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.

Page last tweaked @ 1:49pm CDT, 5/6/2008

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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)

April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

My Photos on Flickr

My Darlin' New Orleans...

The Flag of The City of New Orleans

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

Greater N.O. Community Data Center
New Orleans Wiki

Gambit Weekly
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 (in memoriam)
Blogging New Orleans
Dispatches from Tanganyika
Home of the Groove
Humid City
Library Chronicles
Mellytawn Dreams
Metroblogging N.O.
People Get Ready
Da Po'Blog
Suspect Device Blog
The Third Battle of New Orleans
World Class New Orleans
The Yat Pundit
Your Right Hand Thief
Cocktail hour.

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

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

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

Blogging Tales of the Cocktail

*     *     *

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

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

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

*     *     *

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

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Book Collection
   (Constantly growing)

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

*     *     *

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

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

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

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

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

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

*     *     *

   (The 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
Practically Edible
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
Southern Food & Beverages Museum
Southern Foodways Alliance
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
Zagat Guide

In vino veritas.

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

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

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

Reading this month:

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

  Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Alive!   Just a quick check-in to say hi. (Hi!) So far we've dined at Cuvée, Elizabeth's, Brigtsen's, Dean & Becky's house, The Delachaise, Gene's Po-Boys and all day Friday through Sunday at Jazzfest. We've survived that so far, but tonight, the staff at Emeril's tried to kill us.

Death by overindulgence in fantastic food was, I think, a motive in a few murder mysteries, and if they had actually pulled it off tonight, we'd have died smiling, believe me.

So far I'll say this -- Emeril's has still got it, and how. An infusion of new blood hasn't hurt at all, and in fact has helped enormously. We'll have full food porn once we get back.

Mary also reminded me that I never ever got around to posting the account of our spectacular Fat Pack meal at Commander's Palace LAST year around this time, which shocked me, and then didn't, because not getting around to things is so typical of me. I shall do my best to include that in this year's wave of food porn as well. If I don't, hassle me.

Tomorrow, lunch at Lüke and dinner ... well, maybe a bowl of gumbo somewhere. We need to start pacing ourselves.

We haven't been hearing much music late at night, sadly. After these big meals with all the accompanying wines and spirits, we tend to go home and collapse afterward. However, Paul Sanchez put on a fantastic show at Carrollton Station last Friday, and allow me to begin raving about his new album Exit to Mystery Street now. You can catch one track from that and from the new John Boutté album on the currently available episode of "Down Home".

Okay, I gotta go to bed (it's 1:22am, and I'm tired). 'Night.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, April 24, 2008

What a way to get started.   Within three hours of landing at home we were at the Swizzle Stick Bar at Café Adelaide, where mixologist extraordinaire Lu Brow fixed us Sazeracs (with real absinthe) and Twentieth Century Cocktails. As busy as she was we did get to visit with her for a bit, and when we told her we were heading to Cuvée for dinner she fixed us a nice big Caipiroska in a go-cup to bring to Chef Bob (ah, only in New Orleans).

Cuvée, our first-night-back-home restaurant of choice for a few years now, was as fantastic as we had hoped. For the first time we did their degustation (Nettie: "We ordered the whole right side of the menu!"), plus two other courses from the regular menu we wanted to try, plus one other one Chef Bob sent out. It was all heavenly, and we'll have more detailed food porn when I have more time.

All I'll say so far is ... shrimp, mirlitons, duck, strawberries, cream, rhubarb, truffles, Parmigiano-Reggiano, riso, foie gras, cherries, lobster, corn, ricotta, French onion, sea bass, serrano ham, lamb, arugula, rosemary, potatoes, chocolate, dreamsicle ...

Tantalizing, ain't it?

This morning, breakfast/brunch at Elizabeth's!

Da cochon de lait lady.   The Times-Picayune did a story today about Wanda Walker, one of our favorite people at Jazzfest, because she's the one who makes us this:

At the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival ... Walker and her catering company, Love at First Bite, will slow-smoke a ton -- literally -- of pork butt over a hot barbecue pit. Then they will layer mounds of the warm shredded pork with cold cabbage and a homemade horseradish sauce on French bread, balancing the hot and the cold, "the yin and the yang," as Walker puts it. And customers will be lining up for their portions. [...]

The po-boy has won many fans in the seven years Walker has been selling it at the Fair Grounds. In March, Esquire magazine named it one of the 30 best sandwiches in the country. [...]

"Cochon de lait" is the Cajun term for a roast suckling pig and the party for serving it. Walker said that trying to get enough meat off the bulky suckling pig is very hard. Instead, she uses bone-in pork roasts because they have "that good flavor boneless butts don't have."

The meat is heavily seasoned, then given 12 hours of slow hickory smoking.

As for the influence, "I think it's what we call New Orleans cooking," Walker said. "We have our own flavor here....It's not vinegary. It's not cooked without seasoning.

After the obligatory and traditional Creole's Stuffed Bread, of course (hey, Miss Merlene!), the tough decision is, what to have first at Fest? Soft shell crab po-boy or cochon de lait po-boy? Hmm. I think the pig might win out.

No recent tweak, this.   New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni learns that a rye Manhattan is not a modern "tweak," but the way it was made to begin with, and the way it really needs to be made all the time (as it beats the hell out of one made with Bourbon). Then he spreads the word. This is a good thing.

The Cocktail Spirit, with Robert Hess.   Keeping in spirit with the brunchy drinks he's posted recently, as well as the one we posted this week, Robert presents another lovely idea for a brunch libation.

The Bucks Fuzz

Often confused with the Mimosa, the Bucks Fizz is an elegant drink suited to the simple brunch or extravagant celebration.

I'd call this an evolved Mimosa, really ... and with the addition of gin and cherry brandy I'm not sure I'd want plain ol' orange juice and bubbly again. Yummers.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   Ooh, I did manage to get a post written last night after all. A perfectly appropriate one here too, although unfortunately I'm not going to get to breakfast on this drink quite yet. This one appeared in the April '08 issue of New Orleans magazine, created just for them by mixologist H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir in San Francisco. He puts a wonderful Caribbean spin on a venerable New Orleans breakfast classic, and I can't wait to quaff one of these.

A Milk Punch Named Desire

1-1/2 ounces Rhum Clément VSOP.
1-1/2 ounces Rhum Clément Créole Shrubb.
1/2 ounce Navan Vanilla Liqueur.
3-4 ounces whole milk or half-and-half.

Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with a few large ice cubes. Shake vigorously for at least half a minute, in order to build up a nice froth. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice, and garnish with a grating of fresh nutmeg.

Oh my.

I covet Simon's bar.   Mixologist and spirits guru Simon Difford's got a new issue of his digital.diffordsguide online, which starts off with a review of a bunch of new spirits, and then proceeds to a look at Simon's new home bar, which is the most amazing home bar I've ever seen. For feck's sake ... I want one! (Sadly, we have no room.) Barring that ... Simon, can I come over?

The Making of Nirvana.   No, not the band, but our favorite food ... bacon!

Well, not exactly your favorite food in this case, not its ideal form at least.

They say that two things you never want to watch being made are sausages and the law, and I wonder if this should be extended to bacon as well. That said, here's a fascinating video about the production of mass market pre-cooked bacon production -- how the stuff is actually made. Y'ever see that stuff? The kind you just crisp up in the microwave for 30 seconds, and voilà, bacon? I was intensely skeptical of this at first, but after trying some it wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. I considered it feasible as "emergency bacon," but we tend to keep The Real Thing on hand at all times.

I found some of it a bit disquieting (liquid smoke?), preferring as I do more artisanally made bacons from folks like Benton's who actually smoke them, and some of the artisanal bacon makers you can order from via The Grateful Palate. This has made me curious about the non-instant mass market bacons, like Oscar Meyer (the best of the supermarket bacons). Do we really wanna see how it's made?

English! Dost thou speak it, whoreson cur?   One of the most amazing posts I've ever read on MetaFilter, in which various people rewrite the marvelous dialogue of Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" (plus a few others) in Shakesperean English, style and meter. (Ah, the joys of iambic pentameter and anapests.)

Jules: Your pardon; did I break thy concentration?
Continue! Ah, but now thy tongue is still.
Allow me then to offer a response.
Describe Marsellus Wallace to me, pray.

Brett: What?

J: What country dost thou hail from?

B: What?

J: Thou sayest thou dost hail from distant What?
I know but naught of thy fair country What.
What language speak they in the land of What?

B: What?

J: English! Dost thou speak it, whoreson cur?

B: Aye!

J: Then hearken to my words and answer them!
Describe to me Marsellus Wallace!

B: What?

JULES presses his knife to BRETT's throat

J: Speak 'What' again! Thou cur, cry 'What' again!
I dare thee utter 'What' again but once!
I dare thee twice and spit upon thy name!
Now, paint for me a portraiture in words,
If thou hast any in thy head but 'What',
Of Marsellus Wallace!

B: He is dark...

J: Aye, and what more?

B: His head is shaven bald.

J: Hath he the semblance of a harlot?

B: What?

JULES strikes and BRETT cries out.

J: Hath he the semblance of a harlot?!

B: Nay!

J: Then why didst thou attempt to bed him thus?

B: I did not!

J: Aye, thou didst! O, aye, thou didst!
Thou sought to rape him like a chattel whore!
And sooth, Lord Wallace is displeased to bed
With aught but Lady Wallace, whom he wed.

Here's a decent copy of the "Pulp Fiction" screenplay to compare it to. There's a wiki for it now, too. For lack of a better phrase ... "Lol."

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  Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ashley Morris Jazz Funeral.   Friday, April 11, 2008, from Schoen Funeral Home on Canal Street to St. Louis Cemetery No. 3, New Orleans, Louisiana. Music by the Hot 8 Brass Band. Attire: Funereal formal, Big Easy Rollergirl or Saints fan.

Ashley Morris Jazz Funeral

(Photograph by Tanya Dwyer ... here's the full set.)

It's Jazzfest time in New Orleans ... c'mon now, lemme hear ya SCREAM!   We're screaming with excitement ('cause we're goin' home tomorrow, yeah you rite!) as well as screaming in frustration and tearing out clumps of hair. Yes folks, if you're a Jazzfest veteran you know right where we are -- looking at the dreaded Cubes, the block schedule of Jazzfest acts which hammer into your head, like a nail into a 2x4, that there will always be two, three, four, five or even six fantastic acts playing simultaneously, all of whom you love, and you'll never be able to see them all. You kinda have to resign yourself to this fact early on, or you'll end up in a rubber bedroom, or perhaps just sitting in the mud alongside the track, crying into your pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo (which itself is one small comfort, at least).

Chris Rose aired similar concerns in his Times-Picayune column the other day, but it pales in comparison to Diana's brilliant poetry.

The following verses were written as a response to Dave's advice of, "Sorry to sound sage-y, but it's only as difficult as we make it. I became a lot happier -- and less stressed -- a few years ago, when I decided to adopt a more laissez faire attitude towards Fest. Just remember that it's ALL good, and -- at moments when decisions start to cause stress -- remind yourself of that. Develop mantras, like 'it's all good' and 'wherever I am, at any given moment, THAT'S the center of the universe.' Know that the grass isn't always greener, and that one can be at peace because one chooses to be... not because of which band is playing.") Dave also contributed the last two verses to Diana's epic, which is written in that unjustly maligned poetic form ... the limerick:

I know what you say is so true
But I'm just not as Zen as you.
Though I've mellowed a bit,
I go into a fit
for a month before April (or two).

We seem to go through this yearly
(I appreciate it, sincerely).
But I still can't seem
to schedule or scheme
my Fest choices quite so clearly.

So as sage as your advice is,
when left to my own devices
the grids come out,
I scream and shout
and commence to be indecisive.

And this part is just the worst,
when I'm seeing, at the very first
the conflicting acts,
I just can't relax!
There are too many ways I'm coerced!

The decisions cause me such stress
My cubes and my grids -- they're a mess!
Dinner reservation?
Just more consternation!
I can't choose my shoes, no less!

This enduring dilemna of Fest
Is an easier choice than the rest.
Life has much greater stresses
And I DO count my blesses.
(It's not like God's posing some test).

I'm still a Fair Grounds smörgåsborder
(not yet a Cox Tent seat hoarder).
And as it nears
I calm my fears.
Are there meds for this kind of disorder?

It's all good, as you've rightly said
You really just can't be misled.
If there isn't a pill
I'll at least take a chill
after first going out of my head.

Of course, once I'm actually there
I throw caution right up in air.
I will choose on the run
Flit from hither to yon
Club to club; tent to stage; grass to chair.

Plans surely will fall by the wayside
when I suddenly hear a guitar slide.
Set courses will change
and I must rearrange
when an old (or new!) fave act is spied.

Then it all starts anew ev'ry night
when club choices pose a new fight.
So I pick two or three
And I set myself free:
Just like daytime, it's all just all right

But the worst is when all my friends say
the best thing they saw through the day
was the act I let slide
while my time I did bide
in the line for a cochon de lait!

When my friends all tell me I blew it
I tell them it's tough to intuit
Which act will be best
Throughout all of Fest
So I don't even try to construe it

But, while they're all on Cloud Nine
Over Springsteen or Ruffins or Prine
I don't get all manic
Just groove to the Panic
And know the best moments are mine!

Posting will be scarce to nonexistent during Jazzfest weeks. We return on May 7, not too many pounds heavier, we hope. See y'all then, and maybe see some of y'all at Jazzfest!

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  Saturday, April 19, 2008

Remembering Danny Federici.   Michael sent some great links last night; comments are his.

Bruce and Danny in the studio, recording "Across the Border" from The Ghost of Tom Joad.

Shaky handheld video of Danny's last bow from his last full show with the band before taking his leave of absence.
Obviously the band knew he was leaving, and though it hadn't been officially announced most of the hard core fans knew it as well.
This one is tough for me to watch today.

A happier moment from back in the day (long clip, Danny's bit is about 7:30 in, but the whole thing is worth watching).

Thanks for all of this and so much more, Danny.

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  Friday, April 18, 2008

RIP Danny Federici (1950 - 2008)   The organist and accordionist of the E Street Band for 35 years (on and off, as was the band) passed away yesterday after a 3-year battle with melanoma.

Danny Federici of the E Street Band, November 19, 2007

Michael says, "Here's a clip from Danny's final appearance with the band, in Indianapolis last month. I asked some of the tour regulars about this last week, and they said that it was pretty much understood by everybody that this was his swan song. He was going downhill fast and Max Weinberg talked him into getting on the plane with them to do this one last show while he still had the strength."

Tax Day Dinner.   Chef Damon Bruner, formerly of the late, lamented Cinnabar in Glendale, has been doing occasional private dinners, and they're always fantastic. He and his wife Edith threw one for Tax Day on April 15, 2008 (yay, we're getting refunds!), and it was a complete blast. Flame and Alvin from Cinnabar were there, as were a lot of old Cinnabar regulars, probably about 25 in all. The idea is terrific, along the lines of what the Ghetto Gourmet do. Damon and Edith (as well as Flame) have mailing lists, and every now and again an invite goes out. It's held in a private home, it's usually about $50, you bring your own wine or other beverages (folks brought everything from wine to soda to *shudder* vodka martinis), you get four courses and you always meet a lot of nice people.

The menus came printed on 1040 Forms (courtesy of our tax dollars and the pile of 'em at the Post Office), decorated with whimsical tax-related quotes, which we perused as we popped open the wine we brought, a fairly ass-kicking 2001 Edmeades Zinfandel from Mendocino, clocking in at 16.2% alcohol. (Woof.) It was big and fruity and gave me a nice relaxing calm after my 1 hour and 20 minute drive from Santa frakkin' Monica.

Taxes are the opiate of the politicians.

Mini Shrimp Po-Boy

Damon started us out with this great appetizer, an interpretation of the good ol' New Orleans shrimp poor boy.

The shrimp was HUGE, and sautéed but not fried, which didn't really make a lot of difference (except to be better for you) as this had a HUGE shrimp flavor. I didn't even really miss the breading. The rémoulade sauce was a great touch, and the red cabbage slaw a tasty and visually striking twist on the usual shredded lettuce or green cabbage. Where po-boys outside of New Orleans usually fail (and fail miserably) is in the bread -- the typical squooshy, non-crispy "French" bread, or the artisan baguettes that are so chewy your jaw is tired after the first bite. This bread came pretty darn close, though ... not exactly like Leidenheimer's, but crispy on the outside without being tough, and light on the inside. That'll certainly do!

After dinner Damon said he was actually nervous about this one, with a New Orleanian in the house and several others who were regular visitors, but lemme tell ya ... I took one bite of that poor boy, closed my eyes, sighed and thought, "I'm gonna be there in less than a week." This dish was a perfect example of a chef's personal interepretation of and spin on a classic dish that remains true to that dish. The only thing wrong with the li'l po-boy was that it was two inches long, and not two feet long. Hoo boy, I wanted more. (Well, I guess there were four more courses, after all ...)

It's income tax time again, Americans: time to gather up those receipts, get out those tax forms, sharpen up that pencil, and stab yourself in the aorta. -- Dave Barry

3-Cheese Mac 'n 
Cheese with Black Truffles

Second course -- Three-Cheese Mac 'n Cheese with Black Truffles. Oh man, just bury me in a vat of this stuff.

It's the tail end of black truffle season, and Damon augmented the flavor of this with the best black truffle oil I'd ever smelled or tasted. It's an actual infusion, and not just an "essence" or "aroma," as he pointed out was what you'd see on the label of the inferior brands which some chefs are drizzling on everything that isn't nailed down. I'd never seen this brand before. "Where'd you get it?!" That, apparently, is a closely held secret. (D'oh!)

Taxation with representation ain't so hot either. -- Gerald Barzan

Green Tea-Smoked 
Duck Breast with Asian Plum Sauce

Main course -- Green Tea-Smoked Duck with Asian Plum Sauce. Beautifully seasoned and subtly smoked, perfectly medium rare, with a sweet tangy sauce and some lovely bok choi and slightly sticky short-grain rice. Damon's got a lot of Asian influences in his cooking, and they shone here. At one point manners just went out the window, and Wes and I picked up the bones and started gnawing on them.

Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors ... and miss. -- Robert A. Heinlein

Red Velvet Cake with 
Dark Chocolate Sauce

Yay, dessert! Red Velvet Cake with Dark Chocolate Sauce, and a tangy sour cream frosting. I forgot to ask him what kind of chocolate he used in the sauce, but it had a just-right balance between bitter and fruity and YUM. I think I'll be wanting chocolate sauce with red velvet cake from now on.

We kinda screwed up a little ... I like to try to bring some kind of aperitivo with enough to share with a few tablemates, as well as something to drink with dessert, but we were a little scattered this time. Ah well, we'll be more than ready for next time!

And speaking of dinners ...

Jazzfest dining.   Well, besides all the food at the Fair Grounds, here are the restaurants where we're confirmed for lunch or dinner between next Wednesday and the our return 13 days later:

Cuvée, which over the last few years has become a bit of a tradition for us on first night's arrival. Chef Bob Iacovone always delights.

Brigtsen's, which we haven't been to since before the storm and the Federal Flood. Chef Frank Brigtsen has been one of my favorite Louisiana chefs for a long time, mining the rich ore of both New Orleans and Cajun cuisines for his inspiration. I note with alarm that there's no rabbit on the menu at the moment, at least not the one on the website (I'm not sure if he still changes it daily, but he used to; in fact, he used to write out the daily menu by hand). His Pannéed Rabbit Tenderloins on a Tasso-Parmesan Grits cake with Creole Mustard Sauce and Sautéed Spinach (and the occasional variations on it) was one of my favorite dishes in the city. Ah well, with time comes change ... I'm excited to see what he's got nowadays!

Dante's Kitchen, right across the street from Brigtsen's, is a new one for us, even though it's been there for several years -- I'm LONG overdue. Chef Emmanuel Loubier cooked at Commander's Palace for many years before opening his own place, and given that Commander's is one of the greatest training grounds for world-class chefs (Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse, et al.) to be found anywhere, you know his place was going to be great from day one. Why it took me so long to get there I'm not sure, but it just means I need to go home more often. Really looking forward to this one.

JazzFEAST '08! Another longtime tradition (well, for the past 8 years, anyway) has been dinner at the home of our old friends Dean and Becky, along with a bunch of other old NOLA friends. Becky's a fantastic cook, having at the first of these dinners made a version of the signature dish from the Red Fish Grill that put the restaurant's actual dish to shame, and Dean's always keen to share the vino and PORto from his cellar. Cannot WAIT for this one.

Emeril's. Yeah, everybody knows this one. I've never had anything short of a spectacular meal at Emeril's (in fact, at least one of them was probably one of the five most memorable restaurant meals I've ever had), but it occurred to me that not only had I never taken Wes there, but I myself hadn't eaten at Emeril's in 10 years. Eek. I'd also heard some people grousing that the place had slipped in quality, that Emeril isn't there enough, etc., but I asked friends of mine in town who had eaten there recently and they had nothing but praise. This time it's a long-overdue revisit.

Lüke is Chef John Besh's newest restaurant, a French / German bistro that several Fat Pack folks have tried and enjoyed. Dave said it was one of his best first impressions of a new New Orleans restaurant ever, there was talk about "best burger in the universe," although some discussion over the cochon de lait po-boy (Diana liked it, Nettie thought it was dry). The menu looks great -- lots of charcuterie, raw and boiled seafood platters, the typical local salads (i.e., topped with fried oysters) and lots of classic bistro dishes. Nice-looking cocktail menu too.

MiLa is another new place, opened by the husband-wife chef team of Slade Rushing and Allison Vines-Rushing, late of Longbranch on the Northshore, which I never got a chance to try before it unfortunately closed. Another one I'm excited about.

Ova by my momma's. Week from Wednesday. Best crawfish étouffée in this and all alternate universes.

Café Adelaide. The traditional Pack Dinner. Last year it was at Commander's, this year here (although I eat and/or drink here every time I'm home). The hospitalty of Ti Martin and Lally Brennan and their staff. The world-class cocktails from Lu and her bartenders at the Swizzle Stick Bar. Chef Danny Trace's fantastic food. And it's a FUN place. What more could you want? (We'll be gathering here to lubricate ourselves with a couple of cocktails as soon as we arrive too, before our dinner at Cuvée.)

Crawfish Boil at the Chimes B&B. Just keep your hands and feet away from my mouth.

Plus we're leaving some time free for maybe dinner at Irene's and The Delachaise, plus lunch at Willie Mae's Scotch House and poor boys at Parkway Bakery and Tavern, maybe an omelette from the Camellia and a burger from Bud's, and chicken from McHardy's. Yeah, I know ... there are only so many days, and so much room in my belly, and so much space for expansion until I split my pants. Frak it.

Last night's "Down Home"   is up on the server now, for one week. Enjoy brand new music from Paul Sanchez and John Boutt´, plus The Neville Brothers, James Booker, Jelly Roll Morton, Lee Dorsey, Dr. John, Louisiana Red, Ironing Board Sam, Nellie Lutcher, The Magnolia Sisters, Racines, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Michael Doucet, Balfa Toujours, Dirk Powell, Napoleon Strickland with Jimmie Buford and R. L. Boyce, Tim Edey, Christy Moore, Duke Special, Planxty, The New Orlans Jazz Vipers, Pete Fountain, Troy Andrews & Lionel Ferbos, The Continental Drifters, Tab Benoit, Boo Hewerdine, Woody Guthrie and Matt Perrine.

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  Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bulgarian Idol!   Steve sent this around this morning, saying, "This is the first time I've liked this song sicne Whitney destroyed it. Who knew that all it needed was a Balkan brass band?" Not to mention a singer, Nevena Tsoneva, who sounds as if she stepped right of the the Bulgarian "La Mystère des voix Bulgares" Women's Choir.

Apparently on Bulgarian Idol you get to sing an entire song, unlike the American one.

The Cocktail Spirit, with Robert Hess.   This week Robert takes on fizzy lifting drinks (i.e., they'll lift your spirits with spirits), including a New Orleans classic, which requires a couple of specialty ingredients, but ones worth keeping around.

The Gin Fizz

The Fizz, a once popular style of drink, can be made in myriad ways. The Gin Fizz is light and refreshing and deserves re-discovery.

#     #     #

The Ramos Gin Fizz

The use of egg white and cream in this version of the fizz creates a unique experience. Velvet with a citrus background and a bubbly pop, the Ramos Gin Fizz.

You can get a small bottle of orange flower water for your Ramos fizzes and it'll last you for the rest of your life. (Well, unless you drink them as if you were Huey P. Long, that is.)

Missing down home food.   You know how it is ... you're from the South, you move west or north, and all of a sudden there's no grits, hush puppies or Moon Pies. And if you're a Maasai warrior from Tanzania, coming to London to run the marathon ("The marathon is easy. There are no lions."), you might find some new delights but you really do miss momma's cooking, as you tell your diary:

I miss meat and blood very much. Not vegetables because they are food for a woman. There is milk here but blood is better because it gives energy. English tea with sugar is good and we tried Cocoa Pops, but the nicest food is croissants.

Tea, Cocoa Pops and blood ... all part of a balanced breakfast.

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  Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Forever New Orleans.   Greatest. Tourism video. Ever!

There's been somewhat of a backlash against the "woe is me" attitude that still permeates New Orleans. While I certainly feel for and appreciate the extreme difficulties so many New Orleanians (my family included) had to go through and what many are still going through, we still have to point out that despite its wounds, despite all the things that still need to be done ... the city is so alive! Those who stayed and those who persevere, who are getting up and doing what needs to be done, mostly on our own ("Sinn féin," as Ashley would have said) help the city pulse with life, along with its musicians and artists and chefs and cooks ... and (non-crooked) contractors and air-conditioner guys and street cleaners and neighborhood businesspeople, and house gutters and doctors and nurses and all the volunteers who make everything work. We may not be completely back up again, and we may still have a long way to go, but in a lot of ways ... we're lookin' good, baby.

The New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau (and check out their new URL) has been sending this video out in email, along with this commentary:

Hello all.

Hope all is well on your end. We're hoping to crack consciousness on YouTube as part of our ongoing efforts to promote the New Orleans renaissance. Tourism is fundamental to NOLA, encompassing pretty much everything we're about - from cultural preservation to necessary economics - responsible for about 35% of the city's operating budget and over 100,000 jobs. Tourism is at about 80% of pre-Katrina levels right now.

All is splendid right now with Festival Season in full swing, cool, breezy days, and azaleas, sweet olive, Japanese magnolia and jasmine painting the city with an explosion of color and scents. But summer's coming and things slow down a bit. We want to fully leverage the great spring activities to generate momentum through the year. Appreciate you forwarding this link along to one person. More is icing.

Don't forget to allow us to return the favor. We're good like that.


You may be heading down for Jazzfest next week. If so, that's great! (See y'all there!) If not ... go during the summer. Yeah, it's hot. So what? We got lots and lotsa air conditioning. There's Tales of the Cocktail in July and Satchmo Summerfest in August. They're both fantastic. So gitcha' ass down ta New Orleans!

Cocktail of the day.   Beware the Ides of April! ("There's one for you, nineteen for me ... 'cause I'm The Taxman!")

Well, it wasn't as bad as all that this year. In fact, I'm getting a nice refund! And we're celebrating tonight with a four-course dinner cooked by Chef Damon Bruner, formerly of Cinnabar (more on that later). In the meantime, there's a bit of a traditional cocktail for the day ... not one of my favorites, actually, but not bad at all and certainly date-appropriate.

The Income Tax Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces gin.
3/4 ounce orange juice.
1/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce dry vermouth.
1 dash Angostura or other aromatic bitters.

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Well, you could always look at the recipe and nod at its history and timeliness, and just have a Martini instead. (We had a 2:1 Plymouth and Vya one the other night. Soooo good.)

The Dos and Don'ts of The Sazerac.   Jeff Morgenthaler put up a fantastic post the other day about how (and how not) to make a Sazerac. To the great delight of cocktail geeks everywhere, Sazeracs are starting to pop up on more and more cocktail menus around the country. Unfortunately, that means you're going to get a lot of crappy ones (and unfortunately you get crappy ones in New Orleans, too). Jeff sets the record straight, and he even shook up a Sazerac hound like me. First thing on his "dos and don'ts" list is this:

Do use a single dash of Angostura bitters in your Sazeracs. You'll be surprised how much this opens up the flavors. While it may enrage some purists, you can always counter with, "If it was good enough for Thomas Handy, it's good enough for me.

Yes, I confess ... I'm one of those guys with the big red PURIST rubber-stamped on his forehead, having loudly eschewed the use of Angostura bitters in my Sazeracs. My usual rejoinder was, "Well, Antoine Amédée Peychaud didn't make 'em with Angostura!" That may be true, but M. Peychaud also wasn't the one who made the drink truly popular -- that was Mr. Handy, at the Sazerac Coffee House, and M. Peychaud didn't put any absinthe in it either.

It's not that I don't love Angostura -- I do. It practically courses through my veins (I add three or four dashes to a Coke, even.) It was both my tendency to be a rabid traditionalist on occasion, and primarly a reaction to being served many bad, unbalanced Sazeracs. How many times (espeically in New Orleans) have you seen this? You ask for a Sazerac, and as he or she is making it the bartender grabs bottles of both Angostura and Peychaud's bitters by the necks, with one hand, and shakes three or four dashes of EACH into the mixing glass.

It got worse, too. The Sazerac Bar -- now sadly closed along with the Fairmont Hotel -- was beautiful and historic and made the worst Sazeracs in town. The bartenders there used to complain about having to make Sazeracs all day (then work in a bar not called The Sazerac Bar, you nitwit), and tried to streamline the process by taking a bottle of simple syrup and adding bitters to it (a shortcut that saved maybe five seconds per drink). First time I saw that my eyebrows shot up and I immediately questioned him as to how the proportions of bitters to syrup could possibly be corret, and he swore up and down that it all worked out. He then proceeded to pour an inch of the stuff into the glass, after putting on the show of throwing the glass up into the air to coat it with the Herbsaint (the most important part of the process for him), and subsequently serving me a horrid, eye-poppingly oversweet "Sazerac" with not nearly enough bitters.

It was numerous experiences like this that make me say something harsh. I'm glad the bar's closed. That said, I sincerely hope it and the hotel reopen, and that once it does it'll be restored to its original splendor, and that the bartenders will be strictly trained to make the city's signature cocktail properly.

But I digress ...

The single dash (and I'll use a small dash, plus four hefty ones of Peychaud's) is really a great way to do it, and I'm grateful to Jeff for the kick in my traditionalist pants. He's full of many more great tips for making a perfect Sazerac, including warning you not to use orange bitters, not to shake it, etc. He also has you express the oil from the lemon peel but not garnish the drink with it. Alas, Wesly and I still commit the sacrilege of dropping the peel into the drink, but we apologize to Stanley Clisby Arthur every time we do it, and I guess we can start apologizing to Jeff too. I like 'em that way. :-)


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  Monday, April 14, 2008

What would we do without the Louisiana legislature?   Well, now that they seem to have given up on hammering through unconstitutional creationism teaching laws, they seem to have taken a break from throwing chicken bones at each other to make sure this threatening piece of legislation got struck down:

The Louisiana Senate on Tuesday rejected a proposal to honor the New Orleans cocktail known as the Sazerac.

The bill by Sen. Ed Murray would have made the whiskey-based beverage the official state cocktail. Murray, D-New Orleans, noted that the drink was created in his home city and has become world famous. But Sen. Buddy Shaw and several other senators said it was inappropriate to honor an alcoholic beverage.

"Is there a possibility that we could be encouraging folks, who were not intending to drink, that it would be acceptable and they could become an alcoholic?" Shaw asked.

"No," Murray replied.

Others speaking in opposition were Sens. Jody Amedee, D-Gonzales, John Smith, D-Leesville, and Gerald Long, R-Natchitoches. All three said passing the bill would "send the wrong message" about the state.

"Is there a possibility that we could be encouraging folks, who were not intending to drink, that it would be acceptable and they could become an alcoholic?" What a maroon. There's a guy who really needs a drink.

Kevin Allman points out that our beloved state legislature back home were far too busy working on more important issues.

Cocktail of the day.   This one sends me into a huge nostalgic rush, and I never even got to taste it.

Those of you who are New Orleanians of A Certain Age will fondly remember Pontchartrain Beach, our beloved local amusement park. Built in 1928 and retaining many of its Art Deco design touches until it was demolished (*sob!*) in 1983, I grew up going there many times every summer, and it was part of my childhood.

Pontchartrain Beach

Scary clown

One of the more popular attractions at The Beach wasn't a ride, it was a fabulous resteaurant, New Orleans' own version of the faux-Polynesian food and drink craze which swept the nation after the immense popularity of Don the Beachcomber's and Trader Vic's -- Bali Ha'i at The Beach. It opened around 1952 and closed with the park in 1982 ... and I never got to go there.

Bali Ha'i at the Beach Bali Ha'i menu cover

Recently the Times-Picayune came across a drink recipe from Bali H'ai, which a reader obtained from the family who used to cook there (they later opened their own Chinese restaurnat in Kenner after Bali H'ai closed). It's their own interpretation of a venerable tropical classic.

The Bali H'ai Fog Cutter
(from the late, lamented Bali H'ai Restaurant, Pontchartrain Beach, New Orleans)

8 ounces orange juice.
6 ounces lime juice.
6 ounces simple syrup.
4 ounces light rum.
4 ounces dark rum.
4 ounces brandy.
4 ounces gin.
1/4 ounce almond extract.

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher. Serve in tiki glasses or tall glasses.

Makes 4 (or more) drinks.

Of course, they other key to authenticity in this drink is to serve it in the proper vessel ...

Bali H'ai at the Beach, New Orleans, LA

Let's all sing .... "Baaaali Haaaaaaaaaaaiiiiii ..."

When the taste hits your tongue like ... um ... something something something ...   that's amarooooo! (Okay, nothing good rhymes with "tongue" but bung, dung, stung ... oh wait!)

When the taste hits your tongue like your favorite song's sung, that's amaro!

Okay, so I suck at songwriting.

But continuing with our discussion of Italian amaro (bitter digestive liqueur), here's an article from last Friday's San Francisco Chronicle (thanks, Rob!) about all my favorites, mentioning their popularity in the City by the Bay as well as down here, with places like Osteria Mozza being a haven for amari (and sporting the largest collection of amaro in the West, if not the United States).

On Mozza's regular menu you can find Averna, Aperol, Campari, Cynar, Fernet Branca, Meletti, Montenegro, Nardini, Nonino and Santa Maria al Monte. The hundreds they brought back from Italy, mostly so regional they're not found in other parts of the country, aren't vetted for import by the TTB, so unfortunately they're not for sale. But the ones they do have are wonderful, and they don't just serve them neat -- they're making them into cocktails like:

Montenegro Fizz - Amaro Montenegro, vodka, soda, lemon and vanilla. (Long drink).

Meletti Smash - Amaro Meletti, black rum, lime, mint bitters, mint, crushed ice. (Old Fashioned).

The Bitter End - Rye whiskey, Amaro S. Maria al Monte, Licor 43, lemon, egg white, nutmet. (Snifter).

Um, like ... yum! (I haven't tried the first two yet, but we love The Bitter End.)

Americans really need to get over this "bitter-is-bad" thing. It's one-fifth of your sense of taste (along with sweet, sour, salty and umami), folks!

"Gin cocktails make a splashy comeback!"   So trumpets an article from the Los Angeles Times, posted nationally as part of the Tribute Corp.'s food and drink newsletter. Well, this is old news to those of us in cocktail geekdom, but when it starts making the regular papers and get seen by the Teeming Masses of Vodka Drinkers, it's worth noting.

If you're still new to gin (and if you've been reading this weblog any length of time, let's hope you're long past that), it's an interesting brief introduction to what it's all about, plus some new and classic cocktail recipes (although I'd reverse the lemon and maraschino proportions on that Aviation). There's also the money quote from our friend Ryan Magarian, a mixologist extraordinare who also makes Aviation Gin: "I'd say that 90% of vodka cocktails are better with gin -- the Cosmopolitan, for instance."

And if you can get someone to drink a gin Cosmopolitan, let that be their last. Next make them a Pegu Club (2 oz. gin, 1 oz. Cointreau, 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice, 1 dash each Angostura and orange bitters, shake and strain). They'll thank you, and (I hope) never look back.

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  Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   I've been enjoying these for a while, and we make them a different way almost every time. I've put a couple of different recipes up before, and it's time for another one. We had this version last night, after having gotten this version from watching one of our favorite bartenders make one last Sunday and nicking his technique.

Tequila Old Fashioned

2-1/2 ounces añejo tequila.
1 teaspoon agave nectar.
2 dashes Angostura bitters.
1 dash Peychaud's bitters.
Long strip of grapefruilt peel.

Combine ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Stir for 30 seconds. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass with fresh ice. Use as wide vegetable peeler to remove a long strip (about 4 inches) of grapefruit peel (no white pith). Squeeze the twist over the drink, and tuck it into the drink between the ice and the side of the glass. Enjoy.

We're still big fans of El Charro, but have been loving Partida lately.

For quiet times ... make it Suntory.   Cutto, cutto, CUTTO!

Love that scene in Lost in Translation, but it serves to remind me that I know nothing about Japanese whisky. I've never even tasted any, actually. And it's not only Suntory, although Suntory are one of the two largest distillers in Japan (of which there are 10, more than in Ireland).

The Japanese make (and spell) whisky in the style of the Scots, and I've been curious -- there they are, in the whisk(e)y section, every time I go to Beverage Warehouse to spend too much money. But where to start?

Chow.com has recently provided a convenient primer to the world of Japanese whisky. Considering they're the second-largest producer of whisky in the world after Scotland (!), they're long overdue for a closer look.

Liquid charity.   Many of you may be curtailing your European travel due to the fact that our currency is hardly worth the paper it's printed on these days. Take comfort, though, in the fact that if you do manage to get to Italy and can hitchhike your way up to Venice, they'll take care of you at the world-famous Harry's Bar. The new sign outside says:

Harry's Bar of Venice, in an effort to make the American victims of subprime loans happier, has decided to give them a special 20 percent discount on all items of the menu during the short term of their recovery.

Oh wait ... sorry, that's food only, not booze. So that'll still be €15 for that Bellini -- $23.61 as of today, in our plummeting currency.

(I heard it's not that nice a place anyway, and way overpriced, and you can make a Bellini just as well at home, and yours'll be better 'cause you'll float a couple of dashes of Fee's Peach Bitters on top, and they won't. Find yourself a nice trattoria or osteria where no one speaks English, and you'll be much better off.)

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  Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   We're big fans of Osteria La Buca on the east side of Melrose near Wilton, here in Los Angeles. Beautiful, real Italian food, handmade pastas, gorgeous ragús, pizzas that'll never make you want to touch an American fast food joint pizza again. They've expanded recently, tripling in size, so maybe we can get a table now some time after 6, which is when we usually go.

Vincenzo Marianella, head barman at The Doheny, concocted a superb aperitivo for La Buca, which was published in the Los Angeles Times Magazine last weekend. "[A] well-orchestrated delight in a glass," they call it, just in time for the beginning of strawberry season. It's named after the restaurant's chef (who's also known as "Mamma"). The sweet, deep red spring fruit is offset with a touch of Campari. "Muddling releases the flavor of the strawberry," says Vincenzo. "It's like the moment when you take the first bite of the fruit."

The Loredana
(Created by Vincenzo Marianella for Osteria La Buca)

1 ripe strawberry, hulled and sliced.
1 dash simple syrup.
5 ounces chilled Prosecco.
1/2 ounce Campari.

In a mixing glass, muddle the strawberry with the simple syrup. Add the Prosecco but don't stir -- you don't want to beat up the bubbles. Carefully pour the drink into a Champagne flute, add the Campari and serve immediately.

We need to go there soon. I'm definitely feeling the need for some proper tagliatelle alla Bolognese.

You never forget your first time.   Nope, and I never will either. It wasn't even straight up -- it was in a mug of hot water with a tablespoon of honey. It reminded me of the nasty medicine I used to have to take for allergies all through my childhood. But after chugging that cup, I felt better in about five minutes.

I'm talking about that most resinous-tree-branch-upside-the-head of Italian digestive liqueurs, Fernet Branca. You've heard me talk about it before, about having been first introduced to me by someone who referred to it as "the medicine cabinet in my bar." I recently stumbled across an excellent article in the SF Weekly from a few years ago called "The Myth of Fernet," about the city of San Francisco's love affair for the liqueur. People there describe it in glowing terms, such as ...

When you hold a shot glass of Fernet-Branca to your nose, the first thing that strikes you is the physicality of the smell, which, if such a thing existed, is like black licorice-flavored Listerine. Put it to your lips and tip it back, and the assault on the throat and sinuses is aggressively medicinal. For many so-called "Fergins" uninitiated to the drink, it can be accompanied by a feeling that may either bring a tear to the eye or lunch to the esophagus. As a bitter Italian aperitif of more than 40 herbs and spices, it most often gets compared to Campari and Jägermeister, though by measure of accuracy, it's equally similar to Robitussin or Pennzoil. [...]

"I thought I was going to die. I actually might have gagged. It was terrible."

"I have to admit, my first experience was like, 'What the fuck?'"

"It's an acquired taste first and foremost, like coffee or wine ... First time you have it is like, 'Argh! This is absolutely horrible.'"

Oh, c'mon, don't be such a baby. Yeah, it's difficult, but it is indeed an acquired taste, and y'know ... it's really pretty good once you get used to it. And even though I ran this cocktail by y'all about eight months ago, since I found this article and posted it today, the recipe bears repeating -- it'll help ease you into something you should really never be without in your bar. Drinking amaro will improve your life, and if you can drink Fernet Branca, you can drink anything.

Doc's Hanky Panky
(Dr. Cocktail's adaptation of Ada Coleman's classic from the Savoy Hotel, London, early 20th Century)

1-3/4 ounces gin.
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce Fernet Branca.
Large piece of orange peel.

Stir with cracked ice for no less than 30 seconds, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist the peel over the drink to spray out as much orange oil as you can onto the surface of the drink; garnish with the peel.

Over the next several weeks, especially as Tales of the Cocktail approaches, I'll start talking a bit about the other bitter(sweet) Italian liqueurs I've been collecting and enjoying including Montenegro, Cora, Abano, Ramazzotti and several others.

Quote of the day.   From the above-linked article on Fernet Branca swilling in San Francisco:

"Every other day there is another vodka in a frosted bottle with a fuckin' albatross on it ... [i]n two months, no one will order the stuff. You can make a lamp out of it."

-- Mike Fogarty, longtime San Francisco bartender, Pier 23, speaking of the consistency of Fernet Branca consumption in the city..

Boy, ain't that the truth. Add to that any of those stupid glowing blue or shocking pink blended vodka-brandy-juice things too. I don't think they'll stand the test of time.

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  Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   You may be familiar with Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles, which (along with its sister restaurant next door, Pizzeria Mozza) is one of the hardest tables to get in town. It's very, very popular, booked up a good while in advance, and the "Don't you know who I am?" Hollywood thing doesn't work there. We managed to get a reservation there just before the end of last year, and were lucky to get in on just a couple of weeks' notice. "All we have on that Saturday are 5:45 and 10:00pm." That was actually kinda perfect, as we took the 5:45pm reservation ... and didn't leave the restaurant until 10. It was one of the two or three most memorable meals of the last several years.

Mozza is owned by Chef Mario Batali and his partner Joe Bastianich, and local Chef Nancy Silverton (formerly of the La Brea Bakery and Campanile), and run by executive chef Matt Molina. It's crowded, but not too crowded, noisy but not too noisy. It's lively, which is something I love in a restaurant. We've only had the one dinner there so far, but everything was fantastic -- the service, the food, the drink. Without getting too food-porny, here's a bit of what we had:

Grilled octopus with potatoes, celery and lemon. (I would never have thought to order this, but when Mary and Steve went a few months ago and sat at the mozzarella bar with Chef Nancy more or less waiting on them, they asked her to just feed them, and this is what she startedt them with. The big problem with this dish is that I now no longer want to go to Mozza and not have this, and that'll make it a bit more difficult to work my way through the rest of the menu. "Okay, we'll try this, but we have to get a plate of grilled octopus to split! Okay? Please?")

Burrata with bacon, marinated escarole & caramelized shallots. (Mmmmm, burrata ... an outer shell of fresh bufalo mozzarella with a cream-and-mozzarella filling. It is to die for. And with bacon. I ask you. The version with guanciale that's currently on the menu would have been the one we'd have ordered had it been on the menu when we were there.)

Gnocchi with wild boar ragú. (Perfect gnocchi, light as pillows, and that ragú ... oh God.)

Pork loin alla griglia, seasoned with fennel pollen and served with caramelized fennel, onions and olives. (We had had our hearts set on the slow-roasted pork Mary had told us about, and when I tried to order it our server's face fell. "Oh no ... we just took that off the menu today!" she said. "But ..." she continued, and told us that it had been replaced with another pork dish, this one grilled, and I got that one. It was stunning. Boneless, and with a half-inch strip of luscious fat along the side -- which our friend Eric told us some stupid L.A.-type gymbunny people saw "ewww" and leave it behind. Sheesh. Anyway, it was seasoned with fennel pollen, perfectly medium rare, and absolutely delicious.)

Crisp Duck al Mattone with pear mostarda & Brussels sprouts. (Duck cooked weighted down by a brick, an ancient recipe, and beautiful. A whole duck, crispy as bacon on the outside, served on a wooden platter with that gorgeous fruity and pungent mostarda, and Brussels sprouts that not only didn't stink but tasted great -- ya just gotta know how to cook 'em.)

You get the idea.

Their cocktail menu is world-class, featuring classic and new cocktails plus a selection of terrific aperitivi, which our friend Eric helped put together when he was there. Here's an original cocktail created by him, for which he was kind enough to share the recipe with me. It's not only a great way to start a meal but a perfect refreshing drink for warm weather.

(Created by Eric Alperin for Osteria Mozza)

2 ounces blanco tequila (these days we're likin' Partida).
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice.
1/2 ounce fresh grapefruit juice.
1/2 ounce Campari.
1/2 ounce simple syrup.
1 dash Angostura bitters.

Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice, and garnish with a lime wheel.

Eric's now one of the founding bartenders at The Doheny, and Chris Ojeda is running the bar at Mozza as of the first of the year. It is undoubtedly one of the best places to drink (and eat) in Los Angeles.

The Fat Pack holds the key to long life.   "It's just like we've always known," said Diana as she forwarded this article to us yesterday:

She makes 114 look so easy.
Healthy and content, Gertrude Baines, the world's third-oldest person, celebrates her birthday at a Los Angeles nursing home.

In the courtyard of a low-slung convalescent hospital west of USC, Gertrude Baines was inaugurated Sunday into one of the world's most exclusive sororities. She turned 114 years old. There was cake. Singing. Proclamations. Superlatives. Because only two other people in the world are 114. There is no one older.

A former college maid with a fondness for hats, bacon and Scripture, Baines is the third-oldest person on Earth, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which validates claims of extreme old age. A year ago she was No. 9. It's not hard to figure out what happened in the interim. [...] Baines has outlived every known relative -- the husband she divorced decades ago, the daughter who died of typhoid at 18. Until Baines hit 107, she lived alone with the help of a caretaker. Today, home is Western Convalescent Hospital.

That's where she exercises daily in her wheelchair, watches "The Price Is Right" and -- like the 79 other validated super-centenarians who have made it to 110 or older -- serves as the canvas upon which observers paint their views of extreme longevity. [...]

These days, Baines' heart is strong. Her lungs are clear. She's healthy, except for some arthritis in her knees. Her main complaint? That the bacon isn't crisp enough at breakfast.

"She's got all of her marbles," said Witt, who examined her Wednesday and celebrated with her Sunday. "She knows where she is, what her background is. ... Maybe the Lord himself has something to do with it, to preserve this lady for as long as she's been living. It's just amazing."

She doesn't have too many rules to live by. She never drank and never smoked. She still gets regular exercise, in the nursing home's dining room. She goes to services every Sunday.

And as for food: "I eat bacon, toast -- I like all kinds of food. If it tastes good, I eat it. If it doesn't taste good, I don't eat it."

Yeah you rite, Miss Gertrude!

Although that never-drank part ... hmm. Well, if that was part of her longevity, I ain't gonna make it to 114. That's okay, though ... 100 will do.

When wings take dream.   In case you missed the BBC's report of April 1, here's Terry Jones presenting some incredible footage of a group of Antarctic penguins who've developed a wonderful new way to deal with the harsh winter.

More on that incredible footage here.

Spam of the day.   Every now and again a legitimate email gets trapped in my spam folder, so I go through it briefly before wiping everything. The good emails are usually pretty easy to spot, but every now and again I spot a spam that just cries out to be read ... and shared.

Yes folks, it's not your everyday, garden variety penis enlargement spam.

From: Edwina Torres
Subject: You must be The Real Man with huge dignity
Date: April 7, 2008 9:20:52 AM PDT

Accept the correct decision - be better!

Contrary to common opinion the man much more sensitive of the women. And if them something does not suit in itself they can become very much closed.

  • The most serious question is an relation with the women.
  • The women like strong, self-assured the men.

If you want to be such and to be popular in the women make one simple, but the very important thing - increase the member.

You will ask as? Very simply - reserve our means for increase of the member.
The large member is your reliance of itself.

Visit ours on-line shop.

Edwina Torres

"The large member is your reliance of itself." You don't hear nuance of language like that every day. We should get t-shirts made.

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  Monday, April 7, 2008

I wouldn't want to have to lift it.   A few friends have asked us, "So what do you have in your liquor cabinet, anyway?" After scratching my head for a minute, the only thing I can say is, "Hell, I don't know."

If you ask if we have a particular thing I can probably confirm whether or not we do, or if you ask, for instance, what kinds of rum we have, I could probably come up with most of them off the top of my head (and will inevitably forget some). But I really had no idea what all we've got.

I remembered that Paul Clarke had posted the contents of his liquor cabinet a while back, and I decided to steal his idea. It also served my tendency to be a compulsive listmaker. (Actually, Wes maintains the latter list.)

It's taken a pretty long time to accumulate this stuff. We have almost all of it on hand, and anything that we use often is replaced frequently; more expensive or less-used stuff is replaced less frequently. Some things we're still working on (like single malt Scotches, which will take a lifetime to learn). Mainly, I decided years ago that I wanted to be able to make almost anything I could find in old cocktail books, unless it was impossible due to an ingredient not being made anymore (and I made a couple of those myself). Also, Wes and I wanted to be able to drink world-class drinks at home, because as I've mentioned we were sick of going out and paying high prices for shitty drinks. We still drink at home a lot, but the going-out situation in Los Angeles is changing rapidly, thanks to bars like Seven Grand and cocktailian bartenders like Marcos Tello, Damian Windsor, Eric Alperin, Vincenzo Marianella, Chris Ojeda and all the folks behind the stick at Seven Grand, The Doheny, Comme Ça, Osteria Mozza, Sona, Providence and a growing number of other bars and restaurants. But we can't afford to go out and visit our bartender friends every night, and we love to entertain, and it's cheapter to drink at home, so ...

Here's what we have in our bar. And on the floor to the left and right of our bar. And behind the sofa. And behind the bookshelf behind the sofa. And in the pantry (well, the bottom shelf of the food pantry, part of the top 2 shelves of the food pantry, and the separate liquor pantry, which used to be a broom closet and for which I need to build shelves so that we can get the bottles off the floor and out from behind the sofa). Oh, and in the fridge. And in the other fridge in the garage. (This is what happens when you become a cocktail geek. Sheesh.)

Cocktail of the day.   This one's an original by Dr. Cocktail -- yay, we love it when Ted comes up with new drinks! This one, which he referred to as "my tequila cocktail," gets its name from the look of the garnish; the garnish is available at more well-stocked supermarkets or Asian specialty markets, and is the colored version of what you get in a little pile on your plate of sushi at a Japanese restaurant.

The Sow's Ear

2 ounces reposado tequila.
1/2 ounce apple cider.
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur.
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters.
Large thin slice of pink sushi ginger.

Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and float the piece of ginger as a garnish.

Delightful drink. We tried this with clear Martinelli's apple juice last night, but next time we'll use an pressed unfiltered apple cider, which I think will be a little better.

Keep him in your heart for a while.   Via Loki and posts made on Ashley's blog:

A major voice in the New Orleans blogosphere has gone silent, widowing a Rollergirl and orphaning three tiny children. As various local groups prepare a benefit we see major obstacles looming for the family including five figure expenses for the funeral. Please give what you can, even a few dollar here and there can mount up. There are needs that cannot wait on the fund raising events.

Please join the efforts of HumidCity, Defend New Orleans, NOLA Rising, WTUL, Tales of the Cocktail, The Big Easy Rollergirls, The Skull Club, L'Art Noir, and many more as we show the Morris Family what community really means!

Online Donations can be made at Remember Ashley Morris.

If you wish to mail a donation make the check out to Hana Morris and send it to:

c/o George Williams
5500 Prytania St.
PMB #417
New Orleans, LA 70115

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  Friday, April 4, 2008

Cocktail of the day.   It's just a gin and tonic, pretty much ... but my own spin on it. We frequently drink G&Ts this way once the weather starts getting warm (and it's starting right about now), and I never really gave this much thought until a bar manager from Asheville, NC wrote in recently He found my recipe for our G&T variation on the recipe pages and loved it so much he's putting it on his bar menu. (Wow, thanks!)

I didn't do much to it, really, but it does make for a lovely drink.

The St. Charles
(Chuck's Gin 'n Tonic, slightly kicked-up)

2 ounces gin.
1 ounce fresh lime juice.
4 healthy dashes Peychaud's Bitters.
4-5 ounces tonic water, to taste.
Peel from one lime.

In a tall Collins glass, add the lime peel (no white pith), then the gin. Muddle the peel slightly in the gin, then add the lime juice and bitters (don't be shy with the bitters). Fill with ice, then top with tonic water. Stir to mix, then garnish with a lime wedge and a swizzle stick.

We've been using plain ol' supermarket tonic water (Schweppes, usually), but any gin and tonic will reach a new height when one of the newer, high-quality tonic waters like Q Tonic or Stirrings is used. Or if you're really hardcore, use 1/16 of a teaspoon of powdered quinine (horribly bitter stuff in any significantly greater quantity) and a splash of simple syrup in some Ty Nant sparkling water. It'll take care of your malaria, too.

Last night's "Down Home" up for streaming.   It's here, as always (and thanks as always, Sean!), this week featuring Lenny McDaniel, Geno Delafose, Bruce Daigrepont, BeauSoleil, Buckwheat Zydeco, Walter "Wolfman" Washington & the Roadmastrs, Corey Harris, Jesse Fuller, Mahalia Jackson, Irma Thomas, Fats Domino, Cordelia's Dad, Triakel, Le Vent du Nord, Liam O'Flynn, Luka Bloom (new music), John Spillane, Peatbog Faeries, Bob French, Bessie Smith, Matt Perrine, Dr. John, Art Neville, Cubanismo! featuring John Boutté, plus Linda Ronstadt & Ann Savoy.

*urp*   Woops, sorry ... I enjoy soda, but it tends to make me a little gassy.

Imagine the danger, then, when stepping into a place that has over 500 different kinds of soda from around the world. This is, of course, Galco's, a beloved jewel in our neighborhood. The first time we visited, about six years ago, we got to the checkout and the cashier said, "First time here, huh?" How uncanny! "How did you know?!" I asked. She replied, "Because you've got a completely full shopping cart with only one of each bottle ... pretty typical!"

NPR did a nice piece on Galco's the other day, check it out.

Zweibel-Hackbraten, Hacksteaks mit speckkartoffeln, und Heringssalat!   Via Funtasticus.com:

"A German website, Pundo3000.com, has conducted a study of 100 different products by comparing the look of the products as shown by the packaging with the actual contents inside the boxes. Quoting the website, which is in German: 'All products were purchased, the packaging photographed and the contents prepared and photographed too. All products were then eaten up.' and also: 'The purpose of the project is not to discredit any brands or products but to critically compare the packaging advertising with the inside contents.'"

Et voilà ... the state of packaged, processed food in Germany, which includes:




Um ... no.

Well, I'm generally disinclined to eat packaged, processed and/or frozen dinners anyway, but some of this stuff looks particularly unappealing. Some looks okay, though, and I'd totally do that currywurst. Better than that, though is to go to Continental Meat and Sausage, 6406 San Fernando Road in Glendale, and get the affable German gent within to set you up with some house-made sausages, and a bottle of curry ketchup from Germany. Grill your sausages, cut them into chunks, and toss them in the curry ketchup, and you have one of the best fast food treats in Germany. I haven't had it there, but our friend and neighbor Chris (who's from there) turned us on to this and, and it's fantastic. Our fridge is now never without a bottle of curry ketchup, and it'll do wonders for your hot dogs or french fries too.

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  Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ashley Morris, RIP.   I went over to his site today to catch up, only to find this.

Besides being a regular commenter here, Ashley wrote one of my favorite New Orleans blogs, and among many other things was a tireless defender and passionate, voracious lover of New Orleans. After a number of abortive attempts, I was finally planning to meet him during this year's trip home for Jazzfest. I missed ya by three weeks, bra.

Please keep his family and friends in your thoughts, and there are far worse ways to spend your time than to go back and read his blog over the past few years. You'll see how full of life he was, a life ended far too soon.

Raise a glass of Jameson's tonight. The 18 year old stuff, if you've got it.

Cocktail of the day.   An old classic, dating back to Boston in 1898, simple and delicious. If you like Whiskey Sours, try this -- it's similar, but with the addition of a couple more flavor elements. We hadn't had this one in a while, and it served as a reminder that we should have it more often.

Ward Eight

1-1/2 ounces Bourbon or rye whiskey.
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/2 ounce fresh orange juice.
1 teaspoon real pomegranate grenadine.

Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

It's usually made with Bourbon, but rye gives it an extra spicy layer that I really like.

We have achieved ... dram!!   Hooray! The long wait is over. Eric Seed of Haus Alpenz has finally released his long-awaited allspice liqueur, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram. Paul Clarke gives it a detailed writeup in the San Francisco Chronicle (in which he was kind enough to mention a couple of efforts by your humble weblogger ... thanks Paul!).

Eric was kind enough to send along some samples a while back, and Wes and I did a tasting of four allspice liqueurs we had on hand -- two that I made (one with 151 proof Demerara rum, the other with a blend of dark and overproof Jamaican rums), Wray & Nephew's "Berry Hill" product, available only in Jamaica (and, when it's in stock, via via mail-order, and Eric's new St. Elizabeth. Of the four, St. Elizabeth had the richest, purest flavor of allspice, really amazing. It adds an amazing element to cocktails, and I love serving drinks containing pimento dram to friends and have them try to guess what the flavor components are. They're always close, but never quite get it, as is elabored in this bit from Paul's article:

"Allspice brings with it all these different elements," says Martin Cate, who used homemade versions of pimento dram at Forbidden Island in Alameda but is now switching to Seed's version. "There's hints of anise, there's nutmeg qualities, there's cinnamon - I mean, that's the name, right? There's so much going on that it adds a layer of complexity and depth to the drink that, in some cases, is not necessarily definable."

I picked up my bottle at The Wine House in West L.A. -- if it's not available in your area, you may be able to mail order it. Of course, you can still make your own, which is fun, but buying a superb product like this is frankly a lot easier.

At this rate it's going to be a lot more difficult to have seminars on "lost" ingredients -- just within the past year we've seen the renaissance of absinthe, crème de violette and pimento (allspice) dram. What's next? Forbidden Fruit? Crème Yvette? The long-lost peach eaux-de-vie from the 19th century? We can only hope!

Fettuccine Alfredo loses its title and crown.   Back in my culinary arts classes at UCLA (when the program still existed, sigh), one of my chefs referred to fettuccine Alfredo as "heart attack on a plate." Unsurprising, given the massive amounts of butter, cream and cheese in the recipe. However, I think we have a new king of heart-attack-on-a-plate. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, from the gret stet of Texas, and presented to you by a gaggle of morbidly obese people ... chicken fried bacon.

That's horrifying. I'd try it in a second. (Thanks, Tim!)

March Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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