This weblog is part of
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 (except when it's not), 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, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.
Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting. If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.
If you like, you are welcome to send e-mail to the author. Your comments on each post are also welcome; however, right-wing trolls are about as welcome as a boil on my arse. Search this site:
"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
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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...
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
NOLA.com & The Times-Picayune
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
People Get Ready
Suspect Device Blog
The Third Battle of New Orleans
World Class New Orleans
The Yat Pundit
Your Right Hand Thief
"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 -- as even a brief glance into the history of our finest lyric poets, musicians, artists, authors, and statesmen will attest -- right from the day of Wull Shaksper to our own generation." -- 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.
* * *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
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.)
(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!)
(Fantastic new small-batch
bitters company with forth-
coming products including
Xocolatl Mole Bitters,
grapefruit, "tiki" spice,
and sweet chocolate bitters, wow! Due to launch 6/09)
* * *Alcademics
(Gary & Mardee Regan)
The Art of Drink:
An exploration of Spirits & Mixology.
Bar Mix Master
(Brad Ellis, New Orleans)
(Jeff Berry, world-class expert
on tropical drinks)
(Seamus Harris, N.Z. & China)
The Chanticleer Society
(A worldwide organization of
The Cocktail Chronicles
(Paul Clarke's weblog)
(Group drinks blog by Vidiot,
Mr. Bali Hai, Kosmonaut,
Chico and me).
The Cocktail Circuit
Colonel Tiki's Drinks
(Craig Hermann, Portland OR)
A Dash of Bitters
(Craig Mrusek, bring art and
alcohol together for a
Drink A Week
(Alex and Ed)
(Bobby Heugel, Anvil Bar & Refuge,
(Online magazine for the
Esquire's Drinks Database
(Dave Wondrich and
An Exercise in Hospitality
(Chris Stanley, Clover Club, Brooklyn)
Fine Spirits & Cocktails
news & insider info)
(Celebrating the world in a glass. All-new site with recipes and back issues!)
In the Land of Cocktails
(Ti Adelaide Martin & Lally Brennan,
"The Cocktail Chicks," of Café Adelaide
& Commander's Palace, New Orleans)
(Bartender & mixologist, Portland, OR)
Jimmy's Cocktail Hour
(Rick Stutz, bringing us cocktails
and great photographs)
La Fée Verte
(All about absinthe
from Kallisti et al.)
The Liquid Muse
(Ladies United for the
The Ministry of Rum
(Everything you always wanted to know)
(The Munat Bros. host
cocktail gatherings in
Seattle, and write about them
here. I'm jealous that I can't go.)
(Blog, cocktail chat online
& Thursday Drink Night!)
The Modern Mixologist
A Mountain of Crushed Ice
(Helena Tiare Olsen, Stockholm)
Moving at the Speed of Life
(Keith Waldbauer, Vessel, Seattle WA)
Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
Swanky et al.)
(Hundreds of cocktail recipes ...
in Hungarian. Well, why not?
Sajnos, nem beszélek magyarul.)
The Munat Bros.
(Seattle-based brothers and
ardent proponents of fine drinking.)
Off the Presses
(Jay Hepburn, London)
(Kirk Estopinal & Maksym Pazuniak,
Cure, New Orleans.
Rowley's Whiskey Forge
(Matt Robold, The Rum Dood)
Save the Drinkers
(Kevin Kelpe, Boise, Idaho!)
(SeanMike Whipkey & Marshall Fawley)
(Marleigh Riggins & Dan Miller)
(F. Paul Pacult)
Spirits and Cocktails
Thinking of Drinking
(Sonja Kassebaum, Chicago)
Trader Tiki's Booze Blog
(Blair Reynolds, Portland OR)
Two at the Most
(Stevi Deter, Seattle)
The Wormwood Society
(Dedicated to promoting accurate,
current information about absinthe)
* * *The Tiki-licious Luau Spirited Dinner, July 17, 2008
(Eleven dishes of wonder by Chef
Chris DeBarr, with fabulous
tropical cocktails by Jeff "Beachbum"
Berry and Wayne Curtis. Full review
of the 11-dish, 4-course meal, with
photos and recipes for all 5 drinks.)
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
Chocolate and Zucchini
Mise en Place
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
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
In vino veritas.
Nat Decants (Natalie Maclean)
The Oxford Companion to Wine
The Wine Spectator
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:
Lisey's Story, by Stephen King.
The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi.
In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan.
Listen to music!
Chuck's current album recommendations
La Bottine Souriante
The Old 97s
The Red Stick Ramblers
Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots
Miles of Music
New Orleans Bands.net
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV
Long Beach Bayou Festival
Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA
WWOZ (New Orleans)
Live audio stream
Bob Walker's New Orleans Radio Shrine
(A rich history of N.O. radio)
Air America Radio
(Talk radio for the
rest of us)
Grateful Dead Radio
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
KRVS Radio Acadie
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
(Science fiction radio)
(Irish language & music)
Raidió na Gaeltachta
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
(Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)
Lookin' at da TV:
A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
J. T. Seaton
The Mirror Project
(My pics therein: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)
My photographs at Flickr
The Abominable Charles Christopher
by Karl Kerschl
The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy
Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed
Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley
by Aaron McGruder
Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson
by Garry B. Trudeau
Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley
Get Your War On
by David Rees
by Jonathan Rosenberg
L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz
by Peter Blegvad
by Al Capp
by Emily Flake
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner
by Walt Kelly
by Greg Peters
by Ted Rall
This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow
XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak
AlterNet.org (Progressive politics & news)
Daily Kos (My favorite political weblog)
Eschaton (The Mighty Atrios)
Hullaballoo (The Mighty Digby)
Media Matters for America (Debunking right-wing media lies)
Orcinus (David Neiwert)
PostSecret (Secrets sent in via postcards; astonishingly beautiful, funny and sad.)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.)
Borowitz Report (Political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Fray (Your stories)
Landover Baptist (Better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (Opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (Scarily funny news/satire)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (Read this.)
Whitehouse.org (Not the actual White House, but it should be)
Weblogs I read:
The Carpetbagger Report
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
Neil Gaiman's Journal
Not Right About Anything
August J. Pollak
This Modern World
Your Right Hand Thief
Friends with pages: The Final Frontier:
Déanta: This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple iMac 24" and a G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.5 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.)
"Eating, drinking and carrying on..." -- Adelaide Brennan
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
LAST POST: Looka! attempts to enter the 21st Century. This will be the last Looka! post you ever see as a completely hand-coded weblog. And if you're reading this via an RSS reader, this is the last post you'll see until you update your RSS reader, as the feed is changing. More below.
Changes are afoot, kids! I've finally decided to take the plunge and convert this weblog into one that is entirely powered by WordPress, and thereby joining other weblogs of the current century. There are several things you'll have to keep in mind during this transition, if you're going to stay with me (and I sincerely hope you will).
First off, it's going to take time. My dear friend Marleigh Riggins Miller is doing the conversion for me, but it's on her own time, so it might be a bit before we get started. Plus, I'll be in Europe for 2 weeks starting in the 3rd week of October, so that'll slow posting down a tad. I have a simple, temporary template up now, though, and I will be able to get posts up. They'll be ugly, but readable.
To further complicate matters, I'm changing the URL of the blog.
As of this moment please change your bookmarks and website links FROM http://www.gumbopages.com/looka/ or especially
http://www.gumbopages.com/looka/index.html to the following new URL:
The first of the old URLs above might work for a while, but the one ending in /index.html will NOT. Please change them as soon as you can. Sorry for the hassle.
UPDATE! The RSS feed will also be changing! Please change your RSS feed FROM http://www.gumbopages.com/looka/looka.rss to the following new URL:
This WordPress thing is gonna be good in the long run, but it's a huge pain to set up. ("The famous five-minute installation," my fishbelly white Irish ass.)
Looka! is gonna look like hell for a bit, until Marleigh's finished, so please bear with us. This is a lot of work for both of us, but it will ultimately be a Very Good Thing, believe me. I'll be able to post more easily and quickly, and I hope more often.
If you attempt to hit my URLs now you'll get the WordPress version, so to make a comment on this post hit the archived page at http://looka.gumbopages.com/archive/2009-09.html#30 where it'll be permanently archived.
See you on the other side. This is exciting!
And thanks for sticking with me for 10 years and then some. Let's see if we can make it another 10.
xo[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Cocktails of the day: Aviation Gin. Ryan Magarian, Portland-based bartender extraordinaire and co-creator of Aviation Gin was in town and behind the stick at The Varnish last night, slinging his gin into a host of delectable cocktails.
Alas, no photos, because it was dim (like I like it) and my iPhone camera doesn't do well in dim, and I didn't have my regular camera with me, and y'know, sometimes I just want to drink and talk and socialize and have a good time and not have to worry about lugging cameras around and popping off flashes in dim bars for the frakkin' weblog. (Sorry, I love you all but I'm sure you understand.) I'm happy to write about it, though!
First cocktail was an Aviation Gin take on a classic Dry Martini, which Ryan referred to as a 7th Street Dry. "For a true dry Martini, I really think you need a London Dry Gin, which Aviation is not," Ryan said. But treating Aviation as if it were in this cocktail was still mighty tasty. Take two ounces Aviation Gin, a half ounce of Dolin Dry Vermouth (specifically) and two dashes of Angostura orange bitters, with a nice big spray of oil from a lemon twist. The other botanicals in the gin, the cardamom and lavender especially, play beautifully with the herbal bouquet of the Dolin vermouth. Yummers.
The second one I had ... well, I have to confess, it was so beautiful I kinda wish I did have a good picture of it. Amongst the Florence flasks full of cocktail ingredients that were arrayed along the bar was one containing a slightly foamy, brilliantly deep-red fluid that almost looked like Tru Blood. It was, in fact, fresh extracted red bell pepper juice, key ingredient in another of Ryan's originals:
2 ounces Aviation Gin.
1 ounce fresh extracted red bell pepper juice.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
3/4 ounce clover honey syrup.
2 mint sprigs.
In a mixing glass, lightly bruise one mint sprig (do not crush), then add the spirits, juices and cracked ice. Shake until cold, then strain into a cocktail couple. Spank the other mint sprig over the cocktail, and garnish.
This was really, really lovely. I love savory cocktails that have more vegetal flavors, and this one was perfectly balanced between sweet (with nice flavor from the honey) and sour, plus the bell pepper juice with its own sweetness and crispness ... you can almost feel the texture of biting into a piece of pepper. Gorgeous color too. I wanted to go home and juice a bunch of red peppers! Ryan consulted on the cocktail menu at the Westside Tavern in West L.A. and this is on their menu, so head on over and have one or three.
Among the others we tasted were an Alaska Cocktail (2:1 gin to yellow Chartreuse, and 2 dashes orange bitters) and an Aviation (natch), plus we watched him make for someone else a Blackberry Honey Collins that looked and sounded delicious, but I needed to drive home, alas, so it was water by that point.
Ryan was encouraging us to create new cocktails that play specifically to the flavor characteristics of Aviation, as a "New Western Dry" style gin, rather than simply drop it into coctkails thave been traditionally made with London Dry. Given that the liquor fairy just brought me a bottle, I think we'll do just that. Let's see if I can manage at least one or two by the end of the month. (Good luck with that!)
Shamarr covers Nirvana. Here's Shamarr Allen, great New Orleans jazz trumpet player and jazz / funk / rock / hip-hop bandleader, covering "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, September 18, 2009
Thursday Drink Night: Kahlúa Coffee Cream. Today I am not only writer and mixologist, but also God Emperor of Procrastination. This event happened a week ago, alas, but I've been pretty slammed the last couple of weeks. Sorry 'bout that. Let's make up for it with a drink.
A week ago last night Malo Taquería in Silver Lake hosted a live, in-house edition of Thursday Drink Night. In case you hadn't seen a mention of it around these parts, TDN is a presentation of The Mixoloseum, hosted weekly in its online chat room from 4pm until around midnight Pacific Time (7pm until when the East Coasters get tired, Eastern Time) in which a topic or particular spirit is explored by the participants, many drinks are made far and wide and we sample, critique and discuss. It's a lot of fun, and you should join in sometime (there's usually always someone in the chat room, not just on Thursday nights).
On Thursday, September 10, the sponsored product was Kahlúa Coffee Cream, a not-yet-released product that should be out within the next month or so, in time for the holidays. It's a cream version of the well-known coffee liqueur, and should prove to be very popular.
Of course, I being me, problem child that I am ... I'm not a fan of cream liqueurs in general. Kahlúa Coffee Cream is a good product though, with a robust coffee flavor (100% Arabica beans used in its production, as with the main liqueurs) and the creaminess isn't too cloying, with a relatively light mouthfeel. It's excellent on its own over ice, or poured into coffee ... but liqueurs like this are notoriously difficult to mix with. Despite my dislike for cream liqueurs, I wanted to come up with a drink that did justice to the sponsor's product, but was tailored to my own taste.
My solution? Add a trainload of bitters to it. :-)
My first idea was for what I called the "Caffè Flip," in which Kahlúa Coffee Cream was the base and which I augmented with Fernet Branca (Fernet and coffee is a well-known combination). I tried it at home and really liked it. Some tasters in the chat room preferred it with 1/2 ounce Fernet, but I like it at 3/4.
2 ounces Kahlúa Coffee Cream.
1/2 to 3/4 ounce Fernet Branca.
1 whole egg, separated.
3 dashes Fee's Aztec Chocolate Bitters.
3 dashes Fee's Old-Fashion Aromatic Bitters.
Separate the egg, reserving the yolk, and dry-shake the white without ice for 30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and yolk with ice and shake for 15-20 seconds.
Strain into a wine or port goblet and top with grated nutmeg.
I packed my bartending kit and headed to Malo, armed with the necessary bitters just in case the bar didn't have them. They did, in fact (well-stocked bar, y'all!), but to my surprise they had no Fernet Branca in the bar! Ah well, I should have known that a tequila bar might not necessarily carry strong Italian bitters. It is for this very kind of occasion (plus indigestion, overindulgence and sheer craving) that I keep a flask of Fernet with me most of the time. However, I neglected to refill it before heading over, sigh.
I was searching behind the small service bar for something I could substitute, when Marleigh suggested, "How 'bout Angostura? I think that's all we've got." Bingo!
Marleigh and me, mixing at Malo
Photo shamelessly stolen from Matt Robold
This version, which I think I like even better, switched languages from Italian to Spanish, as Trinidad is closer to South America than it is to Italy. If it's too bitter for you, use the smaller amount of Angostura, but I prefer it with the 3/4 ounce amount.
In case you were wondering, the reason for the separation of the egg is because when I tried to shake all of it together, I didn't get a satisfying head of the kind I like when I make egg drinks. There must be some food chemistry at work here with the cream content of the liqueur, I suppose. When I tried separating the egg and dry-shaking the white first, then adding the remaning ingredients and yolk, I got the nice, thick, creamy head you see above you (which would be even nicer, thicker and creamier had my egg been and not two days after the sell-by date).
2 ounces Kahlúa Coffee Cream.
1/2 to 3/4 ounce Angostura bitters.
1 whole egg, separated.
3 dashes Fee's Aztec Chocolate Bitters.
3 dashes Fee's Old-Fashion Aromatic Bitters.
Separate the egg, reserving the yolk, and dry-shake the white without ice for 30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and yolk with ice and shake for 15-20 seconds.
Strain into a wine or port goblet and top with grated nutmeg.
I'll soon have a No. 2 version of this with Kahlúa Especial and rum instead of the cream liqueur, as soon as I think of what rum I'd like to use. Stay tuned.
Plucky Survivors See America Four! Days 3 - 4. The Plucky Survivors have finished their trip and come home during my unexpected weblogging hiatus, but if you've fallen behind we can pick up right where we left off, and you can continue following their journey a couple of days at a time, or feel free to skip ahead and finish. I'll keep posting their tales a couple of days' worth at a time in the meantime.
Day 3: Continuing if not the death theme, certainly what some might consider the morbid theme of the day, we next went to the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia proper, which has been a showcase for medical curiosities for nearly 150 years. Oh it was glorious and disgusting. Displays on conjoined twins! An 8 1/2 foot long colon! Various bodily diseases graphically modeled in plaster, or sometimes, in life! Stuff that's too horrible to discuss in glass jars!! One of us said, "Ew!" The other said "Goodie!" We'll let you decide which is which.
One particularly disturbing display takes a few minutes to make its emotional impact, nearly an entire wall is taken up by a collection of skulls, each one labeled with the previous owner's name, nationality, occupation, age, and cause of death. Slowly, as you read each label, one's mind begins to comprehend that these are the mortal remains of a human being; that you're looking at what is left of someone who once lived and laughed and ate on this earth. Like all good memento mores it's sobering to the say the least. [...]
Heather saved lunch by producing Whoopie Pies - two halves of chocolate cake with creamy white icing in the middle, a delicacy not unlike a Hostess Suzy Q, but obviously in a realm considerably higher.
Yay, death and chocolate Whoopie Pies!
Day 4: Today in morbid tourism, we went to visit Jayne Mansfield's grave in tiny Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania. Mary has seen Ms. Mansfield's cenotaph at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, pretty much forever since her parents took her there as a child - yes, cemetery visiting was and is considered a legitimately fun family outing. So seeing where she's actually buried felt like coming full circle. We were pleased to note that it's a suitably flamboyant heart-shaped edifice.
Then we recommenced our drive through the flatly beautiful, if comically named Poconos - seriously, say it out loud, it's funny - to the Shawnee Mountain Ski Area, which was holding its annual garlic festival. We firmly believe that a life without garlic is no life at all, so hooray! We sampled garlic dips! And garlicky oil! We sampled garlic honey and roast garlic on foil. We munched on bulbs so sharp and so pungent, we ate rolls garlicky from the bun tent. [...]
Okay, garlic for breakfast. What's for lunch? Hamburgers of course at the 6th Annual Taste of Hamburg-er Festival in Hamburg, Pennsylvania. [...]
Now that we've had breakfast and lunch, we have consider dinner. And what better place to do that than in Hershey, Pennsylvania? [...] Best. Day. Ever!
Day 5 -- Hershey to State College!
John Boutté sings for Charity Hospital. The best male singer in America writes and sings a new song to help raise money to bring back New Orleans' Charity Hospital.
[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, September 4, 2009
Plucky Survivors See America Four! Days 1-2. Yep, it's that time of the year, kids (and I'm running a bit late, eek!) My good friends Mary and Rick, a.k.a. The Plucky Survivors (both of whom are facing life-threatening illnesses). For the fourth year in a row, they're taking an 1,800 mile, 11 day road trip across America, this time starting in D.C., then off to Baltimore, Philadelphia, Hershey, State College, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, back to D.C., Virginia Beach then back home to L.A.
Day 1: After an easy plane flight and picking up this year's Plucky Mobile (a sparkly new, fully loaded Ford Edge with so many buttons and geegaws that we actually had a hard time figuring some of it out), not to mention braving a little Washington DC metropolitan area rush hour traffic, we entered our nation's capital with a nice view of the Washington Monument.
We have a serious crush on our First Family, so much so that every time we passed an interesting/historic/just plain gorgeous building or street Mary found herself thinking, "I wonder what President Obama thinks of that place? Has Michelle gone to that one? Did Sasha and Malia eat there? Did Bo poop nearby?" [...]
Parenthetically, Mary was about to embark on her usual raid of Rick's amenities when she remembered she doesn't actually have any hair and therefore doesn't actually need any more shampoo at this moment.
Checking out a number of promising awnings along New Hampshire Avenue, we decided to dine at Otello, where the service people appeared to be from Italy but the menu leaned a little more closely to Italian-American - which, by the way, we're big fans of because it's the comfort food from our childhood. In fact, Rick's spaghetti bolognese and Mary's Italian sausage penne had us acting like Proust's Madeleine and we were instantly 11 again.
Somewhat more mature conversation was going on at the next table where a first date was evidently in progress. We wondered if such an occasion is the appropriate time to dicuss one's topless sunbathing in Italy. No, there were no pictures, much to the gentleman's dismay. [...]
Day 2: To get on a White House tour is difficult because you have to go through your Congressperson who only has so many tickets per day and then if you manage to get an entrance for the day that you want you're going to have to pass an FBI background check. Even though we know we have done nothing that would have raised any alarms, this is still disconcerting for some reason as it brings back a lifetime of indiscrections that suddenly seem much more serious than they ever were. An unreturned library book will probably not keep you from getting a White House tour, for future reference. [...]
Anyway, we finally got on the road to Baltimore, though we deliberately took a round-about trip there in order to pay our respects at yet another grave, that of notorious and beloved John Waters' performer Harris Glenn Milstead, aka Divine. [...] Without a human attendant or a map, we had to rely on a scanty location, direction, and photo from findagrave.com, but after a little effort we did locate Divine. For the record, "near a small parking area on the lower level" is not exactly accurate, unless they consider the grass a parking area. If you are inclined to visit there is a single road that winds through the cemetery, first on an upper level, then turning left and down to a lower level. As soon as you finish making that turn, the grave will be over a few rows on your right. [...]
Then we walked a couple of blocks to a barbecue shack we had noticed on the way so that Rick could have dinner. The Harbor Que (see what they did there?) is within a stone's throw of the south side of the harbor and serves up what they refer to as authentic North Carolina BBQ. They have everything from pulled pork to smoked polish sausage plus ribs, smoked chicken, and more, but Rick decided the occasion of his 43rd birthday called for ham. Thinly sliced direct from the pit on a fat roll, it was delightfully smoky and the homemade sauce put it into BBQ heaven. Plus it had extremely cheesy mac and cheese and homemade cornbread on the side! Mary cursed her malady that prevented her from having an appetite big enough to have a second dinner. [...]
Coming up tomorrow ... Baltimore to Philadelphia. The Museum of Mourning Art. The Mutter Museum. The American Philosophical Museum. Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell. The National Constitution Center. A cheesesteak. (Or two. Or five.)
Wondrich dispels Sazerac myths. Dave's been doing this for a while now, laying it down officially in his marvelous book Imbibe!. New Orleanians love telling the story about how the Sazerac is the first-ever cocktail, and that the cocktail got its name because Antoine Peychaud served his brandy-and-bitters drink in an egg cup, called coquetier in French, and that got anglicized to "cocktail." It's a great story. There's just one thing ...
It ain't true. (Of course, when has that ever stopped anyone from telling a good story?)
Dave will be giving a seminar at The Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans on Tuesday the 8th, entitled "The Big Two Revisited: A Fresh Look at the Origins and History of the Sazerac and the Ramos Gin Fizz". Dave gently stomps on some of our cocktail myths (long overdue for someone to to this, really) and will make a case that the city's "official cocktail" pickers got the wrong one.
What have you got against the Sazerac?
I've got nothing against the Sazerac. I love the Sazerac. However, my job, as far as I can determine it, is to look at the evidence and write about what is in the evidence. So all I'm going to do this time is bring as much of the evidence as I've got and let people draw their own conclusions.
What are some examples of the myths and nonsense surrounding the Sazerac?
The myth that it's the first cocktail. Failing that, that it was this distinctive, unique to New Orleans thing to put absinthe in a cocktail, which is not true. It's even a myth that there was such a thing as a Sazerac cocktail as we understand it now in the middle of the 19th century.
Although I love Sazeracs too, I'd be happy with Dave's choice for what should be New Orleans' official cocktail, except for the fact that they're so damned fattening.
August Looka! entries have been permanently archived.[ Link to today's entries ]
Saturday, August 29, 2009
8 . 29 . 2005 Four years ago today, this was happening:
Click for archived page with animated image of Katrina's path
The population is back up to 75% of pre-Katrina levels, it's the fastest-growning city in the country and has the lowest unemployment rate. But New Orleans still has a long way to go. NPR did an excellent series of reports this week:
Four Years Later, New Orleans Still Recovering: How are New Orleans and its people faring, now that the national spotlight has moved on to other places? Host Scott Simon speaks with two New Orleanians: Chris Rose, columnist for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans and author of the book, One Dead in Attic, and Randy Adams, Weekend Edition's friend from the city.
La. Family Finishes Rebuilding, But Struggles Go On: Four years after Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana residents Donald and Colleen Bordelon say things are looking better. The construction on their house is finally complete. But their struggles aren't over -- and there are some things they'll never get back.
The Gulf Coast's Recovery: Uneven And Uneasy: Four years after Hurricane Katrina, housing is still elusive for some storm victims. In the small fishing villages along the Alabama Gulf Coast, the storm made a hardscrabble life even harder. One town is using federal money to move residents to higher ground, but not everyone wants to go.
Obama: No turf wars, red tape in Katrina recovery: President Barack Obama marked the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Saturday by pledging to make sure that turf wars and red tape don't slow the pace of the continuing recovery. He also said he would visit New Orleans by years' end.
Reporter Examines Events At New Orleans Hospital: In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, more than a dozen people were found dead in New Orleans' Memorial Medical Center with morphine or the quick-acting sedative midazolam in their system, prompting allegations that they were euthanized by medical professionals. A news story by ProPublica reporter Sheri Fink details the events at the hospital.
Derelict Buildings House Thousands In New Orleans: Four years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has regained about 75 percent of its pre-storm population, and there are signs of economic progress. But although New Orleans is rebuilding its arts and tourism venues, including a $165 million theme park in New Orleans East, a shadowy second society exists. An estimated 6,000 homeless people squat in abandoned homes and office buildings in New Orleans. Since Hurricane Katrina four years ago, the homeless population in the city has doubled.
New Orleans: A Day's Work Doesn't Mean A Day's Pay: Wage theft has become a large problem in New Orleans, where day laborers are integral to the rebuilding process. As many as 80 percent of Latinos interviewed in the city say they've been ripped off by employers, according to a recent survey. The City Council president plans to introduce legislation to make wage theft a crime. [What, it wasn't a crime before?! - CT]
The AP gives a dose of sober reality: "Hope, reality collide in post-Katrina New Orleans":
Shelia Phillips doesn't see the New Orleans that Mayor Ray Nagin talks about, the one on its way to having just as many people and a more diverse economy than it did before Hurricane Katrina. How could she?
From the front porch of her house in the devastated Lower 9th Ward, it's hard to see past the vegetation slowly swallowing the property across the way. Nearby homes are boarded up or still bear the fading tattoos left by search and rescue teams nearly four years ago. The fence around a playground a few blocks down is padlocked.
"I just want to see people again," she said recently, swatting bugs in the muggy heat.
There's plenty of good news, though. The charter schools are working well, a brand-new public/private teaching hospital is to go on the old site of Charity Hospital, things are very encouraging for small business development, the old flagship location of Ruth's Chris Steak House (who abandoned New Orleans and relocated their corporate offices after Katrina) is being turned into a community health center, and oddly enough New Orleans is on firmer footing than most of the rest of the nation during the recession. "Indeed, the construction boom spurred by massive federal and private investment has helped insulate the New Orleans area's economy as markets around the country have flagged." That boom can be seen throughout the city, and comes closest to my own history as we see my high school alma mater preparing to open their stunning new campus in Gentilly.
The best thing the city has going for it right now is its people. There's a deep sense of New Orleans pride among its residents, and a lot of great work is still done on a grassroots level.
As the city and the Gulf Coast continue their recovery, we must not let people (and especially the government) forget that in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina was not a natural disaster. Hold their feet to the fire. The Gulf Coast must have restoration of the wetlands (a natural hurricane barrier) and Category 5 flood protection for the city.
The Gambit's "Best of New Orleans. The local weekly papuh's annual best-of is out.
To recap but a couple, Parkway Bakery and Tavern is named for Best Po-Boys ...
And Cure was named Best Bar for Creative Cocktails:
I know, big surprises there. :-)
The recovery of Parkway and the appearance of a new business like Cure (which is truly a world-class bar) say a lot about how the city is doing, and progressing.
"..." That represents my general speechlessness about the forthcoming debut of this new "reality" series from A&E:
At first I thought, "This has to be a joke," then I remembered something about him actually having been deputized. (As if dealing with JP cops in general isn't enough.) Part of me says, "Gaaah, run away!" The other part says, "Oh, we must watch the insanity!" (Thanks, Tim!)
(My favorite comment in the spew that is most YouTube comments was, "Steven Seagal: Fatman." For lack of a better term ... LOL.)[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, August 28, 2009
Such a view. Here was our view of the Angeles Crest fires last night, looking off our back porch.
That's about eight miles away. It's far, and we're not particularly worried so far, but it's scary and freaky and very disquieting to see sheets of flame coming off the top of that mountain. So, a sheet of flame that's about 3/8 inch tall from eight miles away is how tall exactly? 0.375" in degrees of arc, divided by .... uhh ... math geeks, feel free to chime in.
Cocktails of the day: Scotch. Well, we figured that if the air was going to be full of smoke (oddly enough, we hardly smelled any last night, due to the lack of wind), we ought to drink some smoky drinks too. Scots whisky was appointed.
Copper Swan Cocktail
(Created by Gary Regan, 2000)
2-1/2 ounces Highland Park single malt Scotch whisky.
3/4 ounce apricot brandy (liqueur, not the eau-de-vie).
Stir with ice for 20 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and serve up with a twist or, if you prefer, into an Old Fashioned glass with fresh ice.
The name came from the swanlike copper neck of old copper pot stills, which are traditionally used to make single malt Scots whisky. This was one of a series of single malt Scotch cocktails Gaz created, resulting in aghast cries from those who assert that one should never mix a single malt Scotch. "Garbage in, garbage out!" he rightly replied. I chose to use Rothman & Winter's Orchard Apricot rather than Apry for its lower sugar content. We didn't have any Highland Park 12 in the house, so I went with the 18. Lest you gasp in horror ... this was a frakking fantastic drink.
Lucques Restaurant in West Hollywood, CA makes a variation of this that looks interesting, kind of a blend between this, a Rob Roy and a Breakfast Martini. It's sufficiently different such that it should have its own name, I think, although they still call it by the same name as the original. I think it deserves at least a numeric distinguishment.
Copper Swan Cocktail No. 2
(Adapted by Lucques Restaurant, West Hollywood, CA)
1-1/2 ounces Highland single malt Scotch.
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1 tablespoon apricot preserves.
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters.
Combine with ice, shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
Given the proximity of the fires, and the "Oh, FECK!" factor, even though they weren't close enough to be really worrisome, we resolved to keep drinking, and stayed in the Scotch oeuvre. This next one is from Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book, yet in a Gargantuan quantity for six people. We adapted it thusly and found it to be delightful, like a Rob Roy but with near-equal proportions, far more bitters and a little more sweetening to offset the bitters. Lovely.
1-1/2 ounces Famous Grouse Scotch.
1-1/4 ounces Carpano Antica sweet vermouth.
1 teaspoon Peychaud's bitters.
1 teaspoon simple syrup.
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Lemon twist garnish.
We're still not getting much smoke tonight, although my eyes burned a bit this morning. The fire's moving toward Altadena, and we have good friends who are only about a mile away from its current position. Wish them, and everyone else in Altadena and La Cañada-Flintridge, the best of luck.
Pairing cocktails with food. One of the better seminars at Tales of the Cocktail this year was by Melkon Khosrovian of Modern Spirits and TRU Organic Gin, called "The Science of Cocktails." Primarily it was about pairing cocktails with food and why it works so well (contrary to what some sommeliers, and egotistical chefs (*cough*CharlieTrotter*cough*) say). I'll write up something coherent from my notes soon (god, was that six weeks ago already?).
In the meantime, here's an excellent article from Epicurious called "Dare to Pair Cocktails and Food". Ryan Magarian (of Aviation Gin), and Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg (a husband-wife chef-writer team who have written some of the most amazing books on culinary arts -- The Flavor Bible is, well, my bible) comment on what works when pairing cocktails and food, and a lot of it is knowledge of flavors plus common sense.) Sample recipes for food and drinks are provided (yay!).[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The List. Bobby Heugel of Anvil Bar and Refuge in Houston (one of my very favorite bars) has released "The List," which is one hundred "libations we feel you should try at least once in your life ... for better or worse."
Click for larger, readable version
When I went through this list and counted, I found that I had had 89 of those libations. Last night, I decided to start for the finish line and raised the total to 90.
(as served by Harry Craddock, Savoy Hotel, London, 1930s)
3/4 ounce London dry gin.
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
3/4 ounce dry vermouth.
2 barspoons (1 tsp) absinthe.
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.
Erik, as part of his long exploration of the Savoy Cocktail Book, wrote about the Fourth Degree and said he'd enjoyed it more by drying it out a bit, upping the gin to 2 ounces (and using Junipero) and 1/2 ounce each of the vermouths. However, the original proportions worked out beautifully for him by using Tanqueray, Dolin Dry and Martini & Rossi Rosso. Last night we used Beefeater, Dolin Dry and Dolin Rouge (with PF 1901 as the absinthe), and it was pretty damn good. I'll try the drier version too, and see what I think.
Next, the Coffee Cocktail will make it 91.
Punch of the day: Cape Fear Punch. I've mostly given up on the Food Network, because about 90% of their programming is crap (then again, as Sturgeon's Law is often cited, albeit slightly incorrecty, 90% of everything is crap). I do still watch "Good Eats" occasionally, because Alton Brown is one of the few remaining good things about FN. A recent edition of his show that's been sitting on our TiVo finally got watched last night, and it was about punch, a subject near and dear to our hearts 'round our house.
As usual, Alton has done his homework (which I suspect included reading David Wondrich's Imbibe!), and right off the bat taught the Teeming Masses the long-cherished basic formula for punch ... while dressed as a 17th Century buccaneer:
ONE of sour
TWO of sweet
THREE of strong
FOUR of weak, plus
(Alton, of course, being a fellow geek, had has deckhand recite, as he got to the fifth part, "He who controls the spice controls the Universe ... the spice must flow!" Heh.)
He started off with a very simple punch recipe, using pints as the measurement and making a rather huge batch. One of lime juice (with the spent hulls), two of Demerara sugar, three of Batavia Arrack (to my surprise and delight) and four of tea (warm, so as to help dissolve the sugar), with grated nutmeg. The arrack will likely be difficult for some folks to find, but a title card said that it's available "on the world wide web" (the source for all things).
The main punch recipe he dealt out, though, looked mighty good, and I'm looking forward to trying it:
CAPE FEAR PUNCH
For the base:
750ml rye whiskey.
1/2 cup Demerara sugar.
3 bags green tea (although I'd be tempted to substitute oolong).
4 whole lemons.
For the punch:
2 small oranges, thinly sliced.
4 small lemons, thinly sliced.
2 750ml bottles of sparkling wine.
1 liter sparkling water.
Large ice block.
For the base: Pour the rye whiskey into a 4-quart container. Fill the now empty rye whiskey bottle with water, pour into an electric kettle or saucepan, and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until the temperature drops to 190 degrees F. Place the tea bags in the kettle and steep for 3 minutes.
Add the tea, rum, and Cognac to the whiskey. Peel the zest from the lemons, being careful to get only the yellow zest and not the white pith. (A vegetable peeler works best.) Wrap the peeled lemons in plastic wrap and reserve in the refrigerator. Add the lemon zest to the mixture, and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
For the punch: Strain the base into a large punch bowl. Juice the reserved lemons and add to the punch bowl. When ready to serve, add the sliced oranges, lemons, sparkling wine, and seltzer water; stir to combine. Add the ice block and serve with freshly grated nutmeg per serving to taste.
You can do this in two batches, to keep the bubbles fresh. Add half of the base with one bottle of the sparkling wine and half the seltzer, and repeat when your guests have drained the bowl.
The Oldest Bartender takes a break. Angelo Cammarata retired today. As far as we know, he was the world's oldest bartender:
"Camm," as people call him, started serving beer at his father's North Side grocery the moment Prohibition ended at midnight on April 7, 1933. The memory is as clear to him as the strike of the library clock that signaled it was time to start opening bottles of Fort Pitt. His immigrant father built a bar on that site in 1935 and Angelo kept working there, taking a break to serve in the Navy in World War II.
Enjoy your retirement, Camm!
Quote of the day: The Manhattan. One of the best bits of cocktail writing I've seen."The hour arrives; we chill our cocktail glasses. Crisp, clean ice fills the tall tumbler where sweet sour mash and deep crimson vermouth tumble together over the cubes; liberal dashes of bitters fall into the fray. The long, slender bar spoon slowly enters the glass, gently easing its way between the slick cubes, turning slowly, introducing the threesome to one another. The ménage à trois indulges in prolonged foreplay, the ice melting, ever so slowly, over their bodies. They caress, probe, taste, and explore each other's desires. Time passes; they find their roles. Whiskey is a dominant soul, fiery yet gentle, gruff yet soulful, he wants to control the passion. But dear, sweet vermouth, her body slathered with rich, ripe fruits, tongue coated with sensuous spices, gently insists her whims be met. The struggle for power subsides into a blissful compromise; each has found its soul mate. The bitters slip in, out, and around the intertwined couple, softly nuzzling every nook and cranny, making the union complete. Passion is high as they leave the ice -- the time is very, very near. The glasses reach our lips. Oh God, that's good."
-- gaz regan, 1995.
I had read this one a while back, and had forgotten about it. Thanks to gaz and Angus Winchester for digging it back up again.
Harry Shearer at Rising Tide, New Orleans. Here's a bit from the recent Rising Tide conference number 4, in which the New Orleans weblogging community gathers to put their heads together on rebuidling New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. Harry, an adopted New Orleanian who divides his time between there and Los Angeles, was one of the main speakers at RT4 this year and related an anecdote about confronting Brian Williams of NBC News at a conference at Tulane, 9 months after the flood, and the question he asked him:
The entirety of Harry's 27-minute talk can be found here.[ Link to today's entries ]
Several of my friends and loved ones (and a few kind strangers) contribute regularly to this weblog, providing links, comments and sometimes lots more. Thanks to Wesly Moore, Mike Luquet, Mary Herczog, Steve Hochman, Dave Schmerler, Nettie DeAugustine, Diana Schwam, Andy Senasac, Michael Yasui, Steve Gardner, Michael Pemberton, Steve Kelley, Barry Kelley, Eric Labow, Tom Krueger, Greg Beron, Sean Burke, Shari Minton and Barry Enderwick.
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