Saturday, January 31, 2009

It's Not Too Late!

You, too, can make a Superbowl Sunday dish I saw in the local paper. Picture it ... a big, rectangular serving bowl -- loaded with guacamole which has been evened off with the flat side of a knife. Now imagine cream cheese piped in little lines to represent the yard markers -- now dot three red and four yellow cherry tomatoes on the "field" -- those represent players' helmets! Isn't that cunning?

Clearly I didn't get the memo, but when did Superbowl Sunday eats start to pass Thanksgiving Day stuffing? You know, when you push away from the table feeling like a boa constrictor that ate a goat?

Domino's Pizza expects to sell "enough pizza to cover 50 football fields!" I find that scary myself...But bon appetite and may your team win! And your numbers come up in the pool!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Odds and Ends

Laundry & a Pizza -- Sears can't come out until Monday to take a look at our washer. The clothes were piling up. So we took them to the laundromat next to Valentino's Pizza. The price for one load of laundry (washer only) is $1.75! How's that for sticker shock?

But in the length of time it took us to order and then eat our slices of pizza, the laundry got done!

Run, Avocados, Run! -- National Public Radio had a segment on the fear that there wouldn't be enough chicken wings for Superbowl fans. Relax -- the reporter said that there will be one billion (billion) available for your dining pleasure, along with something like 10 tons of guacamole.

Made Me Laugh -- the old IHOP near the gym was sold to one of those Chipotle places. Naturally, they're doing some work on it. The sign hanging off the front reads: "Burrito-fication in progress!"

Going for an Even Dozen -- I read in this morning's Page Six that Joan Rivers is not only getting royalties on her book ("Men Are Stupid/Big Boobs") but one of the plastic surgeons she touted in it is giving her a free arm lift in gratitude. She will have had 12 of the 15 procedures she wrote about ...

Finally! -- they've repaired the up escalator from the parking lot at our gym. It totally freaks me out to have to climb a stilled escalator. It's wrong; the escalator should be moving, dammit! And, yes, of course, it's funny to take an escalator to a gym. I know that.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


We took Jane to the Getty. Cannily we planned our visit to include lunch at their excellent "Main Cafe" where there are a variety of choices -- regional (Asian, Mexican) hot sandwiches, fries, onion rings, fresh salads, a daily double of soups, and "grab and go" sandwiches. A lot of the food is prepared to order ("Hold the lettuce!")

Portions are generous and plates are garnished with a sprig of parsley or a couple of spinach leaves. Richie and I had cheeseburgers which come with cole slaw ($11.90 for both of them) and Jane had a tuna melt ($7.95) with lovely, crunchy onion rings for the table ($1.95) Lunch for all three of us was $23.60 and money well spent. It's a big, sunny room with dynamite views. Added attraction: Putting your used tray on a conveyor belt and watching it disappear through a hole in the wall.

The Main Cafe, Getty Center 310-440-7300

It was Jane's last night in town and she wanted to have dinner "by the ocean so we can have a drink and watch the sun go down." Richie thought of Old Tony's, but I countered with the Chart House which is right on the beach (and, better still, has a big, free parking lot) so that's where we went.

We sat at the bar and watched the sun blaze across the horizon and the fire blaze in the bar's fireplace. I ordered fresh potato chips with Parmesan and white truffle oil ($3.99) to snack on with our drinks. They seem to be the latest rage locally and I wanted to try them. Here the Parmesan was scattered sparsely, only a few chips seemed "oily" (as in "laden with truffle oil") and they were just ... okay. We'll see how they heat up in the convection oven tonight.

We were moved to a window table (great view) and ordered dinner. Because their salad bar has caviar (side: $6.99; dinner $15.99) I ordered that and a bowl of lobster bisque ($7.99.) Jane had a Caesar salad ($6.99) and the crab stack tower on a bed of chopped, ripe mango with a topping of avocado chunks ($13.99) and Richie the shrimp trio -- coconut, scampi and grilled with seasonal vegetables ($26.99.)

Jane liked her salad and crab stack, "Oh, the mango just makes this dish! The crab seasoning is a little ... sweet." My bisque arrived with a scoop of lobster meat right in the middle. It was served in a cunning little steel bowl with a lid to keep it hot. Richie didn't say much about his shrimp then, but this morning he said, "I really don't think their food is all that good." Dinner was $67, the bar bill was ($73 - wines by the glass) for a total of $130 plus $26 tip.

Chart House, 231 Yacht Club Way, Redondo Beach 310-372-3464

Truth be told, we had better food at the Getty. But if you want a sunset beach view, the Chart House is the place to go. The Getty's ocean view is a little ... distant.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cougar Attack!

My cousin is an LA County Fire Department captain with an engine company in Palos Verdes, aka "The Hill" to locals. We (Jane, Richie and self) met him at Polly's on the Pier for breakfast Monday moring and he told us this true story --

Perry and the engine crew were sent to help on the Butte County lightning complex fire near Chico, Calif. During a mandatory rest break, the crew decided to go into Chico and see what it was like In town, they were immediately recognized by a pair of 40-something women who squealed with joy, "We LOVE firemen!" Both were well-built with capacious bosoms.

One of them launched an attack on the chief, who laughingly brushed her aside, saying, "We're all married -- except him!" pointing to Mike, the new guy on the crew. Undaunted, the woman lunged at Mike, grabbed him in a bear hug, kissed him right on the mouth and followed that up with a love bite on his neck!

Naturally the rest of the crew have their cell phones out, snapping pictures, but one guy proved to be more enterprising -- he added a voice over. "Uh, oh! Cougar! She's spotted her prey! Chief fights her off! Now she's spotted Prey #2 -- she's attacking! She bit him! He's fighting her off! He's successful!" and showed it around. Everyone had a good laugh.

Until the next morning when the battalion chief called an all-units respond meeting. He began by saying, "Yesterday Engine Company #364 was attacked by a cougar so I want you all to pay close attention when you're in the brush."

When the truth was explained to him, he had a good laugh. But I say, "Beware, young men -- there are cougars in Chico and they're hungry!"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ah, Contentment!

9 a.m. Monday morning ... out on the long patio-pier that looks out over the Redondo Beach marina ... sun pouring down, coffee cups being replenished with a smile - Welcome to Polly's On The Pier, 233 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach 310-318-3736 for a look at the menu. There's ample parking in the vast lot and Polly validates!

We had a family meeting there yesterday -- my sister, my cousin Perry and us. Even though the menu warned "this is spicy" and even though our waitress said, "It's kind of hot" Richie and I both ordered the Huevos Rancher ($7) which comes with beans, potatoes and choice of tortilla. Jane went for the guacamole-cheese omelet ($8). Perry had two fried eggs and an apple muffin (don't ask; he's weird.) The eggs were $4.95. Coffee $1.60 and refills are free.

The huevos were indeed spicy but it was a good kind of heat. Jane's omelet was a generous portion with lots of guacamole and cheese. Clean plates were the order of the day.

It was so pleasant to sit there with family, basking in the sun, listening to the waves against the breakwall. I recommend it for good food -- and tranquility! Validated parking is always good for bonus points with me,.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Extreme Makeover

"Men Are Stupid ... And They Like Big Boobs; A Woman's Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery" by Joan Rivers with Valerie Frankel. Pocket Books $25 288 pages

Clearly, men are not the only ones who are stupid. Rivers boasts that she's had 11 of the 15 procedures detailed in this book which range from mild (skin peel) to major (surgeries of 5 or 6 hours on the table.)

She believes that getting man rests solely on one's looks. How medieval is that?

Rivers apparently wants the admiration of men (plural) but has no desire to have her own (singular.) She's 75, been through endless procedures -- perhaps she's afraid intimacy would cause a massive migration of body parts?

She espouses treatments from the top of your head (hair transplants) to your toes (fat injections for bony feet.) The "mommy make-over" is "not recommended until you stop breast feeding your last child" and is rather grotesque. The surgeon goes in through the belly and stitches your abs back together again like tightening a shoe lace. I was horrifed to read about beautifying one's lady parts! 'Way too much information. ...

But if you've ever looked at some part of your body and murmured a thoughtful "Hmmm" to yourself, you'll enjoy this book. What did strike me as funny (besides some nice catty lines) was Rivers' habit of telling readers that if they don't like surgical descriptions, to skip on a few pages.
Not too helpful if you're actually considering that procedure.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Running Amok

My sister is in the air, on her way here from Chicago. She'll be at LAX in 40 minutes.

But, hark! What's this? Yon washer has quit on me! It won't do the final spin-dry before the clothes go into the dryer. I had to hand-wring out two pairs of sweats and a pair of fleecy pajamas. How my heart went out to pioneer women! But enough about them -- gotta get to the airport!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Aw! Such a Sad Widdle Book ...

"Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone" edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler 168 pages $14.00

I think that many of the 26 writers whose essays are published here might not quite grasp the difference between "solitude" (usually good) and "loneliness" (usually bad.

It's hard to feel peppy! and write about the loneliness of dinner solo every night unless you do grasp the difference. It made for some very strange eating habits. One woman ate fresh asparagus every day for two straight months. Granted, she lived in Michigan. "The Year of Spaghetti" by Haruki Murakami. There is an ode to the goodness of black beans. Some of the writers set the table with cloth napkin, nice silverware and a rose in a bud vase. Others eat right out of the pot over the sink.

Universally, these writers are "poor and struggling" or living in literary communes on fellowships and/or grants.

These types are to me "In love with the idea of writing" and know nothing whatsoever about actually doing something commercial enugh to be saleable. If you're funded, you can sit on your keister and write all the ironic tales of chickens star-crossed in love on a deserted ranch in Wyoming that you want to, but if you're going to live in the real world (pay bills) then you need to know that writing is just as much about business as it is about creation. Posture about "The Muse" all you want to, but being able to brag about a seven-figure sale to Hollywood is infinitely better.

Sorry, the above is a pet peeve with me. Where was I? Ah, yes, the essays. Mostly amusing, all are short chapters and if you like to wallow in bathos, pathos and depression -- have at it! Bon appetite!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

As Promised - Guest Editor!

My cousin Doug and his lovely wife, Melanie, of Anderson, IN. They attended Reagan's first in 1980 and this is what Doug wrote me about it.

"Everyone should have a chance to attend a Presidential inauguration, if for no other reason than to experience the incredible sense of expectation that accompanies the occasion and then to later reflect upon the impact on history of that president she/he watched repeat the oath of office.

The thing I remember most was when Reagan walked to the microphone to deliver his inaugural address. One of the first things he uttered was that the American hostages being held in Iran had just been released and were boarding a plane en route to an American base in Germany. The sustained cheer that erupted from that gigantic crowd was incredible -- everyone had a tear in their eyes.

The photo ( above) was taken less than 15 minutes following the conclusion of the inauguration, after which we "adjourned" from the Capitol lawn to the Senate Office Building where we attended a reception for Indiana's delegation hosted by our two Indiana Senators of that era Dan Quayle (a future Veep) and Richard Lugar (an old political friend of many years.)

There were eight balls on the evening of the inauguration and every State seemingly had its own special "dinner dance." The Indiana Society of Washington, DC, sponsored one that included a seven-course dinner with dancing between each course! There was entertainment between the dances. It was extremely "rich" in its appeal.

The inaugural ball that we attended was held in the Pension Building (a beautiful place) with the Glenn Miller orchestra providing the music and our hosts for the evening were Robert Conrad and Donnie and Marie Osmond. We were invited to enjoy seating and champagne with the Joseph Coors family. It was high-brow, but we had fun anyway. Melanie made her own ball gown and received many compliments on her "choice of designer."

To be honest, I don't remember much about the preceding two days because we spent most of that time roaming around DC, taking in the sights (and a few libations.) The Smithsonian was very interesting and I was intrigued by the manner in which they had suspended Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis" from the cross-irons of the ceiling.

I was truly awed by the reverence and precision of the military's joint services' silent drill team's performance when we watched the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery.

You might recall that Carter declined to illuminate or dismantle the national Christmas tree as long as the Americans were held as hostages in Iran and the day we left was a dark, gloomy day so we drove by the site and saw that it WAS illuminated! It doesn't seem too moving of an experience today, but it certainly brought forth great pride among us in 1981."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


My sister is flying out this Saturday. In an effort to beautify at least our part of Redondo, Richie and I had 11 a.m. hair cut appointments. Since that was at 11 a.m., we naturally had to go eat something (La Playita, Hermosa Beach - excellent Mexican food) and then stops at the post office, supermarket, tobacconist. To explain why there was no blog today, but tomorrow's promises to be interesting. A guest editor telling about the Presidential inauguration he personally attended. Waiting for copy approval from him.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In 1863, 145 years ago, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation

In 1905, 103 years ago, a group of distinguished blacks issued a manifest to end discrimination and establish full civil liberties for blacks.

In 1960, 48 years ago, America elected the first avowed Catholic president.

Today we have our first black President.

My questions are: why did it take so long? And: when are we going to have a Jewish president?

In other news, Cousin Marvin, in South Texas, writes "I rented a port-a-potty and put it in my driveway to use today just so I could be a part of this wonderful celebration."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Minor Discoveries

Broccoli I'll eat it at home, but never in a restaurant. Why? Because at home I can hide the flavor! Old stand-bys include steaming it and then saucing it with oyster or char siu sauce. Recently I discovered something new to do -- take the raw brocoli and trim it and then mercilessly chop it up. That's right - express your hostility! Then put a slick of olive oil in a skillet big enough to hold the broccoli and toss it in. Stir well and put a lid on it. Check it after a bit and if it seems to be cooking, well add 2 T Trader Joe's Black Pepper Sauce and 1 T of water. Stir well, put the lid back on and turn off the burner.

Pork Chops I Start saute-ing pork loin chops. When one side is done, flip it over and "butter" it with Dijon mustard. Carefully put little bits of Swiss cheese on the mustard. When the cheese melts, the other side of the chop is done. Richie found this recipe somewhere and loves it.

Pork Chops II Ever since I thought of it, I've been curious to see what chopped bits of dried apricot, raisins and cranberries would do for a plain bread dressing. Noticing we had two end slices of sandwich bread (we don't eat them but a baguette end is delicious) I made dressing -- touch of sage, lots of black pepper, bread, broth and my fruit bits. I baked it separately since I had more dresing than chops. Worked out well and it's an alternative to potatoes or pasta and a good way to use bread heels.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


On December 16, 2008, the movers and shakers for Redondo Beach gathered for a ribbon cutting (read: photo opp) at our new fountain, corner of Catalina and Pacific Coast Highway.

It took more than a year to build - flower beds, curving walkway and sculpture in the center. It cost $1 million. The sculpture is supposed to represent our friends, the dolphins -- curving wings arching up toward the sky, but when the sun hits the glass and aluminum Just Right, they look like huge opalescent fly wings to me.

Nevertheless, the fountain (when working) has mists of water and at night, colored lights turn the wings different colors.

"All very well and good," you mutter, "But why the hell am I reading this?" Well, because it seems that the movers and shakers, hell-bent on beautification, forgot the power lines (220,000 volts each) are within reach of the gauzy mists put out by the fountain.

Edison (our electricity supplier) questioned in a letter to said movrs whether the fountain would perform as advertised and shut off automatically in "inclement weather" (wind and rain to us.) As it turns out, one side does; the other doesn't. This was discoveed by an independent contracting company (more taxpayers' money) and there will be no water misting until Edison and the City settle matters to their mutual satisfaction.

There is, however, a small detail that both sides have clearly forgotten. We are in a drought! We're about to have to have water rationing! Did they not realize that misted water is wasted water? It dissipates almost at once, never to return.

Whose bright idea was this anyhow? The Tar and Feathers Department stands at the ready ...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Art World Insider

"Seven Days in the Art World" by Sarah Thornton W. W. Norton & Co. 274 pages $24.95

Thornton has a BA in art history and a PhD in cultural sociology (whatever that may be.) She has written prolifically for ArtForum, the New Yorker and several BBC broadcasts.

The first chapter is a visit to an auction at Christies, New York. She interviews the auctioneer, several of the guests and gives us a look at the art press regulars. In Switzerland, for Art Basel she asks a married pair of collectors if she can follow them around and the woman is appalled and blurts, "That would be like asking to come into our bedroom!"

She believes that art people play one of six distinct roles -- artist, dealer, curator, critic, collector or auction-house expert and as she goes through the book, she interviews these types. All of the above are competitive and to a great degree snobbish. Artist John Baldessari remarked that "Artists could wear stripes like generals, so everyone would know their rank." Meaning one ribbon if you won the Turner Prize (Tate Galleries, London -- only four artists are even considered for it; only one wins.) Another for Highest Price Ever Paid at Auction and then the various auctions could be graded and assigned colors. An amusing concept.

Though the book's copywrite is dated 2008, it took awhile to write it, i.e., before the financial bubble burst all over the world. Very, very few people are paying $13 million for a Warhol or $20 million for a Damien Hirst. Not any more, they're not. Read about them now because unless the financial world takes an uptick, they'll be a vanished breed.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Aviation Guru

I'm lucky enough to be friends with a retired United Airlines pilot. He and his lovely wife live in Illinois, thus we've never met, but have only exchanged e-mails and Christmas cards over perhaps a four year period.

Nick is my go-to-guy on all things in the air. When the Airbus hit the Hudson, I was amazed to see how well it floated! I e'd as much to Nick who e'd back, "Floats well, flies like s--t. Happy New Year (unless you're trying to get to Charlotte.)"

Experts! Where would we be without them? You can visit Nick at

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Big Excitement at the Senior Center!

The South Bay Writers Workshop (less formally known as "Thurs. Writers") meets in a room at the Veteran's Park Senior Center. Today we were ousted from our normal space because a casting company was auditioning seniors for a Microsoft commercial! There was a great stir and bustle in the hallways and corridors. Even Bingo! was disbanded. We were invited to sign up! The only criterian seemed to be: you must be older than 60.

Dale, Donna, Emma, and Bob signed the call out sheet and then the individual form (name, age, address) that all had been given. I abstained. I know I look too young; why waste everyone's time?

Excitement successfully stifled, we repaired to the sunny patio and settled in to our business.

About an hour later, Dale and Emma were called in to be filmed and questioned. Then Bob and Donna. "Tuesday is call back day!" the harrassed-appearing casting director said. "You're the last bunch" she sighed and turned back to her photographer.

'Is it too early to be thinking Oscar 2010?" I mused as we all left the building.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Midwest Meatloaf

Sue and I have been friends since kindergarten (all the way through senior year in high school, educationally.) She reads me and recently wrote, "Was reading your blog regarding meatloaf ... have never used ketchup or salsa. Sig (late husband) had never eaten meatloaf like mine, but loved it cold for sandwiches on wheat bread with mayo. Think this is similar to what my Dad cooked when he was a chef on the railroad to earn grad school money."

Sue's Midwest Meatloaf
1/2 lb. ground chuck
1/2 lb. veal
1/2 lb. ground kosher or Italian sausage
1/4 cup onion flakes
1 teas. ground pepper
1 teas. celery salt (left over from the Bloody Marys while it cooks!)
1 teas. garlic salt
1 large egg

Mix all together then add 1/2 to 3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs (in a shaker jar, the cheap ones). Blend well and pat into an oval shape and put it into a coveed cooker. Surround it with peeled new potatoes, 1 small package baby carrots and 1 quartered Vidalia onion plus 1/2 to 1 cup water depending on depth of metal or ceramic covered cooker.

Bake at 350 for one hour and 15 minutes. Serve with brown gravy with an added small jar of drained mushrooms.

This is truly my kind of winter cooking - one meal in one pot! (Ed.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pints and Flutes

Or: The French and the English just aren't that into each other...

Bouzy, 1611 S. Catalina, Redondo Beach 310-540-1222

After Sunday's jazz club meeting, we (Pat, Bob, Richie and self) ankled across the corner to Bouzy's. I'd read their positive ink (thank you, Richard Foss!) and it sounded perfect for what I wanted -- to have a nibble and raise a flute to Pat and Bob in honor of their up-coming 50th wedding anniversary.

Pat, a fellow grazer, was enthusiastic. The men were less than thrilled ("Where's the meat and potatoes, dammit!?") No worries, mate - management knows these differences and the menu reflects them.

Bouzy is touted as being a sort of a cross between a British pub and a French wine bar/bistro. The room is reminiscent of a pub with wooden walls halfway up, more booths than tables. The menu offers starters you would be offered with drinks in a French home -- olives, pate, salami, cheeses. Then it expands into pub grub -- hamburgers, fish and chips - staple items.

We ordered the chicken pate ($7) for the table. "Chicken Pate" also means "chopped chicken livers" to me and it's a mainstay on Jewish dining room tables. This one would not have been welcome - it's bacon-wrapped which made me grin.

Richie got the Knife and Fork Atomic burger -- a thick beef patty with cheddar cheese, a pair of crossed bacon slices underneath it, tomato, horseradish sauce, fried onions and vegetable slaw ($13) Centered on the plate; nice presentation.

Bob wanted the Shepherd's Balls (quite probably for the name; he relished it) consisting of mashed potatoes, short rib, mushrooms and corn with a beer, bacon, onion gravy. ($8)

Pat wavered between a couple of items and then said, "Southern Fried Chicken Salad, please." ($15)

Since I'd eaten most of the pate, I only ordered a pair of deviled eggs ($2) and the house-marinated salami ($4)

Quibbles: The chicken pate was listed as coming with baguette slices (it did) and pickles (most usually cornichons.) It didn't. Instead there was a tidy pile of marinated red and yellow peppers, a whole carrot and green beans.

Richie said the barbecue sauce (not horseradish as billed) was a little on the sweet side and he didn't care for it all that much. Pat's chicken nuggets were very dry (overcooked nearly to burnt) and the salad was simply lettuce and dressing. Bob ws happy; so was I except that the house-marinated salami arrived as a log and my dinner knife wouldn't cut it. It wriggled and shot around on the olive-oil coated plate. I finally got the waiter's eye and asked for a sharper knife. He eventually returned with a steak knife which really didn't work any better. I finally just used my fingers and bit off chunks. If you order it, ask for it to be sliced in the kitchen. Clearly that's where they keep the sharp knives.

Despite the fact that there were five or six servers and an echoingly empty room, service was slow. The servers (all male) were intent on a football game on the big screen TV over the bar. Previously, the outstanding service was one of the things I enjoyed at Chez Melange.

Still and all, I'll go back. Chez Melange's sophistication (even when it doesn't quite come off) appeals to the snob in me. Dinner for the four of us came to $49. Their food prices are, by and large, reasonable and portions are generous. I would advise you to stick to water. Avoid the "wine list" of beers (all expensive.) The cheapest wine was $6 for 3.5 ounces (and naturally that's what I ordered.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Out On the Dance Floor

Yesterday was the monthly South Bay New Orleans Jazz Club concert. They're held at the Riviera Village Knights of Columbus on Avenue I and run from around noon to 4:30 or 5 p.m. A very nice lady sells hot dogs, popcorn and slices of two kinds of cake for nominal sums. The bar is equally as, er, cost effective. We hooked up with Pat and Bob (Brodsky) and enjoyed ourselves.

It's a mixed crowd (mostly older people) and no particular dress code that I've ever discovered. The club's president usually wears a Hawaiian shirt, jeans and work boots. I spiff it up a little with a sweater, slacks and loafers (as opposed to Winter Sweats and Uggs.) One of the women officers has a dress that I love -- black like a priest's soutaine but with crimson buttons and underskirt. I always compliment her on her "bishop's dress."

There is a couple that we call "The Dancing Fools" -- he must be either a professional or a dance instructor and she matches him step for step. Yesterday they came whirling out on the dance floor at warp speed from behind my line of sight and it was as if they'd magically appeared -- Fred and Ginger!

The female half of another couple (he was so indistinguishable that I remember him not at all) was a sight to behold. I wondered how a streetwalker had gotten in the door. Her outfit had a longish skirt with a bright metal zipper extending from the waist, down over her left hip and opened at upper thigh level to a deep slit. She was wearing patterned black hose (think spider web) and long, pointy-toed, very high heels. Tall and slim with a mop of disheveled platinum-blonde hair, she had a kind face. She danced sedately enough, but we all kept an eye on that zipper -- if she'd pulled it any higher, she could have flashed us the Full Monty.

The featured band did something I'd never seen -- three or four of the wives (presumably) had piled opened, decorated umbrellas -- sequins, ribbons, bits of feather -- in front of the piano. At the intro to a particular number, they all walked over, each grabbed an umbrella and began parading around the dance floor. One lap and they went back to the piano and pulled out a second umbrella, offering it to the ladies ringside. Pat nearly broke her arm pointing at me. Abashed, I took it, held it to cover my face and started looking for the next victim. The ladies at the table behind us were uninterested, but across the room I found me a sucker. She was "slightly disguised" (drunk) and heaved herself up, took the umbrella and pranced away. I slunk gratefully back to our table.

After the featured band finished, the pick-up musicians took the stage and two pairs of teenagers took the floor. The boys may have been brothers; the girls were taller than the boys, who bounced most enthusiastically across the floor. For safety's sake, we all cleared the floor leaving them to it. What they may have lacked in poetic grace was more than made up for in sheer exhuberance.

However, when they sat down, fanning themselves after a couple of numbers, an interesting thing happened. An older Asian man and his wife took to the floor. She was wearing a summer '60s cocktail frock (fitted; think Jackie O) and sensible shoes. He was wearing high-waisted, belted trousers. Perhaps they were left over from the '30s, perhaps custom-tailored? I have no idea where they could be purchased today. He had to have been at least 80 years old and I would have put serious money on 90. He was very bowlegged which gave him a rather tottery stance, but he tore into the music, thrashing around like a teenager. I truly feared a broken hip! The climax of their duet was a rather arthritic, arm-flashing Charleston! He seemed to be looking at the teenagers' table .. I'd like to believe he was thinking, "Take that ya little punks!

I can hardly wait for the February meeting -- so many delicious possibilities.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

American Schmuck

"American Prince, A Memoir" by Tony Curtis (nee Bernie Schwartz) with Peter Golenbock Harmony Books $25.95 364 pages

Curtis' tale is so trite -- rags to riches to rags, persecuted as a Hungarian Jew (who apparently never went to temple,) the mandatory drug interlude (cocaine in the '80s) constantly-arguing parents (and bad parenting on his part -- his children are largely estranged from Dear Old Dads) and what he thought of various co-stars. Naturally, he was best friends with Sinatra, Dean Martin, Cary Grant, Rock Hudson -- on and on. Happily, they're all dead and can't sue for misrepresentation.

Still, it's an amusing read, probably because of all of the expected (not "surprising") twists and turns. Curtis seems to have confused "lust" with "love" no less than four times in the marital field and countless times on the loose. His first wife, Janet Leigh, was the only "star;" the next two were starlets, who abused him in various ways. He has been married to #4 for 10 years, something of a record for him. He had four daughters and two sons, one of whom was dead at 23 from a drug overdose.

Best of all (and funniest) is the fact that he never learns. At the end of the book, he talks about squeezing in time for his grandchildren!

He contradicts himself throughout -- "I was dead broke" then some pages later, he boasts, "I made more from my real estate deals than I ever did acting!" Inference being, "So who needs it?" Followed by, "My life was over -- I couldn't get any (acting) work!"

He is 83 and his last chapter is titled, "Maybe I'll Live Forever!" If it's possible for libido to out-live common sense, maybe he will!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

This would seem to be Saveur magazine's not-so-thinly veiled attitude towards fiscal 2009. The February issue presents recipes to make your own deli-style mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Louisiana-style hot sauce and ketchup!

These are not things to make that would have occurred to me. There's a bottle of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce in the hall closet; none in the refrigerator - I find it too salty to use. I'm hooked on Maille Dijon mustard; no need to make something different. I collect hot sauces, why would I want to make my own? We never use ketchup.

You, however, may be of a different mind, so have at it! Bragging rights are all yours.

WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE (This has a ton of ingredients. My advice? Buy some!)
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup tamarind concentrate
3 T yellow mustard seeds
3 T kosher salt (OMIT)
1 teas. whole black peppercorns
1 teas. whole cloves
1/2 teas. curry powder
5 cardamom pods, smashed
4 chiles de arbol, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 one in. stick of cinnamon
1 anchovy, chopped (optional and no, I wouldn't use this)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 in. piece of ginger, peeled and crushed
1/2 cup sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan -- except the sugar -- and boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Cook the sugar in a separate skillet until it becomes dark amber and syrupy - about 5 minutes. Add the sugar to the vinegar mixture and whisk; cook the sauce for 5 minutes and put it in a glass jar with a tight lid. Refrigerate for three weeks; strain to remove the solids and put it back in the jar. It'll last in the refrigerator for up to eight (8) months.

Make a spice bag (cheesecloth tied with string) of:
4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon
1/4 teas. celery seeds
1/4 teas. chile flakes
1/4 teas. allspice

2 lbs. tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 cup white vinegar
5 T brown sugar
1 onion, chopped
1 Anaheim chile, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed

Put the spice bag in with the other ingredients and cook until the onion is soft, about 40 minutes. Take it off the fire, take out the spice bag and discard; let it cool a bit and puree it. Strain the puree and cook the rest for another 30 minutes. Let cool and put it in a bottle.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Middle Managers Lunch Room

Houston's, 1550 A Rosecrans, Manhattan Beach 310-643-7211

The first thing we saw when we walked in was a gaggle of servers clustered around the pass-through, milling about, looking for their particular plates. Male and female alike wore black pants and vests, white shirts and aprons.

The room is big, dark (with lampshades that look like upside-down Outback Bloomin' Onions.) Banquets line the wooden walls and tables and chairs sprout along the windows which are cellar level -- you can see legs and shoes going past on the sidewalk - quite amusing if you like the NY basement feel. The whole place is a bastion to men - has a very "I say, old chap" clubby feeling to it.

Males are catered to with buttonhole napkins, macho steak knives and such manly items as True Idaho Baked Potato - $5; Black Beans and Brown Rice - $4. Desserts are five-nut brownies or apple walnut cobble, both $8. Our server rattled off about five specials of the day (all fish and all entrees.)

Richie ordered a bowl of tortilla soup ($7) and a French dip on a house-baked bun with cole slaw ($16.) I ordered a cheeseburger and fries ($13.)

The tortilla soup was extraordinarily creamy with generous chunks of white chicken and avocado and a veritable forest of tortilla slivers jutting up from the center of the dish. I tasted it and remarked, "It could have been a little warmer!" and Richie added, "Could have been a little more of it, too!"

My cheeseburger had melted cheddar top and bottom, half a head of shredded lettuce, two tomato slices and perhaps 1/2 teaspoon of chopped onion. "Can't reek of onion all afternoon -- do think of the stawff..." The burger was so big I was reminded (fearfully) of Big John's Cafe's 32-oz. version. To my amazement, I ate easily two-thirds of it and didn't feel "full" afterward. Shoestring fries, quite tasty.

Richie said his roast beef was very good. The cole slaw had a lot of parsely in it ("stawff" again?) but the horseradish sauce was strangely bitter. All in all, it was "good enough" but not a place that we'll be salivating about until we can return.

Especially as the tab was $38.97 (no drinks, just water.) I tipped $7.97 (the suggested 20% on the ticket bottom) and we walked out of there $46.76 later. Bit rich for my blood, old chap.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Good Pretzel; Bad Pretzel

"The Deen Bros. Cookbook - Recipes from the Road" by Jamie and Bobby Deen Meredith Books $24.95 223 pages

Jamie and Bobby are the sons of Paula Deen, "The Bag Lady" who got her culinary start selling box lunches to office workers. She eventually made it to the Food Network and her boys followed her into television.

This book is kind of a bait and switch in that the boys drive across our country, sampling roadside food and praising it to the skies (usually with the sycophantic murmur "Almost as good as Mamma's") but then giving us their version of the dish described. Very few chef's/cafe owners would give them their recipes.

Super Bowl Sunday will be here soon and here are two recipes that amused me --

Package of six frozen pretzels, thawed, split in half and toasted
Slices of deli turkey and lettuce with this dressing:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/8 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup whole berries cranberry sauce

Bad Pretzel (shame!)
1/2 cup of milk
2 T sweet butter
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sosur cream
1 teas. deli-style mustard
splash of hot sauce

Bring the milk and butter to a boil, reduce the heat and add the cheddar cheese and whisk until smooth. Add the cream cheese, sour cream, mustard and hot sauce and whisk again. Serve the dip warm with pretzel sticks (fat or thin) for dipping.

Odds and Ends

Garlic: I can report that squeezing a clove of garlic between thumb and index finger does pop the skin right off. Unfortunately, the French grandmother trick didn't work for me. Either French forks have thinner, sharper tines or else French grandmothers have greater upper body strength, always a possibility.

The Dentist: I had my teeth cleaned yesterday and at the end, the technician gave me a little, tiny toothbrush - think "suitable for a mouse" - and said that as we age, our gums recede (much like our hairlines, libidos and investments) and to use it between my back teeth.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fig Leaves

"A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes" by David Tanis Artisan $35 294 pages

The cover illustration is a pair of figs, probably what caught my eye. I'm at a loss to describe why I'm so enamored of figs, Perhaps they mean "autumn" - my favorite season? Their elegant simplicity - wrapped in pancetta and gently baked, split open with a dash of balsamic vinegar? I truly don't know. But, dammit, I am!

Tanis is a Chez Pannisse chef veteran (10 years) and the forward was written by Alice Waters, praising him to the skies.

What he's done is to present a year's worth of seasonal menus, with recipes and some chef's tips. This on peeling garlic - hold the clove between your thumb and forefinger and squeeze until the skin pops off. (I smack the clove with the flat side of my chef's knife and that works just as well.)

Making garlic paste? "The French grandmother method: hold a fork, tines down on the cutting board and run the clove back and forth across the tines. Or thin slice the garlic, sprinkle it with a little salt and scrape the knife back and forth across it.

His writing style is casual, but clearly he is a sensualist who enjoys food and all the ceremonies that surround it -- choosing it, preparing it, serving it and dining on it with friends.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In the News/On My Mind/Off My Chest

This morning's Daily Breeze ( has a front page article "Obama tax cuts may hit $300B" by Steven R Hurst, AP. The second paragraph reads:

"If the two-year plan is enacted, workers would see larger paychecks almost immediately because taxes withheld by the government would drop. The break would be retroactive to Jan. 1, and couples receiving a $1,000 tax cut would begin receiving an extra $40 in twice-monthly paychecks AS THE GOVERNMENT TRIES TO SPARK MORE CONSUMER SPENDING."

Hello? More consumer spending is exactly what we DON'T need. What we do need is for people to pay off their debts. We have a new generation that was never taught and never learned something called "financial responsibility." If you can't afford to buy it, smile at the shop owner, put it back on the counter and WALK OUT THE DOOR. How hard is that?

Instead many of these people are only satisfied with instant gratification ("I must have it") and a totally unfounded sense of entitlement ("I'm worth it.") The part they're missing is the day that the credit car bill or the mortgage or car payment notification arrives at their domicile and they don't have the money to pay it. An older generation might well call this "the day of reckoning."

You can't, in fairness, expect people to do what they've never been taught. So I propose re-establishing wage garnishment and that credit issuers get a whole helluva lot tougher about repayment. You miss a month? That card is dead plastic in your pocket. You want it back? Pay your bill.

Oh, and on a larger scale, all major CEOs now work for $1 a year for fiscal 2009. Bill Gates included.

Somehow, somewhere the message has got to be gotten across: It's cash and carry, not charge and run.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Medical Narrative II

"Trauma Junkie - Memoirs of an Emergency Flight Nurse" by Janice Hudson. A Firefly Book $15.95 250 pages

Working in the San Francisco Bay area, Hudson left a full-time job in ER to work for California Shock/Trauma Air Rescue (CALSTAR) and part-time in the ER. It was the helicopter angle that interested me.

When the emergency helicopter is needed, the pilot tells the dispatcher their estimated air time to the event and they go. On arrival, they have a ground contact (fireman, cop) who tells them where they can land safely (away from wires and other obstructions.) Once they do, they go to the patient. If it's a "hot" pick up, they leave the rotor blades turning and the pilot stays with the helicopter. The nurse then gets on the radio to the hospital to which they are transporting the patient and advises them of the patient's condition, what they're doing to treat him/her and when they'll land.

It was an interesting read and the material was well-presented with explanations of "why" as well as "what" they do.

"Bedside Manners - One Doctor's Reflections on the Oddly Intimate Encounters Between Patient and Healer" by David Watts, MD Three Rivers Press $14.00 281 (largely worthless) pages

Watt is a physician, NPR commentator and a poet. If that isn't enough to scare you away, he writes conversations with no quotation marks at all. As a literary "style" it totally sucks and is major laziness or a literary conceit at its worst. I'm surprised his editors (if, in fact, any) let the book go through like that.

Watts is quite full of himself and prides himself on his "thoughtful" examinations (navel-gazing expeditions) of patients -- not only their illness, but motivations, personalities. Which incidentally provides nothing of medical help. Blathering about a woman's fear of exams (while she's resisting one) is a real time killer.

I could never recommend this book; the best I can do is advise you, 'Save yourself $14 and don't buy it.' The title alone should have sent me scampering away "Oddly Intimate Encounters"? Mea culpa -- don't let it be yours.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A New Literary Genre?

I love anecdotal books on "how I became a doctor," "The House of God" being a particular favorite (lots of dark humor.) When Richie kept hammering me to "Make a Christmas list!" I finally cracked and screamed, "Books! I want books!"

At Borders, I asked the Information Lady where they might be located and I was fumbling to describe them. She smiled, nodded and said, "Medical narrative - follow me." In no particular order ...

"Kill as Few Patients as Possible" by Oscar London, MD, WBD Ten Speed Press 414.95 110 pages

"Oscar London" is not his real name; he's a retired internist in the Berkley area. Some of his witticisms, gleaned from these 57 essays:

* "Hug a patient? Hire a lawyer!"
* "If you don't believe in prescribing Xanax for your anxious patients, be sure to take one yourself."
* "A good nurse, like a good loaf of bread, is the staff of life and the crustier the better."

"On Call: a Doctor's Days and Nights in Residency" by Emily Transue, MD St. Martin's Griffin $14.95 242 pages

Transue, currently based in Seattle, is thoughtful about the responsibilities of medicine, has a good sense of humor and seems to be a practical person. There are 45 chapters of anecdotes about patients and staff as well as her thoughts on both. She opens the book by stating that students wear short jackets; interns and residents wear long coats. A quick glance reveals that person's status in the hierarchy. Getting her long white coat, she writes, made her feel (finally) that she was, in fact, a doctor.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Meatloaf Wars

When Richie and I were first married, from time to time he would crave comfort food and make his mother's recipe meatloaf. In the first blush of newlywed happiness, I ate it. But as the years passed, I began to loathe it more and more. It was: hamburger, egg, bread crumbs and topped with tomato sauce, straight out of the can. It was salty and bitter which is hard to achieve.

I began to rebel and Richie, to his credit, tried to improve the recipe (and shut me up.) He added chopped onion and garlic; he topped it off with Tiger sauce or salsa -- anything but tomato sauce.

I still didn't like it. I don't know if he overworked the meat (it was tough) or didn't add enough liquid; all I knew was that I hated it. And I didn't suffer in silence either, you may be very sure of that.

Yesterday, he brandished the January '09 issue of Bon Appetite and said, "I'm making meatloaf tonight."

It turned out better than any previous attempt. Because I'd never heard of mixing chopped bacon and bread crumbs with the hamburger, here's the recipe:

1 large onion, coarsely diced
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/4 lbs. ground beef 10% fat (we eat 20% because 10% is tougher than a banker's heart)
1/2 cup ketchup, divided (he used salsa; we don't have ketchup, neither of us eats it)
2 large eggs
1 teas. black pepper
3 slices thick-cut (raw) bacon; 2 cups coarsely chopped,1 slice halved lengthwise for garnish
4 slices white sandwich bread, torn into pieces (he used two)
3 T chopped parsley (omitted)

Oven 400 - check.
Blend the onion and garlic in a food processor (save energy, use a chef's knife instead) transfer to a big bowl and add the beef, 1/4 cup ketchup, eggs and pepper.

Put the bacon and bread in the food processor and pulse until the bread is chopped (get some exercise, use your chef's knife.) Add this to the beef, add the parsley and stir well.

Put all of the above in a meatloaf pan, arrange the bacon slices down the top of the meatloaf, spoon the rest of the ketchup between the bacon slices and bake for one hour. Let it rest 10 to 15 minutes and serve.

Friday, January 2, 2009

January 2, 2009

This is such a cliche that I'm almost ashamed of myself for reporting it, but on the other hand, while I'd heard of this phenomenom, I'd never seen it before.

Our gym was packed! The first clue was the underground parking lot. The entrance booth guard arm was up. No one had to take a parking ticket (validated in the gym.) Cars were knotted around one another trying to get out of or into a parking space. This is a six-level underground garage, people ...

It should be said that on any normal day, trying to park there between 8:45 and 9 a.m. is murder. Young women (never good drivers to begin with) are feverishly trying to park while yelling into a cell phone or at their rug rat kids making it hazardous for everyone else. They are determined -- "I will get the front row!" at yoga or spinning class.

There was a momentary lull in people coming in when we arrived at the desk. The little receptionist said, perkily, 'How're you today?" and I replied, "I'm laughing -- these are all Resolution! people" and she grinned in acknowledgement. We both knew that by next week, the traffic flow will have ebbed.

Upstairs the gym floor was equally crowded. My heart sank -- today it would take me 25 minutes to do my 15 minute workout. All of the treadmills were making a rhythmic, thumping sound. (So lovely to hear when it isn't One making that sound.) Oddly enough the annex with all-abs machines had only one person in it. It might have been kinder of me to tell this guy that the abs machine is not going to do much, if anything at all, for his massive beer gut instead of just grinning to myself.

The crowd was mainly mid-30s to late 50s in a variety of clothing. I saw a faded t-shirt (band logo no longer readable) with plaid shorts, black mid-calf hose and running shoes to give you an idea... One could say that many of them looked like they'd been rode hard and put away wet.

But by as soon as next Monday, most of them will be gone, victims of muscle pulls, fatigue, inertia and discouragement. "But! But I went to the gym all weekend! Why am I still fat?"

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Then and Now

Adieu to two fine writers - Edith Battles, 87, and Jean Desmond, 88.

Highlights (in order of appearance)
* All new windows and a new balcony door! Not nearly as hot as it used to be during the summer; not nearly as cold as it was in winter. Yesssss! Bliss!
* My 50th high school reunion in Kansas City, MO. It's always good to see the old home town, but my goodness, who were all those old people?
* Michelle flew in from France; first time in 14 years!

Business As Usual: Attending the K9 trials, the St. Patrick's Day parade, Memorial and Labor Day Fiestas in Hermosa Beach; CERT drills and their annual picnic; Beach Cities Health District's annual picnic and Christmas dinner for volunteers; the monthly jazz concerts, Richie's annual train trip to San Diego with D and Mouton to see a Padre's game and the family charity golf tournament (and unofficial reunion) in South Texas. Lots of fun times with our friends - a good year.

No resolutions, just the fervent hope that God will give me the ability to deal ably with any circumstances lobbed my way this year.