Tales of the Cocktail 2008
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.

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Vote for change!

Barack Obama for President

Buy my New Orleans music box set!

Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens

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

Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores (such as the Louisiana Music Factory, because you should be supporting local New Orleans retailers) or via Amazon if you insist.

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

*      *      *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Amazon.com 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)

March 2008
February 2008
January 2008

2007:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2006:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

My Photos on Flickr

My Darlin' New Orleans...

The Flag of The City of New Orleans

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

Greater N.O. Community Data Center
New Orleans Wiki

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


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

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

"We are still heartily of the opinion that decent libation supports as many million lives as it threatens; donates pleasure and sparkle to more lives than it shadows; inspires more brilliance in the world of art, music, letters, and common ordinary intelligent conversation, than it dims." -- Charles H. Baker, Jr.

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

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

*     *     *

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

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

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

*     *     *

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Book Collection
   (Constantly growing)

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

*     *     *

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

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

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

Fee Brothers' Bitters
   (Classic orange bitters,
   peach bitters and a cinnamony
   "Old Fashion" aromatic bitters,
   plus new lemon & grapefruit bitters!)

The Bitter Truth
   (A new brand of bitters
   from Germany: orange, lemon,
   aromatic bitters and more!)

*     *     *

   (The study of booze with Camper English)

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

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

Bar Mix Master
   (Brad Ellis, New Orleans)

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

The Cocktail Chronicles
   (Paul Clarke's weblog)

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

Cocktail Nerd
   (Gabriel Szaszko)

A Dash of Bitters
   (Michael Dietsch)

   (Lauren Clark)

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

DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog

Drink Trader
   (Online magazine for the
   drink trade)

Esquire's Drinks Database
   (Dave Wondrich and
   his forbears)

Happy Hours
   (Beverage industry
   news & insider info)

Imbibe Magazine
   (Celebrating the world in a glass)

Jeff Morgenthaler
   (Bartender/mixologist, Eugene OR)

Jimmy's Cocktail Hour
   (Jimmy Patrick)

Kaiser Penguin
    (Rick Stutz, bringing us cocktails
    and great photographs)

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)

   (Ladies United for the
   Preservation of
   Endangered Cocktails)

Fine Spirits & Cocktails
   (eGullet's forum)

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

The Modern Mixologist
   (Tony Abou-Ganim)

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

Mr. Mixer
   (Hundreds of cocktail recipes ...
   in Hungarian. Well, why not?
   Sajnos, nem beszélek magyarul.)

Nat Decants
   (Natalie MacLean)

Off the Presses
   (Robert Simonson)

Oh, Gosh!
   (Jay Hepburn)

Rowley's Whiskey Forge
   (Matt Rowley)

Spirit Journal
   (F. Paul Pacult)

Spirits and Cocktails
   (Jamie Boudreau, of
   Vessel in Seattle.)

Spirits Review
   (Chris Carlsson)

   (Beverage Tasting
   Institute journal)

The Thirstin' Howl
   (John Myers)

Trader Tiki's Booze Blog
   (Blair Reynolds)

Vintage Cocktails
   (Daniel Reichert)

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

Let's eat!

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

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

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

In vino veritas.

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

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

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

Reading this month:

Duma Key, by Stephen King.

Old Man's War, by John Scalzi.

Mister B. Gone, by Clive Barker.

Jude: Level 1, by Julian Gough.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

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

Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots

Miles of Music

New Orleans Bands.net

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

No Depression


Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA

Talking furniture:

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream

KCSN (Los Angeles)
   Broadcast schedule
   Stream the last "Down Home"
   for 1 week after broadcastk

   Live MP3 audio stream

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

   (Comprehensive listings)

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

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

In the cinema:
Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (****-1/2)
Atonement (****)
No Country for Old Men (****)
Juno (***-1/2)

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


Lookin' at da TV:

"Battlestar Galactica"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
"The Simpsons"
"Top Chef"
"Father Ted"


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

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

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

My photographs at Flickr


The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy

Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed

Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

The Boondocks,
by Aaron McGruder

Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson

by Garry B. Trudeau

Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley

Get Your War On
by David Rees

by Jonathan Rosenberg

L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

Lulu Eightball,
by Emily Flake

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

by Walt Kelly

Suspect Device,
by Greg Peters

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak


Polly Ticks:
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)
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.)
Whitehouse.org (Not the actual White House, but it should be)

Weblogs I read:

American Leftist
The BradLands
The Carpetbagger Report
Franklin Avenue
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
Jesus' General
Making Light
Neil Gaiman's Journal
Not Right About Anything
August J. Pollak
Sadly, No!
This Modern World
Your Right Hand Thief

L.A. Blogs

Friends with pages:

mary katherine
michael p.

The Final Frontier:

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


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site


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

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

"There ought to be limits to freedom."

-- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999

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

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

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

-- George W. Bush, 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

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

  Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   "I'd been thinking about these and wanting one all week," Wes said. Neither of us are sure how it popped into his head, but I'm glad it did.

This drink goes back to the days of the British Navy, when sailors lucky enough to get a ration of Plymouth Navy Gin would also take a few dashes of Angostura bitters in it, for the medicinal tonic effects of course, but y'know ... it's pretty darn tasty too. Later on a slightly more elegant presentation was served in the officers' clubs of the British Raj as well. In his book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, Dr. Cocktail twiddled with the recipe a bit, noting that it's a cocktail containing only two ingredients -- gin and bitters -- both of which are feared by some. His solution, of course, is to increase the amounts of both the gin and the bitters. And voilà, it works! Beautifully. He calls for "six goodly dashes" of Angostura, but Wes decided to go in a slightly more New Orleanian direction.

Pink Gin
(Wes' New Orleans-style)

3 ounces Plymouth gin.
4 hefty dashes Angostura bitters.
2 hefty dashes Peychaud's bitters.

Combine with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass. No garnish.
(Optional: You may build in a rocks glass over ice and serve on the rocks. Stir well before serving.)


And it's not girly-drink-pink either (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course) but a beautiful pinkish-reddish-orangish color. The drink's name came from the days when in Britain one would only put a dash or two of bitters at most, not an ungodly (and delicious) six goodly ones.

I have yet to try a Pink Gin made solely with Peychaud's bitters. Has anyone? Does it work? Maybe I'll make a wee one and give it a try later on ...

L.A. GIG ALERT: Hot 8 Brass Band   Heads up, Los Angeles! Just added to the lineup at REDCAT (The Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theatre, in the Walt Disney Concert Hall), New Orleans' own Hot 8 Brass Band, this Friday, March 30, at 8:30pm. We won't be able to make it, as we'll be celebrating a birthday that night, but I'm not too disappointed as we'll be seeing them in New Orleans in a bit over a month. If you're in L.A. and not going to New Orleans anytime soon, though, the Hot 8 are not to be missed.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cocktails of the day.   I've been enjoying Dubonnet quite a bit lately, and have resolved to have more cocktails based on (or at least containing) this classic ingredient, which does seem to be a bit neglected even though its maker describes it as the best-selling aperitif in the United States. (That said, besides cocktail geeks I'd have a hard time thinking of anyone I know who drinks it, which is a shame).

If you've never had it, it's an aperitif wine somewhat similar to vermouth. The history dates back to 1846, when it was first sold by M. Joseph Dubonnet, and it's a blend of wines and herbs, fortified with spirits to bring the alcohol content up to 19%. Although like vermouth and Lillet it comes in both red and white varieties, when one speaks of Dubonnet it's almost always about the red variety (as with Lillet, only in its case the white). It has a wonderful spicy-sweet flavor (the first time I tasted it I actually said, "Wow!") and is great on its own as well as in a variety of cocktails.

Probably the most well-known cocktail using this ingredient is the one bearing its name, the Dubonnet Cocktail, which in its classic proportions is equal parts London dry gin and Dubonnet Rouge. Apparently this is Queen Elizabeth II's favorite cocktail, although her favored proportions are 30% gin to 70% Dubonnet (her mother, the late "Queen Mum," enjoyed these also, in a slightly different proportion of 2:1 Dubonnet to gin, and most days began quaffing them at noon, bless her). I've never tried it in this proportion, but I'm thinking I might like it in a reverse proportion, twice the gin as Dubonnet. Those Queens liked it on the rocks with a slice of lemon underneath; this one prefers it up and unadorned.

This next one is wonderful, with the spice of the wine the perfect seasoning for the lovely fruit of the brandy. It makes a perfectly civilized 2 to 2-1/2 ounce drink too.

Ante Cocktail

1-1/4 ounces Calvados.
1/2 ounce Dubonnet.
1/4 ounce Cointreau.
1 dash Angostura Bitters.

Combine with ice, stir for 30 seconds and strain into a wee cocktail glass or Champagne coupe. No garnish.

You can also easily get away with substituting Laird's Bonded Straight Apple Brandy for the Calvados if none is handy, but I wouldn't use applejack, which is a minority of apple brandy mixed with grain neutral spirits; you really want all the fruit you can get in this drink.

Dubonnet is widely available, and inexpensive to boot. However, for those who might live somewhere where there's a dearth of Dubonnet, Charles H. Baker Jr., in his South American Gentleman's Companion, offers the following eyebrow-raising recipe, which he attributes to some "Britishers" of his acquaintance whom he felt were overly thrifty:

The RIO MOCK-DUBONNET, which of Course Is Not Dubonnet at all But Is a Mighty Fine Aperitif, & Mighty Cheap as well.

[... They] will -- if their time's worth a shilling an hour -- spend 10 pounds sterling worth of effort to save 1 pound sterling in hard cash. This Rio Mock-Dubonnet business is typical. We personally wouldn't bother going to allt he trouble where likker's as cheap as it is in Latin America; but up here in the States where the price of spirits is as fantastic as everything else in our weird and fantastic Washington Government, this receipt is well worth the space, and I don't think that Monsieur Dubonnet will lose either sleep or pelf over our disclosure of it here.

Mix 1 bottle each of California or Chilean Sauterne wine, and California Claret or Burgundy. To this add 4 oz. of Italian sweet vermouth and 2 to 3 tsp. of Angostura Bitters. Stir-up, then rebottle. Chill well before using. Take straight as an appetizer; or mixed in any cocktails calling for the standard Dubonnet. We like it frapped with fine ice, like Crème de Menthe. Mixed 1-to-4 with best dry gin makes a good stirred Martini-type cocktail.

This odd recipe omits the fortification by brandy (or grain neutral spirits, as is undoubtedly done today), and seems to be a lot of trouble when nowadays, despite the continued "fantastic" price of spirits (and the continued presence of our weird and utterly un-fantastic "Washington Government") you can run up to the grocery store and get a bottle of Dubonnet for eight bucks.

Try that Ante cocktail, you'll really like it. Try using Dubonnet in a Manhattan instead of sweet vermouth, too. I'll toss out a few more recipes soon.

Drinking with the Queen Mum.   My earlier mention of the Queen Mum led me to this article from the Guardian. I'm not a huge fan of British royalty, but I've got to admire this lady:

It has been four years since last orders were called on her life but the Queen Mother remains an inspiration to us - a nation, as we are now known to the rest of Europe, of binge drinkers. In a new book, Behind Palace Doors, by her equerry, Major Colin Burgess, the Queen Mother is revealed to have put away an amount of alcohol that would put the lager-swillers of Ibiza Uncovered to shame.

She would start her drinking day at noon with her favourite tipple, gin and Dubonnet: two parts Dubonnet - a pink vermouth - to one part gin. "Rarely went a day without having at least one of these and getting the mix right was crucial," writes Burgess. Because getting the mix of this potent drink - which, strangely, has never caught on - wrong would be disgusting.

Lunch with red wine followed, finished off with port. If you found yourself lunching with the Queen Mum, don't think you would ever have got away with drinking only tap water. "How can you not have wine with your meal?" she would ask incredulously.

Her sense of duty to her blood alcohol level never foundered. At 6pm every day, according to Burgess, she would ask, "Colin, are we at the magic hour?" "I would then rather flamboyantly look at my watch, raise an eyebrow and say to her, 'Yes, ma'am, I think it's just about time,' before popping off to mix her a martini."

At dinner, she would down two glasses of Veuve Cliquot pink champagne, leaving her staff to finish the bottle (never let it be said that she was a selfish drinker), before settling down to watch repeats of "Fawlty Towers" (the one with the Germans was a favourite). If she was hosting a party, spirits would be set out and she would lead a game of spin the bottle, before rounding off the evening by snorting vodka (actually I made those last two bits up).

A conservative estimate puts the number of alcohol units she drank at 70 a week (the recommended limit for a woman is 14) but she's the one who lived until the age of 101, so take that, teetotallers.

No fewer than 11 alcohol manufacturers and wine merchants were awarded her royal warrant, with her distinctive coat of arms bearing a pair of cocktail swizzles and a paper umbrella. This is the woman who would get her dressers to hide bottles of gin in her hatboxes when she travelled. Who else can steer British drinkers through these troubling times, when alcohol is blamed for everything from mouth cancer to public disorder?

Ten drinks a day? Ummm ... I dunno. But if it can keep me pickled until 2062, why the hell not? (Woops, sorry ... my liver informs me that it has just vetoed that idea.)

Love dat chicken from Popeyes: RIP Al Copeland (1944-2008)   The flamboyant founder of the beloved Popeyes Fried Chicken & Biscuits chain, begun in 1972 with a single chicken stand in Arabi, passed away of complications from salivary gland cancer on Sunday at the age of 64.

He was quite the New Orleans character, and was often quite controversial -- if you're not a local the obit above will fill you in with some of his various escapades over the years -- but he was pretty consistent in his ability to put out good food.

I still love Popeyes, and I'm tickled we have one in Eagle Rock not far from where we live. The red beans are still great, and so's the chicken, natch -- I haven't touched KFC in 30 years, because there's no need to. Popeyes is even able to do halfway decent things like fried shrimp or crawfish, especially considering the facts that 1) it's a fast-food chains, and 2) Popeyes never seems to manage to hire the swiftest workers. (They also score points for having a commercial jingle sung by Dr. John.) Al also scored with the Copeland's restaurant chain in New Orleans, casual sit-down places that were pretty good as well.

I love me some Popeyes, man. Thanks for all the chicken and red beans, Al.

The Jazzfest cubes are out!   All the performances are now scheduled! Head to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival website and start tearing your hair out, figuring who you're gonna see and who you're gonna have to miss.

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  Friday, March 21, 2008

Caprica or bust!   "It's been a long, hard year for Battlestar Galactica fans." Yes, indeed it has. When the jaw-dropping season 3 finale aired, ending with the title card "Battlestar Galactica will return in January 2008,", we thought, "Gaaaah! Ten months! Almost a year!" Well, turns out it'll be over a year, when the show's final season returns on April 4. There's more good news, though ... the network has finally given the green light to the production of the spin-off series "Caprica", which is in pre-production now and will premiere in the fall. (Oddly enough, it was the writers' strike that seems to have saved it; due to the dearth of new content the network became interested again.)

"Caprica" will be set on the capital colony of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, 52 years prior to the current series, and will chronicle the development of the Cylons, their evolution and rebellion, and the main characters will comprise two families, one of which is the Adamas. I'm excited to see this great creative team be able to continue to work in the BSG universe, and it helps take the sting out of the fact that this'll be BSG's final season.

Battlestar Galactica, Season 4

Two more weeks. Oh man, I can't wait.

Listen to last night's "Down Home"   in case you missed, which I'm sure just about all of you did. :-)

Stream it here, in three different bandwidth levels, and listen to Popcorn Behavior (aka Assembly), The Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars featuring Tab Benoit and Cyril Neville, Raymond Lewis, Fats Domino, Marcia Ball, Professor Longhair, Luther Kent & Trick Bag, Snooks Eaglin, BeauSoleil, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, Feufollet, Geno Delafose, Café Tacuba, Los Pinguos, Michelle Shocked, Tim Eriksen, Planxty, Sliotar, Deirbhile Ní Bhrolcháin, The Bothy Band, Dwayne Burns & his New Orleans Band, ReBirth Brass Band, George Lewis, Bobby Lounge and kicking off with a tribute to the late Arthur C. Clarke.

How NOT to make drinks.   Jeff Morgenthaler put up a post featuring what purports to be an instructional video by "The American Bartending School," an outfit that takes your money and promises to have you "fully trained in one to two weeks as a professional bartender" to go out there and mix drinks for which you'll pay upward of ten bucks each, by way of the most appalling (and in this case, nauseating) instructional videos I've ever seen on the subject. It's because of guys like this that you get shitty drinks so often when you go out to bars. I'll just let Jeff describe the steps, as portrayed in the video, of how this clown makes what he calls a Daiquiri, with a couple of my own comments [in brackets]:

1. Chill an 8-ounce cocktail glass.

2. Pick your nose, and wipe the resulting findings on the back of your hand.

3. In a mixing glass, add one ounce of Bacardi rum. (Note: Rum is a liquor that comes in many different colors.)

4. Add two ounces of [commercially bought] sweet-and-sour mix.

5. Wipe nose on back of hand for four full seconds.

6. Shake drink gently.

7. Talk about difference between fresh lime juice and sour mix while drink melts in shaker. (Note that fresh limes are no longer used, [even as you acknowledge that they taste far better than the sour mix.])

8. Strain drink into chilled glass.

9. Dump any excess in sink.

10. Enjoy!

Don't miss the many comments at the end of the post, they're priceless. And note Jeff's observation that this frakkin' guy has over 80 videos on YouTube, and his outfit charges people money for lessons like this (which include the worst Old Fashioned I've ever seen, which I'd send back immediately) and a mixed disaster in almost every one I was able to bear to watch. These drinks are enough to make me want to throw up, even without the nose-picking. (I expect he'll invoke the Seinfeld defense: "It was a rub, not a pick!")

Another of his videos, as a commenter points out, involves him dropping a botle of Kahlúa and breaking some glassware, becoming visibly frustrated and stopping the camera (but failing to edit out the accident), and then demonstrating how to make a layered shooter in which he completely screws it up and mixes the layers, then laughably claims that the layers will just "separate on their own in a few minutes." (I looked at a couple of other of his videos featuring layered shooters, which he screws up as well.)

You want to laugh uproariously, and you do, but I can't help but be supremely pissed off at this guy and everyone associated with him. He's one of the reasons it's hard to get a decent (not to mention actually good) drink out there these days. Fortunately, people are beginning to wake up and demand quality, and while his ilk may never go away completely, the days of people accepting a so-called "Daiquiri" made of 1/3 so-so rum, 2/3 industrially-produced, artifically flavored and colored commercial sweet and sour and a garnish of snot are coming to an end.

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  Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   How long has it been since you've had one of these? They're really good. Wes used Vya vermouth for both kinds and did 'em 5:1 last night, but I'm inclined to do 'em 3:1 next time, which is how we drink our regular Martinis when using Vya.

Perfect Martini

2-1/2 ounces gin. (We used Plymouth.)
1/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce dry vermouth.
Lemon twist

Stir with ice for 30 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express the oil from the twist and garnish.

And he stirred it for me too, bless him.

How many?   There's some controvery over the current count of the New Orleans population and its implications.

This hurricane-ravaged city and neighboring St. Bernard Parish top a U.S. Census Bureau list of fast-growing counties released Thursday, but some local officials aren't happy that the agency estimated New Orleans' population to be less than 240,000.

The number, an estimate for July 2007, falls more than 30,000 short of at least one other estimate, and efforts based on more recent data had New Orleans topping 300,000 people. The city's population was nearly 454,000 in July 2005, the month before Hurricane Katrina hit and scattered hundreds of thousands of people along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.

City leaders, who obtained the census estimates before their formal public release, said they intend to challenge the New Orleans figure as too low. The estimates have implications for the distribution of certain grant dollars.

Ed Blakely, the city's recovery chief, said the fact that the estimates are months old also does no favors for the city, which is trying to attract new investment as it continues to rebuild.

"This comes at a very unfortunate time," Blakely said, calling it confusing and "dispiriting to have numbers come out that are that old."

The last numbers I kept hearing were more in the 300,000 range.

Every year for Carnival time, we make a new suit ...   More controversy, as some of New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians raise eyebrows and take exception to some of the design choices in the handmade suits that have cropped up recently.

Dick Cheney hates you.   If you haven't seen the recent interview our vice president (and would-be dictator, apparently) did with ABC's Martha Raddatz, you need to see it now.

Raddatz: Two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting, and they're looking at the value gain versus the cost in American lives, certainly, and Iraqi lives.

Cheney: So? (sinister smirk)

Raddatz: So ... you don't care what the American people think?

Cheney: No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls. Think about what would have happened if Abraham Lincoln had paid attention to polls, if they had had polls during the Civil War. He never would have succeeded if he hadn't had a clear objective, a vision for where he wanted to go, and he was willing to withstand the slings and arrows of the political wars in order to get there. And this President has been very courageous, very consistent, very determined to continue down the course we were on and to achieve our objective.

This malignant, repulsive man compares George W. Bush to Abraham Lincoln, and the Iraq fiasco to the American Civil War.

I am speechless (other than remarks that are unprintable), so I'll just quote SilentPatriot from Crooks and Liars:

The Lincoln references just kill me. If there's one thing you gotta admire about Dick Cheney, it's that he sincerely doesn't give a f*ck what you think.

Elsewhere on Planet Cheney:

He linked Iraq to 9/11,

... said the economy is going through "a rough patch",

... and went fishing.

... and he still sincerely doesn't give a f*ck what you think.

I fall asleep and dream of their trials for crimes against the Constitution, the American people and humanity in general ...

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  Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Let's make it official.   Via The Independent Weekly in Lafayette and The Times-Picayune. (Thanks, Josh!)

With the right mix of lawmakers, the Sazerac may be designated the "official state cocktail" at the regular legislative session that starts March 31.

Sen. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans, has filed in advance of the session Senate Bill 6 designating the Sazerac, the first cocktail invented in New Orleans and one of the first in the country, as the official state cocktail.

"We will probably have a little fun with this bill" as a diversion from the heavy issues lawmakers will face at the upcoming session, Murray said. "There will be a very aggressive effort to get it done."

Ann Tuennerman, founder of the annual New Orleans Tales of the Cocktail activities, has written Murray to urge passage of the bill because the Sazerac has "evolved over time and represents history in a glass... When folks come to New Orleans, they want certain things authentic and original to the Crescent City, be it a beignet, a po-boy, a cup of chicory coffee, oysters Rockefeller, bread pudding or bananas Foster.

"The Sazerac deserves a special place among the classic drinks that have their birthplace in Louisiana, and I can think of no drink more deserving of the honor of official state cocktail than the Sazerac." [...]

If passed, Murray's bill also would authorize the state to use the official cocktail on "official documents... and with the insignia of the state."

Janna Goodwin, a researcher for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said although Alabama has designated an offcial "state spirit" -- Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey -- it can find no record of any state naming an official state cocktail. [...]

The Legislature has also designated milk as the official state drink, the alligator as the state's official reptile, the crawfish as the state's official crustacean, the strawberry as the official state fruit, the Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog as the state dog, the honeybee as the state insect, agate found in Louisiana gravel as the state's gemstone, petrified palmwood as the official state fossil, and the bald cypress as the official tree.

If the bill survives, it would become law on Aug. 15.

Damn, not in time for Tales of the Cocktail. We'll celebrate anyway.

I hope it passes. The Louisiana legislature has certainly passed far, far dumber bills than this (and I don't think this one's dumb at all).

Pork porn of the day.   After beaming around the galaxy at "Star Trek: The Tour," Wes and I met up with Diana for some drinks and appetizers, as we were down in her hometown. Chef Suzanne Tracht of Jar also has a Long Beach restaurant called Tracht's in Long Beach. We had a few cocktails -- a Hendrick's sweet martini, perfectly made, albeit with a twist (the lack of a cucumber slice garnish kept it from officially being a Harold Lloyd Cocktail), and a couple of excellent Manhattans (albeit Bourbon ones ... alas, no rye). Diana managed to befuddle the bartender, though, by asking for a French 75. He had to look it up, and it took a long time to arrive, and when it did, it was the brandy variation rather than the original gin-based one. Oh well, still a very respectable show.

Then there was this:

Braised Pork Belly with Ginger Broth

That was from the appetizers menu, Braised Pork Belly with Ginger Broth, ong choy, seaweed and carrots. Very, very good -- the pork belly was beautiful and falling apart tender, perfectly unctuously fatty but not overly so, great flavors with the ginger and pork broth with a touch of five-spice.

The Crab Deviled Eggs, Roasted Asparagus and Duck Fried Rice were all good too, as were the desserts: Tracht's Signature Chocolate Pudding, Butterscotch Pudding topped with a layer of caramel, and the old-fashioned Ice Cream Sundae, with chocolate and caramel sauces, toasted almonds and chocolate biscuits. Simple, classic and yummy.

A last message from Arthur C. Clarke.   He recorded this about 3 months ago, on the occasion of his 90th birthday.

May you have a safe journey beyond the infinite, sir.

"A more perfect union."   If you didn't get a chance to see or hear Barack Obama's extraordinary speech yesterday, you should do so now:

When I watched this on YouTube yesterday, 705 other people had watched it before me. Twenty-four hours later, the number of views stands, as I write, at 1,616,104. Let's double that in the next day -- people need to hear what this man has to say, to read and hear what he's said before, to contrast it with what the other candidates are saying, to start paying attention for the rest of this (soulcrushingly endless) campaign season ... so that they will understand why we must elect him as the 44th President of the United States.

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  Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My God ... it's full of stars!!   The Associated Press is reporting that Arthur C. Clarke, scientist, writer of science fiction and fact and so much more, has died at the age of 90 at his home in Sri Lanka after suffering breathing problems. No other details have been reported yet.

The Dawn of Man

Discovery and the Pod

Star Child

He was one of my very favorite authors, and I was privileged to meet him in 1982, when he came to the States on a book tour for 2010: Odyssey Two. I waited in line for five hours to see him, a line that stretched all the way through A Change of Hobbit Bookstore, out the door and down the block. The signed hardcover copies of 2010 (which he inscribed to me), 2001: A Space Odyssey and Childhood's End are probably the most prized volumes in my library.

Time to do some re-reading, I think.

Clarke's many other achievements also include being the first to come up with the concept of the communications satellite, and the formulation of Clarke's Laws of Prediction, the third of which you may be more familiar with:

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

I still love the third one. (Hell, I still think my TiVo is magic.)

"Look," whispered Chuck, and George lifted his eyes to heaven. (There is always a last time for everything.)

Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.

Thank you very much, Dr. Clarke.

Uglesich's is reopening!!   Great news! But don't get too excited ... it's only for one day.

Uglesich's restaurant to re-open for book signing!
Saturday, April 26, 2008, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Come to Uglesich's to purchase Cooking With the Uglesiches and have it personally inscribed by Mr. Tony, Ms. Gail and John! Samples from the new cookbook will be served. Bottles of Gail's homemade rémoulade sauce will be available in the restaurant! Share your memories and show your love and support for the Uglesiches.

The 192 page book, scheduled to be released in late March, features recipes from the restaurant that were not included in the first cookbook, recipes that Anthony and Gail prepare at home, and homemade desserts. Two very special chapters are featured. One chapter, "Uglesich's Survives Katrina," focuses on the numerous e-mails we received during the mandatory evacuation offering prayers, money, and use of their homes.

Read about our last meal at Uglesich's before they closed.

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  Monday, March 17, 2008

Lá féile Pádraig shona dhaoibh!   Happy St. Patrick's Day, all you Irish and would-be Irish!

In case you didn't know, the actual feast day was moved to Saturday the 15th by Catholic Church officials, due to the calendar having St. Pat's fall during Easter Week this year. This will undoubtedly be about as widely ignored as the prohibition on birth control, as festivities seem to be gearing up for today all over everywhere.

Just remember, be safe and if you go out, don't drink and drive. And if you do drink, make sure your beer is black, not green.

Cocktail of the day.   It's time for an original concoction, folks.

After Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová won the Oscar for Best Song for the Irish film "Once," I was inspired to created an original cocktail in their honor, featuring Irish and Czech ingredients.

I mulled around some ideas and decided on a Manhattan variation, using Irish whiskey and the spicy bitter liqueur from the Czech Republic called Becherovka, slightly sweet with a bitter edge and flavors of cinnamon, anise and over 30 other herbs and spices.

This took some tinkering to get the balance right. The general starting point was Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth and Becherovka. At first I tried using Redbreast, a 12 year old pot still whiskey, which I absolutely love on its own. It didn't work well in this drink, fighting too much with the Becherovka. I moved over to Tullamore Dew, which is my favorite Irish whiskey for mixing (John Powers and Kilbeggan work well too), and that was the way to go. We played with the proportion on the Becherovka to try to get a good balance of spice and sweetness -- I did not want it to be too sweet. We got the spice flavor well enough, but it wasn't integrating quite well enough for me. A single dash of Angostura helped the whiskey and liqueur embrace each other. Now for the vermouth ... I didn't want to dilute the flavor profile of the liqueur too much, and primarily wanted everything to smooth out nicely. Using our usual Cinzano seemed to leave a bit of a hole in the drink, so I tried Punt E Mes ... and that did it. The bitter edge of that vermouth leapt into the Becherovka's arms but didn't overwhelm the spice, and filled in that hole very nicely. I'm still trying to decide whether or not to back off on the Punt E Mes from 1/2 ounce to 2 teaspoons, but so far I think the former is working pretty well. After trying iteration no. 6 the other night, Wes declared that he liked it, and that's good enough to get it out of the stsarting gate

The cocktail is named after Glen and Mar's duet/group and symbolizes a wonderful fusion of Irish and Czech (and tastes pretty feckin' good, too).

The Swell Season

2 ounces Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey. (Substitute Kilbeggan or Powers)
1/2 ounce Becherovka bitter herbal liqueur.
1/2 ounce Punt E Mes, or to taste.
1 dash Angostura Bitters.

Combine ingredients with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a thin lemon twist, tied with a loose knot in the center. Fall slowly into your favorite cocktail sippin' chair.

If you have the ingredients lying around, please do give it a try and let me know what you think. Any ideas and suggestions are welcome as well.

Fat Pack garage sale a smashing success!   First, the food porn. We had waffles from ... um, I forget, but they're apparently well-known for their bacon waffles, which we got. I was less than impressed, actually. The bacon was merely crumbled and sprinkled on top, as opposed to cooking whole strips of bacon into the waffle (I think it's Hash House A Go Go where the crisp strips of bacon are actually sticking out the sides of the waffle). The waffles also were cold and not crisp, but that's unsurprising due to their being take-out. However, my own stroke of genius, if I do say so myself, is to have noticed the jar of Cadbury's Milk Chocolate Spread, imported from the U.K., sitting on the counter. Spreading some of that stuff on one of those puppies made all the difference ... yum! Now we must do that when they're hot and crisp! There were also bacon-wrapped hot dogs on the grill, plus for dessert an incredible red velvet cake from ... um, I forget, but it was dense and rich and moist and chocolatey and red, with a tangy sour cream/cream cheese icing.

Oh yeah, the garage sale. Well, as predicted the pushy garage sale loons showed up really early and wouldn't take "wait a minute" for an answer, but bless them, because they took pretty much every single CD and DVD we had, right on the spot, for a serious pile of cash. With that, plus all the stuff we sold plus Rick's own $200 contribution of change and petty cash, we raised a total of ... (*drum roll*) ...


Or something like that ... very close, anyway. Yay! Proceeds will be donated to Fisher House in West L.A. Thanks a million to Rick for organizing it. And guess what? We still have too much crap, so we'll probably be doing this again in 4-6 months, with proceeds going to a different charity. I'll try to announce it a bit in advance this time.

Cochon counts.   A few weeks ago New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni wrote an article about ten restaurants around the country that, in his opinion, "count." He still considers New York to be the finest restaurant city in the nation (not having been to New York yet I'm not really qualified to argue with him but probably will anyway), but concedes that the restaurants he visited from coast to coast would never be found in New York. He had an initial list of 15 which he narrowed down to 10 (excluding Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles because "I'd devoted an article to its conjoined sibling, Pizzeria Mozza -- which is silly, as they're different restaurants and different dining experiences -- and Chef John Besh's new bistro Lüke in New Orleans, grr), and yet New Orleans remained represented by the most excellent Cochon.

It is, of course, French for "pig," and is, of course, beloved by the Fat Pack. (In fact, I need to get back there next visit home.) Of Cochon Bruni says, "[it] liberates Cajun cooking from its deep-fried clichés. With its stylishly casual vibe, fatty abandon, worship of pork (cochon is French for pig) and fervent devotees, it's a Momofuku on the Mississippi." (Is he talking about the Japanese noodle bar and restaurant in NYC? Other than pork belly on their menu I don't see the connection.) He's been doing longer reviews of the ten on successive Wednesdays, and last Wednesday finally got to Cochon.

"You have to get the oyster and bacon sandwich," raved one friend, noting that Cochon makes its own bacon, that the oysters are deep-fried and that there.s some sort of mayonnaise in the equation: never, ever a bad idea.

"Just don.t miss the hot sausage with grits, roasted peppers and Creole cream cheese," another friend insisted, noting that Cochon makes its own sausage . Cochon pretty much makes its own everything, except maybe tap water . and volunteering that Creole cream cheese really is cream cheese, not some frightening organ with a frilly name. (Too bad.)

Another friend declared the pork-sausage-and-rice balls to be deep-fried gifts from the Cajun gods, while yet another accorded divine provenance to the restaurant.s version of Cajun-style suckling pig, which in fact uses a fully grown pig.

The recommendations came fast and furious and unequivocal, and by the time I set foot in Cochon, at least three things were clear:

Just about any food lover who has spent any time in New Orleans over the last two years has been to this irresistible restaurant, and has responded with the kind of swoon typically reserved for the front rows at an Obama rally.

There.s no way, in one visit, with one stomach, to do justice to it.

And I would be eating a great deal of pig.

Sounds like he hit most of the good stuff, but he didn't mention their superb Bloody Mary, with a house-made mix that contains, of course, pork jus (and is outSTANDing), but he'll just have to try it next time. I never miss it, myself.

I'll dig around tonight and, I hope, post some food porn from Cochon tomorrow.

The Cocktail Spirit, with Robert Hess.   Robert's gone troppo for the last couple of installments, continuing with one classic tropical cocktail -- one of the best, and one that if you order it there's about an 80% chance it'll be improperly made, plus one more that I must say I haven't had in years (as I don't particularly like them, nor do I like getting caught in the rain, but the making love at midnight bit is fine).

The Mai Tai Cocktail

The Mai Tai is one of the most well known cocktails from the 'Tiki' era... Or is it? Chances are good that if you've ever had a Mai Tai, you haven't had it the way Victor 'Trader Vic' Bergeron intended it.

#     #     #

The Piña Colada

It was on August 15, 1954, that Ramón "Monchito" Marrero Pérez first introduced the Piña Colada to the customers of the Beachcomber Bar at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is said that he spent three months working on it until he finally felt he had captured "the sunny, tropical flavor of Puerto Rico in a glass."

If you end up with one of those endless and ubiquitous "aah, it's just rum and a buncha juices" pseudo-Mai Tais, you can easily talk a bartender through this one. He or she, as well as many members of the general public, might be surprised to know that the only fruit juice in a true Mai Tai is lime juice, and only a tablespoon of it at that. But man, what a great drink.

Robert refers to this drink as "made the Trader Vic's way," and it is. Although if you want to be a true cocktail geek (and one with deep pockets), you can seek out the world's only truly authentic Trader Vic's Mai Tai. You'll find that drink in, of all places, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

When Vic Bergeron first created the Mai Tai, he reached for a very specific rum -- Wray & Nephew's 17 Year Old golden rum. That particular rum went out of production, so Vic started substituting two other rums that he thought approximated the flavor. The Bar at the Merchant Hotel in Belfast -- one of the best cocktailian bars ANYWHERE -- managed to get ahold of a bottle of the last batch of 17 year Wray & Nephew rum in the world, and upon request will use that to make you a truly original Mai Tai ... at a cost of £750 (that's $1,501.32 at today's exchange rate). Bit too rich for my blood.

The recovery of Upper Carrollton.   The city of New Orleans continues to move forward and recover. It's all such good news.

On the November night when John Blancher reopened Mid-City Lanes Rock 'n' Bowl, his music club on South Carrollton Avenue, he had no gas, no phones and no street lamps to illuminate the way for his patrons. In fact, the giant neon bowling pin that hangs outside his club was the only beacon in the darkened neighborhood.

Blancher returned during the city's most desolate days, in 2005, but parts of Carrollton Avenue remained a wilderness for more than a year after Hurricane Katrina. Today, however, dozens of restaurants, small businesses and national chains have reforested the Carrollton strip, restoring it to prominence as one of the city's busiest commercial corridors.

The accretion was hard to notice at first, like the inches that pile on a growing child. But on some vague dawn during the past six months, the determination of all those businesses added up, and the Carrollton area woke up recovered. It will only get busier during the coming year.

"It's just wonderful to see all the traffic," said Barbara Platt, manager of Singer Kitchens at North Carrollton and Bienville avenues.

Not only is it great to see the old places coming back, and the renewal of abandoned spaces around them, but the cultural renewal offered by places like the two new Mexican restuarants in the area (ostensibly started by folks who came to work cleanup after the flood) can only make the city's culinary profile that much richer. Sure, there are still some holes and neglected properties, but we've still got a ways to go.

I particularly love the ending of the article:

Charlie Ergen, owner of the Bean Gallery coffee shop, said he's sustained by regulars from the neighborhood and students from nearby Delgado Community College and the University of New Orleans.

"I would use strong words about the people of Mid-City," Ergen said. "These people are all about New Orleans and all about local business. If there was a Starbucks down the street, they would come to my coffee shop."

Yeah you rite.

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  Friday, March 14, 2008

L.A. alert: Fat Pack Garage Sale for charity, in Silverlake!   Or, as Rick put it, the "Birthday Beneficence, BBQ, Bakery and Bazaar." It started out with Rick emailing us and saying, "It's offical. I have too much crap." Well, guess what -- we all have too much crap too, and we decided on a group garage sale to get rid of it. We also decided that the proceeds would go to charity, and after much mulling and hair-wringing, the one Rick suggested and we all voted for was the West L.A. Fisher House. Fisher Houses are places where family members can stay while their loved ones are receiving medical care at VA facilities, and they're trying to raise money to build one in Brentwood near the Los Angeles VA facilities.

Items at the sale will include multiple DVD players in good working order, VCRs, turntables, a small TV, an electric BBQ grill, microwave ovens, kitchenwares, space heaters, computer printers, lamps, clothes, shoes, piles and piles of CDs and DVDs and records and books. Start time is tomorrow at 9am (and by that I mean NINE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING, AND IF YOU SHOW UP AT 7:30 YOU WILL BE POLITELY CHASED AWAY! (The Craigslist garage sale freaks are already asking to see things TODAY, sheeesh.) The address is **** in Silverlake. I do believe doughnuts will be provided!

Come one, come all, and buy our crap for a good cause.

Trattoria Tré Venezie.   Wes' birthday was last Saturday, and by our tradition a Fabulous Meal was called for. I'd been mulling over several places, but there was one that we'd been wanting to go back to for ages but never quite got around to it (partially because of what Wes described as the "hair-raising" bill he was presented with when he took me there for my birthday five years ago). Since then this place has been given a Michelin star and since we were long overdue, back to Trattoria Tré Venezie in Pasadena it was. They're very regional northern Italian in their cuisine, concentrating on Friuli (the northwestern region adjacent to Austria and Slovenia) and the Vèneto (the region around Venice), and there you'll find dishes you may never even have heard of before, certainly if your idea of "Italian food" is pasta with red gravy. (There's the odd juxtaposition of Buca di Beppo -- which does have its merits and pleasures -- being located catty-corner across the street.)

It's a small, cozy place, the center of which is dominated by a bar containing, among many other things, over 80 different kids of grappa and more than a dozen varieties of amaro (bitter herbal digestive liqueurs). We were warmly greeted at the door, seated by the front window and presnted with a very enticing menu. Our server, who took wonderful care of us all evening, with advice and suggestions on food and wine, and who actually took some time to chat with us as well. She also served as bartender, after reading our minds as to what we wanted, and whipped up two expertly made Negronis.

Negroni Cocktail, at 
Trattoria Tr´ Venezie

We decided we were going to go all-out, as far as a great Italian meal goes -- aperitivo cocktail, antipasto, primo (first course, usually pasta or risotto), secondo (meat or fish course), wine with each course, dolce (dessert), with after-dinner amaro and liquore and espresso. As with the entire menu, deciding what to get was difficult, as I wanted pretty much all of it. But there was one traditional item I zeroed in on and really wanted, not having had it since the sad closure of Celestino Drago's ill-fated Sicilian restaurant L'Arancino, and that item was Baccalà Mantecato:


Baccalá isn't just a character in "The Sopranos," it's an old old dish, consisting of dried salted codfish. It its basic form it neither sounds nor looks appetizing -- long rock-hard slabs of salted dried fish. But after soaking for at least 12 hours in several changes of water it's a wonderful basic ingredient for a variety of regional preparations. This particular recipe is from the Vèneto - the baccalà is pounded in a mortar and pestle until it's achieved the consistency of a fine pâtè, then mixed with olive oil, a bit of milk, garlic and parsley and other seasonings, and served on little ovals of semi-soft polenta. The accompaniment was a small salad of fresh fennel and cherry tomatoes, with a dressing of extra virgin olive oil and capers. Oh man ... fantastico!

Crudità de 

Wesly went for the Crudità di Pesce, or raw fish. It's not just for Japanese restaurants, folks -- in Italy this is done all along the Adriatic coast. Still, I'd never had it Italian-style other than an occasional carpaccio of tuna, so this was a revelation. The seafood offered that evening consisted of Hawaiian bigeye tuna, New Zealand snapper, fresh sea urchin, hamahama oyster, steelhead trout and a baby cuttlefish. The fish was simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil and a touch of pepper, and the mollusks rested on a bed of steamed nettles. The perfect accompaniment was a blood orange gelatin; its balance of sweetness and acidity was fantastic with the fish.

Crudo di Seppia (baby cuttlefish) from the Crudità di Pesce platter

I just had to do a closeup of the cuttlefish. It's quite popular in Italy, often served in a risotto using the cuttlefish's ink. (They also eat an almost identical dish right across the Adriatic in Croatia, which undoubtedly came over from Italy.) Wes loved it, and didn't think it tasted just like calamari, although it is similar. Firm but not chewy, mild and briny ... he was gone in one bite and left behind nothing but a big smile.

The wine recommended for both of these dishes was crisp white called Villa Sperina Gavi di Gavi 2004, from Piemonte. Gavi wines are made with the Cortese grape, which I don't think I've had before, and this wine's well-balanced sweetness and acidity was lovely with both fish dishes.

Now for the primi, and we were lucky to get this one.


This dish is only on the menu once a week at most, due to the difficulty of its preparation, and apparently whether not you get it depends on luck and timing. It's called Cjalsons (pronounced like CHAL-sohns), an ancient traditional dish known only in a small area of Friuli called Carnia (and I suspect the name comes from the region's nearby Slovenian influence). The menu describes it as the "Piatto per Eccellenza" (roughly "Platter of Excellence"), prepared only during special occasions and festivities. Sure, it looks like ravioli (or to be specific, agnolotti, which are stuffed pasta similar to ravioli but made with a round piece of dough and formed into a semicircular, or mezzaluna shape). This isn't any ordinary agnolotti, though -- Cjalsons are filled with up to 30 or 40 different ingredients. There are several that are typical, but apparently every family or cook had their own touches, and some chefs who care to go to the trouble of making them have riffed on that. Tonight's Cjalsons had 18 ingredients, and five were revealed to us: ricotta, nettles, borage, sweet corn and cocoa. (The cocoa is fairly typical, apparently.) They're served in the simplest of sauces -- a clarified and slightly browned butter, with a wonderful touch of nuttiness to it.

We'd never had anything like this, and it's one of those dishes where you just take a bite and laugh. The joy of the flavor and the new experience were just delightful. (I read one "review," if you can even call it that, from some member of The Teeming Masses with access to a computer, who pooh-poohed this as "some weird chocoate ravioli," apparently thinking it to be not Italian food. This is the kind of person who doesn't understand that there's really no such thing as "Italian food," as the food of Italy is incredibly regional and varies enormously from place to place, and who apparently thinks that if it's not macaroni-and-red-gravy it's not real. I feel sorry for this kind of person.)

It's also the only primo on the menu for which an entre sized portion is not available, which makes sense -- quantities are bound to be limited. Of course, we want more! I can't wait to go back, and I hope we end up being back on Cjalsons night.

The wine was a Tocai Friuliano, also one I'd never had. It has cousins in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, but isn't as sweet as Hungarian tokai wines and apparently very typical of Friuli.

Pappardelle de Farro 
con Sugo di Coniglio

Next, the heartier of our two primi: Pappardelle di Farro con Sugo di Coniglio. Pappardelle, as you may know, are wide strips of pasta (and easy to make) but in this case made not with the typical semolina wheat flour, but with farro. It's an ancient grain, and was eaten both by the Roman legions and as a polenta by Rome's poorest citizens. It's got a nutty, coarse texture and is extremely good for you, but is difficult to prepare and cultivation provides lower yields than other grains; over the years it fell out of favor. It gives the pasta a coarser texture which we found, again, different and very enjoyable, along with its nutty flavor.

The noodles were sauced with a very light tarragon sauce with braised rabbit. Hearty, and very, very good. (Wine was a Merlot from Friuli.)

Now for the secondi!

Braciola de Maiale Affumicata

I, being me, went for the pig. If there's pig, chances are it's a done deal. Braciola de Maiale Affumicata was a house-smoked pan-roasted pork chop, with a Gorgonzola-pear sauce, house-made Brovada Friuliana (sour turnips) and mostarda Vicentina, a spicy fruit relish from the province of Vicenza, usually made with quince, apples, pears, lemons and lots of hot mustard.

This dish was astonishing. The pork was a flawless medium-rare, tender as hell and beautifully seasoned, and that sauce ... it's almost counter-intuitive for it to work, but it really does, adding great creaminess and fattiness to today's too-lean pork, with the pear providing the perfect fruity complementeary notes, and the sourness of the turnips with the additional fruit and pungent spiciness of the mustard created a wonderful variety of contrasting flavors and textures ... hoo-boy. What a dish. Bravo.

The wine was not the recommended pairing from the menu, as our server was fairly assertive about her disagreement with the chef regarding what wine went best with this dish. I don't remember the original recommmendation, but she urged me to try a Schioppettino from Friuli, another wine I'd never heard of (from what I read later, the varietal was rendered nearly extinct by phylloxera, but has made a small comeback). I'm a strong believer in trusting my servers, particularly in a restaurant like this, and she'd tasted them all and tried all the dishes, so I went for it. It was a good recommendation. It was dry and fruity, with great berry flavors and not a lot of tannin. That, plus the fruit flavors in the sauce and the mostarda ... it was a symphony.

Boreto alla Gradese

I almost went for this dish, and would have if not for the pig. Boreto alla Gradese is a traditional dish from the isle of Grado in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and is always on Tré Venezie's menu. It's a very simple preparation, but as is often the case, in simplicity is great beauty -- that day's selected fish (which in our case was halibut, one of my favorites) is quickly sautéed in oil with vinegar and garlic and black pepper, and served on a bed of soft polenta. Gorgeous. The wine was a Ribolla Gialla from Friuli-Venezie Giulia, acidic and floral with a citrusy perfume.

Amaro e liquore

Time for after-dinner drinking!

First of all, I wanted amaro. I've really been getting into the bitter-sweet (sometimes very bitter) digestive liqueurs taken after a meal, many of which are from Italy. Not only do I enjoy the flavors, but they really do settle your stomach; it's herbal medicine in a liquor bottle, baby. They had a pretty good selection of amari, and as tempting as their amazing grappa list is (alas, no more of my favorite -- Mondaccione, Grappa di Freisa di Valdevilla, by Luigi Coppo), amaro it would be. I divided their list of amari into three -- ones I have at home, ones I've heard of but haven't had, and ones I'd never heard of before. That last list consisted of three, and the server recommended this one -- Amaro Santa Maria al Monte.

Amaro Santa Maria al Monte

I think I may have a new favorite amaro. This is a powerful one, but with a terrific blend of flavors -- very herbal, almost piney, with a minty, menthol-tinged finish. It also lacked the one medicinal-tasting layer that still makes Fernet Branca a bit of a struggle for me, which was a plus (but I'm still working on the Fernet). Available at LeNell's and Chambers St. Wines in New York. (Already got some on the way.)

Since we've been there last, Tré Venezie has also started making rosolio and other house-made liqueurs. Rosolio was originally a thick, sweet liqueuer flavored with rose petals, but the term has come to describe any homemade Italian liqueur. As the menu said, "In the 18th Centeury, ladies and gentlemen of aristocracy used to drink a famous glass, called 'Il Bicchierino,' in the intellectual salons and caffés of Venezia as a final note to a grand dinner." Well, then. I'm not so much a gentleman of aristocracy (I'm a gentleman of da Nint' Ward), but I love a famous glass, and this was indeed a grand dinner. The one we chose was Risolio Speziato di Limone, a lemon and saffron rosolio that was truly amazing.

Also on their menu were other house-made concoctions: Rosolio di Latte (milk, which I'm very curious about), di Nocciole (hazelnut) as well as Elixir di Anise and Elixir di Menta (mint).

The dolci:

Tronchetto di Cioccolato e Pera

Troncheteto di Cioccolato e Pera, a chocolate, hazelnut and pear sponge cake with a vanilla sauce. Good God. Not unlike the Cjalsons, I wanted more, immediately. This cake was insanely good. As soon as I took the first bite I wanted there to be five slices instead of two. But I also don't want to be the size of Jupiter, so alas ...

Strudel di Frutta Seca

In another nod to the region's Austro-Hungarian influences, Strudel di Frutta Seca, a dried fruit strudel, hand-stretched and -rolled dough, with apricots, apples, figs, raisins and walnuts, in a little puddle of crème anglaise. It was quite possibly the best piece of strudel I'd ever had.

Not counting the tip, the bill was not at all unreasonable for two people, considering we each had a cocktail, appetizer, pasta course, main course, three glasses of wine, amaro, liqueur, dessert and espresso. If we don't go quite as balls-out we could probably dine here a lot more often, and should. I'd be happy with pasta and dessert, frankly.

In case you hadn't figured it out yet, this is one of the very best Italian restaurants in all of Los Angeles. Call them now.

Make it so.   Okay, you asked for it! Geek alert! Presented without further comment are three of the requested photos of Wes and me from our day at Star Trek: The Tour a couple of Fridays ago.

The REAL starship 
Captain Taggart

"Make it 


The full set of 65 photos is here.

Being on those sets (and due to it not being terribly crowded on a weekday, being able to walk around them for a bit) was very, very cool.

Live long, and prosper.

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  Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wilco on "Saturday Night Live."   Thanks to Dave T. for sending these links -- I haven't watched SNL in years, and would have missed it if not for the clips.

"Hate it Here"


Michael also said, " saw Wilco both last night and Tuesday night at Tipitina's. They were fantastic, they did 43 different songs over the two nights and sounded great on every one of them. I'll write more when I get a chance." Oh yes, please. *jealous*

And speaking of Wilco, Jeff Tweedy wrote an enlightening and very interesting article in the New York Times on Tuesday, part of an ongoing series in the paper about migraines.

I honestly do not remember a time in my life when I did not have headaches, and know what they were and know they were called migraines. My mother was a migraine sufferer, and my sister is as well. Now, if I was having legitimate migraines or I just called every headache a migraine because my mother had them, I don't know for sure, but, like I said, I don't remember a time in my life when I wasn't having them.

I'm so glad he's feeling better these days, and Wilco have never sounded better. Ever.

Cocktail of the day.   This is one of several variations of this cocktail, and they're all so different (especially the two that bear the original name) that I wonder why they didn't just give them all different names to begin with. We enjoyed this particular variation, though.

The Creole Variation

1-1/2 ounces Bourbon whiskey.
1/4 ounce orange Curaçao.
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters.
1 dash Angostura Bitters.
Pastis or absinthe.

Coat the inside of a cocktail glass with the pastis or absinthe. Combine the remaining ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, and stir for 30-40 seconds. Strain into the coated glass. No garnish specified.

We opted for the absinthe for a little more complexity, and Jade Liqueurs' Nouvelle-Orléans, natch. Thing is, I thought this recipe, although perfect for the classic 2-ounce cocktails of the Golden Age, was a little too small for our needs last night. I tripled the recipe (4-1/2 Bourbon, 3/4 Curaçao and 3 dashes each bitters) and split that into 2 glasses, which gave us each a slightly more than a 3 ounce cocktail and was perfect.

It's amazing how much flavor you can get from a mere rinse, especially with a complex, funky absinthe like Nouvelle-Orléans. It's also quite a strong drink -- not a lot of amelioration of the Bourbon by vermouth or juices or liqueurs, and you're at a 6:1 ratio of base spirit to liqueur. A good long stir helps smooth that out, and the flavor modifiers gave it a nice complexity. This is a first cousin to a Sazerac, and if you were to switch the base spirit to rye it might even be a sibling. That's Creole enough for me.

The Cocktail Spirit, with Robert Hess.   More than one of these and you'll be staggering around, looking for brains to eat. (Careful though, one serving of brains is about 1000% of your recommended daily allowance of cholesterol.) After that is another one Robert posted a few weeks ago which I missed:

The Zombie Cocktail

In its many incarnations The Zombie has become an icon of the tropical drink era spawned by Trader Vic and Don the Beach Comber. As Jeff "Beach Bum" Berry and other cocktail historians re-discover these classic recipes and the "tiki" culture takes off again in this new century The Zombie and it's brethren are poised to make a comeback.

#     #     #

The Black Feather

This is a unique little cocktail that I created a few years ago. It is an excellent way to illustrate the the valuable role that dry vermouth can play in a properly balanced drink. I've found that it is easily enjoyed by both experienced cocktail drinkers as well as those who haven't quite built up their palate for spirits.

I quite agree with Robert's assessment of his drink -- it's really lovely.

As for the Zombie, if you've read Jeff Berry's latest book, the wonderful Sippin' Safari, you know that Jeff has managed to find the original, authentic Don the Beachcomber recipe for the Zombie ... all three of them!

February Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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