Monday, October 31, 2011


The Official Halloween Mascot - Minuit!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hang Onto Your Pumpkins!

If you decorated for Halloween by buying a pumpkin, but not cutting a face into it, this one is for you. It's a want not, waste not idea and my mother's voice is still ringing in my ears with that line!

Reading the ingredients, it struck me that this is a variation, kind of, of a quiche lorraine which is an excellent winter dish.

1 3 lb. pumpkin - cut the top off, scrape out the seeds and strings and set both aside on a silpat or parchment-covered cookie sheet. Turn the overn to 350.

1/4 lb. stale bread cut into half-inch chunks.
1/4 lb. Swiss or cheddar cheese - your choice
2 to 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 strips of crisp bacon, chopped
About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1 T minced fresh thyme
1/2 to 2/3 cup of heavy cream (I'd try milk for fewer calories)
A pinch of nutmeg

Mix all of the above in a big bowl, put it in the pumpkin and top it with the pumpkin lid.
Put the whole thing carefully into the oven and bake for 2 hours, checking on it at about the 90 minute mark. For a crustier finish, take the lid off for the last 20 minutes of baking.

Serve it whole, letting guests cut the size portion they'd like.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy 150th! Who's Your Plastic Surgeon?

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated 10-28-1886 making her today 150 years old. The robed female figure represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. The "book" in her left arm represents a "tabula ansata" or tablet of laws and is inscribed 7-4-1776 the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. There is a broken chain at her feet (which I've never noticed.)

She was created by sculpture Frederic Bartholdi and he was inspired by Edouard de Laboulaye who said that any monument to French-American friendship should be a joint project. A deal was cut: the frogs would pay for and provide the statue, the U.S. would provide the pedestal and the site for all of this.

Working ahead of hmself, Bartholdi made the head and torch-bearing arm first and then in a PR gesture, the arm was sent to the Centennial Exposition of 1876 and to Madison Square Park from 1876 to 1883.

Americans were having difficulty raising the money to buy the site (Bedloe's Island) and provide the pedestal until publisher Joseph Pulitzer (yeah, that one) started a fund. Over 120,000 donations were received, but sadly most were less than a dollar.

Finally President Grover Cleveland dedicated it and New York held its first ticker tape parade.

Her first face lift took place in 1938 due to deterioration.

Her second, to work on the torch and interior took place from 1984 to 1986.

Closed after 911, she finally re-opened in 2004 after work had been done on the pedestal and the statue herself. It will close today so that a second, interior staircase can be added.

No one has been allowed on the balcony around the torch since 1916 for "safety reasons." After all, a lady deserves some privacy, don't you think?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bespoke Tailor For Drug Lords and Dictators

A story in the Sept. 26th edition of The New Yorker caught my eye. Miguel Caballero owns a company that makes bullet-proof clothing. The main offices are in Bogota, Colombia, with branches in Mexico City and Sao Paulo. He has developed a stronger, more flexible version of Kevlar and is using it makes fashionable garments for the fearful. (Just Google "Miguel Caballero)

These items include a leather jacket for sport or motorcycling, a "reporter's" vest (all sorts of oddly-placed pockets) and a polo shirt. The polo shirt comes in navy, red or light blue and costs $3,475. A "Medium" shirt weighs 1.8 kg. Dry clean only!

Other items that have been made to the customers specifications. Steven Seagal ordered a bullet-proof kimono; Sean "P.Diddy" Combs sports a white dinner jack. It was widely rumored that President Obama wore one of Caballero's bullet-proofed suits to his inaguration. Caballero neither confirmed nor denied this.

Other clients include King Abdullah of Jordan; President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela; President Uribe, Colombia, and Prince Felipe of Spain. I think I see a trend here..

And yet, Caballero swears that he doesn't sell garments to the bad guys, i.e. drug lords or other criminals. Before delivery each customers name and order number are sewn into the garment in case of theft from the purchaser.

Caballero noted that Catholic priests in drug-infested countries buy a vest to wear underneath their robes or -- new product alert! - carry an oversized, bullet-proof Bible to be used as a shield! Thus armed, priests feel safe in offering harsh criticisms of drugs and those who traffic in them.

Incidentally, if you are shot within six months of receiving your garment, Caballero will replace it gratis. These garments are ... one-shot items.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Products, New Tastes, New Pleasures

For Thanksgiving ... Kennebunkport Brewing Company's Pumpkin Ale. It's said to be lightly spiced with pumpkin pie spices. I got our neighbor, John, to give it a test spin as he is British and surely as such, a connoiseur of good brews. He said it was very good.

Pilgrim Joe's Pumpkin Ice Cream -- It's a pale gold, sweet, but no overriding taste of pumpkin or spices. Would set off a pumpkin pie delicately, with richness. Incidentally, Richie uses a graham cracker crust for his pumpkin pies and next one he makes, he's going to dust the empty pie shell with pie spices which should add a nice zing!

Other Uses for Guacamole -- the French have (finally) discovered Mexican food and it turns out that they like guacamole. But, typically French, they do more with it -- a "tartine" is French for "open-faced sandwich," something the Danes do very, very well. Possibly not with a Mexican standard like guac. Toast a good slice of bread, slather with guacamole and dot with river shrimp. Used as a base for salmon tartare. Layered in crab salads or carefully, using a spoon, make quenelles as a garnish for gazpacho.

Litehouse Freeze-Dried Red Jalapenos - I keep the container near the stove and routinely toss in about a tablespoon to homemade or canned chili, garlic spaghetti sauce, or bean with bacon canned soup.

I discovered by accident that Himalayan pink salt crystals have a very sweet salt taste with just a hint of pepper behind that. Very good on my mother's recipe potato soup (along with a knob of butter.)

Trader Giotti's Mushroom Ravioli with Mushroom Truffle sauce are really good! The sauce is, of course, not overly truffled, probably because a single pound of truffles cost upwards of $2,200. You'll find them next to the $88 pistachio oil...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Signature Dishes

This never would have occurred to me as I try never to serve guests the same thing they had before. But Dorie Greensspan, author of "Around My French Table" Houghtin Mifflin Harcourt 530 pages - it's a lapful! $40 suggests you adopt a recipe for hors d'oeurs and make it often enough that guests eagerly whisper to each other, "I wonder if she made (the dish)?"

These are beautiful on the plate, but you're going to need strong arm muscles to make them.

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
11 stick of butter, cut in four pieces
pinch of sea salt
pinch of cayenne (optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cups coarsely-grated cheese - Swiss or cheddar

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat and preheat the oven to 425

Bring the milk, water, butter and spice to a rapid boil. Add the flour all at once and start stirring. When the dough is smooth, take it off of the fire and beat in the eggs, one at a time. Don't worry if the dough separates, by the time you beat in the last egg, it will be smooth again. Beat in the grated cheese.

Drop the dough, a tablespoon at a time, on the baking sheets. Give each one plenty of "breathing space" about 2 in.

Turn the oven down to 325, slide the sheets in and bake for 12 minutes and then open the oven door and rotate the sheets. Bake for another 10-12 minutes.

2 perfectly ripe Hass avocados, split with the pits removed.
Fresh lemon juice - rub it into the hole so the avocado won't blacken
sea salt to taste
Pistachio oil
Lemon wedges for garnish. I'd be tempted to sprinkle some pistachios around the rim of the avocado - Trader Joe sells them already shelled.

Put each avocado half in a bowl and drizzle the pistachio oil into the hollow center and serve with a spoon.

I'd never heard of such a thing as "pistachio oil" but you can find it at! The brand you want is Leblanc. P.S. I just loped off to to see what I was talking about -- sit down. Two 8.5 oz. bottles of LeBlanc pistachio oil cost $88! La Tourrangel is $19.95

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

French Comfort Food

You might think it would be pate or something, but as comforting as it is to eat chunks of baguette with a schmear of pate, it's a garlic soup instead. It originated in Provence and its name there is "aigo bouido" or "boiled garlic soup."

I love garlic for its taste and healing properties. I had a lovely cream of garlic soup at the now-defunct Kip's, El Segundo, and when I came across this recipe, I tagged it.

1 large head of garlic, split into cloves which are then cut in thin slivers - about 3/4 cup of garlic
6 fresh sage leaves, 2 bay leaves, 2 large sprigs of thyme, tied together in cheesecloth tied with kitchen string. Doesn't matter how it looks, it gets thrown out anyhow.
3 cups water
3 cups chicken broth
3 large egg yo9lks
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Put the water and broth together in a suitable pot, add the spices in their little bag and garlic and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 30 minutes
Remove the bouqet of spices and throw it away
In a separate bowl, mix the three egg yolks with the Parmesan, beating well. Add a bit of the soup and mix well. when the egg yolk mixture is thin enough, gently pour it into the simmering broth. Whisk well and take the pot off of the fire so you don't curdle the eggs.
Fill a bowl, add a dash of olive oil and eat!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


A Horrible Person, A Boring Book But a Triple PR Play

"Finding Sarah, A Duchess's Journey To Find Herself" by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. Atria Books 313 relentlessly-self serving pages $25.99 and not worth a cent over a quarter.

She is a narcissist. She attributes this book to her despair after essentially selling access to Andrew for $40,000. And all of a sudden! she discovers she has life-long problems! Eekers.

Oprah hired her to do a docu-series on her "finding herself" using long-time Oprah guests -- Dr. Phil, Suze Orman and Martha Beck, all of whom Sarah consults in this book. That was a stroke of genius. On Oprah's part.

A Decorative (But Useless) Holiday Item
Trader Joe is now selling Cinnamon Brooms for $3.99 each. These are dried up pine branches that have been soaked in cinnamon oil and then tied into a broom shape. They're about 4 ft. long and utterly useless for sweeping.

A woman swooped down on the display as I was idly examining one and her enthusiasm -- "Oh, I love these! I put one in every room of my house!" - waving her arms around like a traffic cop. She scared me so badly that I bought one. Once home, I put it next to the litter box in the upstairs bathroom.

The label says, "Avoid contact of package and contents with furniture, fabrics, carpets, finished surfaces, plastics, acrylics and painted items as may cause damage and/or discoloration."
As an afterthought, it also says, "Avoid contact with eyes and skin."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Dizzying Gabors

There were so many of them! Mama Jolie and her daughters, Magda, Zsa Zsa and finally Eva. I'm old enough that I saw "Moulin Rouge," Zsa Zsa's only notable picture, in a theater in Kansas City, Mo. Certainly we were all around for the slapping the cop - El Segundo jail incident.

I had forgotten all about her until her husband Prinz von A began making the tabloids with some regularity. His latest project is to run for LA Mayor. Many may recall his gubanatorial campaign planks - legalize prostitution and marijuana use.

The library's bio section netted this treasure - "One Lifetime Is Not Enough" by Zsa Zsa and "assisted by edited by and put into proper English by Wendy Leigh."

The fandango of lies begins on page 13 when Zsa Zsa would have us believe that she proposed to a Turkish diplomat named Burhan Belge. He accepted and married her -- when she was 15 years old!

Uh, she was born in 1917 and the wedding license was dated in 1937 when she was actually 19 years old. The Gabors collectively have always lied about how old they are. "It's a Gabor thing, dahling, you wouldn't understand."

Probably not. Next at bat was Conrad Hilton, who fathered the only off-spring any of the Gabor sisters ever had. And naturally it was a girl - Francesca.

She married actor George Sanders when she was 32, a marriage that lasted five years, something of a record for her at that time. After George divorced Zsa Zsa he married Benita Hume until her death in 1967. Whereupon, he turned back to the Gabor stable (so to speak) and married Magda, Zsa Zsa's older sister! This union only lasted six weeks. Tired, alcoholic and sick, George committed suicide at 65. A case of Too Much Gabor-ing?

Now only Zsa Zsa is left. Magda died when she was 79; Eva at 76. Only Mama Jolie made it to 100. Magda and Mom are buried at Desert Memorial, Rancho Mirage, but Eva was planted in the Westwood cemetery among such notables as Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Grin and Bear It Dept.

We're gonna have to make our own sweet potato tater tots as I couldn't find a firm that manufactures them online.

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
Add four minced green onions (I would consider this optional)
1 beaten egg
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
pepper to taste

Mix all of the above well, shape into tater tots and put on a baking sheet. Freeze them until you can bag them and store them in the freezer.

In my online travels, I found out a great deal about Tater Tots on the Ore-Ida site. The tater tot was invented in 1953 and put on the market in 1954. They were a staple in school cafeterias (We've always eaten badly, Ms. Obama) and they were sold at Sonic Drive-ins with or without chili and cheese on top.

Australians call them "potato gems" or "potato pom poms." Here in the U.S. 70 million pounds of them are sold on an annual basis. There are "regular" tater tots, onion, "crispy crowns" and "mini-tots" in the supermarket.

Not that Richie would welcome a purchase of any of them. His cousin Ruth Ellen e'd that whoever invented them, can have them. Detesting tater tots must be a genetic thing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tater Tots

I haven't thought about a Tater Tot for more than 25 years simply because Richie doesn't like them and I won't fry anything in deep fat. One of the great inventions of the 20th century was French fries that you bake instead.

Club 705, Hermosa Beach, posts their menu online ( and this caught my eye: Sweet Potato Tots with Maple-Bacon Aioli. I assumed sweet potato tots were readily available at the supermarket freezer, so looked up a recipe for the dipping sauce. And ran straight into trouble. See if you can spot what freaked me out...

1 T bacon fat
1 T maple syrup
1/2 teas. minced garlicl
2 T mayonnaise
1 tea. lemon juice
1 teas. mustard (apparently your choice, no direction given)
Pepper to taste.

Mix and serve.

What turned me off: I am not about to put bacon fat in anything that is going directly into my mouth. We have bacon fat, but it's in an old soup can in the freezer. When the can is full, into the trash as garbage disposals don't like it either.

Instead, I would fry up a slice of bacon to crisp and then crumble it between paper towels and toss into the mix. Even though the bacon craze has come and gone. Denny's yanked their Bacon Sundae off the menu before I could scamper in and make faces at it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Useful Book!

As opposed to yesterday's trio of ladies -- the waif, the manners cop and the cutest little trick in shoe leather. All well-meaning, no doubt, but this you can get your teeth into without fear of cavities.

"Stalling For Time, My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator" by Gary Noesner Random House 226 pages $26

Noesner retired from the FBI in 2003. He spent 30 years with the Bureau as an investigator, instructor and finally as the first chief of the Crisis Negotiation Unit, Critical Indicident Response Group. Today he is a senior VP with Control Risks, an international firm.

"Hostage negotiation is about managing yourself and the people around you," Noesner wrote. A hostage situation is dangerous because the person holding the hostages is totally unpredictable.

The negotiator and the SWAT teams cannot go off half-cocked. The negotiator has to suspend his own emotions to get the crazy person to talk, to tell him what is wanted while the negotiator works to make the nut job feel confident talking to him.

Now this kind of a read is right up my alley. I am totally into making a deal, coercing others to do my will and convincing others that what I happen to want is more beneficial than what they think they want. My truck license plate is "Delmakr" (Dealmaker shortened.)

Some things learned from Noesner's book:
Listen. Listen to the person, not the leader of the SWAT team who wants to charge in.
Is the person sputtering mindless gibberish? Why? Drunk? Crazy? Off their meds?

What is the person telling you that he wants? A helicopter out on the lawn to whisk him away? For that flight of fancy, the negotiatior would buy time (for the person to calm down a tad) by saying, "I don't have that kind of authority. I have to call my boss on that." This reference to having a boss might well resonate with the hostage taker who undoubtedly at one time or another has had a boss, too. You want the bad guy to gain confidence in your sincerity. Use a calm voice, not authoritarian tones.

Do they want the power and water turned back on? A sandwich? Demands vary greatly.

But: always, always get a concession from the bad guy before you give him anything. Never give away anything but that which is minor.

If you listen, really listen you can negotiate very nearly anything from a major purchase down to a later bedtime (or not) for your kid. Go for it! Listen up!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

3 Women, 3 Books, 3 Outlooks

"Loose Diamonds - and Other Things I've Lost (and Found) Along the Way" by Amy Ephron William Morrow 166 pages $19.99

There are four Ephron sisters -- Nora, Delia, Amy and Hallie and all are writers to one degree or another. I think Nora is the funniest, but that's just one opinion.

Amy employs what I think of as the Professional Waif style. A Professional Waif would sit in her burning living room, writing a poem extolling the brave firemen with rippling muscles and nerves of steel with no thought of her personal safety, but only the passion to write it down. Yes, well...

"Loose Diamonds" is an account of childhood memories, various husbands (three to date) and former friends. Amusing enough, but no 38 carat diamond.

"Is It Just Me? (Or Is It Nuts Out There?)" by Whoopi Goldberg Hyperion 200 pages $22.99

I think Goldberg decided to out-do Bill Cosby who famously exhorts his brothers and sisters to straighten up and fly right. But instead of limiting herself to just one race, she's after ALL of us. You've been warned and you better take the test included to see if you know how to behave in an airport (don't sass the TSA; they've got The Power) on a plane, in a bar, cell phone abuse and on and on. Re that test, "Thank you for thinking of me, but 'No thanks.'"

"My Fair Lazy" by Jen Lancaster Penguin Books 371 pages $24.95

Lancaster idolizes Candace Bushnell. I think that pretty much says it all. This is a chick light (not lit) book with all of the cliches -- dumb blonde, innocent trouble-maker with a put-upon husband (who just loves her anyhow!) and several dozen BFFs. O the adventures they all have! Not.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Today's birthdays include the 95th for C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General for Ronald Reagan and George Bush. It reassures me somehow when a doctor gets that old.

Food & Wine has an article on "Airport Food Worth Flying For" which isn't terribly good grammer, but ... yes, we get the idea.

Cited in the article were gates at these airports - JFK, San Francisco Int'l, Atlanta, La Guardia with a sidebar for such as Chicago, Miami, Cleveland and Dallas.

LAX got a mention, too. There is now a Pink's Hot Dogs in the Tom Bradley Int'l Terminal. Personally I think this is a very bad way to welcome foreigners to these shores or else it's a pretty pointed hint not to stay in America. S ome 40 years ago, I ate my first and last Pink's hot dog with chili. I was sick as a dog for two full days.

Travelers: Just say "No." No mas, Pink's. Merci, mais non. Dank schoen, nein.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Food & Wine magazine arrived yesterday and I find that I am truly enjoying it as it is packed with print as well as a lot thicker than the two other food mags I get. Here are some of the things that caught my eye and tweaked my attention.

Chipotle Mayaonnaise for Crab Cakes*
3/4 cup mayo
1 chipotle chile in adobo, seeded and minced.
1 T lemon juice
1 teas. Old Bay Seasoning
1 teas. Dijon mustard
freshly-ground black pepper to taste.
Mix the above all together and refrigerate
* Not that I make crab cakes from scratch. Blessed Trader Joe does it for me.

Dessert Ciders - I know about alcohol-based ciders, of course, but now makers are proffering "dessert" ciders. Eden Northern Spy Ice Cider, $22; Foggy Ridge Pippin Gold, $25; and Slyboro Ice Harvest Special Reserve, $24. Their described flavors -- crisp tartness with honey notes; spicy with a touch of citrus or a nice acidity and depth make them sound like a great accompaniment to Thanksgiving's traditional pumpkin pie. They are pricey at $22+ dollars, but you don't serve much of it. I'd look at Trader Joe or Bev-Mo for them.

A Pie So Simple That I Could Make It! and I need a back-up to my summertime Key Lime pie.

Store-bought graham cracker crust; follow package instructions.
4 T melted sweet butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
sea salt
Optional: 2 cups heavy cream and 2 T confectioner's sugar beaten together for a topping

Scrape the condensed milk into a 9 x 13 in. glass baking dish, give the top a sprinkle of sea salt, cover with foil and put the dish into a roaster with enough water in it to reach halfway up the glass pan. (What you're doing here is making a primitive sous vide) Bake it at 350 until the milk begins to brown - it will be lumpy and resemble dulce de leche. Stir it every now and then.

Put it in the crust, cover it and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours. When ready to serve, peel off the covering and add the beaten cream and sugar. Garnish with a grind of sea salt over the top.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Everything Old Is New Again

Street food has been around for a very long time -- pushcarts in America, Mexico and most of Asia attest to that. The next major development was the introduction of the gasoline-powered engine and thus evolved lunch trucks aka "roach coaches," most often found at specific times outside of construction sites and office buildings.

Today there is a mad rush among the foodies and wannabes to patronize a specific truck with a particular chef and a location you have to find by checking Twitter becaue the trucks move around. "But it's important not to forget that tacos came before Twitter," warns Javier Cabral, creator of the blog

"Food Trucks - Dispatches and Recipes from the Best Kitchens on Wheels" by Heather Shouse proved interesting.

One of the great truck chefs is the acclaimed Roy Choi who co-founded the Kogi brand. There are four trucks now and Kogi is said to have done $2 million in sales in the first year. His specialite de maison is Korean-Mexican fusion. Choi shrugs and says that he ate Korean at home and Mexican food on the street.

One of his most talked-about dishes is the Kimchi quesadilla and the book thoughtfully included the recipe. Kimchi is a strongly flavored (salt) cabbage dish that Koreans dote upon. I like it myself and you can easily google for the recipe or buy a jar of it at your supermarket

1/2 cup sweet butter
2 cups chopped kimchi (It's going to be runny)
4 T canola oil to fry the tortillas
4 12-in. tortillas
4 cups shredded Cheddar-Jack cheese
8 sesame or shiso leaves, torn
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Melt the butter, stir in the kimchi until it caramelizes - about 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon of the canola oil to a big pan or griddle and put down a tortilla.

Sprinkle a cup of the cheese on half of the tortilla, then add about a quarter of the kimchi, some shiso leaves and about a quarter of the sesame seeds.

Fold the bare half of the tortilla over this, flip it and continue browning the tortilla. Apparently you want the tortilla to blister, like a pizza crust. Cut it in thirds and serve.

All of this twittering and tweeting and rushing around is fine for those that want to do it. Me? I'm lazy and far too indolent to chase my dinner! Let it wait for me on a plate at a restaurant table. I'll be along...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


This, today, is the 1,000th blog I've written on A tip of the hat to that site which allows me to rave and rant for free! "Uh, uh," I see you snickering, "Yeah, you get what you pay for..."

So far today - 13 page views
Yesterday - 25 page views
Last month - 606 page views
All time history - 8,485 page views.

Reality is: on average, 8.49 people per day.

Roll back the speedometer! Let's forge ahead!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Just Nuts For You

Halloween (the dread! the dread!) is drawing nigh. I dread it because Richie is convinced that hordes of screaming children - "Treat! Treat!" - will roar down our driveway as if it were a freeway so he buys bags and bags of candy. They never come in the numbers he hopes for and we then have bags and bags of candy and I don't need to nibble on them.

I am wondering if I can distract him with making flavored nuts to put in little sandwich bags instead. I ran across a couple of good recipes in a book called "Simply Appetizers" which was printed in Hong Kong with recipes from a German publication.

1 T safflower oil
1 3/4 cups cashews
3 level T sugar
1 teas. sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder*

Heat the oil and roast the cashews over medium heat while stirring. sprinkle with sugar and salt and saute 5 minutes until the sugar starts to melt and browns slightly. Take them off of the heat and stir them until they cool a bit. Dust them with the chili powder when they're cool and store.

* I'd use 1 teas. chili powder and 1/2 teas. powdered habanero

2 T butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 small dried chili pepper, de-seeded or 1 T chili powder
1 teas. ground cumin
A pinch each of: cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and sea salt
3/4 cup skinned hazelnuts
1 cup walnuts

Melt the butter, add the brown sugar. Crush the chili and add that. Stir the rest of the spices into the butter, add the nuts and stir well. Put a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet or cutting board, spread the nuts out on it and let them cool.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

More Fun with the French

In America, the double D cup is extolled; in France, it is one's derriere (rear end.) Only 38 per cent of Frenchmen prefer breasts to butts and a full 50 per cent preferred the derriere and legs above all, so to speak.

Nudity is in the eye of the beholder it would seem in France. There is a long-running show in Paris called the Crazy Horse Cabaret Theater which features performers that are never completely naked, but whose bodies are "painted with illusionary strips of light." One thing the girls never, ever take off is their shoes!

The directrice of the joint said, "High heels enhance the leg line. You walk differently, you act differently." In my case, high heels would enhance my orthopod's wallet and for sure I would walk differently in a matching pair of boot casts.

It's not easy to become a Crazy Horse girl. Requirements: You must be between 5 ft. 6 in. and 5 ft. 8 in. tall with no more than 10 1/2 inches between your nipples and a mere 5 inches between the navel and the pubis. You will be weighed once a week. Absolutely no tattoos or plastic surgery. Quite a change from Las Vegas where I once amused myself during a bare-breasted revue number by counting the breast surgeries, appendectomies and the one poor lady who had had spinal surgery.

The directrice ended the interview by rather scornfully saying, "In Las Vegas, everything is lit up and bright. There is absolutely nothing left to the imagination. It doesn't speak to your brain. It speaks to a few people's pants, maybe, but not to their brains. And the brain -- that's where the beauty is."

Take THAT, American dudes!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

French Lessons

"La Seduction - How the French Play the Game of Life" by Elaine Sciolino Time Books 338 pages $27

Sciolino is imminently qualified to write about the French as she is the former Paris bureau chief for the NY Times. She was decorated as a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor and lives in Paris.

But I think she erred when the crux of her argument about the French is based on only one thing: seduction. She says that here in America "seduction" has a sexual connotation; there it does not. Much of the interactions between men and women in France would have been better described as "flirtation." One flirts to be liked. Simple as that.

Diplomats use seduction. Richard Holbrooke, the late American diplomat convinced Madeleine Albright, at the time Secretary of State, to let him be the chief administrator of Kosovo by picking a bouquet of edelweiss and presenting it to her. She grew up in Prague near the mountains and presumably edelweiss.

French politicians try to seduce men and women into voting for them. Valery Giscard d'Estaing was famous even in his 80s (!) for trying to seduce the ladies, going so far as to write a novel about "a French Head of State and a British royal" (supposedly Princess Diana.) Such was his prowess that half of France kind of believed it had happened!

But when Sciolino offered insights on French women I sat up and paid attention. French women go lightly on the make-up - if they do their eyes, they don't wear lipstick. You have to decide what you want to highlight that day -- and which goes better with what you plan to wear.

Perfume is to be used so lightly that only the person kissing your cheek can smell it. Your scent is meant to evoke memories of yourself in an intimate situation, i.e. being kissed hello or goodbye.

The great Coco Chanel once remarked thoughtfully, "A woman without perfume is a woman without a future." She didn't live in Southern California where every fifth person screams about their allergies...

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Lovely Surprise!

Yesterday Richie was out putting the trash containers at the curb; I was getting it together to go to Thurs. Writers. I heard him come back into the house and then he yelled, "We've got a surprise visitor!"

It was our old neighbor and good friend Paul Baker! He and his wife Cathy used to live next door, but one and we were devastated when they moved to Orange County some years ago.

Paul is a Master Painter, who specializes in faux finishes for home interiors and he is working a job in the nabe and decided to pop by and see if we still lived here. It was so good to see him again.

In addition to being a Master Painter, he is also a very talented musician. All three of us were in a hurry so he jotted down the Website for his group and later I looked it up.

The group is called the Verve Sax Quartet ( In the photo, he's the farthest guy on the right. Isn't he a handsome devil? Cathy his wife is a beautiful blonde and they make a great-looking couple.

The group has been together since 2007 under the leadership of Dennis Rudolph. Click on their repertoire and when a song title is in blue, click on it and listen to them play! How cool is that?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tales From the Recession

There are times when I feel positively sorry for the rich. Imagine having to sell one of these homes...

Newport, Rhode Island -- "Fairholme" with 16 bedrooms, 12 full baths, 2 half-baths and 24,340 sq. ft on 4.3 acres which have greenhouses to grow the estate's "signature pink geraniums." Apparently the pink germanium market is off. Very badly off because you can own all this for a bargain basement price of $17.9 million

County Kildare, Ireland - "Lyons Demesne" was refurbished by the late Tony Ryan, founder of Ryanair, during the 1990s. There only 11 bedrooms, 11 full baths and 3 half baths in the main house which is 146,000 sq. ft. There is also a lake, formal gardens and, reflecting changing times, the only private helipad in Ireland that is licensed for 24 hour use. This estate was built in 1785 and costs $72 million.

Back home in California, "Castle By The Sea" is set on 80 acres which include: a bridle trail, a Pinot Noir vineyard ("No more pesky trips to Bev-Mo!") olive groves ("Bye, bye Trader Joe!") fire and water landscaping features (how Vegas-y is that?!) sculpture gardens, a helipad, a 9,000 sq. ft. entertainment hall with caretaker quarters, penthouse and observation deck plus a 4-bedroom guest house, the estate managers residence, and equestrian facilities.

The house itself is 32,500 sq. ft. with 11 bedrooms and 12 baths set among 250,000 acres of state parkland.

They neglected to put in the price - you'll have to visit to see if it might be listed there. And if so, what part of California is host to this magnificence. I'm betting Montecito, outside of Santa Barbara. There's been a steady departure of the Very Rich from that area. Soon poor old Oprah Winfrey will have no neighbors at all.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


We woke up yesterday morning to wet streets, driveways and sidewalks, but this morning there was real rain!

Our neighbor's flat garage roof has puddles on it! Rhythmic little thud sounds come from the rain drops hitting the skylight in the living room. I especially love the hiss of tires on the street - that sound is absolutely RAIN to me.

Today would be a great day to go down to Scotty's on the Strand for lunch. Nothing fancy - maybe a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich - just to get the chance to sit by one of their big windows and look out at the sea.

Scotty's has a great and simple view - window, sidewalk, sand. The beach in rain or in what passes for winter out here is spectacularly deserted. The sand curves in windblown drifts, the Hermosa Beach pier looks as if it goes out to sea forever. What few people there are out are anxious to get back in. They walk briskly, not a slow-paced stroller among them.

Grey skies, gusts of wind and rain! What a gorgeous day!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Scenery Around Nelson's, Terrenea Resort

We took Tony here yesterday for his birthday celebration. Beautiful weather, plenty of drinks, wonderful company! A jewel of a day that has been put on a necklace of favorite memories.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Manly, Meaty Spring Rolls

These are a Philippines treat that have traveled successfully to Hawaii and thence to Southern California. Our great friend Tony introduced us to them and I love them. Richie is far less enthusiastic. He is not fond of Hawaiian cuisine.

They are called "lumpia" and we have three sources for them locally; The Loft, on Hawthorne in Torrance, Back Home In Lahaina, PCH in Manhattan Beach and the Albertson's frozen section on Artesia, in Redondo Beach.

Now, having discovered the recipe in "The Complete Asian Cookbook" by Charmaine Solomon, we can make them ourselves.

1 cooked chicken breast, diced
1 cup leftover roast pork, diced
1 cup cooked shrimp, diced
1 cup sliced cabbage
2 T peanut oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely-chopped green onions
pinch of black pepper
2 T light soy sauce
1 package spring roll wrappers

Saute the garlic then add the meats, stirring well. Add in the vegetables, stirring well.
Add the pepper and soy sauce, stir well and drain off any excess liquids. Start filling your spring roll wrappers as if making burritos. Saute in the peanut oil until the wrappers are crisp. Drain on paper towels and serve.

4 T sugar
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1 cup chicken stock
2 T cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 clove garlic, crushed.

Carefully mix the water and cornstarch and set aside. Put the sugar, soy sauce and chicken stock in a pan and bring it to a boil. Gently stir in the cornstarch and water mix and cook until it begins to thicken. Toss in the crushed garlic, stir and serve.