Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Economics As You May Never Have Heard Them Discussed...

"Super Freakonomics - Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance" by Steve D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner William Morrow 270 pages $29.99

"Patriotic Prostitutes" doesn't really fit into the book's title. While prostitutes were covered extensively, I don't remember any patriots among them.

Suicide bombers are not the poor who believe the "Virgins in Heaven" line. They are, most often, of middle or upper class origins and spurred on by (misguided) patriotism. Since they know they're going to die -- or are planning to die -- they don't bother with insurance. According to the authors, if you have a Muslim-sounding name, you are going to be scrutinized and "no life insurance" is a great, big, red flag to whatever secret agency is doing the looking.

The authors pose the question, "Why did 38 people watch Kitty Genovese be murdered?" After an extensive combing of the files, it was discovered that:
Genovese was attacked twice; not the three times claimed.
During the first attack, a neighbor did yell out of his window at the attacker, scaring him off.
But he returned, dragged Genovese into a doorway - where no one could see them -- and knifed her several times, then ran away for the second time.
Genovese was able to stagger out of the doorway and along an alley where she then collapsed and died, out of sight of the street.
Neighbors did call the police, who refused to respond claiming that if she left the scene on her own power, she was all right.
All of this is covered in a chapter on "altruism."

Of the two writers, only Levitt is a professor of economics (University of Chicago.) Dubner is a former writer and editor at the New York Times Magazine and has several other books to his credit. Numerous economists and the results of their studies are used throughout the book. I particularly enjoyed a study on teaching Capuchin monkeys how to use money. It's an amazing story and in fact, all of the book (barring a really long chapter on global warming) is enjoyable.

Monday, August 30, 2010


It's not what you may be thinking; it's the Japanese name of a group of restaurants created by a Korean-American chef named David Chang.

Chang's first restaurant - Noodle Bar -- was a small place; only 600 sq. ft. and 27 chairs. It took off like a rocket and he and his group of investors then opened Ssam Bar which does wrapped food as it's done in Korea. Ssam flew as well as Noodle Bar did -- after awhile. He opened Ko last and it's now his flagship store. Clean, simple ingredients put together in front of the patrons via a glass-enclosed kitchen.

Chang is a pork enthusiast, finding joy in pork bellies, bacon and pork cheeks. French chefs make their own bouillons; Chang makes "dashi." This is a seaweek and dried fish broth that's used all over Japan.

He makes a Bacon Dashi --
Two 3" x 6" sheets of konobu (dried seaweed)
1/2 lb. smoky bacon
8 cups of water

Rinse the seaweed, put it in the pot of water and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit in the pot an additional 10 minutes. Take the konbu out of the water (apparently it holds together) and add the bacon, bring it to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes then throw out the bacon and chill the broth. When a fat cap forms, discard it and put the liquid in a bottle or container.

He's big on pickling and feels that cucumbers, radishes, daikons, apples, pears, beets, cantaloupe or watermelon are all good candidates.

Salt Pickling
1 T sugar
1 teas. kosher salt
Mix the two in a bowl, toss in the vegetable of choice and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. If the pickles are too salty or two sweet, rinse them off in a colander, dry them and taste again.

Vinegard Pickling
1 cup hot water from the tap
1/2 cup rice wine
6 T sugar
2 1/4 teas. kosher salt

Combine the above and pour over the trimmed vegetables. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Snap a lid on it and refrigerate it for a week for optimum flavor. Chang says you can eat them right away, but the longer the wait, the better the taste.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gimme Shelter!

Shelter magaines (and books) are popular ways to distract yourself in a dentist or doctor's waiting room if you're not a Demon Decorator in real life (and I got over that some 20 years ago.)

"Savannah Style" by Paula Deen and Brandon Branch Simon & Schuster 204 pages $29.99
Paula Dee is a doyenne of Southern cooking with seven books and I believe, a television show. This book is lavishly illustrated with photographs of bits of Deen's homes and those of other Savannah residents.

As readers of "Midnight and the Garden of Good and Evil" know, Svannah-ians are a quirky bunch. They put ceiling fans and four-poster beds out on their porches! Go on! Sleep out on your porch, jes' wear a nice nightgown, heah?

If a thing (piece of furniture, bric-a-brac, silver, lamp) is old and beat-up looking, put it out for all to see! One resident has a collection of loving cups -- bought at yard sales and pawn shops -- that he uses on the dining room table as little flower vases.

Collect shells and stick them on mirror frames, bathroom walls - use them as if they were wall paper or stuff them in big, old glass jars so everybody kin see'em.

In Savannah, old is gold!

Conversely, the magazine Dwell is all about New Ways To Be Green! Sustainable greenery for your yard! Rainwater collection! High-tech light bulbs! And, let me add, some extremely weird, off-center furniture styles. You can see them, too, at dwell.com.

One of their ads is for the Big Ass Fan Company (bigassfans.com) with the cutline, "You don't need a ceiling fan; you need a Big Ass Fan!" Based on the design for airplane wings, the fan shown has a total of 10 blades (I counted.)

New "green houses" often have a sod roof. Okay, they make it possible to exist without air conditioning, but they're not such a great idea for here in Earthquake Country as they weigh about 10 times what a regular roof does. How odd would it look to see an aerial view of your sod-roofed house? Big mound of green with cars, bicycles and kid's swing set near it? Soon enough, we're all going to get our own personal sod roof, so let's hold off on this for now.

Dwell's slogan is "At Home in the Modern World." I say, "Have at it."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chick Lit

She's funny! She is writer named Deborah Coonts and her credits include practicing law, flying planes and having written a humor column for a national magazine.

Lucky O'Toole is the head of Customer Relations at a big Las Vegas casino. Her mother is the owner and manager of a whorehouse in Pahrump, NV, which is quite legal - there. Her best friend "The Fabulous Teddy!" is a professional transvestite who's decided to take their relationship to the next level. Problem is ... he looks better in women's clothing than she does.

The book opens with a dramatic scene -- a woman who formerly worked at the casino falls (or was pushed) out of a sightseeing helicopter over Treasure Island and drops into the lagoon during the pirate battle. Yes, quite an opening.

Janet Evanovich perfected the zany heroine character in her long-running series featuring Stephanie Plum, a New Jersey bail bondsman. Plum has a grandmother who carries; a long-suffering mother ("Why don't you just get married already?") and a father largely disconnected from the family insanity. Plum is forever blowing up mortuaries and having her cars burned up beneath her.

What both heroines have in common is the fact that are not "easy." A handsome guy comes along, inteligent, fun, interested and instead of throwing their hats in the air (along with other bits of clothing) and plunging into a red hot sexual affair, they dither.

This ... dithering ... goes all the way back to the 1950s when nice girls didn't. Have sex, not dither. Clearly the double standard still exists more than 50 years later! Quite disappointing when you think about it.

If you can get past this extremely unlikely plot point, you should have an amusing read.
"Wanna Get Lucky?" by Deborah Coonts A Tom Doherty Associates Book 352 pages $24.99

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Rare Rave Review

When a bar-restaurant opens at 5 p.m. and you walk in just before 6 and find half of the patrons already eating and the room nearly fillled -- you get the Oh-ho! feeling that you just may be onto something good ...

Hudson House, 514 Pacific Coast Hwy, Redondo Beach 90277 310-798-9183 hudsonhousebar.com and I urge you to go look at it for their beer list and menu items.

The menu is odd in that there are expected bar dishes such as nuts (dried cashews, oiled almonds,) olives (green, black) and dried cherries (whoops!) The serve "pails" (literally) of French or sweet potato fries and yet, there are surprises like skirt steak with garlic and truffle cheese fries.

I ordered their Bloody Mary with grilled shrimp, more to see what it was than anything else. The drink arrived in a tall glass with an asparagus spear and a chunk of lemon rising up out of it and a short, thick skewer with two grilled shrimp laid across the glass top. I could swear that the shrimp had been dusted with powdered Old Bay seasoning before being grilled. This is such a natural progression from a shrimp cocktail - cooked shrimp with cocktail sauce -- to something rather wonderful.

Dishtowels serve as spacious napkins; servers wear jeans, plain black t-shirts and sneakers. Wine glasses are those odd, seamless - what? Rounded juice glasses? An attempt at Swedish modern? Dunno. Didn't seem to be the kind of place you'd fear an attack with a broken bottle -- or glass. The room is bigger than it may look at first glance; painted mostly in dark gray with lots of small hanging lights which could make the room look like a carnival ride, but because they're not all that bright, work quite well.

Richie was a little dubious about the garlic truffle cheese French fries, but ordered the skirt steak anyhow ($14.) The brown sugar barbeque ribs ($12 for six) sounded good to me and while they were supposed to arrive with "crispy shallots and cilantro" they came instead with a frou-frou of bean sprouts scattered across their tops. I carefully picked them off and put them in the pit cup on the olive dish. Bean sprouts are an abomination and no right-thinking person would touch them especially not on barbecue anything.

Both meats - steak and ribs - were cooked to perfection. Nice, meaty ribs, too -- not bones of dripping fat.

Richie had a pair of Stellas ($5 each) and I added a glass of house pinot grigio ($7) to go with my continued exploration of Richie's French fries. He's now a truffle convert, by the way, remarking on the great flavor of the fries.

My only caveat would be that bar service was a little languid. Still there were only three servers and they may have been busier getting the food out to than the booze down the customers.

Would I go again? Damned straight! What're you doing tomorrow night? This is a perfect place for four or five people to have drinks (full bar) and a grazing dinner that satisfied everyone and doesn't cost a fortune (by splitting the tab equally.) Our dinner and drinks came to $49 plus tax and tip. We had two ribs and a pile of fries left over and quite a few nuts and olives to box up, too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The French and the Americans - Toujours Contraire

Recently, the media reported that young French women have quit going topless to the beaches of France. "It's passe," they murmur. "Only women of a certain age do that -- the old ones -- and who wants to see? No one is who wants to see!"

"I don't think they are paying enough attention to the UV and the sunburn, myself" said another thoughtfully. The young man at her side tried to be helpful -- "Ah, les topless -- they were the revolutionaries of the '70s!"

A poll declared that 24% of French women are now anti-topless and an additional 38% are anti-thong.

But, what ho? Here on the sands of Venice Beach, CA, recently, protesters gathered to demand the State of California rescind the ban on going topless! Among the 200 protestors were about two dozen who were in fact topless.

The bare-breasted advocates say that since men go topless, women should be able to do so as well. A group of Bible students argued back that men are different from women (one of those great "DOH!" moments in our proud history) and, further, that just because a man does something that doesn't mean that a woman has the equal right to do it, too.

Well, yes, welcome to Dark Ages Revisited, not a Disneyland ride.

About 50 male supporters of topless bathing donned bikini tops to show their solidarity with the ladies. Whether these men actually did support topless bathers or were just somewhat sun-addled transvestites was not known at press time. One later took his bikin top off. He said, "It's itchy! Now I know why you women don't want to wear them!" Clearly, not a transvestite.

The whole thing is tremendously funny to me. The French and Americans have paid lip service to each other all of these years - "But, America, you are wonderful!" - "Ah, France, notre belle France" - and no one meant it at all. They can't even get it together long enough to go the beach together. Still, it's fun to imagine the French on the beach with topless Americans... (sneer) "Look at zose idiots!" And guileless Americans asking the French women, "But like I thought everyone in France like went topless to the beach?"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Have You Tried?

In digging out space in the garage for the new (and bigger) washer and dryer, Richie unearthed a little book put out by a club that calls itself "The Southern California Unit, Herb Society of America."

Scattered among the pages of recipes is the phrase "Have you tried_____?" Here are some of them.

Have You Tried
Cayenne in cream cheese?
Mustard sauce on broccoli?
Cumin in fruit sauce?
Basil in clam chowder? (!)
Marjoram in eggplant casseroles?
Allspice in meat loaf?
Basil in cornbread?
Fresh chopped mint on vanilla ice cream?
Tumeric in creamed eggs? (Creamed eggs?!)
Bay leaf steamed with beets?
Caraway seeds in cottage cheese?
Coriander in chicken loaf?
Celery seeds in baking powder biscuits?
Poppy seed with noodles?
Anise seeds in apple sauce or baked apples?
Curry powder with grated cheese?
Savory with beets?
Tumeric in creamed eggs (They're baaaack!)


Many of the people of the Muslim faith say that they come in peace. If so, why are so many of them so insistent on creating a "community center" two blocks away from 911? I think this is a continuation of their war on us and it isn't costing them a dime in bombs or bullets. They are spreading confrontation, unease and distrust quite well without ammo.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sharon Tells Her Side of It

"Extreme, My Autobiography" by Sharon Osbourne with Penelope Dening Springboard Press 365 pages $24.99

God works in mysterious ways? I'd just finished "I Am Ozzy" when we went to a library book sale and there, grinning knowingly out at me was wife Sharon, on the cover of her book. Naturally, I bought it. I always like to check veracity.

She dwelt a lot more on Ozzy's physical abuse of her than he did in apologizing for it in his book. Clearly Brit schools don't teach something that is paramount in our schools: We don't hit other people. Ozzy turned her into his private punching bag when displeased or even just cranky - pow! He'd pop her one. In turn, it must be said that she relished a good physical fight and often went at him with fists and nails. Her specialty seems to have been throwing things and she readily admits to having trashed several of their homes' interiors.

Of interest to the medical community is that they both have an anatomical quirk called "Toilet Tongue" - about every 8th to 10th word is an obscenity.

Her life in "show biz" started when she was around 15, working for her father Don Arden, a noted figure in the music business (for criminal theft and wanna-be thuggery.)

She has clearly been the driving force behind all of Ozzy's post-Black Sabbath fame.

She is a devoted mother (who claims to have gone through more than a dozen nannies, hired to work two at a time) - and is very proud of the children - Aimee, Kelly and Jack. In fact, they seem always to have had "staff." She doesn't cook and used to hide her jewels in the oven. "I knew they'd be safe there!" she chortles. She has overcome colon cancer as well as extensive plastic surgery and one of the first lap band surgeries for weight loss and diet control.

Hey, it's only rock'n roll!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Impulse-Driven Personalities

"I Am Ozzy" by Ozzy Osbourne with Chris Ayres Grand Central Publishing 391 pages $26.99

Ozzy tells us that he believes every day of his life has been an event. Why, you ask? It seems he took lethal combinations of pills and booze for 30 years! Oddly, what came closest to killing him was a fall off of his quad bike -- at 2mph.

(Naturally) he regrets many of his worst behaviors (alcohol, drugs); freely admits he wasn't a very good Dad because he wasn't home much and so on. His apparent mindlessness, shown on the family's TV show (and commented on by many) is a result of his parents having had a glitch on the same gene. It's a rare form of Parkinson's disease.

Never having watched the Osbournes on television, I didn't think this book would interest me very much, but I was so engrossed that I read most of it in an afternoon.

Purist Alert: bad language is his second language.

"Jenniemae and James, A Memoir in Black & White" by Brooke Newman Harmony Books 301 pages $24

Newman writes about an unlikely friendship -- her white, mathematician father and the family's black maid/cook/cleaner. James Newman had a taste for women other than his wife and fast cars. Amazingly enough, he often moved his current mistress right into the family home!

Jenniemae was illiterate, but had a gift for playing the numbers. She won up to eight of 10 games a day, a phenominal record. She claimed God gave her the numbers in dreams.

Her ability to win consistently intrigued James, who pestered her though out their long friendship (mid '40s to 1966) until his death, aged 58, to give him a number. She flatly refused to do it. Until: the day after she had attended one of his commencement speeches at Johns Hopkins University in 1965. She was impressed not only by what he'd said in his address, but at the way that he insisted she attend it as a member of the family with him, his wife and daughter.

Both Ozzy and Newman are/were interesting characters, as different intellectually as they undoubtedly were.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bob's Latest Gets Reviewed

Bob Brodsky's lastest book - "The World in a Jug" was favorably reviewed in the Beach Reporter. Read it at tbrnews.com/articles/2010/08/21stepping out. Or Google Robert F. Brodsky + Beach Reporter.

Saturdays with Mr. Now You Know We Don't Have to Buy It Today

Yesterday (Saturday) we went to the Hermosa Beach library book sale at their permanent facility across the side street (Bard) from the fire and police departments. Both of us bought books, but this is definitely a low profile deal. I spent $1.25 myself.

Off to Trader Joe's (scallops in the future along with some $80 on a credit card) took the food home and then set sail for Sears, over in Torrance.

Mission: Appliances. The day before we left for South Texas -- er, thought we were leaving - the dryer door decided to be contrary and to refuse to stay shut. Whatever I braced against it fell the moment the dryer's vibrations started. I finally had to build a wall of: a box of books with two big cases of Trivial Pursuit cards on top of that to hold it closed.

The washer has been temperamental, too. I was able to deal with the Start dial snapping in two, but ... sometimes it does the final spin; sometimes it doesn't and you aren't going to know until you stick your hands in the tub.

All said and done? New needed. Richie warned me that this would be a scouting expedition only. He warned me, "We don't have to buy them today, you know." I shrugged; I had more or less jerryrigged a solution to both problems.

At Sears, I detoured briefly down an escalator a floor, went to the Ladies Room and back up the escalator. I discovered Himself deep in conversation with a salesman, certainly no oilier than Uriah Heep. Richie in this brief time had already inspected the two models he'd researched in Consumer Digest and eagerly showed them to me.

I okayed them because the controls on both are quite simple. It is not my ambition to have appliances with controls that look like the cockpit of a 747. Plus: Simplest lasts longest.

Sears will deliver them on Monday. So much for "Now we're just looking, okay?"

Friday, August 20, 2010

Not Exactly Flying Away

Aiports should have a sign up that reads, "Welcome to downtown Calcutta!" right next to the one that reads, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here." You'd have plenty of time to read the signs as you stand in a half-mile long line to go through security from the street and another four block line to go through security to the gates.

For some reason a number of families decided to take to the skies yesterday and most groups were accessorized with a crying infant. One woman had trundeled her 18-month old (?) to three different gates and waits for a flight out. The kid was not best pleased and let the world know about in piercing tones. I had to step closer to the podium to hear what the gate lady was saying -- and she was blaringly loud.

If you are "lucky enough" (snort) to get on, you will then face an aisle crowded with people, each attempting to hoist a carry-on the size of a steamer trunk into an overhead in. They are always quite puzzled when it doesn't fit. Wonderingly, they stare at it. But rather than resigning themselves to handing it over to a FA, they try a different angle to wedge it in. The FA, blocked at the head of the aisl, can't do much more than shout, "If you bag won't fit in the overhead, contact a flight attendant and we will take care of it."

There are no empty seats. Every single seat has a derriere in it. Many of the self-styled road warriors also have their laptops out and are working. Good luck getting past them to go to the john. Apparently each person is working on something of utmost importance and by forcing them to close it or move it, you are risking our national security.

There are no amenities such as a blanket, pillow or food other than a wrap sandwich (always turkey) and "snack boxes" (salt, grease and sugar.) American now has a new wrinkle -- if you want to sit in the first three or four rows of Coach (for a quicker exit) you pay for it. I seem to remember that it's $100, possibly less.

On arrival it takes at least half an hour for the capitalist swine up front in Business or First to gather their belongings and deplane. The rest of us, cowlike, stand in the aisles(s) shifting, bovine-like from hoof to hoof, necks craned at an awkward angle because of the overhead bins.

There is always one poor soul who figures out, "Oh! We've landed! I need to get my bag!" at the moment that all of the rest of us are staggering toward the front of the plane.

None of it is pretty.

There are diversions aboard. Going to Chicago recently, we flew through some turbulence and a woman a couple of rows up from us in the center section screamed, "Whoooooo!" periodically. I thought it was funny and grinned, but Richie was less than amused. In fact, now that I think about it, he looked a little green.

And that's pretty much flying today. Miserable. Richie vowed that we will never fly non-revenue again. But .. we're scheduled to flly to JFK in mid-September and I put us in First and it looks good for those dates...so, the dilemma is: do we want to pay money to ride in Steerage or take our chances and get First? First and Business classes are not free to us (as Coach is) but the cost compared to buying a civilian ticket is miniscule. Decisions, decisions...

Thursday, August 19, 2010


We didn't go to South Texas so we'll be right here next Tuesday.

If you've noticed that the American Airlines logo looks like a raptor about to strike, I know why. They have been greedily over-selling seats. To and from Chicago, gate agents were pleading for pax to take the next flight out -- for $300 or $400 and a guaranteed seat. Today they didn't even bother. At one point there were 37 stand-bys on the list.

In a belated thrill, we learned that both of our checked bags DID go to San Antonio. I told the Lost Bags Lady to tell them to at least send a postcard. American will bring them to the house (if or ever they turn up and didn't continue on to, say Mexico City.)

I might point out that my bags contained very nearly all of my resort collection of clothes...and two pairs of shoes.

Adios for the Moment

Going to South Texas, back Tuesday.

"More of that good bread, please!"

Bread fans at Vinny Vanucchi's Little Italy, 201 S. Main Street, Galena, IL 815-777-8100 vinnysgalena.com

This is both a restaurant and an Italian deli, located in an old house. It's filled with rooms, nooks and crannies and if I'd had an Italian grandmother who never threw anything away, I'd feel right at home.

We had a table on the top floor and enjoyed the view, down a hill toward the Galena main drag.

Jane and Sharon had that day's special - eggplant parmesan; Richie the lasagna with sausage and I the pasta alfredo. All come with a salad in a great big bowl and a big basket of absolutely delicious garlic bread. Steeped in olive oil and grilled slightly, these chunks of bread were heavenly. Four of us had very filling lunches for a grand total of $49.79 (iced tea/water all around) and could have taken leftovers home.

Mickey Finn's, 412 N. Milwaukee, Libertyville, IL 847-362-6688 mickeyfinnsbrewery.com

They brew their own here and have a variety of beer styles. We ordered a pitcher of their version of a Mexican beer and it was quite good. More body than a Corona or Pacifico, but as light.

Lots and lots of bar food, ranging from a taco dip with chips to pork sliders (three for $5.95,) quesadillas (choice of mushrooms, beef, chicken, cheese,) Philly cheese steak sandwiches ($9.50) all reasonably priced. Five of us had two pitchers of beer ($15) two glasses of chardonnay ($16) and a lot of food for a total of $91.13 or less than $20 per person for drinks AND dinner.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rollin' On The River

Sunset on the Mississippi

A group of diners on the Spirit of Dubuque

River Traffic

Port of Dubuque
Seven of us set sail on the might Spirit of Dubuque, a paddle wheel steamer that served dinner and no-host drinks. The dinner was a choice of prime rib or breast of chicken in a cream sauce; garlic mashed potatoes, frozen, chopped green bean casserole and rolls and butter. Pastry twists for dessert. I went vegetarian, but enjoyed the chick gravy on my mashed po. All of the seven agreed that dinner was much better than had been expected.
Dubuque River Rides, departs 3rd Street Ice Harbor, Port of Dubuque 563-583-8093 dubuqueriverrides.com Board at 5:30 p.m., depart at 6.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Virgins at The Feast, or Our 1st Wine-Tasting Dinner

No photo available, but the Amuse Bouche was billed as Cucumber and Ginger. Each person was given a clean fork with a thin roll of cucumber on the tine ends with a dab of what might have been creme fraise. I thought it would be more interesting with a long sliver of candied ginger running through it, but I'm no chef.
1st Course Green-Tea smoked Wild King Salmon Belly, Wrapped in a Crispy Kasha and Rice Paper Skin, Soba Noodles, Avocado Pudding, Soy Epsuma (foam) and Wasabi Tobiko Caviar.

Wine: 2005 Joseph Drouhin Sechers

I'm sure it was there, but I didn't find the wasabi, which is a flavor I like. Looking at the dish, I thought the puddle of pale green WAS the wasabi, but it was avocado instead.

2nd Course Pan-roasted Squab with Poached White Peach, Foie Gras, Garden Beans and Annato Seed Oil

Wine: 2003 Tempranillo, Montecillo Reserva

I nearly lost it, looking down at the squab (aka young domestic pigeon.) The purple meat ... the little leg sticking up in the air...but I did eat all of the other items. The Poached White Peach was served over a bed of grilled red onions.

Funny story: After the dinner a fellow guest asked me what was that 2nd course? I told her, "Pigeon" and she shrieked and said, "I thought it was some kind of fish! I ate it!"


Blackberry and Cabernet Sorbet -- after the first bite, I beamed - Delicious!

Wine: people finished off what they had in their glass.

3rd Course: Dou of Wagyu Beef, Braise and Grilled with a Hibiscus BBQ Sauce. Black-eyed Pea croquettes, Chayote Puree, Pearl Onions and a Manchego Cheese Tuile. What look like onion rings are the Manchego Cheese Tuiles. The Chaote Puree was slightly tart and very good. The black-eyed pea croquettes went well with the excellent beef.

Wine: 2003 Shiraz, Elderton Command -- sweeter than I expected and worked very well with the meat.

DESSERT: "Plum Bread Pudding with Hazelnut and Carmel" That's a bed of plum aspic with plum slices supporting the bread pudding. In the background you will get a glimpse of the hazel and carmel roll -- it looked exactly like a Vienna sausage! And it was delicious!
Wine: 2007 Riesling Spatlese, Markus Molitor

Congratulations to Chef Morgan Wesley! Congratulations to Sommelier Steve Curtis!

But next time could you serve something I like to eat? lol!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Little Funicular That Could

Once upon a time, a long time ago (1882) in a far-away land called "Dubuque, Iowa" there lived a Banker by the name of J.K. Graves.

"Dubuque" was a town with two faces -- downtown was flat land; mansions sat on the bluffs above. The Banker worked downtown and lived in a mansion far above the city. It was a custom at that time for all workers to take an hour and a half for lunch. But Banker was being cheated of his time because he had to drive his buggy for half an hour to get to his house and another half hour back to his office. He was a frustrated man.

So the Banker decided to do something about this situation. And he did. He hired a local engineer who built him a funicular railway. The cable car had a coal-fired steam engine and a winch. The railcar was lowered and pulled up again on the two rails by a hemp rope.

The Banker's gardener would let him down in the morning, pull him up for lunch, send him back down until quitting time and then haul him back up.

But on July 19, 1884, barely two years after it had been completed, the boiler exploded! Undaunted, the Banker built it all over again and began charging a small fee for rides. (Hopefully he also gave the poor gardener who actually did all the work a raise. But bankers...probably not.)

But in 1893, disaster struck again! The elevator burned. There was a recession on and the Banker couldn't afford to rebuild it by himself. Ten of his neighbors on the bluff joined together and formed the Fenelon Place Elevator Company (a name that was very nearly longer than the tracks themselves - 296 ft. long.)

The Chicago World's Fair was running in 1893, so the group went there to see how to improve their funicular. They bought a streetcar motor to run the elevator, a turnstile for the paying customers and steel cables (the hemp ropes kept burning up.)

Eventually Mr. C. B. Trewin became the sole stockholder; the others having died or moved away. He added a pair of garages and a second floor hideaway for himself and his cronies. They could smoke cigars and play cards unmolested by nagging wives.

1962, there was yet another fire but this one damaged only a part of the operator's house. Coincidentally or not, fares went up to 10 cents a ride.

In 1977, the cars were completely rebuilt and the 84-year-old gearbox was replaced by a more modern one.

Today it's largely a tourist attraction. A roundtrip ticket now costs $2 and there are observations decks - 189 ft. up -- that give views of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. It runs from April 1st to November 30th and is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Some Oddities of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin

These are battered, deep-fried cheese curds as served by the Village Bar Supper Club. They're usually served with ranch dressing.

Sign on the way to Milwaukee - "Bong Recreational Park" I thought, "Yeah, I'd bet so..."

Listening to NPR on the car radio, we heard a veddy, veddy Brit guy talking about "pod-estrians" - people walking around oblivious to the world around them, focused entirely on their music mix or whatever. He reported that in London alone, they are routinely mowed down by bicyclists, cars, buses... He reported seeing one man walking across the street while reading a book! I thought "death wish" to myself...

There aren't any mosquitos in Galena Territory because there is no still water, but the black flies leave a terrible welt. Didn't have access to anti-itch cream, so daubed a bit of toothpaste on the bites -- worked like a charm!

Other uses for toothpaste (other than the original purpose): Remove Kool-Aid stains; on minor burns (but I don't recommend this;) to clean ivory piano keys; to remove smells from your hands - use like soap - and to spot clean your shoes. Would NOT advise this on suede shoes. Are you listening to me, Elvis?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Harley Davidson Museum Photos

The Harley-Davidson Museum Facts

It's located at 6th and Canal, Milwaukee, WI. h-dmuseum.com

In 1903 - 107 years ago - William S. Harley, age 23, and Arthur Davidson, age 22, began making and selling motorcycles. This museum honors their very successful efforts.
Before we even got there, people told us that H-D was moving/undergoing bankruptcy and worse, but an article dated 8/4/2010 stated that the plant may move (costing Milwaukee some 1,600 jobs) but the odds are good that the museum would remain.

There are three buildings -- the main museum with permanent exhibits; a smaller building with gift shop and restaurant and a third, reserved for traveling exhibits. At the time of our visit the honored guest was Evel Kneivel - "There's A Little Bit of Evel In All of Us" being the theme. What amused me was that in a big room, full of Evel artifacts (white leather suit, various rockets, motorcycles and so on -- real things -- all of the men present were staring at a huge screen running replays of his various jumps. Yeah, guys and television; you can't separate them.

In related news, this morning's Daily Breeze reports the death of a fourth motorcyclist at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Sturgis, SD.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Country Eating - A Throwback to More Generous Times

The Village Bar Supper Club, 3410 County Road HHH, Kieler, WI 608-568-3004 Beware of the HHH designation - there is also a double H and a single H -- all very near one another.

I thought call ing it a "supper club" was wildly funny because my only knowledge of them (from the outside, not the inside) is that they're located in densely urban areas (Palm Springs, Manhattan, for example.) Yet, here it sat, off to the side of a two-lane highway and a farm-to-market road. Pick-ups and Harleys dotted the gravel parking lot that ran in front of the place. Neon beer signs lit up the windows.

We were received warmly (all five of us) and seated at a table in the corner. The relish tray made a prompt appearance. For those of you younger than say 40,. this used to happen with regularity at some restaurants. On being seated, your waitress would put down a platter of fresh vegetables, dips, pickles or whatever else might seem appealing to the restaurant owner. "Hey! Welcome! Now you git on in here and sit down!"

Our relish tray contained: sliced celery, radishes, carrots with little dishes of ranch dressing; home-made liverwurst, a cheese dip and -- potato salad! All of this was accompanied by a basket brimming with several kinds of crackers and "bread sticks." The liverwurst "pate" was excellent.

The house specialty is prime rib. The Petite is 16 oz. for $16.95. The Queen is 24 oz. at $18.95 and the King is 40 oz. (yes, 40 oz.) for $24.95. We passed a King on the way to our table and it looked to be a 4 in. x 4 in. x 4 in. cube; rather like half a cinder block (without the holes.) It was barely seared on the outside edges... yes, well... Much, much later, we saw the King diner departing - with a sizeable box in his hand.

Baked potatoes come with all of the trimmings and cole slaw is the main accompaniment. Since it was good, who cares that it was not "sauteed, seasonal vegetables"? Neither my sister nor myself like prime rib so we ordered the shrimp scampi which was excellent.

Despite appearances (road house?!) this was very good food, delivered promptly and all of the hot things hot -- nothing got cold on the way to the table even with five of us and two different menu choices -- various sizes of the prime rib, done to different degrees plus the shrimp. I wish we had a Village Bar Supper Club in Redondo ... (said wistfully.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The French Mountains of Illinois

Cafe Pyrenees, 1762 N. Milwaukee, Libertyville, IL 847-362-CAFE cafepyrenees.com

My sister recommended it, adding that on Thursday nights the restaurant has a free wine tasting. As it was Thursday ... we toddled over. It was a long two blocks from the hotel, but it was also about 85 degrees and muggy, so we drove over.

Located in a newish (five years old) shopping mall, it looks deceptively small until you walk into it where rooms lead off of other rooms. There is also a patio for those who enjoy humidity. Due to Illinois law that you can't smoke within 50 feet of a doorway, you can't enjoy a cigarette.

The wine tasting was fun as the sommelier/salesman was interesting. After that, we were seated and ordered. We could have had Cafe Pyrnenees - chicken, duck confit, asparagus, peas, peppers, cherry tomatoes in a light cream parmesan sauce ($19) or the Duo of Duck sliced duck breast and crispy duck confit, quinoa and blueberry sauce ($24.)

Instead, we started with an order of traditional escargots (garlic sauce as opposed to encased in puff pastry) and the six snails arrived in little individual cups! Not the usual shells. Lovely, plump, earthy snails... and we used up all of the bread sopping up the sauce ($10.50)

Richie ordered beef Bourgogne ($24) and I decided to try the hanger steak ($17) having heard of this cut but never having eaten it. It came sliced with a generous pouring of shallot sauce over it. Now I understand the recent fervor about this cut -- it was delicious!

The other "hot thing" about Thursday nights is that bottles of wine are at half price. Thus we had a very nice Cycle Gladiator cabernet for $14 instead of the usual $28. It was sweeter than I usually think of a cab and went well with the shallot sauce on the steak.

* I looked it up - hanger steak is the cut that hangs from the diaghram of the steer. It's also known as "Butcher's Steak" because they wouldn't sell it, but take it home for themselves. Butchers are apparently crafty devils...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Putting Trader Joe Out of Business

A lofty goal to be sure. In Richie's excavations, he came across a cookbook that is entirely made up of recipes for appetizers. I read cookbooks as avidly as I do books with psycho murderers, so naturally I dropped everything else to take a look. (One reason this house looks the way it does.)

Imagine my delight at discovering super markets sell frozen puff pastry dough! As I have an aversion to baking because I can't stand flour on my hands, this is welcome news. Biscuits come in a can, ready to be shaped and piled high with tasty goods. Tortillas are used as wraps. Cut an English muffin in half, toast it and add tomato sauce, cheese, seasonings and you've got a mini-pizza. All kinds of raw materials there, just begging to be covered in something.

How hard could this be? Cur beef or chicken in long strips and skewer them (soak the skewers first so that they don't catch fire) flavor them and cook them in the convection toaster oven.

Or this

2 cups grated Cheddar cheese (buy a bag of already shredded)
1 14 1/2 oz. can of deviled ham spread
1/3 cup mayonnaise (this seems rather a lot as the ham is very fatty)
2 teas. Dijon mustard
1 teas. horseradish
Beat it all up together, put it in a crock and spread over slides of rye bread. You can eat it cold with crackers or put them on the bread and pop them under the broiler for a second.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


We're baaack!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Going to Chicago; back Tuesday.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Too Funny Not to Share

I have a stack of old issues of Town & Country magazine, saved up for me by a friend. I love the wedding photos! Totally posed, and everyone is bragging about where they got married -- Venice, Italy; Cabo San Lucas, Marin County ... Oh and the gown designer's name is always mentioned. "Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Bartles von Hinkydink (Olivia Carry St. John in Vera Wang)" is the style.

Today I noticed a small, discreet ad for Regal Domestics, Inc. (regaldomesticsinc.com) and had a wonderful time laughing. They provide such as house and estate managers, chefs/cooks, butlers, housemen and yacht staff!

There are spaces for prospective employers to tell them what is needed; there is a form for the applicants. The very first thing asked is whether or not you smoke! Would you be comfortable working in a "smoking home"? Apparently the wealthy do still smoke (take that Surgeon General!)

Thoroughly enthused about pretending I am a very wealthy woman looking for "staff" I went to another site -- tandcr.com -- which lists real people for hire! I had a ball reading their resumes! I can't recommend this pasttime highly enough!

I mean, when you win the lottery, you're going to need to be prepared!

Peter O'Toole Is 78 Today

"Hellraisers - The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole and Oliver Reed" by Robert Sellers Thomas Dunne Books 286 pages $25.99

Of the four listed above, O'Toole is the only one still alive. And, frankly, he doesn't look well at all. It's not surprising the other three died when you take into account just how much they drank. Oliver Reed, for a lark, once drank 126 pints in 24 hours -- about 12 minutes for each pint. Burton, at one point, was drinking three bottles of vodka a day.

What amazed me initially was the fact that all of them could stay up all night drinking and then step in front of the cameras as fresh as a daisy. But as time went on and the drink wore out their systems, this ability vanished. They were, as they aged, nightmares to work with. Reed and Harris both liked to fight as much as they did the drink. Harris could wake up covered in bruises or stitches and not have a clue as to how theinjuries had occurred.

And attitude? Lordy! "God put me on this earth to raise sheer hell," said Richard Burton. "I don't have a drink problem. But if that was the case and doctors told me I had to stop I'd like to think I would be brave enough to drink myself into the grave," said Oliver Reed.

Read about them and be amused; whatever you do don't emulate them!