Wednesday, August 31, 2011

You Thought That Was Bad? Try This!

Having gotten some flak about my personally-designed hamburger (bacon, grilled pineapple, red onion and jalapenos with a soy ginger dressing) I vowed to find something that would be truly disgusting to eat -- and yet millions of English love this dish! Hangover from the glorious days of the Raj, I suppose.

When Britain ruled India, they started their day with a dish called Kedgeree which is a bastardization of the Hindi "Khichri."

4 T butter
2 onions, sliced
1 small green pepper, seeded and sliced
1 small zuccini, sliced
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1 small mango, sliced
2 teas. flour
2 teas. shredded dried coconut
1 teas. mild curry
1 teas. tomato paste
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups long-grain patna rice
4 hardboiled eggs, cut into quarters
3/4 lb. finnan haddie (oak-smoked haddock) filets, gently poached

Melt the butter and saute the vegetables. Thicken it by stirring in the flour. Then stir in the coconut, curry and tomato puree. Add the chicken stock a little at a time. Simmer gently for 30 minutes.

This recipe? Oh, that's how the London Ritz Hotel makes Kedgeree.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Let's Hear It For Romania!

My AOL mail service went kablooey. I called the 800 number and was connected to Alexandru Z. in Romania! When he heard my name, he said, "Oh! Like Eddie Murphy - I love his movies!"

He was very friendly; we chatted about places - he's been to Paris and hopes to visit Greece - while we waited for my computer to respond. He said that when AOL taught them how to "go into" people's computers, he marveled, "From Romania, I can do this!"

And he fixed it! I asked him how to say "thank you" in Romanian and he said (phonetic)"motramek" and added "nasdra!" for "Good job!" Well done, Alexandru!

Touring Claremont

The old part of town is a charming enclave of short buildings (one or two stories) with wide sidewalks and tourist attractions such as bakeries, clothing stores, restaurants and an antiques shop.

We left the house at 10 a.m. and found ourselves there at 11:30 a.m. We went directly to the church and then oriented ourselves from there.

Espiau's, 109 Yale, Claremont 909-621-1818 It's been there a long time but it doesn't look beat down, but lovingly kept spotless. Deep booths and attentive service.

I was strongly tempted by the Fatty Burger, a beef patty with cheddar, onion rings, bacon and barbecue sauce ($9.95) but I succumbed to reason and ordred a small Caesar salad ($4.25) and machacas which are left-over beef roast stir fried with onions, green or red peppers or both, tomatoes and eggs.($10.25) Richie ordered machacas, too. He had a Pacifico ($4) and I iced tea ($2.25)

The salad came first, served in a deep bowl with a saucer under the bowl. I served myself half on the plate and haded the bowl to Richie. The dressing didn't have much of a Caesar flavor; not enough Parmesan. In fact, it could have been half mayo and half buttermilk. But the lettuce was possibly the freshest I've ever encountered! It tasted like summer...

It was 12:30 p.m. when we finished and now we had an hour and a half to kill. Richie brightened and said, "I know! The library! It's air conditioned and has toilets!"

On the way, we stopped at Bert & Rockie's Cream Country, a novelty candy and ice cream shop. It was 105 so we got cones. My lemongrass ginger had a chewy texture and a creamy taste with flecks of lemongrass sparking throughout. Neither flavor dominated. In fact, they seemed to sit in a corner, quietly chatting. Richie liked his spumoni. Junior cones $2.50 I wondered why country western was playing and then remember "Cream Country."

We found the library, I bougoht "Tuesdays With Morrie" in the used books store and settled down to read. Richie roamed around. At 1:40 p.m. we had one last pee and headed to the 2 p.m. funeral. We were right on time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

All Is Well -

Bob truly had a peaceful ending in that while some tempers were raised, no shots were fired.

The sad truth is that the 1st Tier (which includes me) are all too old to get agitated. The 2nd Tier has overcome upbringing (by wolves and savages) to be a civilized lot, thus no excitement there. The 3rd Tier are all kids and what do they know of ancient feuds anyhow?

Pity it was 105 degrees but that was the only glitch of which I know.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Into the Valley of Death Rode the 400 (Minus 398)

Today is the family funeral that I railed about back on August 16th. Richie and I will be setting out for Claremont at 10 a.m. Claremont is an area as unfamiliar to us as grand opera, atonal music or astro-physics.

We do know how to get there from here, but we don't know how much time it will take. Thus, we asked Bob and Pat Brodsky who used to live there for the name of a good restaurant. Pat enthused about a Mexican restaurant on Yale Street, in downtown Claremont.

Knowing now that we can avail ourselves of sustenance prior to the drama or seek refuge after the funeral, we are content. A Plan B is always a good thing to have.

Reportage will continue if I do.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Re my custom-designed hamburger at The Counter yesterday:

This from East Texas: "Nina, that is the worst-sounding hamburger I have ever heard of - wow!"

Richie: "That was a disaster! They think Irene is bad..."

I would remind you, Gentle Readers, that Richie polished off the last of my hamburger with relish and glee -- after picking out the remaining pineapple and jalapeno.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sitting At The Counter

The Counter, 719 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach, opened about a week ago. I looked at their menu at and was intrigued at the thought of building my very own hamburger.

It's a new concept to me - on being seated, you're handed a clipboard and a check-off list of all the things you want on your hamburger. There are little pencils in a cup (like Keno in Las Vegas.)

There are also non-hamburger items - turkey chili, grilled vegetables, a BLT or grilled ham and cheese. Desserts include an apple crumble, Key lime pie or a caramel and chocolate brownie.

Back to this check-off business. The steps are numbered for yur convenience.
1. The type of meat (hamburger, turkey) and portion size - 1/3 lb., 2/3rds lb., etc.
2. The cheese -- 12 to choose from
3. 21 different toppings - pick any four (grilled pineapple, red onion, things like that.)
3.5 Premium toppings (bacon, avocado, fried egg, chili) There are nine of these.
4. Sauces -- 21 including chipotle aioli, tzatziki and so on.
5. Kind of bun - hamburger, English muffin, onion roll...

I started with an order of onion strings. ($4.95) I think of these thin strands of onion, lightly dusted in flour and probably white pepper as "diet onion rngs" and I love them. A platter, sufficient to serve four, quickly appeared.

My burger had: 1/3 lb. hamburger, no cheese, red onion, jalapenos, grilled pineapple and bacon, topped with a soy ginger sauce on an onion roll. $8.95 plus $1 for the bacon. (Applewood smoked, you may be sure. What's up with this anyhow?)

Richie, unimpressed by all of the ways to concoct a hamburger, ordered 1/3 lb. hamburger with cheddar cheese on a hamburger bun. How sad is that? When it arrived, he asked for mustard.

Mine arrived, splayed out open faced, ready for me to add soy ginger sauce from the little steel cup and to slap the lid on. I managed more than half of it before throwing in the towel. Richie gladly finished it off, but I have yet to hear any words of gratitude about how inventive I was, how the flavors complimented each other, yet stood out with bold audacity on their own. You know -- restaurant gibberish.

Lunch (one iced tea, one water) came to $28.66 plus 20% tip. I'm already building new hamburgers in my head...

The Counter Burger locations include: CA, CN, FL, GA, IL, HI, NY, T, VA, WA and IRELAND. No kidding, Dubline, Ireland. Unviersity town, that's proably why.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Rare Dip Into Politics

Rep. Maxine Waters, D., can't be a very good poker player. Her deck has only one card in it -- you know, the race card.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Real Tofu! (Gasp)

I like Asian foods and Richie does not. Thus, while browsing that section at the supermarket, I came across the dried, packet soups. I bought one of Mishima's All Natural Hot & Sour Soup. I thought $2.29 was rather expensive for my lunch, but then (at home, of course) discovered that it's THREE packets of soup which is certainly affordable.

I made a cup just now and emblazoned across the back of the packet are these words: Instant Oriental Soup with Real Tofu. I'm still grinning -- tofu is a vegetable-based meat substitute! Does this mean that out there Somewhere is "faux tofu"? "Imitation tofu" like that damned krab stuff?

If you know, let me know. The soup is excellent - a real hot taste that wakes up all of your mouth due to the chiles and white pepper. There are bits of dried green onion rings, dried carrot slivers and at least five little boxes of tofu. For a heartier soup, beat an egg and drop it in the boiling soup. As it is, naked, it's 20 calories per serving which is a steal!

Monday, August 22, 2011

On Your Own Head...

The current craze is suddenly sea salt and caramel items. I tried to find out when this burst upon the scene, but couldn't. Just trust me - it's here.

Bon Appetit featured this recipe and it sounded very tempting. Unfortunately, one slice will use up all of your fat, sugar and carbs allowances for the year. You've been warned - it'll be on your head alone if you make one.

CARAMEL BUDINO (Italian for "pudding") With Salted Caramel Sauce

1 cup finely-ground chocolate cookie crumbs (such as Banisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, about 20 cookies)
2 T sweet butter, melted
1/8 tsp kosher salt (would omit)

Mix cookie crumbs, butter and salt in a medium bowl. Press 2 T into the bottom of eight 8 oz. Mason jars. Set aside.

3 cups whole milk, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup, packed dark brown sugar
5 large egg yolks (have paramedics on stand-by)
3 T sweet butter
2 T dark rum
1 tsp kosher salt (would omit)

Whisk 1/2 cup milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl, and set aside. Heat remaining 2 1/2 cups milk just to a simmer and set aside.
To make the caramel, stir sugar and 3/4 cup water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. At that point, increase the heat and cook without stirring until the candy thermometer registers 210-220 degrees.

Line a sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and set over a large pitcher. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the hot milk into the cornstarch mixture in a saucepan.
Whisk constantly over medium heat until it thickens and a thermometer registers 175 degrees (will take about 3 minutes.) Take pan off of the stove, whisk in the butter, rum and salt. Pour through prepared sieve.
Pour 1/2 cup budino/pudding over crust in jar. Let set 4 or 5 hours. Keep chilled.

3/4 cup plus 2 T heavy cream (add to number of paramedics on duty at your house)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 cup sugar
2 T light corn syrup
4 T sweet butter, (1/2 stick)cut into 1/2 in. cubes
1/4 teas. kosheer salt (would omit)
Lightly sweetened whipped cram

Put the cream in a small pitcher and scrape in the vanilla bean seeds. Set aside
Stir sugar, corn syrup and 2 T water until the sugar dissolves then crank up the heat to medium high, occasionally swirling the pan and brushing down the sides with a wet pastry brush. In 5 - 6 minutes, it will turn a dark amber color.
Remove from heat and add the vanilla cream mixture -- it will boil up, be careful!
whisk until it's smooth, take it off the heat and whisk in the butter and salt. Strain into a heat-proof bowl. Let cool slightly

Spoon 2 T of this sauce over the puddings and garnish with whipped cream.

I think this may be the longest recipe I've ever typed and you know what? I now don't give a damn about this "budino"! My appetite (and the paramedics) are gone.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Playing @ in the Kitchen

Simple Scallops
# of scallops you want to serve
Orange marmalade
A slice of bacon, crisped and crumbled

Get the skillet going and the fat you're going to use near-smoking heat. Sear the scallops, flip them and sear again, then turn off the burner and let the scallops sit in the pan. Searing is all well and good, but scallops need the heated "rest" to cook all the way through.

Plate them, "butter" them with the orange marmalde and sprinkle the bacon bits over them and serve.

Of note: our black cat "Minuit" loves the scallop muscles and your cat might, too.

Wasabi-Turkey Sandwich
a ciabatta roll
Wasabi-sesame dipping sauce (shake the bottle like a dog with a rabbit)
Deli-sliced turkey
1 slice red onion, finely chopped
2 or 3 slices of salami
Bread and butter pickles as needed

Split and toast the roll. The instant they come out of the toaster oven, be ready with your dipping sauce. Squirt it on the hot bread and spread it out with a knife.

Put the chopped onion on one slice of bread, cover with the turkey, salami and pickles. Put the sandwich top on and smush the bread down hard. It will be somewhat drippy, true, but I liked it so much I made me one the next day.

New at the supermarket (not Trader Joe's for once!) Litehouse Freeze-dried Red Jalapenos. Keep the jar on the counter - there's nothing in it but freeze-dried jalapenos.

They're good-sized pieces and I think they need to be included with "wet" dishes, like chile, soups or sauce. Or you could mince them and not worry about hitting a hard piece when you don't expect it. Product of Germany?! Since when do Germans know about jalapenos???

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Morbid Curiosity

There was an article on the front page of the Drudge Report yesterday that interested me. The photo showed an morbidly obese woman, sitting on a sofa, flanked by her sons, ages 8 and 16. She was so big, she looked like a bedspread laid out on the sofa rather than like a person.

She is Susanne Eman, 32, of Mesa Grande, AZ., a single Mom and welfare recipient. When photographed, she said she weighed 728 lbs. and that her goal was 800 lbs. by the end of the year. This the route she is taking to weigh 1,600 lbs. to become the world's fattest woman.

Based on the expressions on the faces of her two sons, I have to wonder, "Where in hell are the Child Protection people?" Clearly they are needed because Big Mamma is batshit crazy. She said in her blog that the bigger she gets, the more desirable she feels! She claims to be healthy - on 20,000 calories a day - but her doctor says he has tried to discourage her.

A side issue might be why the media chose to pursue this story and feed her ego, but we know what the media is like.

I have always wondered how morbidly obese people can manange to stay alive till the next meal. The strain on the heart alone must be horrific. So I did some research.

The Top 5 Causes of Death for these people who weigh more than 300 lbs., but that are shorter than 7 ft. tall are:

5. Cancer - breast, colorectal, kidney. Men 14% and women 20% died of cancer due to morbid obesity.

4. Stroke

3. Fatty liver disease

2. Cardio vascular disease - 6 times more likely for these people

1. Type 2 diabetes - the pancreas just can't keep up with the amount of inbound food.

I Googled, "A day in the life of a morbidly obese person" and gleaned these tidbits.
Bus, plane, train seats - no one wants to sit next to the overflow of their space.
Fatigue - walking, stairs
Joint pain in the knees
The necessity of eating alone, even if it's a healthy meal, for fear of what people are thinking, "Yeah, right - yogurt. When does she get to the side of beef, peck of French fries and a Diet Coke?"
"I have a good job and I'm smart and well-educated, but all anyone ever sees is my weight."

But: there's a lid for every pot. There is a web site called Super Size Big Beautiful Women. The comments amazed me! Some men think these gargantuan creatures are gorgeous! That's almost as scary as Susanne Eman...and what will happen to her boys in the future.

Friday, August 19, 2011


The column finally got one! To encourage others to sound off; kvetch or further inform, I'm starring it for today. The subject is "Pawn Star," the Las Vegas pawn shop.

From Cape Coral, FL: I passed on the show many times because of the uninteresting name, at least for me. But one day, I was bored so I thought I'd see movies stars or the films of that nature. But now I'm hooked because it was not what I thought. Now, someday, I might want to pawn some things instead of having a sale on my front lawn!"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The World Is Leaving Me Behind

As an example, there is a highly-rated show on the History channel called "Pawn Stars" about and set in a Las Vegas pawn shop. I had no idea of its existence until I picked this book:

"License to Pawn, Deals, Steals and My Life at the Gold and Silver" by Rick Harrison Hyperion Press 256 pages $23.99

Harrison, in addition to recounting his life, gives bits of information all through the book, some of which might interest you, too. Do you know why pimps cover themselves in bling? If they're arrested, their cash gets confiscated; their jewelry does not. One of his stable takes it to the pawn shop and - viola! bail money.

He calls ormolu clocks (all gold, gilt and glitter) "Death Clocks" because the person that made the clock had to be younger than 35. All of the people who worked with mercury to create the clock were dead by that age. Ormolu clocks start at $15,000.

He rails at current gun laws. If you buy a "regular" gun you have to go through all kinds of paperwork. Anyone, conversely, can waltz into a pawn shop and buy an "antique" gun, pay for it and take it home. Many of these guns are still functional.

Every single transaction at a pawn shop is reported to the Bureau of Homeland Security and the Las Vegas police department on a daily basis. The pawn shop has a 30-day wait to find out if the item they bought is hot or not.

I've made a note to try to see this show; hell I read the book, right? If you're a regular viewer, I'll get there, I'll get there!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Winging It

"Tune in Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries" by Tim Anderson Wayward Mammal Publishing 257 pages It's a paperback with no price tag, front, back or inside.

Anderson lived in Raleigh, NC, until he decided to take off for Japan. He got a job with an international bureau and away he went. The back flap says "an irresistable new gay, left-handed, diabetic travel memoir." I might have left out some of those adjectives, but hey! It's his book.

There are hysterically funny scenes in the book; he has a gifted, twisted ability to use words. The various things I've read so far are an exploration of why Gaijin men? Over and over, he sees guys who couldn't get a date for love nor money in the US swanning down the street with esquisitely beautiful Japanese girls?

A Japanese student of his develops an insane crush on him, attending every one of his classes. His best friend Rachel tries to square the girl away by telling her the truth: he's gay, forget about it. The girl argues back, "But he looked at my tits!" Apparently that activity signals a desire to marry, mate and have children. Japan is scary.

But the book is funny.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Funeral Fraught With Fisticuffs

My father's side of the family locally has always been considered a bit volatile. Others would say, "Crazy-ass hot heads," but we feel that the dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.

Once upon a time there were six siblings - my uncles and an aunt. The two oldest and the youngest have departed. Most recently the third oldest died and his funeral is today's subject. He was 83, had been in ill health for some time and lived in a nursing home. It was still a shock to his immediate family - a wife and four adult sons.

The deceased, married to his first wife for easily 20 years, if not more, had the four boys. They divorced and he re-married. Rather suddenly. I can still remember how people came over to our apartment after our wedding (27 years ago - the cast was that much younger than today and considerably friskier.) His first wife was gracious in our living room; his bride-to-be sat on his lap in the balcony off the kitchen kissing him fervently. This wife eventually became something of the Evil Stepmother to his sons. In the beginning, the sons were civil, welcomed the couple into their homes and life was relatively peaceful.

And then Daddy had to be hospitalize and the doctors told his wife that he would fare better in a physical rehab facility. He didn't. So the doctors said he would do best in a nursing home. And there he stayed.

His wife realized that he would never return to their house, so she sold it and all its contents without bothering to tell her husband until after the fact or to offer his sons a chance to pick out any meaningful trinkets.

That started the war. Two of the boys are spitting mad that she sold the sabre they'd bought him at West Point (the two of them had attended West Point.) Another was insulted by being greeted thusly as he approached his father's hospital room - "What are YOU doing here?" Yet another wanted to bring his new wife to the Christmas celebrations and was told by his stepmother, "That might be a little awkward; we're hosting your ex-wife.

The above alone is a good reason to expect trouble, but then throw this in. The deceased's brother hates me. He and his wife and their kids and myself had all been on close terms for 40 years until he committed an act of treachery that I couldn't forgive and I have not seen nor spoken to them in seven years.

He doesn't hate me personally; he hates that someone got in his face, described to him exactly what he is and then dismissed him. He's a bully with a Texas-sized ego. He's also the owner of .9mm handgun.

It should be an interesting funeral. If I survive, I'll write about it. The least would be that someone gets spitted at; the worst, shot. Bring it on! I'm one of this family, too, and forget it at your peril! My mouth is as good as a gun.

Monday, August 15, 2011

You Need A Really Good Imagination

I have to eat yogurt, because I'm taking 2,200mgs of antibiotics a day for cellulitis which is not a new way to get rid of cottage cheese thighs, but a cellular infection. (Yes, it's improving daily, thank you for asking)

Antibiotics kill every good germ in your digestive tract, so the idea is to replace them by using yogurt as the treatment.

Thusly, I entered Ralph's supermarket, marched stately to the yogurts and bought four. The usual peach, strawberry, mixed berries stared back at me. But wait! What is this? Carrot Cake-flavored yogurt! This startled me because my perception of yogurt has always been sited on health! Carrot cake, which I love, is not exactly on the dieticians list of Great Foods!

Ralph's Carb Master Carrot Cake is a cultured, low-fat yogurt with 60 calories and on sale costs 25 cents a container. Naturally I bought one.

On opening the lid and prying off the aluminum cover, I saw a tannish-kinda orange mass. Somewhat like sick peanut butter. I dug in. It has a thick texture, not like the glossy or slippery texture of other yogurts. I couldn't pin down a specific taste other than thickish-sweetish, but it was okay.

What requires imagination is to eat yogurt and believe you are eating carrot cake. Staring at the illustration on the container may help, but it may not.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Most Unlikely Heroine

Her names are Cadence/Shiro/Adrienne Jones. She has Dissociative Identity Disorder - multiple personalities, each distinctive from the others. Cadence is the friendly one, Shiro, the warrior and Adrienne, the Very Bad Girl.

Okay, who among us can say that we are totally mentally okay? But the Jones ladies work as FBI agents (!) in a secret department called BOFFO (acronym never explained) as crime fighters. Her partner is a sociopath and also in the offices are a savant syndrome person (never say "Rain Man") and a kleptomaniac. He's extremely unuseful at crime scenes -- he steals stuff.

When the reader meets this weird crew, they are involved in finding the ThreePer serial killer. He always kills three people (usually the homeless) and leaves the bodies arranged in a tableau.

There's romance. Jones' best friend's handsome brother arrives to do romantic duties. It's chick-lit, but I've never run into a heroine(s) like this one in any genre!

What makes the book funny is the characters' acceptance of their own conditons and the others with whom they work. Jones muses on her sociopath partner, "They were just so darn unpredictable, not to mention unreliable when it came to pulling their weight at the Secret Santa party."

"Me, Myself and Why, A Modern Threesome" by Mary Jane Davidson St. Martin's 302 pages $24.99

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Money-Saving Proclamation!

The Environmental Working Group says that the following fruits and vegetables are very unlikely to have been contaminated by chemicals -- so don't waste your money buying "organic" these.

Sweet corn
Sweet peas
Egg plant
Sweet potatoes (which you would have to dig up to spray)

Friday, August 12, 2011

You Say, the French Never Did Anything for You?

Coca Cola was invented in France when in 1863,Angelo Mariani (which sounds Italian to me) created a new drink. He infused coca leaves in Bordeaux wine and called it "Vin Mariani. It was popular with the public and even such lofty figures as Queen Victoria and Pope Pius X, possibly because it contained 6mg cocaine per fluid ounce!

John Pemberton, an Atlanta, GA, pharmacist stole the idea and called his brew Pemberton's French Wine Coca, brewed from the coca leaf, kola nut (for caffeine) and damianaa (for flavor.) He was doing fine until 1885, when Atlanta enacted temperance laws. So Pemberton took alcohol out of the equation, kept the coca and added soda water.

That was the start...Vin Mariani, from France.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

aka "The Chewy Bread Company"

Monday's newspaper invited the public to a "baguette breaking" from 9 to 11 a.m. at Panera, 1511 Hawthorne, Redondo Beach 90278 310-793-4129

Panera is a breadmaker that branched out into sandwichs (hor or cold,) soups and salads. The company began in 1981 and today there are 1,493 stores in 40 states and (oddly) Ontario, Cnada. Their stock market finder is PNRA. Yesterday it was $90/share. Clearly, they're doing it right and astonishingly, solely by word-of-mouth. Management doesn't believe in having an advertising budget.

Day 2 after the grand opening, there was a line out the door! A petite young lady walked down the line offering us mini-cherry Danishes which had more frosting than is usually found and better tasting cherry goop. The line moved so quickly that I was chewing my last bite as I approached the counter to give the order.

It's a wall-mounted menu. You order and are given a numbered flag to put on your table in either the sparely decorated dining room or the patio outside. A lot of the customers were by themselves. Office workers? Clerks from the mall next door?

We had a five minute wait for the food, but they were doing a booming business. Panera appears to be very well-staffed. They seem to be a real team with one goal: service. If one noticed a table that needed to be bussed, they were on it personaly. A server, leaving your food on the table, noticeing that the next table over needed more water - bingo! they brought it and always with a smile.

The Bacon Turkey Bravo had smoked turkey (must have been nearly a pound) with applewood-smoked bacon, smoked gouda, lettuce, tomatoes and something called "our signature spread" on tomato-basil bread. The bread was fantastic with a soft, not strident, tomato taste spiked with pepper. It was chewy with a supple crust.

The Italian Combo is roast beef, smoked turkey, smoked lean ham, salami, Swiss cheese, peperoncini, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and "our special spread" on ciabatta. Richie ate every bite. Both sandwiches came with a little bag of lacy, thin chips.

I'd grabbed a baguette to go and when I tasted it, I got that same chewy texture I'd found on the tomato-basil bread. It's pleasant enough and it'll do -- until I can get back to Paris!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This Diet Works!

"Yeah, right," you say.

There are lot of problems with dieting successfully. First there is our natural tendency to spoil ourselves. Second is the unfortunate use of "to lose" None of us want to lose stuff! C'mon! None of us wants to be a loser; we're proud Americans!

The way to spin this "loss" stuff is: I'm going to get back all of my size 10 pants! I'll be able to get in and out of a lowslung chair/sports car easily and gracefully.

I have the perfect way to eat anything you want to eat and still lose weight. Yes, I know that you have heard this before and realize that you may be cringing in shame that I have suddenly turned huckster on you. Fear not, Gentle Readers.

Let me step up to the blackboard and write down the magic word: C H O P S T I C K S. I guarantee that if you eat every single meal with chopsticks, you will feel full faster and quit eating earlier. And, obviously, since you aren't taking in all of the calories, you'll lose weight -- slowly and surely, the way it is supposed to be done.

You're issued an Asian porcelian spoon, a steak knife and a pair of chopsticks for this regime. Soup and wet cereal are the only items you are allowed to eat with the spoon. No scooping off the whipped cream on the cheesecake with this spoon! The steak knife is obvious - to cut your meat into viable pieces for your chopsticks to grasp.

If you are adept with chopsticks, then eat at The Elephant Bar (numerous locations) because every dish they make has the amount of calories in it printed next to the price. It's a deterent. Normally I would have had the cocunut shrimp skewers (800 calories) and the shrimp rice-paper egg rolls (400 calories) but not for a total of 1,200 calories! Instead I ordered the wok-grilled shrimp in garlic noodles for 850 calories and I only ate one-fourth of it, or approximately 210 calories.

One hour later, I was hungry again so I ate three caramel-cashew cookies at 140 calories each. So do as I say, not as I do comes to mind...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How About a Quicky?

A "quicky" in this instance is homemade fast food. Shame on you for what you were thinking!

New Orleans BBQ Shrimp
1 lb. fresh shrimp - shelled or not; your choice
1 stick of butter
2 T Old Bay Seasoning mix

Melt the butter, stir in the Old Bay and when it's bubbling, put in the shrimp and stir again. I try to serve this over toast - baguette rounds make a nice presentation. This way you get plenty of the sauce and the butter just dribbles down your chin.

Garlic Spaghetti
Sufficient olive oil for the amount of pasta you'll be serving
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 or 2 T red chili flakes
Saute together, pour over hot pasta, stir well and garnish with Parmesan

Garlic Spaghetti with Alfredo Sauce and Meatballs
Add Alfredo sauce from a jar to your leftover garlic spaghetti and microwave.

1/2 lb. hamburger
1 beaten egg
2 or 3 T garlic powder
2 or 3 T white pepper

Mix, shape into balls and put the balls on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 until sizzling. Remember to turn them over once during the cooking. Serve attractively piled on the pasta.

The reason I oven-bake meatballs is becuse they hold their round shape and the fat boils out of them.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Man After My Own Heart

"Homemade Soda" by Andrew SchlossStore Publishing 200 recipes $18.95

An example of the man's genius - Rooty Toot Root Beer. He gives us the recipe and since it involves arcane ingredients such as sassasfras root, dried wintergreen leaves, he wisely offers recipes using store-bought root beer and alcohol.

Root Beer Beer -Combine equal parts root beer and dark beer.

Blackbeard - 1 oz. Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum to 1 1/2 cups root beer.

R & R Beer - 2 oz. dark rum to 1 1/2 cups root beer

MaliBeer - 2 oz. coconut rum to 1 1/2 cups root beer.

All of the above are served over ice.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Fellow Worker, Sort Of

The cover intrigued me so I picked up the book and read the front flap. Hmmm, this Jancee Dunn was a Rolling Stone reporter in the '80s, interviewing such as Madonna (she should be so lucky today,) Brad Pitt, Dolly Parton (they shared some Velveeta as a snack,) Tony Bennet, Beyonce, Star Jones.

I worked in rock'n roll in the '70s. I've interviewed an awful lot of people so it would interest me to read about what'all happened after I quit rock'n roll despite a very wide gap between us. Her - Rolling Stone. Me - Dino, Desi and Billy, The Seeds. One has prestige, the other has none. I believe we all know which one is me?

What appealed instantly were her tips on conducting a celeb interview. Try for somewhere scenic; nothing is worse than a conference room, hotel room or often-used restaurant. (I'm thinking of you, The Ivy.)

Engage the person in an activity - "Janice Dickinson and I were biking in Central Park when..." That's your lead-in.

To get the goods on a star, forget asking their entourage. They don't want to bite the hand that feeds them. Instead get a local who has been hired to drive the van, run errands, whatever. They don't have to worry about job longevity. When the movie wraps, so does the job. As they are largely ignored, any notes about what they've seen or overheard will be eagerly offered. Someone is paying attention!

They get drunk; you stick with a soft drink.

Do your damndest to get invited into their home. The story writes itself. "Where did you get all of those precious China elephants? Was it on the shoot for 'Mysterious India'?"

"But Enough About Me, a Jersey Girl's Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous" by Jancee Dunn Harper/Collins Publishers 276 pages $24.95 ($3 at the library book sale; pristine condition)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"My Sister Can Write Better Than Yours"

"Southern Fried divorce" by Judy Conner, older sister of Jill Conner Browne, author of the Sweet Potato Queens series. Gotham Books 223 pages $23*

This is the woman's point-of-view about divorce in New Orleans. As we all know whether we've actually been there or not, New Orleans is a very strange place. "That Ex" at the time of the divorce was running a couple of clubs (apparently successfully, too) so one of the terms in the decree was a lifetime free bar tab at any joint he owned.

He showed up post-divorce to give her a home protection service -- a pistol and a puppy, saying that the dog would grow up to be a fine watchdog. She accepted both and wondered about a man who would give his ex-wife gun. Easpecially a wife who said she had a disposition like a wolverine at times. Frequent times.

"That Ex" (as she annoyingly refers to him all through the book; she could have used his name since he wound up dead at the end) was apparently one of those frat boy, hard-drinking idiots that The South manages to turn out so frequently. He loved outwitting authority figures (with some success; he managed to stay out of prison) and practical jokes.

He was filled with outrageous charm and (according to his ex-wife) was extremely handsome. It's an amusing read; I knocked the whole thing off yesterday afternoon (which goes far to explain the state of this house.)

*It cost me 50 cents and is in pristine condition. I cannot stress too much the importance of library book sales to the budget.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Auntie's Busy Day

First of all, I had an 8:30 a.m. appt. with the nurse-practitioner. My regular doctor was out-of-town. I am a writer and writers don't DO 8:30 a.m. appointments. But that was the only time she had. Here is what I had to say about that afterwards.

TO: Tony, "Raffish"
From: Nina
Subj. Dog Bite

I saw the Nurse-Perky this morning and confirmed to my satisfaction that she doesn't listen to a word I say.

She said the wound was coming along very nicely after only two days of meds. Then she said, "You're a 71 year old lady (sugary smile) and I don't want to lose you!" perky hair flip. So tactful! I was awed -- at her insincerity.

I'm supposed to see her next Wed. (a thought that ruins my whole weekend, if I let it) but if it's back to normal, I can call in and cancel. You can consider that a done deal. I might not be able to restrain myself next time.

Given the fact she doesn't listen to me, had to call the pharmacist back and change a Rx because he wouldn't fill the one that might have killed me - I have to wonder which doctor in the practice she's boinking.

Letter to the Editor, Daily Breeze 8/4/2011
Smoking Ban in Manhattan Beach

Dear Sir:

As I understand this, Councilpersons Wayne Powell and Amy Howorth both had parents who died of smoking-related diseases.

Thus, they feel it necessary to punish several thousand complete strangers by spearheading a "No Smoking" ban on the Manhattan Beach Strand.

I would suggest therapy for their guilt/grief problems rather than fining anyone with the temerity to light a cigarette in Manhattan Beach.

Sincerely, etc.

Richie and I went to the Palos Verdes Library book sale this morning and scored some good stuff - you'll be hearing about these books later. On the way to the Hermosa Beach Farmer's Market, we stopped for lunch at Fatburger. Hot news! They now make a Small (as opposed to Medium, Large, and Extra Large!) It's slightly bigger than a slider and just the right amount of hamburger. You can eat more onion rings this way!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Shoemakers Kids Went Barefoot

It's not like that at the Hermosa Animal Hospital! ( The hospital's newsletter came yesterday and it included a list of the employee's pets.

41 dogs
55 cats
1 horse (! in Hermosa Beach?)
1 turtle
1 rabbit
1 beta fish
2 geckos
1 iguana
2 rats
2 mice

I asked Richie if he'd read it and he said, "Yes -- did you notice what was missing?" "No." "No birds - no budgerigars, no cockatiels, parrots - no birds."

There was a longish article about a pair of cats who were being treated for Bartonella, which is a disease that causes gingivitis, stomatitis, oral ulcers.

This is what blew me away - "It can be resistant to many common antibiotic treatments, but it is still a treatble infection. Dr. Liebl started both pets on Azithromycin." I had just taken MY Azihromycin (for the dog bite.) Good to know that I don't have to worry that much about gingivitis, oral ulcers...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Judi Dench Put Me To Sleep

"And Furthermore" by Judi Dench St Martin's Press 268 pages $26.99

This is basically a long list of plays, movies, television shows she has done plus the name of every single person in the cast plus the director with scattered, not-that-hilarious anecdotes. Pro writers call this "laundry list" writing. It is very, very dull (but it does fill up the pages.) She details her acting career that started in 1934 and, God bless her, she's still going strong in 2011. I would cheerfully watch her, but not read her.

But Marlo Thomas Made Me Laugh

"Growing Up, My Story and the Story of Funny" by Marlo Thomas Hyperion 382 pages $26.99

Marlo's memories of her father, Danny Thomas, are warm and affectionate. But what made this book interesting to me is that she interviewed more than 20 current comedians and asked them, "When did you know you were funny?" "Were you the class clown?" "Where do you get your humor?" and other questions.

Just a few you'll find in the book: Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Joy Behar, Jerry and Ben Stiller (a double!) I loved Joan Rivers crack at cougars. "Why would I want to wake up in the morning, look over and wonder if that's my date or did I give birth during the night?"

I know who I would pick for $26.99

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fashionable? Or Not So?

We had ordered (more about that in a minute) and the table next to us was getting up to leave. One of the party was a man wearing (from the ground up): work boots with white socks peeking out of the tops, khaki shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and ... a big, white cowboy hat. Anna Wintour, Vogue legend would have fainted. I just grinned to myself.

After Vino on the Veranda, we went to Hudson House (previously reviewed) for dinner. I'd been thinking fondly of their brown sugar ribs, but when I saw the menu, I changed my mind. They've removed some old favorites (no worries the hamburger on a pretzel bun is still there as are "my" ribs) to put in new things.

This caught my eye: three cheese biscuits with chili flakes, bacon and honey-butter - $6. I ordered it as a sort of appetizer. We split one and they were interesting. Nice, warm chili sting, offset by the sweetness of the whipped honey-butter. The other two went home with us. They reheat in a convection toaster oven really well.

I ordered a BLTA on grilled na'an - applewood-smoked bacon, red leaf lettuce, avocado and heirloom tomato. The na'an was a mistake - doughy, not sufficiently grilled - in fact it was tepid. Scrape out the good stuff, discard the na'an and pick up your knife and fork. You're about to meet something good.

Hudson House is a favorite because while I liked their old menu, little changes in it are interesting and thought provoking.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Readers with excellent short-term memory storage will recall that yesterday I was whining that nothing was going on and that I hoped for some excitement to report from Vino on the Veranda. Something funny; a witty wisecrack ...

I got bit by a dog. In 71 (full and exciting) years, no dog has ever bitten me. Never. I'm not counting puppy nips; they're too trivial to mention. The bite simply lifted a flap of skin on my right forearm about the size of a dime which I was able to paste back where it belonged after I washed it with soap and water. Band-Aid slapped on to hold my patch job together and that was that.

This is what I think the dog might have been thinking:

"Heh, heh, look at Senior Dog - he's running to greet two strangers, who stole onto this terrace without making a peep until they greeted My Lady. They could be anybody!

"Naturally, I'm on a leash and I can't run at them, dammit! Look at him, wriggling so ingrationatingly. 'Hey, buddy! You're only a shelter dog, just like me! Don't you be stealing the show with all this cute stuff!

"Wait a minute, here she is... just a little closer, Strange Bitch and I'll show you who the guard dog is in this house! (leap, bite) Gotcha! Heh, heh."

That is reasoning that I can not only accept, but agree with as well.

To find out what you can do to help stray dogs, take a look at