the gumbo pages

looka, <lʊ´-kə> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look"; in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans, it is usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  

2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, cocktails as cuisine, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community ... and occasionally movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

Page last tweaked @ 7:27am PDT, 12/25/2006

RSS Feed (such as it is):
RSS Feed

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:

New Orleans music for disaster relief

Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens

"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more, including a full-size, 80-page book.

Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores, or order directly from Shout! Factory Records, where all profits will be donated to New Orleans disaster relief through the end of March 2006.

The box set was the subject of a 15-minute profile on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" on Feb. 6, 2005, and a segment on Wisconsin Public Radio's "To The Best of Our Knowledge" on Apr. 3, 2005. Here are some nice blurbs from the reviews (a tad immodest, I know; I'm not generally one to toot my own horn, but let's face it, I wanna sell some records here.)

*      *      *

"More successfully than any previous compilation, Doctors... captures the sprawling eclecticism, freewheeling fun and constant interplay of tradition and innovation that is at the heart of Crescent City music." -- Keith Spera, New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"... if you DO know someone who's unfortunate enough to have never heard these cuts, press this monumentally adventurous box and its attendant booklet upon them. It's never too late to learn" -- Robert Fontenot, OffBeat magazine, New Orleans

"... the best collection yet of Louisiana music." -- Scott Jordan, The Independent, Lafayette, Louisiana.

"[T]he year's single most awesome package" -- Buddy Blue, San Diego Union-Tribune

"This four-CD box set doesn't miss a Crescent City beat ... For anyone who has enjoyed the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, this is Jazz Fest in a box. ***1/2" -- Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times

"... excellently compiled, wonderfully annotated ... New Orleans fans will know much of this by heart, though they may not remember it sounding so good; those who don't know what it's like to miss New Orleans will quickly understand." -- Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press.

"... a perfect storm when it comes to reissues. This box set is musically exciting, a complete representation of its subject matter, and just plain fun to listen." -- Charlie B. Dahan,

"... one of the best impressions of a city's musical blueprint that you're likely to ever find." -- Zeth Lundy,

"... an unacademic, uncategorized album that suits the city's time-warped party spirit." -- Jon Pareles, The New York Times

A new book featuring the best of food weblogs.

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:
How to donate to this site:

Your donations help keep this site going. PayPal's the best way -- just click the button below, and thanks!

You can also donate via the Honor System, if you wish (but they deduct a larger fee from your donation and I keep less).

(Also, here's a shameless link to my Amazon Wish List.)

Buy stuff!

You can get Gumbo Pages designs on T-shirts, mugs and mousepads at The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!

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

November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006

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

2004:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2003:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2002:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2001:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2000:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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

The Flag of The City of New Orleans

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

Greater N.O. Community Data Center
New Orleans Wiki

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


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

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

   The Internet's most comprehensive
   and indispensible database of
   authenticated cocktail recipes,
   ingredients, reseearch and more.
   By Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)

Museum of the American Cocktail
   Founded by Dale DeGroff and many
   other passionate spirits in Jan. 2005.
   Celebrating a true American cultural
   icon: the American Cocktail.
   (Their weblog.)

*     *     *

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

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

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

*     *     *

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

*     *     *

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

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

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

Fee Brothers' Bitters
   (Classic orange bitters,
   peach bitters and a cinnamony
   "Old Fashion" aromatic bitters.
   Skip the mint variety, though.)

*     *     *

The Alchemist
   (Paul Harrington)

Alcohol (and how to mix it)
   (David Wondrich)

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

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

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

The Cocktail Chronicles
   (Paul Clarke's weblog)

The Cocktailian Gazette
   (The monthly newsletter of
   The Museum of the
   American Cocktail.)

A Dash of Bitters
   (Michael Dietsch)

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

DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog

Drink Trader
   (Online magazine for the
   drink trade)

Happy Hours
   (Beverage industry
   news & insider info)

Imbibe Magazine
   (Celebrating the world in a glass)

Jimmy's Cocktail Hour
   (Jimmy Patrick)

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)
   (Ladies United for the
   Preservation of
   Endangered Cocktails)

Fine Spirits & Cocktails
   (eGullet's forum)

Martini Republic: Drinks
   (featuring posts by Dr. Cocktail!)

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

The Modern Mixologist
   (Tony Abou-Ganim)

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

Nat Decants
   (Natalie MacLean)

Spirit Journal
   (F. Paul Pacult)

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

Vintage Cocktails
   (Daniel Reichert)

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

Let's eat!

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

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

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

In vino veritas.

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

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

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

Reading this month:

The Humours of Planxty, by Leagues O'Toole.

In Search of the Craic: One Man's Pub Crawl Through Irish Music, by Colin Irwin.

Microcosmic God: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. 2, by Theodore Sturgeon.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

Luka Bloom
La Bottine Souriante
Billy Bragg
Cordelia's Dad
Jay Farrar
The Frames
Sonny Landreth
Los Lobos
Christy Moore
Nickel Creek
The Old 97s
Anders Osborne
The Proclaimers
Professor Longhair
Red Meat
The Red Stick Ramblers
The Reivers
Zachary Richard
Paul Sanchez
Marc Savoy
Son Volt
Richard Thompson
Toasted Heretic
Uncle Tupelo

Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots

Miles of Music

New Orleans

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

No Depression


Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA

Talking furniture:

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream

KCSN (Los Angeles)
   Broadcast schedule
   "Down Home" playlist
   Live MP3 audio stream

Bob Walker's New Orleans Radio Shrine
   (A rich history of N.O. radio)
   (Comprehensive listings)

Air America Radio
   (Talk radio for the
   rest of us)
Joe Frank
Grateful Dead Radio
   (Streaming complete
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
   (Freedom, CA)
KRVS Radio Acadie
   (Lafayette, LA)
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
   (Science fiction radio)
Raidió Idirlíon
   (Irish language & music)
Raidió na Gaeltachta
   (Irish language)
RootsWorld's Rootsradio
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
   (Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

In the cinema:
Syriana (****)
Match Point (****)
Underworld Evolution (**)
Munich (****)
Transamerica (****)
The New World (****)
V for Vendetta (****)
The Frighteners (***1/2)
Eating Out (**)
Dead and Buried (***)
Heavenly Creatures (****)
Minority Report (****)
Tarnation (***)
Crash (**)
The Constant Gardener (***-1/2)

Lookin' at da TV:

"The West Wing"
"Battlestar Galactica"
"The Sopranos"
"Six Feet Under"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
"The Simpsons"
"Father Ted"
The Food Network


A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography

Ansel Adams
Jonathan Fish
Noah Grey
Greg Guirard
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
Herman Leonard
Howard Roffman
J. T. Seaton
Jerry Uelsmann
Gareth Watkins
Brett Weston

The Mirror Project
(My pics therein: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)

My photographs at Flickr


The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy

Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed

Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

The Boondocks,
by Aaron McGruder

Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson

by Garry B. Trudeau

Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley

Get Your War On
by David Rees

by Jonathan Rosenberg

L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

Lulu Eightball,
by Emily Flake

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner

by Walt Kelly

Suspect Device,
by Greg Peters

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak


Polly Ticks: (Progressive politics & news)
Daily Kos (My favorite political weblog)
Eschaton (The Mighty Atrios)
Hullaballoo (The Mighty Digby)
Media Matters for America (Debunking right-wing media lies)
Orcinus (David Neiwert)
PostSecret (Secrets sent in via postcards; astonishingly beautiful, funny and sad.)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
Think Progress
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.)

Borowitz Report
(Political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Fray (Your stories)
Landover Baptist (Better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (Opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (Scarily funny news/satire)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (Read this.) (Not the actual White House, but it should be)

Weblogs I read:

American Leftist
The BradLands
The Carpetbagger Report
Considered Harmful
Creek Running North
Ethel the Blog
Un Fils d'un État Rouge
Follow Me Here
Franklin Avenue
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
Jesus' General
Mark A. R. Kleiman
The Leaky Cauldron
Letting Loose With the Leptard
Little. Yellow. Different.
Making Light
Martini Republic
Mister Pants
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
No More Mr. Nice Guy!
Not Right About Anything
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
Respectful of Otters
Roger "Not That One" Ailes
Ted Rall
Sadly, No!
This Modern World
Whiskey Bar
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?
Your Right Hand Thief

Matthew's GLB blog portal

L.A. Blogs

Friends with pages:

mary katherine
michael p.
tracy and david

The Final Frontier:

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


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site


"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

-- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901-1909), speaking in 1918

"There ought to be limits to freedom."

-- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999

"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier."

-- George W. Bush, describing what it's like to be governor of Texas, Governing Magazine, July 1998

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

-- George W. Bush,, December 18, 2000

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."

-- George W. Bush, Business Week, July 30, 2001

Made with Macintosh

Hosted by pair Networks

Déanta:  This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.3 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)

LOOKA!Bia agus deoch, ceol agus craic.

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

  Monday, December 25, 2006  ::  Nollag

Christmas morning, 1968.   The view from Apollo 8, 39 years ago.

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël, Nollag shona dhaoibh, Felíz Navidad, Happy Krimble..

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, December 24, 2006  ::  La Veille de Noël

Oíche Nollag, Christmas Eve ...   an' all t'ru da house, Chuck an' his relatives are all getting soused ...

In fact, I made some most excellent Old Fashioneds for meself and me da last night, which ended up with Dad snoring on the sofa.

The last week or so has been frenzied, so sorry for the lack of posting. Presumably you've been as busy as I have. We shall endeavour to do better next year. And now ...

The last food porn of 2006.   There's a group based in the Bay Area called The Ghetto Gourmet, "Improvisational Fine Dining" or more accurately a "culinary speakeasy", in which dinners are prepared in private homes, by a rotating cast of guest chefs. It's a great idea, and seems to have taken off in popularity for these guys, who are beginning to take their act on the road.

Last year you may remember my lamenting the closing of our favorite local restaurant Cinnabar, which we still miss dearly. Over the last year we had heard that Cinnabar's chef Damon Bruner had been doing a few one-off catered dinners along these "culinary speakeasy" lines, but we had missed the opportunity to go to both of them. A few weeks ago we got an email alerting us to another Damon dinner coming up, this time under the auspices of Ghetto Gourmet, and we leapt at the chance and barely squeaked in at the last minute (I think we may have been the last two to get in).

It was held at a beautiful home in the Hollywood Hills (from what we could tell, it was the same neighborhood where Robert Altman filmed "The Long Goodbye") -- 35 strangers, bringing their own wine and sitting on cushions on the floor. Entertainment was provided by a cabaret-style singer/songwriter named José Promis, playing wonderful songs and prompting Wes to describe him as "a more whimsical Rufus Wainwright", and ... there was a guy there making balloon animals. Christa leaned over and whispered, "How frightening is this?" but there was more to come from this gentleman ...

José Promis

First course came out, a passed hors d'oeuvre of Warm Camembert Tarts with Truffled Honey and Pomegranate Seeds.

Warm Camembert tart with truffle honey and pomegranate seeds

This was a pleasant surprise, as it wasn't on the preliminary menu that was emailed out. Creamy cheese, sweet and pungent honey, tart pomegranate ... one of those great little concoctions with a lot of different flavors going on, balancing and playing against each other in one or two bites. My bouche was amused, and ready for more.

Kumamoto Oyster with pickled ginger-sake granita

Second course: Kumamoto Oyster topped with Pickled Ginger-Sake Granita. This was one of Damon's signature dishes from Cinnabar, and it (or a close variation of it) would appear in the middle of almost every tasting menu he prepared. This is also quite possibly Wes' single favorite thing from Cinnabar (of the very many favorite things): "I could eat a whole tray of these," he said. Now as I've mentioned before, I'm a bit of an anomaly among New Orleanians -- I love oysters in every way, shape and form except raw. However, I've also mentioned before that I will eat anything Damon Bruner puts in front of me, and as raw oysters go this is an amazing preparation, an inspired combination of flavors and textures and temperatures.

Warm calamari salad

Third course: Warm Calamari Salad with Peanuts, Lime, Cilantro and Mint. This is another great dish from the days of Cinnabar, slight variations of which were almost always on the menu. Big calamari fan here, and the Thai-inspired combo of herbs and chiles were just perfect. We were sitting next to Christa, who had tipped us off to the meal and who is good friends with the chef and his wife Edith, and couldn't help but notice the absolutely Gargantuan serving of this dish that was brought to her. Evidently it was one of her favorites from Cinnabar too, and she just glowed as she put away every speck.

Butternut Squash Confit with Hungarian Bacon

Fourth course: Butternut Squash Confit with Hungarian Bacon. This was a surprise, as they early menu simply said "Butternut squash soup." This was not puréed but in chunks, and cooked in a confit? In fat? Really? I meant to ask Damon about this but forgot. It could very well have been, because it had a silky texture to it, and was laced with chunks of smoky, salty Hungarian bacon which apparently came from a store right down Eagle Rock Blvd. toward Cypress Park. We'll be heading there soon to stock up on this stuff.

Star anise-braised beef shortribs with black truffles and truffle risotto cake

Fifth course, entrée: Star Anise Braised Beef Shortribs with Black Truffles and a Truffle Risotto Cake. This was the dish for which we'd been trembling in anticipation all week, and we weren't even expecting the fresh truffles. I had assumed there'd be preserved truffles or truffle oil to flavor the risotto, given the entirely reasonable price for this dinner (that would have been fine with me, actually), but we heard that Chef Damon had been given the gift of some fresh black truffles, and not only did they go into the risotto they were shaved over the beef as well, their earthy flavor a marriage made in heaven with long-braised, beautifully fat-marbled shortribs.

This was a close-your-eyes-moan-and-pound-on-the-table dish. I'm not sure if I actually pounded on the table, as the place settings were a bit closely quartered, but I most certainly closed my eyes, moaned and just chewed, savoring every molecule of that flavor. The anise was beautiful in the braise, a nod toward the flavors of Vietnamese pho, mild and aromatic without being overpowering, perfectly balanced in flavor as a sixteen-foot steel beam balanced on the point of a hatpin. I was almost getting lightheaded; taking a bite of this was almost like taking a bong hit. (Not that I ever do that sort of thing, mind you, of course not ...)

And truffles!

Hard as an act this is to follow, we finished off with a dessert after my own heart. As a New Orleans boy I'm very very fond of bread pudding, and tonight's dessert was Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding.

Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding

Damon got to take a break on this one, as it was made by his wife Edith, who knocked it out of the park. From what I could tell the pudding had been baked, then cubed and baked again so that the edges got crispy. It was served warm, and instead of a sauce we had vanilla ice cream, which was just what it needed; it was rich enough such that a sugary sauce might have been too much, and it reminded me of the crème anglaise my mom makes with her Bananas Foster bread pudding.

The setting was grand, the company was lots of fun, and the entertainment delightful. José did several songs for us (and we're looking forward to seeing him again), and as for Addi Somekh, the balloon man ... well, it wasn't frightening, kids-party stuff at all. The balloon creations he made moved quickly from a few animals to surreal sculptures, even more surreal hats, and then his pièce de resistance -- he blew up one of his long skinny balloons halfway, to about the size of a globe, and left the thin skinny unblown-up part, tied that off, taped a guitar pickup to the inflated part and began to play the balloon like a bass guitar, making the notes by varying the length and bend of the skinny part. Out came Addi's friend Henry with a guitar, and what we had was Unpopable, an improv rock/jazz duo of guitar and balloon bass. They did several songs as well, and were fantastic. This wasn't music to listen to in the background, this was music that had people smiling and watching and clapping along with delight.


Chef Damon and (pastry chef!) Edith, plus Ghetto Gourmet founders Jeremy Townshend and his brother Joe, Dave Kim and all the other Ghet crew did a fantastic job, as did our wonderful host and everyone involved. Sign up at ghet involved, ghet on the mailing list and ghet thee to a culinary speakeasy dinner with these guys or anyone else who does similar gatherings. You'll have a blast.

Da Ghetto Gourmet dining gang
[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!   I'm off in the wee hours of the wee hours of the morning to head back to New Orleans. It'll be my first Christmas there in a few years, and the first Christmas my folks have had in their new house after the flood, so I thought the time was ripe. Christmas in Mandeville ... that'll be ... different.

In the meantime, enjoy this remix of one of my favorite Christmas TV shows, slightly remixed. Here's "A Charlie Brown Christmas", as performed by the cast of "Scrubs."

Ho ho ho. (And a bottle of really good, 29-year-old rum.)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Cooley Slap!   Speaking of Darin Morgan, with regards to yesterday's post about the late Peter Boyle ...

Back when we were film students at LMU, Darin co-starred with his friend Tony Mortillaro in a student production written and directed by Tony that to this day, 20 years later, remains quite possibly the funniest short film I've ever seen. It's called "Legends of Doo-Wop," and I've been thrilled to see it recently pop up in festivals (especially the HBO-sponsored U.S. Comedy Arts Festival) long after we all graduated. I first mentioned that film on this weblog back in 2000, but since then ...

Yet another reason that I love YouTube so much is the fact that some kind soul has uploaded this film to that stupendous service (albeit with some odd pre-title titles that are NOT from Tony; the first authentic title card says "Robbie LeBeef Presents"). Sit back, relax and enjoy seven very funny minutes with the Legends of Doo-Wop.

CAUTION: Watching this film may cause certain classic songs to be ruined for you for life; you'll ever be able to hear them again without cracking up.

"So finally I invented The Cooley Slap ..." (Oh Jesus!)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Peter Boyle's Final Repose.   RIP, 1935-2006.

I didn't know that he had been a Christian Brother (!), nor that John Lennon had been best man at his wedding!

What I do know is that amidst his long and distinguished career, there are two things that stand out which are worth more than 10,000 episodes of "Everybody Loves Raymond" -- those are "Young Frankenstein" (especially "Puttin' On the Ritz") ...

and his Emmy-winning performance in what's perhaps the best episode of "The X-Files" ever, "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," written by my old schoolmate Darin Morgan (who also won an Emmy for writing it). Watch these clips only if you've already seen the episode.

More clips here, here and here.

Thank you, Mr. Boyle.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Fuhgeddaboutit!   Don't mess with next year's just-named King of the Krewe of Bacchus, or he'll whack you.

This is a great choice, and I think he'll be a terrific king. They'd better watch it, though ... he's a big guy and if he gets too drunk on that float he's going to crush his pages to death as he falls over. (I remember the terror in the eyes of the King's pages way back when as Raymond Burr wobbled as he stood in front of his rolling throne ...)

Sona.   Food porn time!

I'm way behind on this, 'cause this was my birthday meal from over a month ago. As is our custom, Wes and I surprise one another with a superb meal on our birthdays (well, we know we're having the meal, just not where, until we drive up to the place). This year was an even bigger surprise, because this place wasn't even on my list, and I'd only barely heard of it. That was my loss, because as it turns out Sona Restaurant is being hailed as one of the best new places in town, and Chef David Myers has been racking up the awards for his inventive, seasonal cuisine. He's also a seafood specialist, and is apparently adept at bringing in seafood that's rarely seen in this part of the world ... as I was to find out later.

Two gigantic Martinis launched us on our way, and then out came the amuse bouche:

Amuse Bouche: Bigeye Tuna Tartare

Bigeye Tuna Tartare, marinated in basil oil, atop a thinly sliced watermelon radish with burrata cheese, julienned radish, black sesame seeds and pesto. Wow, quite a mouthful of a description, for such a one-bite mouthful of food, but my wasn't it tasty? The crunch of the radish, the smoothness of the tuna, the perfume of the basil, the creamy unctuousness of the burrata, the nuttiness of the sesame. And gone in one bite. Sometimes I hate amuses bouche. Maybe one day I'll just ask my server, "Um, can you bring me a tray of these?"

For my first course ... the wrong choice. (Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, as you can see ...)

Crispy Veal Sweetbreads

I love sweetbreads, and their presence on a menu is a virtual guarantee that I'll order it, or at least consider it very seriously. This one was terrific -- Crispy veal sweetbreads with white bean purée, pistachio confit and applewood-smoked bacon. Crispy and rich, its texture perfectly set off by the creaminess of the bean purée, and those pistachios ... gorgeous. With this I drank a 2003 Viognier, Cold Heaven "Sanford & Benedict," Santa Ynez Valley. I loved this dish, truly I did; had no complaints about it at all and nothing but praise. Except for when I saw Wesly's dish ...

Maine Lobster Risotto

Maine lobster risotto with shellfish emulsion sauce. Okay, the sauce was a foam, and Wes and I make fun of foams (I thought foams were on their way out anyway). But this foam tasted fucking great, and the risotto was the kind of dish where you take one bite, then your eyes cross and you moan and pound on the table. This was truly outstanding. I very nearly ordered one to be sent just for me, but we were still planning entrée, cheese and dessert ... sigh. I got a great dish, but he got a better dish than I did. Bastard. I hate it when that happens. (*goes off into the corner to sulk*)

The entrée more than made up for that, though.

Australian Barramundi

Australian Barramundi with artichoke-tomato ragout and olive vinaigrette. When I told Christa last Friday that I had had barramundi on my birthday, she gasped and shrieked, "I hate you!" Apparently she had fallen in love with barramundi while living in Australia and had it frequently, and was seriously jonesing for it since coming back to the States. I'm delighted that she's delighted that she now knows where she can probably go out and get some. My first bite foreshadowed her enthusiastic reaction. Man, what a great piece of fish. Pan-seared for crispy skin, it's firm yet tender with a mild, sweet flavor. The waiter compared it to red snapper but I liked this better. The ragout of tomatoes and artichoke bottoms was perfect with it, and the thick, tangy olive vinaigrette (as thick as a mayonnaise, almost) brought it all together. Fabulous. I want more.

Although I think I came out ahead in the entrée competition, Wes was more than happy with his:

Farm Duck Breast

Liberty Farms Duck Breast with boniato purée and pineapple-rum confit. The duck was perfectly seared, a rosy-red medium rare. Boniato is a tuber that tastes like a cross between a sweet potato and a regular Russet potato, with a fluffier and less sweet flavor and texture than a typical sweet potato. The tang of the pineapple, with a touch of sweetness from the caramelizatoin and the rum, with that purée ... mmm. Once again the balance of components and flavors in the dish was perfect. This guy is really an amazing chef.

With this I drank a 2004 Arcadian Pinot Noir. I was a bit surprised at that recommendation from our server, but it's a lighter red, barramundi is a meaty fish, and they paired beautifully.

Cheese, please ... there were two choices, a 3-cheese or 6-cheese plate. Given the choice we were facing with dessert, and the approach we were contemplating on how to deal with that choice, we opted for the three:

Cheese Plate

Left to right: Five-year aged Gouda with apricot conserve ... Saint-Maure chêvre with fennel salt and marinated sun-dried tomato ... Abbaye de Bellocq with almonds. The aged Gouda is light-years beyond the bland hockey pucks you get in the grocery store. This deep orange cheese had a very complex flavor, filled with the crunchy little white protein crystals that are a sign of good aging, with almost a savory-butterscotchy flavor. I won't even consider eating Gouda unless it's aged these days. The Saint-Maure is a goat's milk cheese from France, ash-covered and formed along a long straw, tart and nutty and goaty. The Abbaye de Bellocq (whose name I remembered easily because of E. J. Bellocq, the photographer whose work in New Orleans' Storyville using prostitutes as his models is well-known back home and beyond) is a hard sheep's milk cheese from the Basque region of France, whose mild nutty flavor went very well with the almonds. Just as we were enjoying our three cheeses, the couple next to us had the six-cheese plate delivered to them, and I of course couldn't help but gawk. I immediately bristled because their selection contained Époisses, which we didn't get. "Goddammit ... I want Époisses!" I muttered, although I comforted myself in the knowledge that it was undoubtedly the pasteuerized stuff, not the wonderful, runny, horrifically smelly and life-changingly intensely flavored black-market unpasteurized stuff that Chef Pete got for Poppy at Marisol one time ... so runny that as Poppy said "it was extending pseudopods and attempting to escape from the plate."

Now, for the dessert dilemma. Sona's pastry chef is Karen Yoo, chef/owner of the instantly famous new pastry shop in Los Angeles called Boule, so we didn't want to mess around. There was one thing we both instantly zeroed in on, boggling ... "Oh my God ... can you put that in dessert? Will it work? Dare we try it?" We did, of course, but we had such a hard time deciding what else to get that we went for three desserts, split between the two of us. First, as Mary says, there is no dessert without chocolate:

Heirloom Chocolate Tart

Heirloom Chocolate Tart with Chico Farm strawberries and bittersweet chocolate sorbet. Intensely chocolatey and rich. And who doesn't love a birthday message written in chocolate?

Lemon Verbena Cheesecake

Now, the one Wes really wanted to try: Lemon Verbena Cheesecake with sous vide pears and Welschriesling granita. "Sous vide" is a cooking method developed by a chef at the famous French restaurant Troisgros about 35 years ago, in which the flavor and texture of ingredients is maintained by cooking for a long period of time at low temperatures, often up to 24 hours, in sealed plastic bags in hot water. It's difficult to pull off, but when done properly it can yield spectacular results, as with these amazing pears ... firm yet creamy texture and fantastic caramelization and intense flavor. Man. The granita was delicate and flowery, like the wine it was made with, and the cheesecake was perfumey and only barely tangy. I love verbena, and wish it were used in desserts more often. (Actually, I bathe with it every morning; I'm fond of a lemon verbena soap from France that I get at Trader Joe's.)

Finally, the one we both boggled over and just had to try ...

Cinnamon Spice Cake with Foie Gras Ice Cream

Cinnamon Spice Cake with Foie Gras Ice Cream (!), and brown butter vanilla apples. Foie gras in ice cream?! Holy crap! Some people might find this sort of thing too "Iron Chef" for them, but we went right for it. Foie gras lends itself perfectly to sweet preparations, of course, and is typically paired with fruit sauces and sweet wines like Sauternes, so why not in a dessert? It was beautiful too -- there was just enough foie gras in the custard to give it a distinct flavor and not overpower with richness. An inspired combination of flavors, as was every single other thing on the menu.

With our desserts we drank a 2004 Alois Kracher Cuvée Beerenauslese Riesling, Burgenland, Austria. I loooove sweet dessert Rieslings. Trockenbeerenauslese is my middle name. (Well, it isn't actually, but it could have been, if my parents were mad Germans.)

"Y'now," said Wes at one point during the meal, "we really need to do this more often, and screw the expense." Enjoying food like this is part of what makes life worth living, and if we have to eat soup and salad for a week or two to make up for it (financially and calorically), so be it. I make good soups anyway. I'm hoping we can get back to Sona soon, before he changes the menu and takes that lobster risotto off.

Yep, a great birthday!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, December 11, 2006

O Holy Night.   Last Monday's episode of Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (one of our favorite new shows) featured a number of New Orleans musicians, portrayed not by name in the show but as "homeless" and looking for gigs anywhere they could; several of the musicians in the show's regular band were portrayed as having falsely called in sick just so that these guys could get a little income from playing. After meeting Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, the show's co-exec producer Danny Trippi (Bradley Whitford) arranged for them to play a special spotlight performance on that week's show, in front of a backdrop slide show of the devastation of New Orleans. I know I'm a sucker for this kinda thing, but I sat there and cried.

The one-off band consisted of Troy Andrews and "Kid Merv" Campbell on trumpets, Roderick Paulin and Frederick Shepherd on saxophones, Kirk Joseph on sousaphone, Stephen Walker on trombone and Bob French on the drums. The song they played, in a beautiful arrangement, was "O Holy Night," and you can download the MP3 to your computer here. You an also watch the segment on their music page.

It's about time.   Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the despot who overthrew the legal government of Chile in a U.S.-sponsored coup on September 11, 1973 during which its democratically-elected president, Salvador Allende, died and thousands tortured and murdered in its aftermath, is finally dead after having spent far too long on this planet, and after never having been brought to justice.

I shall mark this long-overdue passing with a tribute to one of his victims, the great Chilean singer-songwriter Victor Jara, and the lyrics to a song written in his memory by Adrian Mitchell and Arlo Guthrie, which I learned from the singing of Christy Moore.

Victor Jara of Chile
Lived like a shooting star
He fought for the people of Chile
With his songs and his guitar
His hands were gentle, his hands were strong

Victor Jara was a peasant
He worked from a few years old
He sat upon his father's plow
And watched the earth unfold
His hands were gentle, his hands were strong

Now when the neighbors had a wedding
Or one of their children died
His mother sang all night for them
With Victor by her side
His hands were gentle, his hands were strong

He grew up to be a fighter
Against the people's wrongs
He listened to their grief and joy
And turned them into songs
His hands were gentle, his hands were strong

He sang about the copper miners
And those who worked the land
He sang about the factory workers
And they knew he was their man
His hands were gentle, his hands were strong

He campaigned for Allende
Working night and day
He sang "Take hold of your brother's hand,
You know the future begins today"
His hands were gentle, his hands were strong

Then the generals seized Chile
They arrested Victor then
They caged him in a stadium
With five-thousand frightened men
His hands were gentle, his hands were strong

Victor stood in the stadium
His voice was brave and strong
And he sang for his fellow prisoners
Till the guards cut short his song
His hands were gentle, his hands were strong

They broke the bones in both his hands
They beat him on the head
They tortured him with electric shocks
And then they shot him dead
His hands were gentle, his hands were strong

Victor Jara of Chile
Lived like a shooting star
He fought for the people of Chile
With his songs and his guitar
His hands were gentle, his hands were strong

Astonishing, that mad fuckin' shrew in Britain actually mourned the bastard ... eight years after having taken tea with him and praising him for "bringing democracy to Chile" (?!!) and helping her out with the Falklands. Christy Moore said of her then, "When I saw [Thatcher] recently take tea with Pinochet and laud him for his support during the Falklands War, I thought perhaps the poor lady might be totally fuckin' mad, but that would be to trivialise her absolute danger to us all." She's apparently as mad as ever.

It's okay to be glad someone is dead.

Thingmaker!   BoingBoing recently featured a great post about one of my favorite childhood toys, the Thingmaker, which would make things like Creepy Crawlers out of the incredible Plastigoop! You simply must watch the TV commercial (although I must say they were in color when I was a kid ... I'm not that feckin' old!).

My other favorite toy was the Strange Change Time Machine.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Yeah you rite, Chef Chris!   The current issue of New Orleans magazine is its annual dining issue. I was jazzed to see Adolfo García lauded as Chef of the Year -- I look forward with great eagerness to every meal I've had at Rio Mar, where every dish I've ever had is fantastic, and I was also pleased that they honored a chef not known for "New Orleans food" per se -- but perhaps the biggest yeah-you-rite came with the second honor they bestowed, that of "Best New Chef".

That went to Chris DeBarr of The Delachaise, on St. Charles just off Louisiana Avenue. And as soon as I get home I'm gonna see if he's still doing that foie gras tasting menu, or else get the Grinch Who Stole Christmas menu ... congratulations, Chris!! Can't wait to get back there and eat again. (Poppy notes that "[i]t seems funny given that he has been cooking in New Orleans for sixteen years now, but the Delachaise is the first local restaurant where he's been head chef, so I suppose he is in fact a New Chef at age 45." Betta late den nevuh, bra ... and dey ain't nuttin' wrong wit' bein' fawty-fahv!

"An bhfuil tusa ag labhairt liomsa?!"   I stumbled across an absolutely delightful, funny, touching and thought-provoking Irish short film today, entitled (in English) "My Name is Yu Ming", or "Yu Ming is Ainm Dom" in Irish. It's a 13-minute tale of a young man in China, bored with his dull life as a shop clerk, who spins a globe at the library one day, closes his eyes and stops it at random with his finger ... which lands on Ireland. He looks it up in at atlas, which lists its official language as "Gaelic", oddly omitting the fact that its other official language (and the most widely spoken one) is "English." He checks out an Irish-language tutor from the library, teaches himself Irish (no mean feat), then heads to Dublin to try out his language skills. Hijinks ensue.

The scene where he speaks his first properly-pronounced bits of Irish to himself in the mirror nearly made me spray my tea all over my monitor. "Father Ted" fans should see if they can spot one of that show's cast members in this as well (who gives a lovely performance).

Here it is, in its entirety. ("An bhfuil tusa ag labairt liomsa? Is mise an t-aon duine anseo!" ... bwahahahaaa!! You'll figure it out.) Enjoy the fill-um!

My Name Is Yu Ming

November Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

[ Link to today's entries ]

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

chuck taggart | email chef (at) gumbopages (dot) com
This site ©1994-2006 by Chuck Taggart.
All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
This means that you may not copy my writing onto other web pages or anywhere else without my specific written permission. (Quotes of short passages, properly attributed, may be considered fair use.) If you do copy my work and pass it off as your own, it's called "stealing" and "plagiarism".

People who steal my stuff will be étoufféed and served to Dr. Lecter, with a nice Chianti. (I'm serious. Just don't do it. Thanks.)