Saturday, February 28, 2009

Don't Mess With Beets

I've been seeing restaurant menus featuring beets in various salad combinations. About two weeks ago I bought four little beets at the Farmers Market. Today I finally cooked them.

It's been a long time since I cooked beets (not Richie's favorite) but I did know to cook them whole, stems and all. "The skin peels right off in your bare hands after they've been cooked and cooled."

Folks, that's a big fat lie! They don't. Beets bleed bright red juice all over the cutting board, the knife, the sink and your hands. I "rubbed away" to no avail. Finally pulled out the peeler and used that.

I diced them and put them in a plastic container. Then I washed the peeler, knife and cutting board. My finger ends still have a bluish cast to them and I've washed them two or three times.

But: now that I have the beets, tomorrow's main meal is going to feature a salad of red-tipped lettuce with diced beets, walnuts, crumbled feta cheese and garnished by the hardboiled egg I cooked with the beets. The shell looks brown, but I feel certain the egg white will be at least pink. Given all the red juice a beet can (and does) put out, how could it not?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Peace, Bro II

You may recall I was trying to find out what "paciugo" meant. Richie's cousin e'd me back, "My Gianni says he's never heard of it, but if you change the 'P' to a 'B' - 'Baci' -- that means a kiss."

Relentless in my search, today I went straight up to the comely lasses who were minding the Paciugo stand at the Hermosa Beach Farmers Market and flat-out asked. "Their leader grinned broadly and said, " It means 'messy confection' in Italian! If you were having company at your house? You'd "make messy confections" for them!"

She also told me that they're gearing up for St. Patrick's Day by creating a gelato that's Guiness-flavored! I don't know how that can top "Black Olive" for, er, different, but clearly they do.

It's also lilac season and I bought a bunch from the very nice, young man (Farmers Market) and he said that when I got them home, to crush the stem ends and add an ice cube to the water -- lilacs like cold.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Doing It Yourself

Starting Seedlings - Cut strips of paper towel, wet the strips and put them down on a sheet of plastic wrap. Carefully put the seeds on the paper towel in the spacing the manufacturer directs. Wet more paper towel strips, put them down over your seeds and roll the whole thing up and put it in a plastic bag. Store the plastic bag in a warm spot until they begin to sprout. Discard the plastic wrap, put your paper towel strips in the assigned garden spot, cover lightly with fine soil, water and walk away. The paper towel acts as mulch and disappears.

Spring painting?
Can't stand the smell of paint? Put two teaspoons of vanilla extract in each one gallon of paint.
Worried about smearing paint on fixtures, door hardware? Take a Q-Tip, swab it in vaseline and cover the area you're worried about. Wipe it off after the paint has dried.

This really works. Richie does it periodically. Get a plastic bag that will fit over your shower head. Fill the bag half-way with white vinegar and attach the bag to the showerhead neck (rubber band or twist-tie) and leave overnight. You want the showerhead partially submerged in the vinegar.

To keep ants out of the house, take a can of talcum powder or a piece of chalk and draw a line across doorsills, windowsills and the pet door. They won't cross it.

Fruit flies in the kitchen drive me mad. To kill them, take an old fairly-shallow bowl and put in 1 T sugar, 1 T dishwashing liquid and fill the bowl halfway up with water. You'll enjoy counting the dead ones daily.

Finally -- Your horse had to have his/her hair shaved for surgery? To prevent the hair from growing back white (due to the trauma) coat the area daily with Preparation H! (Unless, of course, it's a white horse.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Thought for Today

"If people behaved in the way nations do, they would all be put in straitjackets." Tennessee Williams, American playwright (Born 1911, died 2/25/1983.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Peace, Bro!

Paciugo, 1034 Hermosa Avenue, Hermosa Beach (next to the Comedy & Magic Club) 310-379-2525 And, of late, Fridays at the Hermosa Beach Farmer's Market

Ugo Granatta did an apprenticeship with a 4th generation gelato maker. He, his wife and son then moved from Turin, Italy, to Dallas, TX. to start their business which now numbers more than 20 locations. It's a franchise so if you're a gelato fiend, go to their web site.

They sell over 250 different flavors and the Hermosa Beach locations whips up small batches of 32 fresh flavors every morning. Flavors like Mediterannean Sea Salt Caramel, Black Olive, Sweet Potato Organic Maple Syrup and many, many more.

The site has recipes (caveat - using their products) such as:

Gelato Colada
1 scoop pineapple gelato
1 scoop pannacotta (Italian wedding bread)
Optional: a shot of light rum
Splash of pineapple juice or coconut milk
Mix well and serve

The amazing thing (to me) is that these gelatos (milk, water or soy-based) all look creamily, sinfully rich and yet have 70% less butterfat than ice cream.

I had two years of Latin in high school. I believe "paci" means "peace." I asked a fellow Latin student (at a dinner party) and he confirmed my thinking. Google said it means (loosely) "with my blessing." I've now e'd Richie cousin, married to an Italian, for her take on the matter. I will get to the bottom (scoop) of this!

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Oscars (Yawn)

This is the evening that I desperately miss my old posse -- Crazy Suzanne, Louise the Tease, Patty the Lawyer ... We would all get together and absolutely eviscerate the winners and losers. Alertly we spotted and called out those who were drunk or on drugs. We had a wonderful time!

Richie, bless his heart, is not a good substitute. The only way to insure his enthusiasm was to bet on the winners. Essentially he was reduced to cheering, "I won!" (and rarely) "You won."

It just wasn't the same as laughing at Sarah Jessica Parker's evident pride in her after-market headlights (they were nearly crawling out of the top of her dress) or the snarky look Angelina Jolie shot at "Jen" during her on-stage presentation (in a prom dress -- acquired in happier times?) Incidentally the apparently eternal triangle of Jen, Ben and Angie takes me back to high school. It's been four years, people! Four Christmases, four Easters ... you get the picture?

The infomercial for Hugh Jackman -- "Look! He sings! He dances!" Ben Stiller bombed -- I think there were creatures living in that beard... Penelope Cruz worked the Audrey Hepburn look very well ... Mickey Rourke doesn't clean up worth a damn. No matter what they do to or for him, he still looks like 40 miles of bad road. Sean Penn looks like a rat -- twitchy, pointy nose, out-thrust jaw, little squinty, raisin eyes ... The Broadway-style presentation of the five movies was really a great insult to the Academy (who are said to make movies) and no one apparently even blinked!

It was, frankly, a dull evening. Better luck next year! And an awful lot of people have been saying that for years -- to no avail at all.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Print It & Calendar It - It Won't Always Be Winter

I found a tremendously helpful book at a library book sale - "Joey Green's Magic Brands" by Joey Green (also authored "Clean Your Clothes With Cheez Whiz) Rodale 374 pages No price given on the book, but I paid 50 cents.

Spray mosquitoes, flies, gnats with a can of hair spray. Boing! They're all knotted up on the ground.

Uh, oh! You missed one and it bit you? Dissolve two AlkaSeltzer tablets in a glass of water, dip a paper towel in it and put the towel on the bite site for 20 minutes.

Poison ivy or insect bites -- make a paste of Arm & Hammer baking soda (look for it in your refrigerator -- 8 out of 10 American refrigerators have it in them) apply it to the bite site and let it dry. Chances are that by the time it is, you won't feel the bite.

Soothe sunburn, windburn or prickly heat by dissolving a half a cup of Arm & Hammer baking soda in a tepid tub and have a nice soak.

Not useful for us personally, but interesting none-the-less -- Arm & Hammer baking soda (in industrial amounts) increases the effectiveness of sewage treatment plants! It helps maintain a proper pH and alkalinity in biological digesters, helping make trouble-free operations of both anaerobic and aerobic treatment plants, boosts sludge compaction and methane gas production while reducing biological oxygen demand and controlling sulfide odors AND it's environmentally safe. (I just type 'em; I don't necessarily understand 'em.)

Keep away wasps, bees and yellow jackets from the picnic table -- coat a few small pieces of cardboard with maple syrup and put them around the perimeter of the yard or picnic site. They'll go to them and not for you.

Gardening in Mosquito Country? Tie a sheet of Bounce fabric softener through a belt loop on your pants or duct tape a piece onto your clothes. They'll go elsewhere.

Change dyed blonde hair that turned green in a swimming pool back by rinsing the hair with club soda.

This is just for fun -- make a poor man's lava lamp by filling a glass with club soda and dropping in two raisins. The carbonation will ake the raisins bob to the surface and then sink, over and over. While the carbonation lasts, that is ...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lunch in Ireland

The Tavern on Main, 123 S. Main Street, El Segundo 310-322-3645

Noted local restaurant reviewer Richard Foss reported on the chili here in contrast to that found at Big John's Cafe (previously reviewed.) He said that the Tavern's chili was much hotter than Big John's. We had to investigate...

We decided to split a cup and then order "real lunch." It came (3 oz.) with the shredded cheddar cheese and chopped onion already on top ($3.) Since I don't like anything on my chili I wasn't best pleased but rummaged around underneath it and got a big spoonful of chili. No Canned Tomatoes! It did have a few kidney beans, but not enough to matter. But it's not "hot" or "spicy" at all! Major disappointment because of the two, Big John's packed the heat.

We swaggered on to the meatloaf sandwich and cole slaw for Richie ($8.75) and a hamburger with teriyaki, pineapple rings and fries for me. ($8.75) Lunch came to $25.50 (with a Stella for Richie.) Generous portions, reasonable prices. Good food, nothing sensational.

If you sit looking at the back of the restauant and not out the big plate glass front window, you could swear you were in an Irish pub. The raised tables and tall chairs; the booths ("Up a step, ma'am") lining the walls -- extensive use of wood paneling and brick -- the owner doing owner-ish things -- dusting off a table here; re-aligning a picture there-- the friendly waitress -- it all reminded me pleasantly of Ireland.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I checked the calendar, but didn't see it -- "Let's All Git Nekkid Day" in the womens' locker room at the gym. Perhaps every 18-20 visits, I'll see a bare-naked woman, but today -- Many! (Most with the below-the-waist Tramp Stamp.) I'm no prude; I've taken several "life drawing" classes (models of both sexes are starkers) and back in the day, my bikinis were small enough to be mailed in a #10 envelope.

Since I shower, dress and then go the gym it never occurred to me that not everyone does this. It never entered my mind to work out so hard that I actually sweated and had to shower again ...I mean, how icky is that?

Worse still, this locker room has corners and cubbyholes and it's disconcerting to round one of them and be facing the back end (cellulite and all) of a woman drying off her lady bits or shrugging into her bra. TGIF because no gym until Monday!

Good News/Bad News -- Our financial advisor called yesterday morning and, joking, I said, " We got any money left?" and he replied, judiciously, "Weelll, you've still got the hubcaps to the Rolls Royce."

A Simple Idea That Might Work? A friend suggested that the banks/mortgage firms buy the houses that are about to go into default and let the former owners pay rent until the problem is solved. Bad business for moving companies and box manufacturers, perhaps, but in these difficult times, we've all got to pull together.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What's Ya's Big Hurry, Pally?

January 7, 2007 Senator Joe Biden begins the 2008 Presidential race by announcing his candidacy.

November 4, 2008, we cast our votes for a President, one year and 11 months after the campaigns started.

January 20, 2009 Barack Obama is sworn in as our 44th President

February 16, 2009 President Obama encourages and then signs a "stimulus package" of $787 BILLION DOLLARS -- a mere 27 days after having been sworn in as President.

Washington, DC, isn't Chicago, but that sure as hell was a New York minute!

Speaking of Chicago (however vaguely) columnist John Kass of that fair city has coined a description of Obama fans -- "Hopium eaters." I really think that's clever -- and would add "Dazed and confused, the Hopium eaters spend more and more and more..."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Washed Up - Age 8

Scenes from a childhood --
Age 2 - My parents are moving us from Independence to Kansas City, Mo. Daddy's at work; Mother is packing, the movers are there.
Mover (ashen-faced) "Ma'am, I thought you ought to know your little girl is standing on her highchair tray ..."
Mom (sighs, smiles) "She does that ..."

Age 4 or 5 - The new house has a steep, shared driveway with the house next door. It descends and then splits out into two aprons behind the houses.
Next door woman (outraged) "Your daughter is riding TWO scooters down that driveway!"
Mom (sighs, smiles) "She enjoys it."

Age 7 or 8 - I have a black English bike with hand brakes. I enjoyed riding at speed while pedaling frantically "backwards." I perfected riding with my feet on the handlebars - no hands.
Neighbor lady (curious, what kind of a mother is this woman anyhow?) "Did you see your daughter on her bike yesterday?"
Mom (sighs, smiles) "Yes."

What prompted all this? (Keeping your distance from the deranged woman in front of you)

"The Full Burn - On the Set, At the Bar, Behind the Wheel and Over the Edge with Hollywood Stuntment" by Kevin Conley Bloomsbury 214 pages $25.99

Stuntmen and women make the Screen Actors Guild day rate which is $678 (!) PLUS $1,500 PER STUNT every time it's shot -- which can be as many as five or six times per "normal" stunt. The bigger, more dangerous the stunt the bigger the paycheck. This information was on page 10.

By the time I got to page 40, I knew deep in my heart, this was not the career for me. These people jump off cliffs, buildings, volcanoes! They drive at speed the wrong way on the freeway - with civilians! There's a high divorce rate among them. And it's a private club. They all know each other; often have worked together for many years.

But I do have a new heroine -- Jeannie Epper who, in her mid-60s, is still considered a top-tier stuntwoman. She's from a family of 12 stunt persons. She doubled for Lynda Carter in the "Wonder Woman" TV series.

Clearly, she wasn't a washout at age 8.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

At the Semi-Chinese Wedding

Valentine's Day was the date my cousin married his sweetheart. We weren't able to attend, but my sister wrote me an account of the goings on. The bride's father is a minister; my cousin whose son it is is also a minister. The happy couple are missionaries in China (and they love it there.) From my on-the-ground reporter:

The wedding was really fun -- certainly won't be forgotten! The church was packed - about 350 guests had been invited.

The sanctuary was decorated simply -- in fact, there wasn't a flower anywhere. White Chinese lanterns in different shapes were placed on the aisle and among the plants at the rear of the chancel.

The bridesmaids wore black strapless gowns (! Ed.) and carried colorful fans. The bride wore an ivory white lace dress and carried an ivory-colored fan. I think she had on red shoes!

The service was religious (of course) with contemporary Christian music -- until the recessional. Everyone was surprised when the bride and groom walked out to Frank Sinatra's "Makin' Whoopee!"

The Chinese influence appeared in a solo sung in that language and Jeff and Kelsey said their vowels in Chinese! The minister had to say them in Chinese as well. When Jeff had to ask him to repeat one vow, the minister turned to the chuckling audience and asked, "Would any of you like to try this?" He knew how to make the ceremony light and relaxed, yet maintain the dignity of the occasion.

At the end of the ceremony, the guests were instructed to wait in the narthex while pictures were taken. We'd all been given red ribbons to wave at the bride and groom as they ran through the hall and outside to their car. Apparently this was an original idea from the bride and groom.

The reception was a luncheon buffet at a Chinese restaurant and my correspondent wrote "No one left hungry, that's for sure!"

The happy couple left the day after the wedding to return to their work in China -- after a week off in Hawaii for their honeymoon.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rainy/Snowy Day Amusements

Inclement weather is a downer. You need to distract yourself from it. If you're a foodie, here are a couple of Webs sites to browse... -- This is a great site to find new recipes for specific food items. Your neighbor just gave you five pounds of lemons from her tree. Go to and type in "lemons" in the search line. It'll come back at you with recipes for, say, lemon chicken, lemon rice, lemon pie... you get the idea. and -- Both of these sites belong to the respective magazines and contain recipes, how-to tips, "life style" entertainment and contests. -- A compendium of All Things Food/Restaurant I enjoyed a recent blog on what goes on in the kitchens of the Cheesecake Factory chain. No it isn't frozen, each order is made as it is asked for -- which means two hours at the table is nothing, dahling, nothing at all! - This is sort of the Farmer's Almanac of food sites. Today's quote was: "Ask not what you can do for your country; ask what's for lunch!" Orson Welles

It's a very informative site with regular history lessons (food-related) and various forums.

So put your umbrella back in the closet! Sit down and relax!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Salad Spin

This is a salad recipe from Nick's Fishmarket Maui. I'm thinking if we can't actually go to Hawaii, we can eat as if we were there!

It's a spin on Greek Salad (which is loaded with strong, salty Feta cheese.) For this one, I'd cut back on the amount of Feta used for these reasons, but I'll include their amount in the recipe. You be the judge!

Greek Salad with Avocado, Shrimp and Caper Vinaigrette
Vinaigrette - make it the day before and refrigerate it for flavor
1 cup olive oil
1 4-oz. jar of capers (liquid, too)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 hard-boiled eggs, white part only, minced
2 T minced, roasted red peppers from the jar
1 T minced fresh pasley
1 1/2 teas. Dijon mustard

10 plum or Roma tomatoes cut in wedges
3 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and diced
2 (!) Maui onions, chopped- about three cups
3 cups shredded hearts of romaine lettuce (about one head)
1 1/2 ups crumbled Feta cheese (9 oz.)
1 1/2 cups cooked bay shrimp (I call them river shrimp)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, add vinaigrette and toss. Serves 6 (and I believe them.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

"May you get what you want -- not what you (may) deserve!" (Old Irish saying that I just made up.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Flavored Water

My sister-in-law gave me a bottle of Tastefully Simple All-Natural Dried Tomato and Garlic Pesto Mix for Christmas. You take 2 T of the mix, 1 1/2 T olive oil, 2 T water and microwave them together, then add 1 T Parmesan cheese and spread on the bread.

I'm not a fan of pesto, so the jar has been languishing in the kitchen. Then I did a dinner that requires boiled potatoes. I used Dutch Yellows and tossed a half-handful of the pesto mix into the water with them. Worked out well.

In the car driving home from Trader Joe's, Richie said, "I bought a surprise for you."
"Animal, vegetable or mineral?" I inquired.
"You'll see."

It was a bag of frozen endomame (soy) beans. The cooking instructions said to boil them for 5 - 10 minutes (the pod is discarded at the table; you eat the beans inside of them.) Nothing was said about seasoning them, but I remembered that Roy's, Rancho Mirage, sends them out with a definite taste. So I threw a handful of red chilis in the cooking water. Okay, but not the same.

Since I only used half of the bag, I've got another half with which to experiment. I googled "Roy Yamaguchi's Edomames" and here's his recipe.

8 oz. kosher salt
4 oz. Japanese red peppers
1 oz. granulated sugar
Mix well and store in a lidded jar.

Boil 7 cups of water, add 1/2 lb. Edomame and boil for 5-10 minutes. Drain and sprinkle 1/2 teas. Roy's Edomame Seasoning on them, toss and serve (with an empty plate for the pods.) Since you eat the beans, not the pods, any seasoning sensation you're getting is from your fingers after they've split the pod!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

When You Want to Know, Go to a Pro

Yesterday's funny martini charges...

So I wrote to the Queen of Troutdale who is a professional bartender about it. She wrote back, "It's only one of two things -- the "dirty" and the "up" adds an extra dollar, which, in turn, adds another two reasons. One they're adding olive juice for an astounding extra charge and/or two their computer is screwed up and adding an extra dollar for the "up" which can happen from time to time. And it was well! (bar brand.) I'm surrised you didn't challenge it.

On the other hand, the economy is so bad that anything goes ... it's sad, isn't it? The bar I work at charges extra for juices because we have to crack them out of a can instead of shooting them out of a gun. It costs more, but tastes better. I find this unacceptable. But that's just me. I don't own a business and in times like this, unacceptable is strategy. It's an ugly Catch 22 if you ask me. A dollar is a dollar and I would definitely ask about it next time. All dollars are the same."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Not To Get All Crabby or Anything...

Widening my Valentine's dinner nets, I suddenly remembered Delzano's By The Sea. Their Website said: "Tuesdays - Lobster Mania! Pick your lobster -- live Maine or Australian tail! Accompaniments - NY Steak, Rib Eye Steak, Veal Picatta, Mushroom risotto, Raviola or Crab Stuffing."

I thought quickly. Lobster on special is surely cheaper than the regular menu. It's going to start raining again over the weekend so why not do lobster tonight, stay in Saturday and I'll do a fancy dinner instead. Richie was luke-warm about that, but quite willing to go to Delzano's. Off we toddled.

There is a patio, followed by the entry door (bathrooms to the left of the reception desk) and then the bar with a separate dining room across the front of the building. Big picture windows throughout as it's right above the Boardwalk.

Mentally licking my lips, I asked about the lobster specials. Kelly, our very nice server, said "Tonight's a NY strip and a lobster tail for $29.95." My face fell. "That's it?" "We alternate between crab-stuffed lobster and the surf and turf," she replied. We smiled non-committaly and turned back to our menus.

We decided to share a shrimp cocktail ($10.95) and that we'd both have the lobster quesadillas ($11.95.) Richie wanted to start off with a cup of lobster bisque ($5.95). So that's what we ordered and what Kelly wrote down. Moments after departing she was back. "I'm informed by the chef that the quesdillas tonight are crab, not lobster." We shrugged and said, "Okay."

I wondered why the kitcehn couldn't take a lobster, destined for the surf and turf special, and chop it up and give us lobster quesadillas? As printed on the menu?

Richie said his lobster bisque "lacked something" but it did have several big croutons immersed in it. The shrimp cocktail was six big shrimp laid flat on a melting bed of ice on a dinner plate with a dish of sweetish cocktail sauce. We should have dried them off on our napkins before popping them in our mouths. The five slices of crab quesadilla came with a tangle of chiffonaded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and an oil and vinegar dressing. The guacamole was: avocado, cilantro and a smidgeon of onion.

Dinner came to $63.66 plus tip. Richie gave me the receipt (for blog purposes) and I noticed something different. I'd ordered a dirty gin martini up and the bill read: Well gin martini $5; dirty $1; UP $1. Not: gin mart $7.

I think lobster disappointment colored our views of Delzano's which is a pity. We love the sister resto Lou-E-Lues. Delzano's By The Sea (didn't have any lobster for me) 179 N. Harbor Dr., Redondo Beach 310-374-7525 for both

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dusting Off Dinner

My nephew Steve (previously reviewed) is the food and beverage manager at a country club-resort in northern Illinois. As a certified sommelier, he's instituted a series of wine tastings and this is the menu from the third Bacchus dinner.

Just between us, I think the chef has quietly gone mad. These are extremely elaborate dishes. I had to look up several of the terms because I'd never heard of them. Two of the dishes are "dusted." couldn't tell me how to dust a beet, but here's how you get lemon dust. Peel two lemons, making sure not to include any of the white pith. Boil these peels down in a sugar and water syrup, then slow bake them until they're crisp and THEN put them through a spice grinder to get "dust." It'll keep up to a month in the refrigerator.

On the other hand, perhaps Chef is trying to become the Thomas Keller of the Midwest.

Sancerre Domaine Fouassier (Sauvignon Blanc) with Purple Haze chevre (lavender and fennel pollen added at some point to the goat cheese) croquette with pine nuts, a watercress emulsion and candied fennel.

Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, with roasted Galantine of Duck (breast of duck, de-boned and stuffed -- with foie gras in this case) and a caramelized shallot bread pudding garnished with beet dust.

Concha Toro Don Elchor Cabernet Sauvignon from Puente Alto, Chile, with a garlic-marinated Teres Major (shoulder filet) steak with rainbow chard (red, white and yellow chard,) grilled leeks with an arbequina olive dust and a ragout of giant white lima beans, chorizo vela and butternut squash in a Chilean cabernet reduction.

Dow's 2000 vintage port, Portugal, with silken dark chocolate over poached quince and walnuts.

Dessert was the only thing on the menu that I could instantly recognize the ingredients. It's a very rich and sweet menu -- carmelized this, candied that ... Perhaps the wines require both; I wouldn't know -- that's my nephew's business!

Incidentally, I didn't use Spellcheck, knowing the wines alone would have broken it forever.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Book Review

"Cancer on $5 a Day* (*Chemo not included") by Robert Schimmel with Alan Eisenstock Long Life Publishing $22 195 pages

Schimmel, a comedian, was about to really take off in 2000. He'd won Stand-Up Comic of the Year, his HBO special had been a smash and his Fox sitcom had been picked up. On the crest of this wave, he felt badly, went to a docor and it was discovered that he had stage 4 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Immediate chemo was the only avenue left for him.

I'll save you the suspense; in 2005, he was a five-year cancer survivor. Today he's back onstage killing with cancer jokes and experiences. He and his second wife have two young sons. He and his first wife (they married and divorced three times) had four children, one of whom died age 11 of brain cancer.

He writes engagingly of hospital personnel (he would have loved to have banged his chemo nurse,) of changes (he knew the hair on his head would fall out, but eyebrows, eyelashes, moustache and beard were a surprise but not nearly as much as losing his pubic hair.) All along he praises his team of doctors.

A Catholic priest drops in for a visit; Schimmel says that actually he's Jewish; chaplain is all "I'm sorry! I didn't know!" but Schimmel tells him, "This is not the time for me to play favorites... I do not want to get up there and have Jesus say, 'I'm gonna sit you down right now and show you how many times people asked you to accept me as your savior and you blew them off. Not so fast with the answers now, are you? You sit over there until the Rapture's done and then we'll get back to you.'"

He details amusing incidents with a wig salesman (pubic wigs available) medical marijuana, the crystal healer and the Reiko lady... and he advocates laughing as a means of healing. I agree wholeheartedly with that -- if you can find something TO laugh about.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me See...

Richie has been asking where I want to go for a gala Valentine's Day dinner. If we were going to Palm Springs (we're not) it would be easy - Roy's! Locally we have a number of good restaurants -- Saint-Raphel and 320 Catalina (both previously reviewed) could be equally-weighted contenders. Here are both of their menus to give you an idea what I'm up against. Gluttony never rests (sigh) ...

320 Catalina ( Five courses; $65 per person

Tomato bisque (aka cream of tomato soup)

Beet and Herb Goat Cheese Terrine with a Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Maine Lobster Ravioli with Ginger Beurre Blanc

Prime Ribeye Medallions, Wild Mushroom Tart and Black Truffle Bearnaise

Strawberry Tart, Vanilla Cream, Rose Gastrique (edible rose petals would be my best guess)

Saint Raphael ( Three courses with choices - $60 per person

Asparagus wrapped with smoked salmon and caviar with a tequila-lime creme fraise
Fois gras terrine with fig chutney and toasts
Jumbo lump crab cake with basil coleslaw and mango salsa

Filet mignon with barbecued Maui sweet onions with a cognac and peppercorn sauce
Honey-citrus rack of lamb with cucumber and mint relish
Rock lobster with peaches and herbs and a lobster-vanilla emulsion
Wild mushroom-crusted halibut with a vodka-lime mousseline

Port-wine pached pear stuffed with rum raisin ice cream
Triple strawberries -- as a mousse, coated with dark and white chocolate and a strawberry coulis

Of the two, Saint Raphael's is the more ambitious. The kitchen at 320 Catalina can just count reservations, prepare accordingly and serve them off -- tick, tick, tick.

Pity that both restaurants couldn't team up and do a buffet of ALL of the above! I'd pay good money for that!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Uplifting Airline News

Now - Don't You Feel Better? Since the use of jets commercially (1958) two consecutive years have passed without a single airline passenger death in a US carrier crash.

You Can't Be Too Rich or Too Thin -- Air India (run by the state) has fired 10 flight attendants for being "exceptionally overweight," adding that the airline gave them ample time to shape up. Some of the fired FAs took it to the New Delhi High Court for a legal challenge - which was thrown out.

Atta Boy! El Al's CEO agreed to give up 15% of his salary for 2009. El Al is the airline of Israel and its superior security practices have been borrowed by LAX among others.

Recession? Southwest, Jet Blue and Alaska Airlines reported an increase in their work forces in 2008.

February is Black History Month. This is from the Vanguard's newsletter (Vanguards is the retirees club of a Major American Airline.)

"Retired AA Capt. Dave Harris has received the 2008 Men of Honor and Distinction Award from American Legacy magazine, a publication geared towards the country's African-American population.

"He was recognized for being the first African-American to fly for a major passenger airline.

"I'm honored and humbled by this award, but the reality is that there were 500 pilots, Tuskegee Airmen, who were qualified for airline jobs when they left the service. None of them received an opportunity to sit in a cockpit, there is no way I should be the first -- it should've happened long before 1964," Harris said.

Harris, 73, joined American in 1964, retiring in 1994 as a captain. He was featured in a Smithsonian Museum exhibit called "Black Wings" and the CR Smith Museum in Ft. Worth, TX has a permanent exhibition honoring him.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Zounds! Foiled again!

I had what I thought was a very good idea last night, but when I googled it this morning, I found that it was by no means mine alone.

It all began when we met a couple of Richie's old mates and a wife at the #1 Buffet on Hawthorne, Lawndale (previousl reviewed.) This is an Asian place with an emphasis on shrimp - coconut, boiled, #1 style, garlic, salt and pepper (all of which I ate with gusto.) At the end of each set of steam tables was a steel cylinder full of paper-wrapped chopsticks. I took a pair, thinking, "This time it will be different! This time I'll be able to use them fluently!" knowing full well this wasn't going to happen. So I slipped them into my purse instead. (It would not have been sanitary to put them back.)

Riding home, cold sober (no alcohol served there at all) I thought, "If everyone is as inept with chopsticks as I am, they would be forced to eat more slowly. This in turn would give the stomach plenty of time to tell the brain, "Okay - I'm done; you can turn off the hunger thing." Thus, the Chopsticks Diet was born in a '99 4Runner somwhere on Hawthorne Boulevard.

Breakfast - bacon or sausage, eggs any tyle, toast or an English muffin. Pick up the bacon or sausage with your chopsticks and nibble. Pinch them together to make a shovel and go for the eggs. Okay to cut waffles or pancakes with a knife and downpointed chopstick, but you have to eat the bites with the chopsticks. Don't dribble syrup!

Lunch example -- half a corned beef sandwich on rye (use your fingers -- breads are still finger foods) cole slaw and potato salad. I think cole slaw with chopsticks would definitely be a challenge.

Dinner -- start with a nice cup of chicken noodle soup and eat it as Asians do -- close to the mouth for chopsticking out the noodles and vegetables and then drinking the broth. Whatever the main course you choose, you can cut the meat and/or vegetables as you would a waffle, but then back to using your chopsticks. Salad should be considerably easier; desserts would be well-nigh impossible.

Great idea? You betcha! Too bad I didn't think of it first. Google "chopsticks diet" and swoon, amazed at the numbers presented. At least I'm in good company.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I was studying the Valentine's dinner menu for Le Saint Raphael (a place we know and like) and several of the terms on it gave me pause because I wasn't exactly sure what they were. I had the vague idea, for example, that a "coulis" is a sauce made of fruit that's been chopped and cooked down to reduce the volume and make the fruit thicken.

It turns out that "coulis" is the French word for "strained" and thus a fruit (strawberries, raspberries) is cooked down with sugar and lemon juice and then strained (raspberry/strawberry pits) and kept in a squeeze bottle for last-minute additions to desserts. It's the drizzle you see on your plate near the chocolate cake, for example. It lasts three days, refrigerated. One can also make a vegetable-based coulis by roasting or charring vegetables and reducing them with a little water. Arguably, catsup is a coulis!

You can easily make "creme fraise" right in your own kitchen. Add a bit of lemon juice to a pint of heavy cream and beat it a little, just enough to mix the two. Trader Joe's now sells creme fraise in the cheese section.

"Mousseline" -- any sauce to which whipped cream or beaten egg whites is added. Saint Raphael is sending out a Vodka-Lime version with its halibut.

A "mousse" is similar but sturdier (think chocolate mousse.) A mousse is simply egg yolks and sugar beaten together with beaten egg whites folded in with various flavorings such as strawberries or chocolate (white or dark.)

An "emulsion" is two liquids that don't want to mix -- oil and vinegar is a prime example.

Here's an example of using a few ingredients for a spectacular presentation: steam asparagus until just tender; let it cool. Wrap each spear with a thin slice of smoked salmon, sauce with a tequila-lime creme fraise and garnish with grains of caviar. (Saint Raphael menu.)

Even simpler -- prepare the asparagus as above, wrap each spear in a slice of pancetta and broil till the pancetta is done; give it a splash of red wine vinegar with chopped capers and serve.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

No Mas!

My sister lives in Illinois ("Where our governors make your license plates!") and has been avidly following the governor's downfall. Last night, Blago was to be interviewed on "Larry King Live" (and I'd question that "live" part) so, to be au courant with my sister at least, we watched it.

During a commercial break, one of them was totally in Spanish -- spoken and written words. I was so shocked -- CNN! -- that to this minute I couldn't tell you what it was for.

This morning I counted the station listings for our area -- there are some 78 of which four are Spanish-speaking, plus BET and the BBC. (None in Italian, French, German and I don't remember seeing any for Asians.)

It had to have been a programming error because it doesn't make sense that a Spanish-language only person would watch an all-in-English show.

"To hear this message in English, please press 1" is bad enough.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Morality and Mortality

This morning at the gym, I was sitting in the car, waiting for Richie to finish his workout, peacefully reading a book. My reverie was disturbed when another car pulled into a slot several cars away. The windows were wide open and a wistful chorus was blaring. The chorus was only six words ("Come on, m----r f----r, come on") but the vulgarity offended me. It's one thing to swear in private when exceedingly angry (or mildly irritated, for that matter) but this was Way Too Much. Just as I was girding up my loins to throw the miscreant the hairy eyeball laser of death, Richie came to the car. Opening the door, he said, mildly, "I see you've got the radio on."

There is a British singer-performer named Any Winehouse. I have never heard any of her songs, never seen any video footage on her, only various photos in which she appears to be waif-thin with a pair of improbably-large after-market headlights, jet black hair that certainly looks dyed and lots of tattoos. But every couple of days, I google her name. Why?

Winehouse, 26, is alleged to be a crack smoker and alcoholic who has been in rehab (unsuccessfully) many times. She's been hospitalized (at death's door) from emphysema (said to be caused by smoking crack.) Her own father has publicly wrung his hands and moaned about her, saying he doesn't know why she's still alive and if she doesn't change, she won't be.

My interest is simply that of any healthy 68 year old (no prescription meds) in the longevity of someone who so clearly and badly abuses her health. It's kind of "Look how the weeds flourish, but the roses are dead." Happily, the most recent news about her is that she'll be performing at the 2009 Coachella music festival. This after an idyll in the Caribbean where (allegedly) resort management cut her off from the bar so she resorted to stealing the other guests drinks off of their tables and downing them. She's very resourceful in her own way ...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Three Women

"Bone By Bone" by Carol O'Connell G. P. Putnam & Sons 340 pages $24.95

Two boys walk into the woods ... only one walks back out. The other is never found. But 20 years later, "Someone' begins leaving the boy's bones, one by one, on his father's front porch.

The women in this who-dunnit range from the all-knowing housekeeper to the alcoholic rich wife and her daughter and a very sharp policewoman. The tone throughout is psychologically dark in that the characters all have secrets and silences -- and their own reasons for everything they do. It's a good read. And, if you know, don't tell me how it ends! I'm 20 pages away from that.

"Mistress of the Sun" by Sandra Gulland Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster 382 pages $26

This is an excellent book about Louise de la Valliere who became Louis XIV's favorite consort -- how they met; how she resisted his advances and then finally, unable not to love him, succumbed. Court intrigues, out-of-wedlock children (she and Louis had four!) and the machinations of other wanna-be mistresses made for a riveting read.

"The Legs Are the Last To Go" by Diahann Carroll with Bob Morris (who may have succumbed to boredom and died writing it) HarperCollins 272 pages $24.95

I had thought it might be interesting to read a contemporary black woman's biography (February being Black Awareness month) but clearly I overlooked the show biz side of her memooirs. It's a self-aggrandizing whine most of the way through -- "Should, coulda -- but didn't -- My Career!" Clearly she loved it far above family (including a daughter from her first husband -- she wed four times.) Her most famous husband was singer Vic Damone who was a demon golfer and preferred that to her company (most of the time.) Today she celebrates being in her '70s with all of the wisdom age brings to us. (All through the book she goes on and on about being a senior citizen and how much she's learned.) She hopes to be able to spend time with her grandchildren. If she doesn't get a better offer. (In April, 2006, she opened her first solo show in New York.)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ah, the Superbowl...

We are seven minutes away from kick-off and Himself has muted commercials five times. Good to see him getting some exercise...