original understanding; they are willing (to different degrees) to overturn years of Supreme Court precedents in the name of constitutional fidelity.
Having spent decades arguing before courts rather than sitting on them, John Roberts has never embraced one grand legal theory to the exclusion of all others. On the contrary, he has been trained to cast a wide net in order to reach a convincing result. Inflexible originalism is a theory embraced by academics and crusaders, not practicing lawyers who must persuade judges of different stripes.
True, and potentially encouraging. Still, Roberts is personally quite conservative, and this worries me, especially with wingnuts like Orrin Hatch saying that Roberts should refuse to answer all questions, and then comparing him to Jesus Christ. (What the f---?) Senators, it's quite possible to ask him very pointed questions on judicial philosophy without asking how he'd rule in a specific case, so do it.
Quote of the day. Also via Wes ..."... I think the current crop of Cadillacs is an ill-conceived combination of warped planes and clumsy proportions, but due to the juvenile preferences of the average automotive market, they are selling well."
-- Syd Mead
Boy, when I was a kid, the Cadillac was considered to be the apotheosis of cardom; everyone seemed to aspire to that, if you had the money. Now I don't know anyone who drives one, even though, as Syd said, they seem to be selling well. Until the proliferation of all those odious SUVs, though, it always seemed that Cadillacs were the absolute scourge of the highways; slow, lumbering and apparently being driven by people with the brains of a gibbon. (Late '50s/early '60s Caddies with fins excepted, of course; fins are fabulous.)[ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, July 21, 2005
One to beam up. Last night we watched "Relics", the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation featuring a return appearance by legendary engineer Scotty, trapped in a crashed starship's transporter system for 75 years. There were several lump-in-the-throat moments, and we enjoyed it immensely. Drams of Scotch were consumed (not to mention a little chocolate as well), and a toast was made to Jimmy Doohan's memory.
Dinner wasn't bad, either. Baked Catfish, simply prepared with olive oil, salt, pepper and Creole seasoning, atop some Maquechoux, the crawfish variation although I made ours with frozen, nicely sweet langoustines from Trader Joe's. Yum.
Vintage Cocktails in the news. Our friend Dan Reichert got a nice mention in today's Los Angeles Times Calendar Weekend section. His business, Vintage Cocktails, provides classic cocktail catering services for private parties, and is a pretty hot ticket. Hey, nice work if you can get it! Good job, Dan!
Drink Cognac like the French. Gary Regan, sans The Professor today, contributes an article to the San Francisco Chronicle with some authentic pointers for that most French of spirits.
Americans tend to sip their Cognac neat, at room temperature, or warmed slightly by cupping the glass in the palm of the hand. It's an elegant postprandial potion.
And those with a passion for classic cocktails take their Cognac with Cointreau and fresh lemon juice in the form of a sidecar, one of the world's most sophisticated mixed drinks.
In France, though, where style is always the name of the game, those in the know drink their Cognac over ice in tall, slender glasses, mixed with all manner of juices and sodas. Are we missing out on something? You'd better believe we are.
On a recent trip through the Cognac region of France, I visited most of the major Cognac houses and expected to be told that nothing should be added to the treasured elixir lest it become contaminated beyond recognition. I was gravely mistaken. I was treated to Cognac mixed with tonic water, ginger ale, club soda and even cranberry juice. The fact is that Cognac has so much character and flavor that it holds its own no matter what you add to it.
How about an old, old New Orleans classic?
2 ounces Cognac.
1 ounce raspberry syrup.
Soda water or seltzer
Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the first two ingredients, then top off with soda or seltzer. Swizzle and serve.
Count Louis Philippe Joseph de Roffignac was Mayor of New Orleans from 1820 to 1828, and was famous and beloved for, among other things, introducing street lighting to the city and laying the first cobblestones in the French Quarter. He also lent his name to this favorite concoction, sort of an early 19th Century highball. The original sweetening agent in New Orleans at the time was something called Red Hembarig. I haven't the slightest idea what this was, but nowadays we make do with raspberry syrup (not grenadine, if you can help it, unless it's the real thing made of real pomegranates).
I'll still use my VS stuff for drinks like this, but for that $60-per-bottle Pierre Ferrand 20-year-old stuff ... well, I still like sippin' that stuff neat.
What the f---?! "Treaty gives CIA powers over Irish citizens" From the Irish Examiner, via Kos, it appears that the Irish Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell (already a not-well-liked figure in Ireland from what I've been reading), has signed a treaty allowing US investigators and CIA agents astonishing and unprecedented powers over Irish citizens, allowing them to force testimony and search and seize property even if what the suspect is accused of is not a crime in Ireland.
US investigators, including CIA agents, will be allowed interrogate Irish citizens on Irish soil in total secrecy, under an agreement signed between Ireland and the US last week.
Suspects will also have to give testimony and allow property to be searched and seized even if what the suspect is accused of is not a crime in Ireland.
Under 'instruments of agreement' signed last week by Justice Minister Michael McDowell, Ireland and the US pledged mutual co-operation in the investigation of criminal activity. It is primarily designed to assist America's so-called 'war on terror' in the wake of the September 11 atrocities.
The deal was condemned yesterday by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) as "an appalling signal of how the rights of Irish citizens are considered by the minister when engaging in international relations". The ICCL said it appeared to go far beyond even what has been agreed between EU countries.
[...] Although the Department of Justice insists that the arrangement merely updates existing agreements, it goes much further. The US may ask Irish authorities:
To track down people in Ireland.
Transfer prisoners in Irish custody to the US.
Carry out searches and seize evidence on behalf of the US Government.
It also allows US authorities access to an Irish suspect's confidential bank information. The Irish authorities must keep all these activities secret if asked to do so by the US.
The person who will request co-operation is US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the man who, as White House counsel, instigated the notorious 'torture memo' to US President George W Bush which advised how far CIA agents could go in torturing prisoners. The person to whom the request is sent is the Minister for Justice.
Is there nothing this government won't do, justifying it by claiming it to be part of their ineffectual "war on terra"? The appalling thing about this is that it was done, as far as I can tell, without a vote from the Irish Oireachtas (legislature), and without the voice of the Irish people being heard. Also, do you think for a moment that the US government would allow a foreign government to have such jurisdiction over American citizens? Remember the flap over ShrubCo refusing to become a part of the International Criminal Court?[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
The word is given. Warp speed. James Doohan, a.k.a. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, Chief Engineer of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise, died this morning at the age of 85, from pneumonia and complications of Alzheimer's Disease.
Besides his long acting career, for which he will be long remembered in his role as Scotty, he also stormed Juno Beach in Normandy on D-Day (taking six machine gun bullets and getting one of his fingers shot off in the process), was the original inventor of the Klingon language for the first Trek movie (later refined and greatly expanded by linguist Marc Okrand), and fathered his latest child at the age of 80. (Nice going.)
While I wasn't one of the people he inspired to take up engineering by his portrayal of Scotty in three seasons of "Star Trek", seven ST movies and a thoroughly enjoyable episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation", I'm very affectionately grateful to him for helping capture my imagination since I was seven years old. Thank you, Jimmy, so very much.
As soon as I heard the sad news, I felt the need to write a tribute, and dashed over to my keyboard ...Keyboard? How quaint.
I recently picked up some whisky called Hedonism, from the Compass Box company, and from what I hear 'tis truly a fine bottle of Scotch. Tonight we'll raise a glass to Scotty, along with a dram of something else. What else? Well, it's from Ganeroo ... Ganimer ... nee ... well, it's green.
That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. It's worth noting that James "Scotty" Doohan passed away on the 36th anniversary of humankind's first landing on the moon. Here's NASA's historical page on the mission, with images and video, to get you started.
You can now Google the moon, too. Take a look at the Apollo 11 landing site, and make sure you zoom all the way in.
Everyone who was surprised he nominated a white male conservative, raise your hand. Right. I didn't think so.
In the midst of a flurry of emails amongst all our liberal friends, Rick came up with the best stuff. Here's the press release he'd put out if he were head of the Democratic Party:
Yesterday, President Bush nominated a John Roberts to be the next Supreme Court Justice. We, the Democratic Party, have examined his judicial record and believe that he does not serve the best interests of the country to fill this position and through our upcoming confirmation hearings we believe you, the American people, will come to believe that as well.
However, we will not express our opposition to this candidate by procedural blocking of the nomination. Instead we, the undersigned Democratic Senators, will simply vote "Nay," which means that John Roberts will be confirmed by the Republican party as a Supreme Court Justice.
While they are busy stacking the courts with conservative nomineees who may take away your rights in the future, we will be focusing on the issues of immediate urgency: the massive federal deficit, protecting social security, the quagmire of Iraq, the global fight against terrorism that is not being won by this administration, and the investigation into possible crimes committed by members of this administration in releasing the name of an undercover CIA agent.
By the way, Mr. Rove... give us a call. We'd like to ask you a couple of questions.
The Democratic Party
As for what we should do now, here's Rick again, who has a tendency to nail things right on the head:
I'm a big believer in the "choose your battles carefully" mantra. The Dems have three choices in the Supreme Court fight:
1) Try to block the nomination. This is political suicide. The Repubs have won that battle and the majority of the public agrees on the whole "up or down vote" crap. All it will do is further erode whatever power the Dems still have.
2) Grill the hell out of him, see what they can dig up on him, make sure the public knows what he is about, and then as a party vote NO (see my press release).
3) Shrug and vote yes. Obviously that's not an option.
Option 2 is really the only viable option for the Democrats. As Armando at dKos put it, "The burden is on Roberts to prove his worthiness, not on us to prove his unworthiness. As I wrote last night, he must provide full information and answer fully and frankly on a number of key issues, especially Roe." From Harry Reid:
In the end, Judge Roberts must demonstrate to the Senate that he is a worthy successor to Justice O'Connor. To do that, he must win the confidence of the American people that he will be a reliable defender of their constitutional rights. John Roberts has argued many cases in his career, but this is the most important.
Ever since Justice O'Connor announced her retirement I have called on the President to choose a nominee who can unite the country, not divide it. It remains to be seen whether John Roberts fits that description. I hope that he does, and I look forward to giving him the opportunity to make his case to the American people.
Here's why he needs to be very thorougly questioned:
Roberts may indeed turn out to be a wise, thoughtful, and appealing justice. Tonight when Bush announced his nomination, Roberts talked about feeling humbled, which won him points on TV. But an opinion that the 50-year-old judge joined just last week in the case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld should be seriously troubling to anyone who values civil liberties. As a member of a three-judge panel on the D.C. federal court of appeals, Roberts signed on to a blank-check grant of power to the Bush administration to try suspected terrorists without basic due-process protections.[...]At oral argument, Roberts appeared to recognize some of the weaknesses in the government's stance. In particular, he quizzed Hamdan's lawyers about the Charming Betsy principle of respecting international law. But none of the reservations he appeared to harbor then are reflected in the opinion he joined. So, what does that say about John Roberts? Did he decide that Judge Randolph had it right down the line in Hamdan, or did he sign on to a flawed and sweeping opinion because he was auditioning for the job Bush has now picked him for? Neither prospect is reassuring.
Roberts will probably still be confirmed, so if we're going to raise a true stink about something, we need to raise a stink about something we can actually win, such as getting rid of Karl Rove, and watching the dominoes fall after him.
Observation of the day. From Glenn "DVD Savant" Erickson's review of the DVD reissue of the 1956 film "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" (via Wes):
The disc starts with the annoyingly loud anti-piracy ad that accuses us all of being thieves. I couldn't skip it on my player. I'd liek to see a 'public service spot' that accuses movie companies of gross abuse against paying customers by jamming their theatres and DVDs full of unwanted advertising and insulting, self-serving institutional messages.
Amen. The endless parade of commercials that we all have to pay to see is, along with incredibly rude theatregoers, making me not want to go to the movies anymore, and instead to save for a home theatre setup. That would be a shame, because there's a lot to be said for seeing a big, crowd-pleasing movie with a big crowd, but when the crowd has no consideration for their fellow human beings, and the theatres and movie companies have no consideration for us either, it might be time to stay at home. And as Glenn has pointed out, there's not even an escape there anymore. Sigh.[ Link to today's entries ]
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Big anniversaries today. July nineteenth ... celebrating the 10,233rd anniversary of the end of the ice age. (Also, the day Galway was liberated from Indians, and Marathon bars finally became Snickers in Europe.) Hooray!
Cocktail of the day. Nothin' fancy, just a variation on a classic with interesting, delicious results.
Make an Old Fashioned (the right way, in my cocky opinion: no effin' soda, and no effin' fruit other than a cherry garnish). Whiskey (we went for 101 proof Wild Turkey rye this time), teaspoon sugar syrup, and for the bitters ... use ONE dash Angostura, and THREE dashes of Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6.
That ... was good. There are notes of cardamom and ginger in those orange bitters that add a really wonderful spiciness to a drink like this. This really shows off one of the amazing things about bitters, which can take a quality (although not superpremium) whiskey and elevate it to far higher levels in a cocktail.
Give it a try. I'm looking forward to trying a Manhattan with Regans' too.
Pond scum ethics. Well, are we surprised? Y'know, it was funny in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" ...
McCoy: "Lieutenant, you are looking at the only Starfleet cadet who ever beat the no-win scenario."
Kirk: "I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship."
David Marcus: "He cheated."
Kirk: "I changed the conditions of the test. I got a commendation for original thinking. I don't like to lose."
Of course, winning or losing wasn't the point of the test; it was to see how one reacted in that scenario. It was actually despicable of him to change the conditions. Now, in real life, we have this scenario, via Kos:
McClellan: "If anyone in this administration was involved in it [the improper disclosure of an undercover CIA operative's identity], they would no longer be in this administration." -- September 29, 2003
Bush: "If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action." -- September 30, 2003
Bush: "If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration." -- Yesterday
Despicable. Yet sadly typical.
Dear Mr. President:In June 2004, you said that you would fire anyone found to be involved in the disclosure of Valerie Wilson's identity as a covert CIA agent. Today, you signifacantly changed your position, stating that you would remove Karl Rove or other White House officials in the security breach only "if someone committed a crime."
Your new standard is not consistent with your obligations to enforce Executive Order 12958, which governs the protection of national security secrets. The executive order states: "Officers and employees of the United States Government ... shall be subject to appropriate sanctions if they knowingly, willingly or negligently ... disclose to unauthorized persons information properly classified." Under the executive order, the available sanctions include "reprimand, suspension without pay, removal, termination of classification authority, loss or denial of access to classified information, or other sanctions."
Under the executive order, the President may not wait until criminal intent and liability are proved by a prosecutor. Instead, the President has an affirmitive obligation to take "appropriate and prompt corrective action." And the standards of proof are much different. A criminal violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which Special Prosectur Fitzgerald is investigating, requires a finding that Mr. Rove "intentionally disclose[d]" the identity of a covert agent. In contrast, the administrative sanctions under Executive Order 12958 can be imposed without a finding of intent. Under the executive order, the President is requird to impose administrative sanctions -- such as removal of office or termination of security clearance -- if Mr. Rove or other officials acted "negligently" in disclosing or confirming information about Ms. Wilson's identity.
I have enclosed a fact sheet on Karl Rove's Nondisclosure Agreemtn and its legal implications, which provides additional detail about the President's national security obligations. I urge you to act in compliance with Executive Order 12958 and your responsibility to safeguard national security secrets.
Henry A. Waxman
Ranking Minority Member
Will he obey his own executive order? (No, I thought not.)[ Link to today's entries ]
Monday, July 18, 2005
Weekend's gustation. Well, so much for the idea of eating like a rabbit for a few weeks before going back to New Orleans, to compensate for the weight I'll inevitably put on there. Sigh.
I was a big lazy bastard and didn't bring my camera along (or drag it from the bedroom to the kitchen, even) for the weekend's culinary delights, so I'm afraid a simple, unadorned prose description will have to do.
Saturday lunch was at a little neighborhood Mexican food joint in Eagle Rock called York's Burgers (yep, they make great burgers too) for an enormous, steaming bowl of pozole, a pork and hominy stew typical of the state of Jalisco in Mexico. Bright red broth (lots of chiles), huge chunks of costillas de puerco (pork ribs), tender as you can imagine, and a lot of white hominy. It comes with a plate of accoutrements on the side: chopped onions and cilantro, shredded cabbage, extra chiles, chopped tomato and lime wedges which you add to the soup as you go along. Absolutely delicious, hearty and very filling. And five bucks.
Sunday was Big Experiment Day. (As if we didn't already know how it was going to turn out.) Simply enough, we took our Nueske's Applewood-Smoked Wieners and wrapped them each with a slice of Nueske's Applewood-Smoked Bacon (just about the best bacon I've ever had). Those went on the griddle, and into some freshly-baked whole-wheat bolillos from the panaderia several blocks away. Ketchup, and about a half a dozen mustards to choose from (French's Yellow, Beaver's Hot/Sweet and Cranberry Mustards, Woebel's Jalapeño, Silver Spring "Beer 'n Brat" Horseradish Mustard, Zatarain's Chow Chow), and that was all we needed.
Holy crapola. Best. Dogs. Ever.
Blasphemous as it may sound, I think I'll have another dog tonight, baconless, with nuttin' on it but a little mustard. I want to taste that dog just for what it is -- a hot dog with a really wonderful flavor (a relative rarity). Sorry, Hebrew National, but these dogs kick y'all's butts, higher authority or not.
We had friends over to help us eat all this, and they brought along a dish I'd never had before -- piadine, which is a flat, pizza dough-like round of bread cooked in an oiled skillet or grilled, and topped with a mixture of leafy greens and other salady toppings, or even just roasted garlic paste and cheese. We did one of the former category, Piadini with Apples, Honey and Blue Cheese. (NB - Even though this recipe calls for pre-made, frozen pizza dough, screw that. Make your own. It's easy, even for the dough-challenged like me.) After the dough was browned on one side and flipped, we drizzled it with a tablespoon or so of honey (we used an Italian chestnut honey from Whole Foods that had an incredible flavor), an ounce or so of crumbled (fabulously smelly) blue cheese, then covered it so the cheese got a bit melty. That warm, honeyed, stinkycheesy bread was immediately topped with the cold apple and frisée salad that had been tossed with a lemon vinaigrette; to eat it, you just fold up the whole thing and eat it like a big taco.
Just as I was about to break out the Chartreuse, the boys had to go; early risers, alas. I decided to forgo a digestivo myself, and instead stayed up too late finishing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. (*tear rolls down cheek*)[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, July 15, 2005
The Cocktailian. In today's edition of Gary Regan's fortnightly column about the Professor, our favorite cocktailian bartender, they're doing the cancan for Bastille Day with some more French cocktails. Shoulda posted this yesterday, actually, but I forgot. Oh well. Hey, we can make it Bastille Weekend!
Harry Potter Day tomorrow. Say what you will, but it's always fun when another book in this series is released. We're going to go see a late movie tonight, then head over to Vroman's, which is staying open past midnight for the offical release at 12:01am. They're encouraging people to dress up, and although you won't see me dressed up as a character from the novels, I will be attired somewhat appropriately for the occasion, in this t-shirt:
I love the looks I get when I wear this shirt, primarily from people who don't get the joke right away. My favorite encounter was in Trader Joe's a while back; an older lady wheeled her cart past me, saw my t-shirt and gave me the stinkeye. Unsurprising, considering I was in a Trader Joe's in our heavily Democratic neighborhood. I smiled. Then after she passed me she stopped, and I heard her say, "Voldemort?!"
"Um, yeah ... see, it's a joke--"
"Voldemort from Harry Potter?" she said.
"That's the only Voldemort I know," I replied.
A smile slowly spread across her face. "That's ... brilliant." Well yes, I like it too.
As they said in the original Goats.com comic that inspired the shirt, the thing I find refreshing about Voldemort as a candidate for Muggle public office is that there's finally a candidate without a hidden agenda.
What makes this site truly silly (and not just merely silly) is that they document when (episode number) and where each drink was taken, but not what the drink was! (Given the era, I imagine there were a lot of Martinis.)
And what, no mention of Uncle Arthur?![ Link to today's entries ]
Jeudi, le 14 juillet, 2005
Joyeux Jour de la Bastille! Liberté! Égalité! Fraternité!
Alors, aujourd'hui un petit peu de cuisine française, peut-être? Here's plenty from Epicurious.
When I was in eighth grade, my French teacher Mr. Crosby made us promise that on our first trip to France, our first meal would be escargot. Nineteen years later, I kept my promise. Here's a recipe for classic Escargots à la Bourguignonne, snails in garlic butter. Heavenly.
Try making a Croque Monsieur, the classic grilled ham and Gruyère cheese sandwich; it's easy and delicious. (For a Croque Madame, add an egg.)
Oh, and even though they're really Belgian, eat some goddamn French fries, too.
Cocktails of the day. All French, of course (due either to their ingredients or their origin).
Also called the Pompier ("Fireman"), this is a very
traditional French cocktail.
3 ounces French (dry) vermouth (e.g., Noilly Prat).
1/2 ounce crè de cassis.
Combine over ice in an Old Fashioned glass and stir. You may
also combine over ice in a Collins glass, add soda or seltzer
to taste and stir.
Invented during World War I at Harry's New York Bar in Paris. The recipe is a subject of contention amongst cocktailians; what is the "classic" recipe and the "classic" proportion of this famous drink, a direct descendent of the Brandy Crusta of 1850s New Orleans? Well, lots of people use this one:
2 ounces Cognac.
1 ounce Cointreau or other triple sec.
1 ounce fresh lemon juice.
Combine with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for
no less than 10-12 seconds. Strain into a sugar-rimmed
Others find this to be too tart, and use a 2 to 1 to 1/2 proportion (which works well in many cocktails, actually). Gary Regan prefers 1-1/2 to 1 to 1/2, and is quick to point out that you will have to adjust the proportion and balance of the ingredients depending on which Cognac you use; Courvoisier does not give you the same Sidecar as Hennessy does! Experiment! It's fun!
I love this one.
1-1/2 ounces gin.
1-1/2 ounces French (dry) vermouth.
1/2 ounce crème de cassis.
Combine with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker and stir for
no less than 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
And of course, what could be more French than a chilly glass of pastis -- Ricard, Pernod, Granier, Henri Bardouin, et al. One part pastis with 4-5 parts chilled mineral water, and you're in Provence.
Cartoon of the day. By Tom Toles, received from Steve in today's email:
Oh, and there's 'betrayed' and 'national' and 'security' and quite a few more ...[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Cocktail of the day. This one was not entirely successful, but shows potential.
Wes dug this one out of Gary Regan's New Classic Cocktails:
The Blood Orange
2 ounces Stolichnaya Ohranj orange-flavored vodka.
1 ounce Campari.
Shake and strain.
It had a fairly unsophisticated flavor, and the Campari was too predominant -- not enough orange. We're going to re-tool this one, and we'll start by dumping the Stoli (not one of the better brands) for Charbay Blood Orange Vodka, lower the proportion to 3:1 and adding a couple dashes of Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6. I wouldn't rule out a half-ounce of blood orange juice too, since they're still in season. We'll let y'all know.
Delivery! The nice UPS man brought a package today, sent by Nueske's. It contained two pounds of their amazing, astonishing, fabulous applewood-smoked bacon (one thick-sliced, one thin-sliced) and two pounds of applewood-smoked weiners (!)
My my my. What in the world shall I do with these? I just can't imagine.
Exposing more Republican lies. There's been a flurry of Republicans, right-wingers and their various pundits and toadies going on television of late and spouting the most egregious lies regarding the Karl "Evil Incarnate" Rove / Valerie Plame case. Perhaps the worst of all is that Valerie Plame wasn't an undercover CIA operative, that she was just a "desk jockey" whose exposure was trivial. Some asshole on Fox "News" -- someone they actually allow to be an anchor, apparently -- declared on air that he thought Karl Rove "deserved a medal" if he had indeed outed Valerie Plame. Or, as Oliver Willis put it, said asshole "believes that we ought to expose our covert government agents and harm national security, as long as it benefits Republicans." The Wall Street Journal ran a similarly absurd editorial this morning. And as some pundits start referring to a "smear campaign" against Rove, current Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman starts a smear campaign of his own against Joe Wilson, all of which is demonstrably false.
Setting the record straight is Larry Johnson, a retired CIA officer who knew Valerie Plame, and who started his career with her in the mid-1980s. I think he probably knows a bit more about the situation than that unbelievable asshole at Fox, and his ilk.
The misinformation being spread in the media about the Plame affair is alarming and damaging to the longterm security interests of the United States. Republicans' talking points are trying to savage Joe Wilson and, by implication, his wife, Valerie Plame as liars. That is the truly big lie.
For starters, Valerie Plame was an undercover operations officer until outed in the press by Robert Novak. Novak's column was not an isolated attack. It was in fact part of a coordinated, orchestrated smear that we now know includes at least Karl Rove.
Valerie Plame was a classmate of mine from the day she started with the CIA. I entered on duty at the CIA in September 1985. All of my classmates were undercover -- in other words, we told our family and friends that we were working for other overt U.S. Government agencies. We had official cover. That means we had a black passport -- i.e., a diplomatic passport. If we were caught overseas engaged in espionage activity the black passport was a get out of jail free card.
A few of my classmates, and Valerie was one of these, became a non-official cover officer. That meant she agreed to operate overseas without the protection of a diplomatic passport. If caught in that status she would have been executed.
[U]ntil Robert Novak betrayed her she was still undercover and the company that was her front was still a secret to the world. When Novak outed Valerie he also compromised her company and every individual overseas who had been in contact with that company and with her.
That's what this is all about, as Robert Scheer's column in the Los Angeles Times pointed out yesterday: "If you can't shot the messenger, take aim at his wife ... To try to conceal the fact that the president had lied to the American public about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, Rove attempted to destroy the credibility of two national security veterans and send an intimidating message to any other government officials preparing to publicly tell the truth."
The monstrously arrogant Karl Rove, by this time undoubtedly intoxicated with his power, compromised national security and the safety of undercover agents in order to perpetrate political revenge on someone that displeased the administration. This is not trivial. This is big. This is bad. In fact, according to recently departed RNCommittee Chairman Ed Gillespie, making a statement almost two years ago while still holding his office, it's worse than Watergate.[ Link to today's entries ]
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Scotty, Scotty, Scotty ... Scott McClellan is screwed. Either he's been flat-out lying about the Rove/Plame affair, or else he's truly out of the loop. Neither scenario is good, particularly if it's the former, which I believe it is.
Billmon offers a devastating series of quotes vouching for Rove that bring up eerie shades of Watergate, and in fact the Associated Press does their bit with dredging up the quotes as well. The AP have been aggressively pursuing this story, to their great credit, and in the last few days the White House press corps seems to have grown multiple spines. (This clip, via AmericaBlog, features NBC's David Gregory reaming McClellan, and McClellan standing there sweating stones and shitting apples.) The Democrats are finally chiming in, too, although this Times article does a bad job at describing the situation, as if it were just an occasion for a partisan attack over a "potential embarrassment" and not the revelation of classified security information during time of war as a means toward politica revenge. As Tim Russert quite correctly pointed out, if this was a Democratic White House "we'd have Congressional hearings in a second".
Here's more of McClellan twisting in the hot wind in a session with reporters that left lovely grill marks on his ass (and a full transcript as well), plus another Post article on McClellan's grilling that singles out some of the nicer comments from the press corps:
"This is ridiculous!"
"You're in a bad spot here, Scott."
"Have you consulted a personal attorney?
That last one's my favorite.
Ever since the Greek tragedies, it's been the same -- they're always brought down by their hubris (and especially in this case, arrogance).
We can only hope this is the beginning.
The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die, at least according to food writer Alan Richman, who travelled 23,750 miles, consumed over 150,000 calories and a total of 162 burgers to find the ones he deemed the best in America.
So he goes to Santa Monica and includes a chain (Houston's), but not Father's Office, which makes a burger that's a sheer work of art? He doesn't include Pie 'n Burger or Tops in Pasadena, or The Camellia Grill, Port o' Call or Bud's Broiler in New Orleans? Pfeh. What an amateur.[ Link to today's entries ]
Monday,July 11, 2005
New MotAC newsletter. Time for the latest missive from the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans, edited by Robert Hess. This month's issue of The Cocktailian Gazette features details on recent MotAC seminars from Jill DeGroff, featuring recipes by Dave Wondrich, Tony Abou-Ganim, Phil Greene and other distinguished cocktailians. There's also Gary Regan's tale of crawling Paris with Wondrich to find the finest Sidecar in that fair city, with much quaffing at Harry's New York Bar, home of both the Sidecar and the Bloody Mary.
Heretic! (Toasted.) Well I'll be fecked! You spend years periodically Googling one of your all-time favorite bands, who never had a website or anything like that, just to see if anything new and tasty has popped up, then ... lo, and behold! After ten years of not-having-done-so, they seem to have put up an official website. As in, the day before yesterday. Such timing.
Toasted Heretic were the best Galway band ever (apologies to fans of The Stunning), for my money. I first got turned on to them about 15 year ago, after my friend Paul (who was working at Golden Discs in Galway at the time) mentioned to one Julian Gough, singer of said band, that he had a friend in the States who was a DJ, and Julian said "Hey, think he'd want to hear one of our little cassette albums?" The rest is history, as my relentless flogging of Toasted Heretic upon a hapless KCRW listenership back in the day apparently resulted in a flood of cassette and CD orders into the poor little letterslot at 27 University Road. Glad to do my little part, anyway.
The band haven't been active in 10 years or so, but they never actually broke up. They'd still gig once a year, and their next big gig is coming up at the Galway Arts Festival in a dozen days. (Brendan was good enough to let me know about that, but I'm afraid I'll have to hate him just a little bit because he's going and I can't. I'll have to extract a pint from him for that, next time I'm in Galway.)
Now, back to the site -- if you've never heard of this band, you'll want to head over to the music downloads section and schlurp up all the kindly offered MP3s, then think about getting the long-awaited CD remaster-rerelease of their first two cassette-only albums Songs for Swinging Celibates and Charm and Arrogance (what, no Smug EP?!). I'm unsure about the availability of their two CDs Another Day, Another Riot and Mindless Optimism, but I'll see what I can find out.
Of those downloads ... make sure you don't miss "Food For Breakfast", which is such a great feckin' song I can hardly stand it. They're all great, and you should get them all, but that one ...
By the way, my big claim to local Heretic fame is that I may be the only person in the United States to actually own a Toasted Heretic "Warner Brothers came in my hair" T-shirt. (Hope it still fits.)[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, July 8, 2005
Is the "Martini" craze getting out of hand? (As opposed to the renaissance of classic and new quality cocktails, of course.) If this WSJ article that references vodka soaked with chunks of bubble gum and bars selling three gallons a week of vodka soaked with Jolly Rancher candies is any indication, than the answer is yes. How vile.
There's really no need for this, either. All these bars need to do is do a little cocktail history research, and they'll come up with thousands of recipes that the average bargoer has never heard of. Resurrect a forgotten cocktail instead of soaking bubblegum in vodka, or garnishing a martini with a pickled goddamned octopus!
"I cringe when people call anything in a martini glass a martini," says Robert Hess, who along with some other stalwarts started the Museum of the American Cocktail. Its bar will soon serve only "authentic" drinks, made from 19th-century recipes. Audrey Saunders, a well-known mixologist, refuses to use recipes from liquor brands. When Ms. Saunders opens her new bar Pegu Club in New York this August, she'll be making the same gin-based drink served at the famed British officer's club in Rangoon in the 1900s.
That quote from the article isn't entirely correct; the Professor Jerry Thomas Bar, when it does open at the permanent home of the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans, will serve 20th Century drinks too. Our cocktail heritage didn't end in 1900. Truly talented cocktailians such as Audrey have created wonderful new drinks as well, but they're drinks that make sense. Robert has done the same, as have Wes and I to a smaller extent and, it goes without saying, Dr. Cocktail and his many wonderful creations.
We shouldn't stop innovating, but there's a fine line between innovation and crap.
"This is not a joke to me, motherfucker!" the chef shrieks at you, with his hands around your neck. Sound like fun?
Welcome to life in a restaurant kitchen. Is it always / does it have to be this way? Well, yes and no, as you'll read in the article. ("If you can't stand the sight of lopped-off digits and the smell of your own flesh burning, get out of the kitchen.")
If I ever get to open my lil' po-boy shop one day, I won't choke anybody, but I ain't puttin' up with no bullshit, either. Then again, I'd have to be crazy to do something like that, so who knows what I'd say or do by that point?[ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, July 7, 2005
Quote of the day. Via Kos:
We are fighting these terrorists with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond so we do not have to face them in the streets of our own cities.
-- George W. Bush, October 25, 2004, Greeley, Colorado.
To quote Markos, "Well, that didn't work out quite as planned, did it?"
Bush's latest rationale for maintaining the course in Iraq adventure has been the "flypaper strategy" -- it's better to fight the terrorists over there than at home. Nevermind that the Iraqis never asked to have their country turned into a dangerous den of terrorism, insurgency, violence and death. For war supporters looking for an excuse, any excuse, to justify the continued disastrous American presence in Iraq, the flypaper rationale was as good as any.
Except that it's not working. The war isn't making the West any safer. In fact, it's creating a whole new class of terrorists. Today it was London. Next time it could easily be the United States. And waging the war in Iraq, rather than make us safer, is further motivating Islamic terrorists to strike at the West.
Our hearts and thoughts go out to Londoners and all Britons today. We're relieved to learn that our friends over there are all okay.
Here's a link to the British Red Cross.
"They hate freedom"? Bullshit. Via Steve, who writes in to say he'd seen an interview today on CNN with Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst of 22 years' experience who was once in charge of keeping track of Osama bin Laden. Today Scheuer said that the statement Bush keeps making that the terrorists "hate freedom" is not only wrong, but a lie. (Still seeking a transcript.)
Paraphrasing via Steve, Scheuer said that they don't hate us for who or what we are, but what we do in the Islamic world, and that he blames both Bush and Clinton for not being straight with the American public about that.
Here's a CBS News interview with him from last November, which I remember watching on "60 Minutes".[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, July 6, 2005
We're back! Four-day weekend for me, one-fourth of which was spend flat on my back, violently ill and writhing in agony. (I'd much rather be writhing in ecstasy, believe me.) Note to self -- never ever be without a stash of anti-nausea medication ever again for the rest of your life.
Oddly enough, I recovered enough to attend a barbecue at Mary and Steve's the very next day, which featured among many other things plum-marinated grilled lamb, Nueske's bacon (quite probably the second-best bacon I've ever had), a chocolate fountain, fiery fruit and ... CAKEPIE! (More on that later.)
Wes missed all of this. He was in Atlanta as a voting delegate to the 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ, where the resolution he and many others had been working on for months -- endorsing equal marriage rights for all people -- passed overwhelmingly by an 80% vote. It was a very satisfying, emotional weekend, and we're all very proud of him.
Rosemary's. This was the good part of the Las Vegas trip, weekend before last.
Our friends Paul and Amanda, whom we stayed with in Ireland, now live nearly half the year here in the States, and chose Las Vegas as their home away from home (because the climate is so much like Ireland it keeps them from feeling homesick, of course). We finally managed to get a chance to visit them before they headed back, and of course wanted to do lots of our favorite Vegas things to do -- eat sandwiches at Capriotti's, have dinner at Rosemary's, see a Penn & Teller show, visit Michael, our favorite bartender at our favorite bar (the Petrossian, off the lobby) at Bellagio, plus whatever noshing and farting around and meandering we happened to do.
The first food stop, at Capriotti's for lunch, presented us with the usual dilemma upon our arrival there: which of their fabulous specialty sandwiches do we order? They're a family-owned chain of sandwich shops based in Wilmington, Delaware and for a while only in Las Vegas outside their home turf. They've been slowly spreading around the northeast, and now have outposts in Arizona and (yay!) one in San Diego. (We're hoping for L.A. before too much longer.)
Capriotti's is one of the best eating deals in Vegas. Truly Gargantuan sandwiches (the medium will easily feed two; the two-foot large would feed a family), and really scrumptious (and this coming from a very particular poor boy eater). Good Italian bread and even better fillings, and our dilemma finally narrowed to two of their specialties: The "Slaw-Be-Joe", consisting of meltingly tender cold roast beef, rich cole slaw and Russian dressing, or the "Bobbie", which is like Thanksgiving dinner on a sandwich: fresh turkey, cornbread dressing and cranberry sauce. As it turned out, our old favorite Slaw-Be-Joe won out:
Oh yeah. I only ate one of those halves and I was still stuffed.
We then decided to do some exploring, as some new things had cropped up in town since our last visit -- namely the Las Vegas Monorail and the Wynn Hotel. Unfortunately, <voice="Mel Blanc">CHUCK E. TAGGART: SUPER GENIUS!</voice> left his camera in the car, so we have no lovely snaps of our afternoon's adventures. Sigh.
The Wynn, in a nutshell, was ... underwhelming, but warrants further exploration on a trip when we have more time (and not pressing dinner reservations at 5:30pm). We had a couple of specialty cocktails at the Parasol Up Bar, which was nice and the drinks were relatively tasty: an "Apricotini", which consisted of fresh apricot purée, bitters and Prosecco, and a Nectar, the ingredients of which I forget but which contained some rose syrup and a few other ingredietns that made it taste nice but not terribly flowery, and certainly not like "necta". (I still want to come up with a New Orleans-style nectar cocktail, but I digress.) $12 each (sigh), which seems to be the going rate for a decent drink in Vegas. We gaped at the expense of most everything else -- Rodeo Drive-style shops in the Esplanade shopping area, but superb and affordable chocolates at Frédéric Robert Chocolatier, and some spectacular looking pastries for only $6. We didn't think one of their lovely boxes of chocolates would survive a 45-minute walk back to the monorail station in 107° heat (as the Wynn's shuttle bus isn't operational yet), so we opted for some fleur-de-sel caramels, which were gorgeous and which are still being rationed out at home.
There are some amazing-looking restaurants at the Wynn, namely Alex (Chef Alessandro Stratta) and Bartolotta (Chef Paul Bartolotta, who flies all his seafood in from Italy). We'll save up, dine there one day and get back to you.
One more trip down the monorail to the MGM Grand, where our friend Damon told us that we absolutely, positively had to go to Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill. Why? Not for dinner, but for a Martini (a proper one) and one of their bar snacks -- potato chips. Potato chips? Ho feckin' hum. Oh no ... not just potato chips, but Fresh-made potato chips drizzled with truffle oil and topped with Maytag blue cheese and fresh herbs. Oh Christ! Good good good! (*devour*) Spoiled appetite be damned, this was the perfect afternoon snack, washed down with an Arctic-cold Boodles Martini "into which you've poured a sufficient quantity of vermouth to make me think this is 1946." I regret that I have no picture of this to offer, but use your imagination. And go get some.
Just when I achieved a sense of timing and time passing for once in my life, and got us back to the monorail just in time to go back to our car at the Sahara's parking structure, change and get to Rosemary's (a good 15 minutes off the Strip) in perfect time for their 5:30 opening and our reservations ... "The Las Vegas Monorail is experienceing a temporary interruption in service. Please stand by." (Feck.) Ten minutes stuck in that mother, and less than a minute before I had decided we'd bail, run back to the hotel and catch a cab, the doors closed and we were on our way. Good thing, because we were only seven minutes late, and would have been grievously late had we opted for my Plan B. Apparently this is a common occurrence, and we were advised never to rely on the monorail for any time-crucial travel until they get the bugs out (if ever).
We knew we were getting to a good start when our server Ian (who's also the wine steward) took our drink order, I said, "I'd love a Manhattan, please, with Pappy Van Winkle Reserve rye and an extra dash of bitters," and he smiled broadly and said, "Ah, you're speaking my language." Wes was asked what kind of gin he wanted in his Negroni too, which is also a relative rarity. The drinks, of course, were exquisite.
As was the service, from the moment we sat down. From the busboy to the waiter to everyone else who helped us, we felt warm and coddled and welcomed and pampered, with none of it seeming obtrusive or obsequious. The service as Rosemary's is as perfect as I've ever had anywhere, and really goes a long way to make the meal a complete pleasure. More on that as the meal develops.
First, a little amuse bouche from Chefs Michael and Wendy Jordan (both of whom were trained in New Orleans): Asparagus bread pudding with rémoulade sauce, crumbles of chêvre and microgreens, utterly delightful and gone in about one bite:
Ordering here is always difficult. This is because they have an enormous menu, and every single thing on it looks fabulous. Going with a large and sharing-oriented crowd helps. The first time we dined here several years ago it was with the entire Fat Pack; there were eight of us, and we ended up ordering eight different starters and eight different entrées. The plates never stopped orbiting the table the entire meal; we got to taste sixteen different dishes, and that was before the dessert bomb. Also, with a very few exceptions, one thing you don't really have to take into consideration is the price of a dish. Rosemary's still features a do-it-yourself prix-fixe, in which you choose any three dishes from the menu and it's $39.95. (Exceptions this time were the usual $10 surcharge for foie gras, completely understandable, as well as for rack of lamb, filet mignon and New York strip; a $6 surcharge for the monstrous diver scallops, and the unavailability of the large appetizer sampler plate as part of a prix-fixe. I remember an $8 surcharge for a wild boar dish last time, too. That still leaves the vast majority of dishes as fitting into the deal, and such a deal it is.)
While there are always old favorites (can I just say "Barbecue shrimp with Maytag Blue Cheese Slaw" and moan?), I have a tendency to gravitate toward the specials menu, and after one glance, zing-zing! Two of three decisions made. The first, my starter: Proscuitto di Parma-wrapped, Goat Cheese-stuffed Figs with Vanilla Bean-tossed Arugula, Basil-Spinach Pesto and Balsamic Extraction. So, so much going on in that dish, but everything contributing to the whole, nothing overwheling, subtle flavors blending into a whole. The only thing I might have changed was actually less cheese and meatier figs, but it's still early in fig season. Mindbogglingly good.
The recipe for this dish is freely offered. I plan to make this as soon as the fist-sized figs start coming off our wonderful fig tree. Now all I need is a prosciutto tree and a goat cheese tree and I'm all set.
I'm usually a sucker for sweetbreads whenever I see them on a menu, and probably would have ordered them, but the words "prosciutto-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed figs" were sort of a magical incantation. Wes stepped deftly in and ordered Crispy Veal Sweetbreads with Garlic Spinach, Applewood-smoked Bacon, Fried Onions and Wild Mushroom Broth. Yep, yep, yep. I can't believe he actually left some of that broth in the dish.
My main course came off the specials menu as well, and when I raised the possibility with Ian that I'd be ordering it, he began to sing its praises, and emphasized the secondary component as being a truly wondrous thing ... and having had them before, I knew he was right. It's also one of my favorite fish, and as is almost always the case with dishes at this restaurant, every component sounded wonderful: Pan-roased Alaskan Halibut with Sautéed Louisiana Chanterelles, Baby White Asparagus, Organic Sunflower Sprouts and Tarragon Beurre Blanc.
This was heaven. My only micro-quibble is that there were maybe a few too many of those sunflower sprouts, a new flavor for me and a little California-y for a dish that had so many fine elements of New Orleans cooking to it. They were good, but there was a little much of it, which is easily remedied by pushing some of them off to the side. I might also have dressed them with a teaspoon of oil or something, but ... y'know, I ended up eating them all anyway. I love halibut, I love tarragon, the beurre blanc was perfect, and those chanterelles divine. And on the completely shallow side ... this dish was priced at $34, and for only another $5.95 I was able to add a $9.50 starter and a $7 dessert, saving me $10.55 if they had been ordered separately. I can't emphasize enough how much of a great deal this is.
It helps having a wine steward as your server as well, because although the staff know the wines well, this fellow knows them better. We briefly discussed what I like and what I was having, and he recommended a Spanish white, Torres Viña Esmeralda '03, a blend of 85% Muscat and 15% Gewürztraminer. It was, of course, perfect with the halibut and had just enough acidity to set off the beurre blanc.
We seem to have a bit of ESP when it comes to knowing which dishes the staff love the most (plus we're getting kinda good at this fine dining thing), and just as Wesly was gesturing toward the menu item he was strongly considering for his entrée, Ian gushed. His favorite item on the regular menu, without a doubt, and since it incorporates lots of our favorite stuff, that was all he needed to hear. Crispy Skin Striped Bass with Andouille, Rock Shrimp and Fingerling Potato Hash, Hushpuppies and Creole Meunière Sauce. I did manage to get a bite of this, and yes ... out of this world. It's actually pretty simple, a grilled fish with menuière, but you'll find it at the most elegant New Orleans restuarants as well as neighborhood joints. The andouille, shrimp and potato side made it more complex, more interesting. I think I'll get this next time.
But I won't wear a white shirt when I do. Another few remarks on the service. Little things almost go without saying -- water glasses are always kept filled. I left the table to go to the restroom, and within five seconds our busboy appeared with a dome for my plate to keep the food warm, then refolded my napkin. Later on, as Wes was enjoying his bass, I looked up and noticed that the lovely white shirt he was wearing was freckled with little dots of dark brown meunière sauce ... perhaps not the world's best attire and dining combination (hey, coulda been worse ... coulda been red gravy). I pointed it out to him, he rolled his eyeballs and swore, and then dipped the corner of his linen napkin into his water glass to try to dab them off.
In less than ten seconds, a suit-and-tie-clad gentleman, apparently the house manager or waiter captainm, appeared with a tray bearing a heavy-bottomed Old Fashioned glass full of soda water and extra napkins. Simultaneously our busboy appeared to replace Wes' napkin, as well as the water glass he had adulterated by dipping a napkin into it. The staff are incredibly observant and responsive, and you barely need to demonstrate you need anything; they anticipate it, or they can tell immediately. Again, it's never intrusive. You just feel very, very well taken care of.
They don't rush you along with your meal here by any means, but within a minute of the plates being cleared (after both of us had finished, because these folks know proper service) the dessert menus appeared. I tend to zero in quickly, and when I asked Ian about my first choice, he grinned. "It's like a grown-up Mounds bar," he said. Since that was my very most favoritest candy bar as a kid, this was a shoo-in: Warm Coconut Bread Pudding with Coconut Sorbet and Dark Chocolate Sauce. He was right. The pudding was densedensedense, the sorbet lightlightlight, and I'm not sure what kind of chocolate they used to make that sauce but I'll bet it was no worse than Valrhona. (I'd almost be tempted to embed an almond in that pudding.)
Wes' dessert was also a special that evening, Blueberry Cobbler, in an elegant presentation. You've just got a death wish out fo' dat white shirt, dontcha dawlin'?
I'm told it was wonderful, although I didn't get any.
Drinks with dessert, of course. Wes chose a Lindemans Framboise Lambic, a raspberry lambic beer from Belgium that's been an old favorite of ours ... since we first sampled it at this veyr restaurant. They served it to us in a Champagne flute, and Wes had said, "I thought that was just too precious, until I tasted the stuff." Now we serve it that way at home, but apparently you can now buy tall, skinny Lindemans glasses at Galco's in our 'hood, and that's what they now use at the restaurant.
I was thinking a Cognac, and Ian asked me if I had ever tried any brandies from Germain-Robin. They're in California, and make hand-distilled alambic brandies that claim superiority to what the French are cranking out. I was looking at a Select Barrel XO, on the menu for a single-serving price more extravagantly high than I usually spend on an after-dinner spirit, but what the hell, I was on vacation and we were celebrating. Once again, the advantage of having Ian take care of us came into play. He had a few bottles of a very special Germain-Robin Single Barrel brandy, Vat 170, made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, not on the menu, which they had obtained by trading a few other rare bottles plus some Pappy Van Winkle Rye. He described the stuff as "astonishingly good", complex and a finish that lasts for days. I had to ask how much, and he actually didn't know; after checking, it was only $4 than I was planning to spend before, and I was in a great mood, so ... bring it on. Man, I want a bottle of this stuff, if I can ever afford it. I usually keep Pierre Ferrand Cognac around the house, which I love, but this stuff was better. I still had those flavors dancing around my tongue five minutes after my last sip. Hoo-boy.
The bill arrived, and it wasn't all that much more than we would have spent for an evening at Cinnabar, and would have been only barely more expensive had we not had expensive after-dinner drinks. You can get a world-class meal here, with world-class service, for a fraction of what you'd spend on one of the big chefs' restaurants in the big hotels on the Vegas strip. I left a 30% tip, because I was so happy with the service, because I was in such a great mood, and so that we'd be remembered next time. We resolved on the spot that we wouldn't let two months go by without without a drive to Vegas just to dine here. It's our favorite restaurant west of the Mississippi.
Speaking of Cinnabar ... Yes, we're still in mourning, but here's some more good news, via author Christa Faust in her LiveJournal:All is not lost. Chef Damon's lovely wife Edith tells me that he is partnering with the building's owner and plans to reopen in the same location (933 S. Brand Blvd. in Glendale) under the name "Acacia" this fall. He will be expanding to include catering, take out and a wine retail store. I will be there and you should be too.
We had heard that he was hoping to reopen, but this is the first solid news we've heard, plus a new name too (I like it). We know, it won't be Cinnabar; that's gone. Part of the charm of the place was the staff and the decor and the bartenders; it won't be the same without Flame and Alvin and Jessica and Arturo and Bob. But we resolved that we'd eat anyplace Chef Damon turned up, and if he's turning up in the same space, that back to it we shall go. So should you.
Incidentally, if any Cinnabar fans miss the staff, Flame told us that several of them were set to begin work immediately at Bistro 45, which is owned by her nephew and is just over in Pasadena. We haven't been there in ages, and now have a great excuse to start up again.[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, July 1, 2005
Quote of the day. My dear friend Mary Herczog, in email this morning, upon hearing the news that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a crucial, moderate swing vote on the Supreme Court, has announced her retirement:
I noted that when Roe v. Wade was approved, Spain was still Fascist. I have to wonder if there come a day when Spanish citizens say "You know, when gay marriage was approved, America was still a democracy."
I know, I know, but I'm filled with cold dread anyway.
This is going to be bad.
The Cocktailian. Because we need a drink. And, of course, we're going to wait until we're SOBER to drive, aren't we? I always do, and so should you, 'cause if you ever wreck my car while drunk, I will take a tire iron to your head this time.
Anyway ... in today's edition of Gary Regan's fortnightly column, the Professor, our cocktailian bartender, discovers that The Thai Boxer is good for at least one round.
This sounds really good, and refreshing. I might want to kick up the vanilla bean rum another ounce, but we'd have to see how that goes. The only other Thai-influenced cocktail I tried to make myself involved a lemongrass- and lime zest-infused vodka. Maybe that'll warrant some more experimentation.
June Looka! entries have been permanently archived.[ Link to today's entries ]
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