Friday, September 30, 2011

Who Knew?

That a wedge of Brie eaten with Sea Salt and Black Pepper waffle chips was this good? A discovery I made this morning after the gym when I just wanted a bite of something.

That Kewpie-brand mayonnaise is wildly popular in Japan? It's made from cider vinegar instead of distilled vinegar. Chefs add other seasonings, notably for spicy rolls, but they also use it as a dipping sauce for sushi, baked mussels (I assumed incorrectly that they were eaten raw) or in creamy salad dressings.

That in Korean restaurants, cold dishes will be on your right, hot dishes to your left and the kimchi lurks in the back ground?

That in a Korean restaurant it's proper etiquette to cover your mouth or turn your head away from older people when drinking alcohol?

That pico de gallo is sometimes called "Mexican salsa" because it's the red, white and green of the Mexican flag?

That the letters that spell out "tip" once stood for To Insure Promptness, a reference to being served in a timely manner. I'm guessing "bribe" never really caught on...

The Turkish proverb "He who has no bread has no authority"?

That McDonald's across Egypt also serve a "McFalafel"? Same as a falafel here, the difference being that it's served on a hamburger bun, not pita bread.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Irreverent Guides

There are (at last count) 14 Irreverent Guides starting with Amsterdam and ending with Washington, DC. These guides are issued by Frommer's and cost about $14 each.

I have the Irreverent Guide to Paris in front of me. These are some of the things covered in the book which is "Like being taken around by a savvy local" to quote the NY Times.

"Why do the French smoke so much?" Uh, they don't anymore. The Nicotine Nazis have made a full strike on France. Now, according to a new-ish law, you cannot smoke in any hotel at all in France. None. Zero. Benches and butt receptacles are placed outside and many are the bleary-eyed smokers you'll see in the morning, coffee cup in hand.

"What is a zebra?" The striped pedestrian crossing lane.

"Only in Paris"
The Musee d'Orsay, a former train station converted into a gorgeous museum with a collection of Impressionist paintings. I love the daylight inside it.

Pere-Lachaise cemetery where Jim Morrison, Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde, Colette and Edith Piaf now reside. A word of caution, the Morrison grave achieved a cult standing and many are the stoned-out dopers that used to be there. Check on this aspect before you go in.

A personal favorite of ours is a ride on a "bateaux mouche" which are sightseeing boats that travel up and down the Seine. It's a totally different view than walking along the Seine. The only drawback is the bastards who like to spit on the open-topped boats when they pass under a bridge. That's "only in Paris," too.

That old-time religion for devout Catholics - a visit to the Chappelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Medaille-Miraculeuse on the Left Bank to pay respects to the "perfectly preserved" body of a young nun who had a vision of the Virgin Mary back in 1830.

And I shouldn't be irreverent about another's religion. Shana tova! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

From Blog to Book ...

"Try This ... Traveling the Globe Without Leaving the Table" by Danyelle Freeman HarperCollins Books 292 pages $16.99

Freeman is the founder and editor of She has serious chops when it comes to running with NY restaurateurs such as Drew Nieparent, Bobby Flay and that woman who passes herself off as a chef, cook Rachel Ray. EVOO indeed.

Freeman covers British, Chinese, Cuban, French, Greek , Indian cuisines and a bunch more. Interspersed are bits of advice on such as dating and dining out (she equates what and how the date orders with probable bedroom behaviors,) why manners matter (self-evident) and managing a reservation at a hot site (keep calling back, they may have a last minute cncellation.)

Her chapter on French cuisine irritated me becaue all she did, really, was describe dishes on the menus of famous New York French restaurants. I am not in NY. I have no desire to go to NY and eat French food when I can fly four hours longer and eat the real deal in Paris.

Her chapter on Italian cuisines runs on for far too long describing pasta shapes. The Thurs. Writers would call it "laundry list" writing.

I think the premise - "traveling the globe without leaving the table" - is misleading. I'd expected at least one recipe per country. Dish descriptions galore; recipes, none.

The best thing about this book is the cover which depicts national dishes displayed as their country of origins' flag. Italy: a pile of basil, then slices of round mozzarella, then a row of sliced tomatoes. Very imaginative. Claire Naylon Vaccaro knows what she's doing as a cover designer. Kudos to her, if not the author.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Differing Opinions

"The Sweet Life In Paris" by David Lebovitz Broadway Books 279 pages $24.95

Lebovitz graduated from college, took the mandatory tour around Europe and fell in love with Paris. Years later, nearing 50, he sold his San Francisco home and went to live in Paris. The book is a compilation of his experiences, recipes and sources.

He and I agree on many things about The French. They are spoiled, totally the equal of Italians when it comes to a bella figura, can price your outfit from head to toes in less than 30 seconds as you stroll down the sidewalk. Like petulant children they will tantrum and go on strike for the slightest reason.

We disagree on others. He complains about the line cutters, who rudely shove in front of you if there is even an inch between you and the person in front of you. I have never seen this and I've done my share of market shopping there. He adds that Parisians are always in a hurry and will "help" you cross the street by aggressively bumping your butt with their stomachs or the front wheel of their bike or motorcycle. Haven't seen (or felt) that either.

We agree that The French are aggressively polite (when they're not shoving you) and a simple transaction is accomplished only after a lengthy conversation with the vendor, regarding mutual health, weather, item to be purchased and fond goodbyes.

A fine point: when the cheese plate is passed around, do not help yourself to the point of the Brie - cut a slice along the side of it from back crust to near the point. (At my friend Michelle's this is a fine point none of us have seemed to conquered.)

A chocolate mousee is traditionally made using raw eggs (the warm chocolate kind of cooks the egg yolks) but Americans are too squeamish for this. He offers instead:

8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
4 T butter, diced
3 T espresso or a liquor
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream

Put all but the cream in the top of a double boiler and melt together. In a separate bowl, beat the cream using a whisk. The cream replaces the egg whites. Fold the cream into the choloate one-third at a time, cover and chill it for at least three hours.

We can all agree on this: The French know and appreciate good food. God bless'em.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Death On Holiday

Proving, once again, that not everything inside a cemetery is sad...

"Wanna See A Picture of My Plot?"
Palm City, FL - Hundreds of cemetery plot owners are selling them to improve their personal cash flow. A single goes for $1,000, a double for $3,000 and a family plot for up to $50,000. Richie and his brother Charlie are sitting on a fortune! Their late father bought 20 plots and only eight of them are in use.

"But, But -- I Brought Flowers For Granma!"
Royal Palm Beach, FL - Our Lady Queen of Peace cemetery reported that 61 brass flower vases have been stolen from graves. The thief (since arrested and charged) wanted $14,000 for them at a local recycling center.

Doritos Transcend Death?
Dallas-Ft. Worth - Dorito Inventor Dies Aged 97 Arch West created Doritos after a family visit to San Diego in 1961. His daughter told the media that before the dirt is added to cover his urn, the family plans to drop in some Doritos in his honor. (And to provide a snack for his duration in the Great Hereafter? ed.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Aha! Ze Mystery Issss Solved!

Richie remarked that his clam chowder tasted like there was some kind of alcohol in it at the Chowder Barge the other day.

"Sherry?" I queried.


When our server appeared, he asked her and she looked startled, like "OMG this guy is a recovering alcoholic!" but said, firmly, "There's no alcohol in it."

Once home, I e'd Tony and asked him if he knew what the mystry ingredient is. He wrote back, "No, but I once fished a whole bay leaf out of my bowl of chowder."

Ah-hah! That would explain the faint, peppery taste I got and the alcohol taste Richie got.

I just finished visiting to see what they recommended and one of the recipes, from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA,) listed "bay leaf."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lunching In A Haz-Mat Suit?

Our friend Tony mentioned in passing that he and friends were going to dine at the Chowder Barge. I was immediately interested because Richie used to clam the north shore of Long Island and his brother still does as a professional bayman. I berated Tony for having kept this place secret and he haughtily informed me that he hadn't thought I'd be interested in dining in the middle of the industrial part of Wilmington. This annoyed me so I told him that clearly he didn't know Richie's gift at unerringly finding the seediest bar in any town we've ever been in and being welcomed by the denizens therein.

The online comments ran from dining on a real barge set atop toxic waters to breathing in the fumes and odors from any one of several surrounding refineries to dust blown off the tracks by frequent freight trains. But the "pirates and their, uh, ladies" were exotic and colorful companions. Universally the clam chowder was praised as "best ever."

Our interest whetted to the breaking point, we set off yesterday for lunch there. Finding it for the first time is difficult - use MapQuest or Mapblast.

The parking lot is divided by yellow tape to separate the stored cars and RVs from the rest of us. It really is a barge, anchored near the offices of the marina in which it sits. It may sit in toxic water, but so do the many, many small boats surrounding it. The air was clean and fresh as we walked up the gangplank to go inside.

The first thing I noticed was a mesh-sided fire pit, hanging from chains in the ceiling, painted a bright red. There are deep booths which would probably seat eight comfortably, some scattered tables and captain's chairs. The room is one-third oval bar and two-thirds dining space, all of it surrouonded by big, sliding windows.

We ordered from a very friendly waitress who told us the barge was built for use as the commissary during shooting of "Mutiny On The Bounty." It's always been a restaurant one way or another.

Our food (patty melt and a cheeseburger) were non-descript, but Richie said the chowder was indeed excellent. I took a sip of the soup part and it was good! (And I wouldn't eat a clam on a drunken bet.) Many chowders are a sort of library paste with scattered clams. This wasn't. It was thinner; there was a balance of flavors - butter, cream, potato and clams - with a slight pepper back taste.

The conversation among three guys at the bar included these gems: there are more Harley-Davidsons per capita in Alaska than any other state. More Alaskans walk to work than any other state. If a bear is chasing you, run on a diagonal - a bear cannot run sidewise. Useful information, no?

Ignore what's said online about the place and leave your haz-mat suit at home.

The Chowder Barge, 611 Henry Ford Ave., #200, Wilmington, CA 90744 Two Pacificos, a cheeseburger, a patty melt and cup of chowder cost $25.13

Friday, September 23, 2011

On the Verb "To Share"

My sister left Chicago today to fly to Paris for a river cruise north to the Normandie beaches. Today is also her husband's birthday, but since they've been married 41 years, it is doubtful this will have the impact it might have 40 years ago.

Naturally I'm thrilled that she gets to make this trip. She and the girlfriend who talked her into it have been buying clothes for at least a month by now. She mentioned in passing that because she will be sharing a cabin with a "total stranger" it necessitated buying $100 worth of new pajamas. Now my pajama buying is done exclusively at Target. Given their low prices, that would be 10 pairs which means one could just put them in the trash every morning like disposable underwear.

But, as usual, I'm straying from the point here. Sharing a cabin with a total stranger. This gave me such a frisson of horror that parts of me are still trembling. I told her that no matter the cost, I would pay it to have my own space. I added that I needed it for my nightly rituals - the goat sacrifice, the chicken dance and so on ... If that doesn't scare her about her new roomie, I doubt she can be scared.

Why my horror, you ask? It all started on a seven-day cruise of the Mexican Riviera 21 years ago. We were given assigned seating in the dining room with three other couples. Instead of being allowed to yank out a chair and start eating like wolves, manners compelled us to make polite conversation. Conversation is hard to pull off when you have run into these people here and there on the ship all day long. By the second night, as I approached the Table of Death and Dessert with the rictus of a grin on my face, I was thinking, "It's show time!"

One of our fellow diners, a woman from Bakersfield, ordered the exact same thing for dinner every night. A baked potato with all the trimmings. No soup nor salad, no meat, just a baked potato. Between bites, sour cream dotting her ample chin, she bragged about their wealth. She flaunted a very large diamond ring. The last morning of the cruise, when it's customary to tip your waiters, they didn't show up. Stiffed those poor bastards, pure and simple.

Okay, people are weird (and cheap) all over the world. What I objected to was the forced necessity to make conversation. It really was torture. But infinitely worse would be having to bed down with perhaps a baked potato-eating woman from Bakersfield.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Great Macaroon Hunt - Careful! They Bite!

We were in France with Michelle at her summer home in Loctudy. One slightly rainy day, we went to the weekly market in a neighboring town and there we ate the most exquisite macaroons possible. They were light, but slightly chewy; they were faintly flavored, not a big BLAM! on your taste buds.

That prompted us to try a macaroon at a shop in the main square at Quimper. Amazingly the entire shop was pretty much Variations on the Macaroon, but the homemade ones from the market vendor were infinitely better.

And then we came home where the only ones we could fnd were at a baker-cafe-chocolate shop in Riviera Village. They weren't that good, but they sure were pricey - $1.75 each. So ... macaroon memories dwindled to faint, faded smiles.

Yesterday I found "Irresistable Macaroons" by Jose Marechal at the library. It's 73 pages of how to make the macaroons photographed so beautifully in its pages. It's 'way too painstaking for me. Richie hasn't really studied it yet, but I think it will bring him to his knees wailing for mercy as well.

But, hark! Help? L'Epicerie, 9900 Culver Boulevard, Culver City sells them!

Not only do they sell pastries, but they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. The interior of the place is little islands of things for sale -- a deli case with the chef's own pates and charcuterie; a deep niche in the back selling wines; a coffee-tea-soft drink bar with tables and seating. An informal restaurant with wood tables and chairs and an industrial ceiling of naked pipes and tubes. The bread counter. Shelves of imported goods. An open treasure chest, if you will.

Since it was lunch time, we availed ourselves of paninis which came with a choice of roast potatoes, a small salad or something else and we both went for the potatoes. They are quarters of unpeeled potatoes that have been crisp-roasted in duck fat! Using duck fat to roast or deep fat fry is a very French touch that is slowly becoming known in Southern California. It's a good thing to know, too.

And for dessert? How can you even ask? We had macaroons. Three for $5; six for $9. I had a pistachio and Richie got two chocolate macaroons. We sighed. Good, very good, but ... not the elusive market ones from Loctudy. Tant pis.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Modest Proposal

Of late the national media has been overrun by the hue, cry and accusations of "Racist!" Yesterday and the day before, it was Emanuel Cleaver, Chairman of the Congressional Black Cauus asserting that if it were a white sitting president, blacks would be marching on the White House demanding jobs and aid.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D. So. Calif. told reporters recently that the Tea Party members could go straight to hell. She and fellow professional racists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton seem never to have anything good to say about whites. Ugliness, indeed, but America is a free country and all of us can say whatever pops into our heads at that moment.

But: America was designed to be a melting pot; accepting and assimilating whoever shows up on America's front porch. Clearly this is not happening and here is what we all, black, white, brown and every shade in between, might consider doing about it.

Ignore the publicity for special interest groups and events. The media wants to celebrate Black History Month, let'em. Whites, Mexicans, Asians don't have to pay any attention at all. Nor do any of us have to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day, Martin Luther King Day, or Buddha's Birthday. Hit "delete" on your computer keyboard and erase AOL's "Black Voices" and "Latino."

If you, personally, want to make note of any of the above, hey, have at it and God/ Jesus/ Mohamma/ Buddha bless your heart!

It is our right and certainly our expectation not to have another's beliefs shoved down our throats and worse still, to be expected to give a hearty, "Here! Here!" about whatever the hell it is.

We were once a nation of what could best be described as "rugged individualists." Today, too many of us are more like sheep. Not a good place to be. Sheep get sheared and some even provide dinner.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

When "Strange" Goes to "Weird"

Bon Appetit in all of its wisdom arrived the other day. One article concerned itself with making show-stopping desserts. Among the various notations for such as a Tangerine Souffle with Citrus Coulis or a Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Praline Chcolate Crunch lurked a Buttered-Popcorn Ice Cream Sundae. (page 115,

It's put together like this: bottom of goblet, caramel sauce. next layer, buttered-popcorn ice cream. Top layer a peanut butter-chocolate halvah onto the ice cream. Garnish with a dab of whipped cream, buttered (real) popcorn and salted, roasted peanuts.

The prose? "This dessert playfully layers complex textures from crisp and airy to sticky, creamy and smooth." Yes, well....

2 cups popped popcorn
1 1/2 T melted sweet butter
1 teas. kosher salt, divided
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
5 T sugar, divided
8 large egg yolks

Start by putting a strainer in a big bowl and then set it aside. (If only one could quit right here.)

Put the popcorn in a different bowl, butter it and toss it adding 1/2 teas. salt.

Add the milk and cream, cover the bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then stir in the corn syrup and 1 T sugar. Work in batches and put it through a blender until smooth. Put your batches in a large saucepan and bring it to a simmer.

Take another bowl and use an electric mixer to beat the egg yolks, 4 T sugar and 1/2 teas. salt until it forms a thick ribbon. Gradually whisk the hot popcorn sauce into the yolk mixture.

Back to the fire, cooking over medium heat and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard is slightly thickened or an instant-read thermometer reads 175 degrees.

Put it through the strainer (see Step 1) and chill overnight. Process in an ice cream maker and store. Ice cream can be made two days before use.

Wouldn't it be a lot easier to just nuke a quart of popcorn, butter it and toss it and throw a scoop of vanilla ice cream over the whole thing? I mean if you were hellbent to have popcorn-flavored ice cream, that is.

Friday, September 16, 2011

North of the Border In South Redondo

Food & Wine ran a long article on Joe Beef, of Montreal, Canada. It focused on Canadian "comfort" food such as: a grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar cheese, cheese curds and bacon or a "pastrami hot dog" with mushrooms, cheddar and pastrami on a toasted hot dog bun.

Cheese curds are small chunks of just-made cheese that haven't been pressed into a shape. They are soft and creamy and in Wisconsin, where we dined at the "ode to prime rib" place, they are deep-fat fried and served as an appetizer.

And in South Redondo, the Redondo Beach Cafe serves French fries covered in hot cheese curds and brown gravy. They also have a great selection of Canadian smoked meats and make sandwiches accordingly. I've never seen them offered in our supermarkets nor as Trader Joe ever mentioned cheese curds.

So my game plan is to take the magazine in to Redondo Beach Cafe, show it to the co-owner and ask for a grilled cheese sandwich Joe Beef-style and, "Oh, by the way, where can I get me some cheese curds?"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Newbie

As you know because I'm constantly "borrowing" from them, I subscribe to Bon Appetit, Saveur and now we have the newbie - Food & Wine (

The October 2011 issue concerns itself with France. The entire issue.

If you're into trivia, here's a stumper for the next cocktail party you attend.

Wine Acreage in France by Wine.
Languedoc-Roussillon - 528,000 acres
Bordeaux - 306,000 acres
Rhone Valley - 188,700 acres
Loire Valley - 158,000 acres
Burgundy - 125,000 acres
Champagne (purr) - 75,000 acres
Alsace - 34,000 acres

I liked the idea of "confit d'aile" or preserved garlic in English. Imagine it slathered on a crusty slice of baguette or slipped under the skin of the chicken you're about to bake or tossed with pasta and bacon bits or added to a Daube Provencale... Makes your taste buds sit up and pull on their dancing shoes!

6 heads of garlic, peeled - about 2 cups
6 thyme sprigs
3 small bay leaves
3 dried red chiles
2 cups olive oil

Put all of the above in a suitably-sized sauce pan and simmer over low heat until the garlic is tender, but NOT browned - about 30 minutes.
Use a slotted spoon to lift out the solids and share them equally in three 1/2 pint canning jars. Pour the oil over the vegetables and spices, seal and put the jars in the refrigerator. Your jars are now good for up to four months.

Incidentally, I used to feel guilty urging readers to visit magazine Websites rather than buying a subscription, but since the magazines themselves urge a visit, I don't feel guilty any more.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Spare Change in the Sofa Cushions

Nevada has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. So the Rio, Las Vegas, has replaced the buffet cashiers with ATM-like machines -- they take cash, credit and/or debit cards.

At the Rio's Sunday champagne brunch, our server couldn't be bothered to refill our glasses so she grabbed a quart-sized water glass and poured the last half of the bottle into the glass!

Sites I like - This is fashion photographer Scott Schuman's blog of people he's photographed on the streets of Manhattan. His book of these photos, published in 2009, took off like a rocket. I took a look just now and I have to say I was horrified by little white sox worn with high-heeled shoes on the ladies. That was a look my aunt Vivian sported -- in 1956. covers food, restaurants, recipes and today's feature is unusual wedding cakes. One garish example had skeletal figures depicting the bride and groom on top of a day-glo rainbow-striped cake. Another cake was shaped into a lighthouse, near the beach and sea.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Glad It's Over...

Commemoration of 911 is a hard one for me. We were in Montauk when it happened. I've covered it before.

As it happened, it was the day of the monthly South Bay New Orleans Jazz Club meeting. The club president asked for a moment's silence and we all complied. Then the band onstage swung into "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" in tribute and they did right -- slow tempo (heading for the burial grounds) and then lively (the walk back to town.) It seemed most appropriate.

There is always something amusing at these gatherings and yesterday was no exception. Two of the members, husband and wife, are both slender and tall; bodies carried as erectly as a flag pole. They love to dance! He was wearing suit pants, a pale blue shirt with tie (!) and she was clad in a navy blue pants suit with a jacket, sharply nipped in at the waist. She was also wearing navy and white spectator shoes and all together, the ensemble looked like a zoot suit!

I came upon her scrutinizing the prizes and complimented her on her ensemble. She proudly stuck out a foot and said, "These are specially made for dancing! They've got a really thin sole!"

Gentle Reader, she is in her mid-80s! New dancing shoes! May we all hold up as well as she clearly is doing and bless her heart, while we're at it!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Tiffany's, 1700 S. Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas 702-444-4459 Located inside a small strip mall

Prior to our departure for Las Vegas, Richie came across a Travel secgtion piece on this place. The review was positive; the history was fascinating because Tiffany's has been there for more than 50 years. That carbon dates it back to 1961 or so and the days of the Rat Pack.

It's open 24 hours a day. The decor is original clear back to opening day. There's a counter and stools and several booths. Display cases and the walls hold memorabilia - old patent medicines, sepia-tone photos, posters for long-forgotten movie stars.

When we came trooping in, we were promptly seated, watered, coffee'd and handed menus. Orders varied - biscuits and gravy for this one; ham and eggs for that one and doubles on the corned beef and eggs. All of the servings were generous and the food was good. Our server was bright, friendly and treated us beautifully.

When we came in, a couple was leaving. In passing, they smiled at us and said, "The food's really good here!" Turns out to have been our server's parents, celebrating the mother's 73rd birthday. How's that for community feeling? It sure beat the normal surly/sullen stare of the bovines charging up and down the Strip...

This area here around the Stratosphere has been spiffed up a bit; it's by no means as bad as it was with blowing trash and street people with no discernible means of earning a living. For those reasons I wondered why Tiffany management had hired two security guards to patrol the store and parking lot.

Richie wanted to go to the bank was told, "Oh, it's down there - about two blocks." Red decided to go with him. Barbara and I stayed in the parking lot near the building.

And, lights! Camera! Action! A drunk came wobbling up from the street, clutching a beer bottle. He was dazed and confused. He staggered around the back of an SUV near us and pissed the passenger side door. The security guard yelled, "You can't do that!" but prudently stayed well away. Business concluded, well out of sight of the ladies, the drunk wandered back toward the sidewalk. The security guard shrugged.

Richie and Red were taking so long that Barbara and I went back in to Tiffany's. I ordered a slice of Boston Cream Pie which I don't think I've had since 1946. It was delicious!

As Richie and Red finally walked in, a police car screamed to a halt outside and two female officers wrestled a drunk down on the sidewalk, cuffed him and radioed for transport.

The security guard, who had presumably called them, took several shots of the action with a camera. Security takes pictures to prove that the prisoner left their hands in good condition. It's protection against law suits down the road. They've got every angle covered in Las Vegas.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Vegas - A Study in Contrasts

Flowers, Bellagio

18+ to enter this... store?

Conservatory, Bellagio

Not office buildings, but hotels

The pool at the Flamingo - you'll have to imagine the booming music. A treat we didn't get to have...

Note: have been trying 15 minutes to get captions lined up with photos. Grrrrrrrr.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tarnished Sequins on the Ballroom Floor

*Our cab driver from McCarran to the hotel told us, "The Chamber of Commerce doesn't like this to be known, but there are 1,600 hit and run incidents per year in Las Vegas."

*We went to Battista's Hole in the Wall for dinner. This rabbit-warren-like series of brick-walled rooms houses several lifetimes of Italian trivia - photographs, signs, empty wine bottles. It serves soup or salad, an entree and an after dinner coffee and whipped cream drink plus all the wine you can drink from the carafes on your table. All of it is terrible. Richie loves this restaurant. Sometimes I truly don't understand him.

In addition to the insults to the palate, diners are subjected to the wailing accordion and phony charm of a dwarf. He stops at every table and says, "Where you folks from?" Whatever state you reply, he knows the first eight bars of a song about that state. Feigning dexterity, he sings the first words and then stops playing and singing and looks expectantly at your wallet. If you tip less than $5, he snorts in disgust and walks away. Nasty little bugger.

Richie said, "Let's stump him!" We thought. And thought. "Managua, Nicaragua!" I shouted. Sure enough, he approached and asked and in unioson, we screamed "Managua, Nicaragua!" and he launched into a lively ditty while singing, "Managua Nicaragua is the place to be..." stopped playing, sneered, "I bet you didn't expect that!" and stalked off.

* Mon Ami Gaby, Paris casino, a "French sidewalk bistro" has 90 employees. Only one is actually French and he wasn't working that day. "Everybody is Mexican" said our bus boy helpfully.

After the meal, our server asked me what I'd thought of the food? Big mistake. I told him, "I ate the only authentic item on your menu! The escargots. Your croque monsieur totally sucks and matchstick French fries like yours don't exist in France! They look like they came out of a can!" and he cracked up.

*Coming into the room dead tired and more than a little drunk, I couldn't figure out the coffee pot or how to turn down the damned air conditioning. So I went to bed. At 4:15 a.m. the alarm that the previous guest had set went off. Richie's side so ohe dealt with it.

Comes the morning, I got the coffee going, saw the a/c control and went to take a shower. I had a pulsating feature that was welcome on my neck; less so inside my right ear.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Postcards From Las Vegas, or as We Call It "Lost Wages"

Real Flowers "Painting" This is a sculpture of canoes - you don't need a boat; you're in the desert?

Big Elvis

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Off the Cuff

"Don't Vote; It Just Encourages the Bastards" by P.J. O'Rourke Atlantic Monthly Press 275 pages $25

This is his 14th book. He's as funny as ever about government which is not exactly a mirthful subject. However, I don't recommend this book to you, President Obama if you're reading this.

Red Hot News - Trader Joe's Corn Dogs! How the hell anyone ever made tofu look like a hot dog (pink) with the same texture beats me right down to the ground. Use the toaster oven's convection setting and you'll be pleased at how the corn meal perks up. Only 160 calories per dog.

GOING TO VEGAS! We fly out tomorrow and back Tuesday. Our friend "Raffish" the black belt karate champ is bringing his entourage and staying here. He remarked in passing that he'd also filled up a moving van with beer and half-naked pole dancers for amusement during his stay here. I don't know what the cats and cockatiel will make of all this, but they'll tell me when we get home.