Saturday, March 31, 2012

As Promised! Vacuums and Missions Impossible

Both of these recipes call for margarine which I haven't thought about since 1945 when "margarine" was a plastic bag of white fat with an orange dot included for coloring. My job was to squish all of this together until the yellow color was uniform.

(Ever wondered why cookie, singular, is not "cooky"?)
1/2 cup margarine - do not use butter - melted
1 18.25-oz. box of yellow cake mix - don't get the kind with pudding in the batter.
3 eggs
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 1-lb. box powdered sugar
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (the only relatively-healthy thing in the whole mixture)

Set oven at 325 Cream together the melted margarine, the cake mix and one egg. Put this mixture in the bottom of a well-greased 9x13 in. pan.
Beat the two eggs slightly and blend in the cream cheese and powdered sugar. Stir in the coconut and walnuts and pour over the rest in the pan. Smooth it out evenly. Bake for 45-50 minutes until it's a golden brown. Cool to room temperature before cutting into bars. Source: Rhonda Nelson, Warren High School, Downey, Calif.

I don't like pie crust; it seems unnecessary to me - just added calories. This recipe is said to make it's own crust so it's worth a look to me.

4 eggs
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1 3/4 cups of sugar
1/2 cup self-rising flour (whatever that is)
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup coconut - what is this? National Coconut Day?

Beat the eggs together, add the margarine, sugar, flour and milk. Continue beating until it's all well-mixed. Stir in the coconut and pour it all into two UN-greased 8 in. pans and bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes. Source: Linda Heinbach, Yosemite High School, Oakhurst, CA

Friday, March 30, 2012

Richie's New Chicken Dish

Having mastered Chicken Cordon Bleu and Chicken Picatta, Richie turned to a cook book entitled "World Wide Recipes" compiled by a group of Home Economics teachers!

Ah, 8th grade Home Ec(k) -- the memories flooded back ... too hurried to use hot water when we washed the dishes; the teacher's ensuing wrath .. But we were hardier back then. No one ever came down with the bubonic plague or anything.

Our first dish which was called "Eggs Goldenrod." Take one hard-boiled egg, separate the white from the yolk. Chop the white and grate the yolk and set aside. Make a white sauce (butter, flour and milk aka "gravy") then put in the egg whites, stir well and serve over toast. The grated egg yolks are the garnish. To this day, this is a favorite comfort food.

Richie's Southwestern Chicken Breasts is nearly as easy.
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of two limes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teas. Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
pepper to taste

Mix the above together in a bowl big enough to hold the marinade and four skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Put the bowl in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Stir it around every now and then.

Then set the marinade aside and grill the chicken using the marinade to baste it. Or do as he did --put the chicken and marinade together into a suitable pan and on into the over at 400 degrees for half an hour, turning once.

He used only two chicken breasts, consequently the dish was a little over-powered by the balsamic vinegar. If you use only two, recommend halving the amounts above.

Having eaten our nice, healthy chicken tomorrow we will turn our attention to desserts; specifically, Vacuum Cleaner Cookie Bars (so good you vacuum them down?) and Mission Impossible Pie that requires no crust - it makes its own. Save room!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

No Doggie Bag 'Cause We (Nearly) Licked the Plates Clean

We first visited Aliotta's Via Firenze several years ago - I vaguely remember blogging about our delight with the food and service then. We drove by it the other day and I said, "You know ... we need to get back there.." visions of the Gamberini Don Mike floating temptingly through my mind. Last night we did.

Aliotta's is located in a corner of a strip mall which is an unexpected place to find a "romantic" restaurant. "Suspension of disbelief" comes to mind. After we were seated, I gazed at our surroundings - "rustic romantic" would be my overall impression - three huge chandeliers, a faux balcony. Very tall walls, black leather armchairs and white table clothes with a beige cloth overlay. Maroon napkins twisted into coils popped out of the water goblets. the silverware was over-sized -- the pasta/soup spoon was as big as a 12-year-old's fist.

"Who cares what the room looks like! What about the food?" you cry. Very well. First came a basket of little pillows of warm Italian bread. Already on the table was a square white plate for the bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar that sat next to it. Richie ordered a glass of the Pont Merlot ($7.50) and I splurged on a half-bottle of Prosecco ($18) which proved to be an economy -- three full flutes of wine from a fat, thick bottle that kept it cold until the last drop.

Richie ordered Saltimboccca, a classic dish - veal scaloppini topped with parma proscuitto in a sage-wine sauce. ($24) I started with a Caesar salad of insanely-fresh Romaine that had been thoroughly tossed in the good, thick dressing. Gobbling slightly, I offered some to Richie, who eagerly joined me. Our hot dishes arrived together - mine was the appetizer-size Gamborini Don Mike - four prawns, wrapped in parma prosciutto and grilled with a sambuca romana cream sauce. ($15) Yes I did use the bread to sop up the leftover sauce! You would have, too!

Aliotta's has a huge menu; in fact, I just now noticed Capracci Della Casa - thin-sliced, cured beef tenderloin with lemon, capers and shaved Parmigiano, drizzled with extra olive oil. ($14) Read the extensive menu at

Visit Aliotta's at 4485 Torrance Boulevard (NE corner of Torrance and Anza) Torrance, 90503 310-371-9555.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Could Everyone Just Sit Down, Shut Up and Think?

I was appalled to see that a group calling itself the "New Black Panther Party" was offering a $10,000 bounty on one George Zimmerman who was involved in an episode with the late Trayvon Martin more than a month ago. So I went to Google...

Wickipedia says the group was founded in 1989 in Dallas, TX, by Aaron Michaels. The Party's idealogy is: Black nationalism, Pan-Africanism (whatever that is,) anti-Zionism (sadly, I do know what this is,) anti-imperialism which is howlingly funny to me. If you go with them, imperialism - theirs - is dandy! Tsk, tsk, isn't that always the way with the zealots.

Before the bounty offer, several members were arrested in Philadelphia during the 2008 presidential election for voter intimidation.

Yesterday the leader (not going to give him more publicity by using the name) issued the insultingly paltry sum of $10 grand for "a legal citizens arrest" of Zimmerman, adding "I don't obey the white man's law, I don't follow the American law."

Meanwhile the "real" Black Panthers have their knickers twisted into knots and want all to know that New Panthers have nothing whatsoever to do with Old Panthers (many of whom must be Graying Panthers by now.)

The Anti-Defamation League and the US Commission on Civil Rights both consider the group as a "hate group." My question to them is, "Why don't you consider the Rev. Al, Jesse Baby and Maxine Waters as "hate individuals?" The LA Times described these men as "community leaders" which begs the question, "Where is their community? Inside a plane, flying in to lead yet another demonstration?" I want a map to their community! Let's all tour Sharptonville, Jesseland and Maxinela.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Holy Jumpin' Jalapeno Bananas!

When we went to the Hermosa Beach Farmers Market yesterday, I was on a mission. The week prior, I'd cantered down the food aisle just for a Look-See as I'd already had lunch. New among the purveyors was "Chef Barry's Spicy Banana Gourmet BBQ" (try saying that with a mouthful of food.) I liked his menu and resolved then and there to come back next week with an appetite.

His menu is simple: the four meats are all "slowly smoked" and are: brisket, pulled pork, fresh salmon, chicken breast, all served on Chef Barry's handmade rolls.

The sides are: Sweet-Smoked Baked Beans and Homemade Mac & Cheese and Jalapeno Potato Salad. The specialite de la maison is his invention - Spicy Banana Jalapeno Corn Bread muffins.

I elected to try all of the sides as they intrigued me the most. Chef Barry regretted it, but he was out of Mac & Cheese so I can't report on it, but the fact that it was sold out speaks for itself. I would imagine it's a popular dish with mothers, encumbered with little kids at the market.

Since "Too hot is just about right" with me, I thought the Jalapeno Potato Salad wasn't that spicy at all. If I were going to do this, I'd pour pickled jalapeno juice over the still warm potatoes after I'd drained them. I wish Chef Barry would consider two versions - the regular and JALAPENO Potato Salad, but that's just me. In fact, it was good. The potato chunks al dente, the onion chunked, not minced - if you're going to have onion, then damn it! Have onion!

The minute I saw the beans, I knew they'd be good -- a lovely, dark brown in a thick syrup with bits of pork peeking shyly out. They were, as they say in Texas, larrupin!

Classically-trained, Chef Barry makes his own mayonnaise using canola oil. Everything is fresh and made from scratch. I was dying to ask if he grew his own jalapenos, but decided that was kind of a snarky question.

But his great invention is the Banana-Jalapeno Corn Bread muffins. I don't like bananas but I do like "hot" so it was an "I have to try this" deal. I liked the petit size and the baby muffin top overhang. Bananas and jalapenos work well together. The bananas sweeten any sting from the bits of jalapenos.

He told us that his wife is a pastry chef and she was dubious about his muffins, but today she takes some to work with her every day!

Chef Barry Erlich caters - 310-704-1911 -- and you can dine live, so to speak, at the Tuesday Torrance Farmer's Market or the Friday Hermosa Beach Farmer's Market.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

An Italian Passover Seder Dish

This comes from Bon Appetit -- and you don't have to be at a seder to enjoy it!

5 sheets matzo
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup margarine; butter if you don't keep kosher
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup sliced almods
5 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted
1/4 teas. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teas. sea salt

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a Sil-pat and spray with non-stick stuff. Break up the matzos, keeping them in a single layer - no gaps.

Stir the sugar, margarine/butter, honey and 1/4 cup water until the sugar dissolves. Don't stir it, but do swipe down the pan sides with a wet pastry brush (or if you're very careful a wet paper towel wound around a spoon.)

When the syrup is a deep amber color, pour it evenly over your pile of matzos and then sprinkle the whole thing with the almonds. Let it cool, then melt the cholocate and drizzle it over the almonds. Finish by dusting on the cayenne and sea salt. Let it sit for 30 minutes and then break it into pieces and enjoy.

I think the cayenne and sea salt would make this treat awesome and low in calories.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Bon Appetit turned it's not inconsiderable talents to eggs - the perfectly boiled, scrambled or poached, to be exact. I have my own ideas about these subjects and I don't doubt that you will have, too. There are many ways to skin a cat.

Bon A says for perfect hard-boiled eggs to put six of them in a medium-heavy sauce pan. Add water to 1 1/5 in. over the eggs and bring the water to a boil. The minute it starts boiling, clap on the lid, take the pot away from the heat and let it all sit for 10 minutes.

I've got a better and faster way. Eggs, pot, water, boil. I've got a wooden "spoon" (it has no spoon bowl) that I use to gently lift out an egg, hold it over the counter away from the heat and see how quickly the egg dries. When it's nearly an instant process, the eggs are done. You could also use a slotted spoon.

Jean-George Vongerichten's Scrambled Eggs
4 eggs in a room-temperature skillet with 1 1/2 T butter
Lightly season with cayenne pepper and sea salt
Put the skillet on a medium-low heat and start whisking. Whisk continually until the eggs have formed small, soft curds. Take the skillet off of the heat and beat in 1/2 T butter.

The God of the Foodies, Thomas Keller, says he poaches his eggs like this because he claims vinegar "tightens" the whites so they don't fringe out in the water:
1 cup distilled white vinegar
2 eggs

Carefully slide the eggs into the vinegar, get your water boiling and then stir it so that you have a vortex, whirling around the pot of water. Gently slide the eggs in and keep stirring - this collects many of the fine white strands and gives you a more compact-looking finished egg.

For any egg dish that requires a raw egg, I try very hard not to include the "chalazae" which is that small pece of string that looks like an umbilical chord to me. Using the shell is the easiest way to nab the little rascal and throw it in the sink.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In Which Our Accountant Breaks My heart

Fellow Greed heads may remember that I was gloating about turning a $500 paycheck into a new computer, printer and writing all of it off! Yes!!

Alack a day (yesterday.) We motored stately up to Beverly Hills and our CPA's offices. After the greetings and seatings, I asked Les how long I'd been a client and we worked it out to about 46 years -- but I started with his Dad, Sherman, when I was about 26. Richie and I married and Sherman got a new client. We were shocked when arriving for an appointment with Sherman to be greeted by Les with the sad news that his father had died the summer before.

I couldn't wait to tell Les about my windfall and plans for it. He leaned back in his chair behind the massive desk and ... laughed. "The cut-off is $600 and you have to make it from the same person or company. At $601, you can report it; otherwise, just stick it in your pocket and forget about it. The government doesn't want to know." I believe the subsequent sulk lasted for nearly 10 minutes...

Les has something of a sardonic sense of humor (always a good thing in my opinion.) He said a lawyer told him that the best way to avoid family fights over a will and to avoid probate is to write a hot check and die. No assets, no probate and no family wars. There's nothing to inherit!" (triumphantly.)

Warming to this theme, Les went on to say that our generation (and he was being generous; he probably isn't even 50 yet) was taught NEVER to touch the principle, but to live off of the interest." He continued, "Kids today don't do that, they just spend, spend, spend so here's what to do. Add up your assets, divide that sum by the number of years you expect to live and -- that's your yearly allowance!"

The catch to this, of course, is that no one knows how long they will live. You can guesstimate all you want, but the fact remains -- no one knows.

But, I wondered, could not averages come into play? Example: My father's parents died ages 64 (him) and 101 (her.) That's a total of 165 years. Divide by two for the average and my Dad shoud have died age 82.5. Unfortunately he was only 81 when he died. My mother's parents died age 86 (her) and 96 (him) for a total of 182, divided by two, she should have died at age 91. She died at 87, four years short of that goal. (But she also had Parkinson's disese, beginning age 81.)

Now, my parents' number is 168, divided by two, gives me only until age 84 and I'm about to be 72, so I have 12 years left to spend half of all of our money.

Who wants to go to Paris? But, of course, 1st class! We're not going to live forever, you know.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Our Roving Photographer In Hermosa Beach

Undaunted by threatened rain, ignoring the parade delay until next Saturday, our heroes (Richie and "D") hooked up for a couple of beers at the Poopdeck.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Beaches and Chicago Vie for "Windy City" Title

It's been extremely windy for the beach cities here today. The tree tops below us are tossing their heads like debutantes. Scornful debutantes.

We had to go to the supermarket so decided to take a detour to see how the ocean was faring. Angrily! Huge gouts of white foam tore over the top of the breakwater wall (which is probably 15 ft. high. White surf beat high up onto the beaches. No boats, no swimmers, no surfboards; only people safely parked in cars to admire Savage Nature.

The "moutons" were running like a stampede. "Moutons" or "sheep" is what the French call white caps.

The palm trees along Catalina had shed all of their old, brown leaves all over the street. City llandscapers are going to have a fine job tomorrow when the wind quits. Or if it quits.

But I must say, it's a CLEAR day!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

New Dreams of Avarice and Pure Greed

I had a great streak of luck lately. A fellow writer engaged me to do a line edit of his 400 page novel for the princely sum of $500! You may be assured I accepted readily. In fact, I'd barely finished reading his e-vite to financial wealth, when I'd sent back, "Sure." (Didn't want to appear anxious. "YES!" might have seemed a tad... well, you know.)

He delivered the MS and I am now on chapter 3, having begun the job this morning. A rainy day is perfect for this kind of operation. I have occupied the dining room table and am hard at it.

However: when I divided 400 pages by $500, I found I was working for eight cents a page! This doesn't seem right to me - I would have figured $1 per page and 1/24th of a cent instead.

But that is of no concern to me. What is making dollar signs in my fevered brain is this:
Come April, 2013, I will have income as a writer to report!

Why is this such a big deal? you ask? Because I can write-off a new computer and a new printer and all the paper I used up over this year as well as printer ink, postage...

I don't have to show a profit, I just have to prove that I earned money, working as a writer. Our accountant (the very able Les Paver, Beverly Hills) will plotz.

Rain Delay

The Hermosa Beach St. Patrick's Day committee was wise to delay the parade. At 9:30 a.m., the rain is hitting the living room skylight with gusto. I see out of the kitchen window, that our next door neighbor's flat garage roof is now a shallow lake bed. Good day to stay in...

But I wish all of you that are located in clement areas a GREAT ST. PATRICK'S DAY!

If you're going out to celebrate, decide who your designated driver will be while you're still at home. Better safe than sorry, eh? There's only so much luck of the Irish available this year.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Touch and Go Situation


Hermosa Beach late this afternoon moved the date for the parade until Saturday, 3/24.

For once in a very long while, the Hermosa Beach annual St. Patrick's Day parade is scheduled for Saturday, March 17th. The parade has often had to be on the closest Saturday to the 17th.

I thought this was a good omen. Until I read the weekend weather forecast. Slight rain Friday, rain Saturday and thunderstorms on Sunday.

The City of Hermosa Beach added the line "Rain or Shine" to their City Website so ... apparently the parade is a go, no matter what. What is questionable is whether or not, we will be.

Standing in the rain, the inevitable drip down the back of your collar...dodging other people's umbrellas...
On the other hand it is sure to cozy and dry in the Poopdeck. But I think the people watching will be pretty much non-existent.

Hey, what the hell -- I've never seen a parade in the rain. It could provide new sources of amusement. The politicians quivering under umbrellas in the vintage convertibles used to transport them; rain streaking their identifying signs on the doors... in fact, I sense a tremendous photo opp!

Bring it on!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fixing A Sandwich

As I am far too cheap to throw away food, I took yesterday's bacon, turkey, tomato, avocado on a croissant leftover half home. Before dinner last night, I deconstructed it as follows: removed the split croissant and put it in the toaster oven. While that was happening, I piled the turkey and (now soggy) bacon into a pile and chopped it up. When the croissant slices emerged, I "buttered" them with the soft avocado, piled the chopped meats and tomatoe slices back into the croissant and ate it. It was a damned sight better than what it was at lunch.

Be creative with sandwiches...cut a length of baguette or ciabbata for the size sandwich you want to eat. Split that and toast it. When it emerges, give it a good dowsing with Italian salad dressing, pile on chicken or turkey breast meat and a slice of sweet onion, peppered salami slices and what the hell -- a sprinkling of jalapeno pepper chips. I think this works because the deli-bought turkey or chicken breast meat has very little flavor. It can be the mayonnaise in your sandwich!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Cranky Day

I had an eye doctor appointment this morning. They dilated my pupils. I hate this more than the ob/gyn exam (and I'm no fan of that either.)

Richie went with me to drive afterward. Of course, I could see, but I felt like I couldn't. My brain veers toward the nearly-clinical insane on some things.

During the wait for the eyes to dilate, I noticed my wristwatch battery had died. Maybe it doesn't like eye doctor offices either and this was a protest or a sign of slidarity with me. We'll never know.

So, post-appointment we went to the jewelry store in the Nordstroms Mall. They replaced the battery in less than five minutes and it only cost $15.

By now we were both hungry so we went into the Red Robin resto we had to pass to get back to the car. I probably shouldn't review a restaurant when I'm as cranky as a bag of weasels, but I will.

I would rate Red Robin as about three jumps down from a TGIFriday's but without as an inventive a menu selection. My turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomatoe, avocado on a croissant was cold. Toasting the croissant would have been a nice touch. Richie ordered their Gourmet Hamburger and pronounced it "juicy, good enough" and ate it all. His cole slaw pushed the needle over on "sweet."

This Red Robin has been in this location, probably since they built the mall. Thus I am wrong and others are right.

Which doesn't make me any less cranky, but at least I can see again.

Monday, March 12, 2012

At The Jazz Club II

The New Look
We weren't able to meet last month. The Kinghts of Columbus told us they were going to re-finish the dance floor. They didn't bother to add that they were replacing all of the doors with new ones with glass panels so that now we can see if we're going to cream someone if the door is opened. There are three big, new windows in the bar, overlookiing the meeting room. All of the walls and the ceiling were painted in a mushroom hue that makes the space look bigger. Four new art deco lights have been installed in the ceiling. It's now all very spiffy and a cynical mind has to wonder if they raised the rent on the poor old jazz club.

However, the Knights weren't very knightly about the ladies restroom. One toilet was on the verge of flooding the place; another had flooded. I told the bartender why I was asking for an Out of Order sign and he hastily made one, handed it and a roll of Scotch tape to me. Ooooh! Anoter item for my resume! "Ladies Room Attendant." I later came back, found a wet mop leaning across the doorway, barring entrance and a shiny, wet least I wasn't handed a mop and bucket.

Music Keeps You Young!
We'd just gotten out of the car in the parking lot when we were hailed by a fellow music lover. "Are you going to the music?" (Yes) "I haven't been for a couple of months - had a heart attack last December and was in and out of the hospital three times!" We looked at him. Older, slim, straight-spined and said the obvious, "Gee, you'd never know it!"

We lost track of him once inside, but later Richie ran into him in the bar. When Richie came back to our table, he said, "How old do you think that guy is?" and I thought for a moment and said, "Oh, maybe mid-70s." Richie almost yelled, "He's 93! And look back there - he's dancing!" Sure enough, he and the club secretary were doing a brisk 4-stepper by the raffle table.

Musicians Have Tempers, Too!
A pick-up band of the various local musicians was thumping away when we arrived. I waved to our friend Mr. Tucker on cornet and he nodded "Hello" back at me. When their allotted time ended, Mr. Tucker came over to say it in person. He had just begun an apology about his playing when the clarinet guy, gear already packed and in hand, came storming up to us and said to Mr. Tucker, "I just wanted to say that wasn't your fault! It was that damned piano player! I'll never play with that son-of-a-bitch again!" He then lowered his voice and the two of them went on conversing. Who knew clarinetists had such passion?!

And truth be told, the piano player is a touch on the weird side. Maybe 5 ft. tall and close to 200+ pounds, he looks like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day float - with little teeny feet. I waqs writing these notes at the table when he wordlessly came up and shoved a white paper napkin under my nose. It said, "This is a portrait of a snowflake on a bed of snow." The paper was blank within the "frame" he'd drawn. I smiled poitely and kept on writing. A previous experience taught me never to engage in conversation with him. A chance remark had set him off into a half hour's dissertation on an altar cloth his great aunt had made for St. Patricks cathedral, NY and .... trust me, you don't want to hear any more than that and I don't want to remember any more than that!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Standing Room Only - and At That, You May Want to Suck in Your Gut

"What's she blathering about now" you ask? Yesterday Richie finally consented to grab a sandwich at the place that's been getting very good reviews indeed from local food critics (Merrill Schindler and Richard Foss, to be exact.)

Locals have probably passed it umpteen times and never noticed it. "What, the invisible resto?" Pretty much! Catalina Liquor and Deli is located at the southeast corner of Diamond and Catalina (144 N. Catalina) here in Redondo Beach. 310-374-7545)

The building reminds one of a 7-11 in style and tucked away, at the very back of the store, is the take-out only Standing Room. If you're waiting for your food and decide to prowl the aisles, suck in your gut. We're talking very narrow aisles. And if you eat here regularly and clean your plate, you WILL have to suck it in.

"What kind of food?" I would say American (hamburgers) Hawaiian (fried egg on the hamburger) and Korean (buttered kim chi on pulled pork.) And the Pan-roasted edamame with a chili garlic sauce could be Japanese or Thai.

Hamburger toppings sampler; there are eight in all - "Cash" - 1/2 lb. patty, bacon hoisin BBQ, shishito peppers and crispy pepper onion. "Chance" - 1/2 lb. patty, jalapeno, habenero cream cole slaw and cheddar cheese. "Napoleon - 1/2 lb. patty, smoked gouda, cheddar, carmelized onion, spring mix topped with braised short rib, a fried egg and truffle Parmesan fries.

There are seven sandwich choices and we both ordered the Charlotte - pulled pork carnitas, hoisin bbq sauce, caramelized onion and habanero cream cole slaw on a brioche. Everything was excellent. Some of you may wince at the thought of habanero cream cole slaw, but it had only a prickle of hot. The only thing I didn't like was the brioche. Two slices of 4 x 6 in. bread, nearly 2 in. deep that had been grilled in the hamburger fat on the griddle. I will eat grease with gusto, but damn! That was just too much bread.

But I'm not their typical customer which includes (based on my own eyes) surfers, landscapers, construction guys, all of whom have been exercising (presumably) and are h u n g r y.

When we go back (not if) I want to try the K-Dilla - hoisin bbq pork, buttered kim chee, bacon, caramelized onion, avocado and I'd ask the chef to hold it on the cheddar and smoked gouda. Maybe okay on the gouda, but cheddar is just too fat-loaded to me.

Vegetarians are included - truffle-parmesan fries, the Fu-Fu Sammie which is fried tofu with spring mix, tomato, onion, tossed in a spicy house vinagrette and gouchu-q drizzle on a pan de mie (honey) roll. The Portobello Mushroom is grilled portobello, topped with paresan, pesto cream, onion, tomato and spring mix.

Lunch for two? $13. The liquor store part has oceans of drink choices; fruit juices, flavored waters and teas, energy drinks and, of course, cold beer! How can you even ask?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bromance? Man Crush?

"Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero" by Chris Matthews Simon and Schuster 479 pages $27.50

Matthews, in a lengthy Preface (13 pages) tries to justify his writing this book by stating that his family and he as he grew up were staunch Republicans. But when JFK entered onto the stage, Matthews found him irresistible.

Another song played endlessly on his serenade to JFK was "Oh, poor Jack, poor lonely little boy! All those illnesses, all those hours spent alone with only a book to amuse him." This refrain to explain why JFK absolutely hated being alone. Len Billingsly, Red Fay -- any one of his court jesters would do.

JFK's physical courage was never in question as he tried out for football and starred in the original production of "PT 109." He managed to continue vigorously in life despite a very bad back and Addison's disease.

Incidentally, there was absolutely no mention of the infamous "Dr. Feelgood," Max Jacobs in the index nor the book. JFK took Jacobs to Paris with him. Given JFK's extreme poor health, the author, who mentions it at every turn, never explained how he was the biggest skirt chaser in Washington, DC, and points north, south, east and west.

The problem for me with this book is the awe-struck attitude to JFK. He refers to him as Mrs. Kennedy did - "Magic." No argument that JFK was extremely charismatic -- but not for 479 pages.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Class Warfare - Upstairs and Down

"Below Stairs" by Margaret Powell St. Martin's Press 212 pages $22.99

Powell was born in 1907 in Hove, England, the second oldest of five children. At 16, she had to support herself as her parents couldn't. Work was slim on the ground for her father and her mother worked as a charlady.

She went into domestic work, starting as a kitchen maid, long considered to be the lowest person in the household staffing. In short, she got the scut work - supervised by the cook. Cook helped herself to the port; Powell scrubbed the front stairs, polished all of the copper pans and all of the washing up (except glasses and knives - the upstairs maid did that) for family meals and dinner parties. In those days, 10 guests ate their way through massive seven course (or more) dinners.

The maids, upstairs and down, the butlers and especially the gentlemen's valets had no lives of their own as they worked all of the time, so they lived vicariously through their masters. Many were the stories the valets told about "Lord so-and-so did (fill in event) today" as if they had been in the room while the event took place.

The social set-up at that time was quite rigid. A duchess must rise when a countess comes into the room and can't sit down again unless the countess says she can... that kind of thing. And that kind of thinking backwashed into the servant's world where the butler barely trumped the cook; upstairs maids were higher on the ladder than scullery maids and so on. Everyone had to be ranked. Depressing, sin't it?

Powell eventually became The Cook herself. She published these memoirs in 1968 at age 61. It was an instant bestseller and is said to have inspired the PBS series "Upstairs, Downstairs" and the rather insipid "Downton Abbey." She died at age 77 in 1984.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Different Kind of Macaroni Salad

Richie will occasionally buy a smll tub of macaroni salad at the supermarket. He likes it. I regard it as: macaroni elbows mixed into a glop of mayonnaise and garnished with a teaspoon of sweet pickle relish.

Yesterday afternoon, he said, "I'm going to make some macaroni salad" and I shrugged, never having looked up from my book. But at dinner, he lovingly brought it out and -- it looked.... different. I couldn't see any mayonnaise at all! Just a sort of shimmer to the macaroni.

"What did you use for the dressing?" "Red wine and olive oil," was the reply. It was actually good.! I didn't feel my arteries hardening in protest.

8 oz. elbow macaroni
3 T olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise (Aha! It sneaked in there!)
2 minced green onions
1 chopped red, yellow or green pepper
Parmesan cheese and minced parsley for garnish

Cook and drain the pasta.

Mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl big enough to also hold the macaroni and toss it in. Mix well, refrigerate and serve at your leisure

This is a recipe from the late Betty Evans. It's kind of a fairy tale life that she led -- after WW2, Gordon used his Army scholarship stipend to marry her and whisk her off to Paris so that he could become an artist. They lived a Bohemian life - ramshackle studio, raucous friends - all "just like in the movies." They were married for a very long time and they loved to travel. Betty wrote the cookbooks; Gordon did the illustrations. Rome (from whence this recipe came,) London, Paris, Venice... I don't think people live like that any more and it's too bad.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Profitable Day

I would define a profitable day in this way -- glorious weather, an interesting destination and a scenic route to take to get there. Yesterday was such a day ...

Friends had invited us to the Zack Gallery to see "Lost and Profound Art" but we didn't want to go to the reception (despite the probability of free wine and cheese) because with 14 artists showing it would have been a melee. We wanted to be polite and able to tell those friends specifics about it, not generalities.

Getting there involves driving along the seacoast - tons of people on bikes, walking (with or without dogs) and even some foolhardy swimmers. The sea was fairly flat and teeming with sail boats. Then we turned inland and drove through Palos Verdes, an area of well-landscaped yards and spotless, big houses. I had thought there might be horseback riders on the bridal path that is located between the two lanes of the wide boulevard. No such luck, but glorious views from time to time of the entire Los Angeles basin. It's like being up in a small plane...

The gallery is located in a posh shopping mall. Lots of families sitting at the open air tables eating sandwiches or ice cream cones from one of the small restaurants. Children ran boisterously; adults gossiped languidly.

The collection at the gallery didn't take very long; many of these artists work in small figures. One of the exhibits was: a vast collection of empty or nearly-empty liquor bottles, all huddled beneath a new-looking bathmat! The artist wrote that he was describing his insecurities and fears.

On the way back to the car, I noticed that Talbott's (women's clothing) was having a sale so quick as a weasel I darted in and bought a pair of $80 pants reduced to $34! How cool is that?

We motored stately back down The Hill under blue skies and warm breezes. The eucalyptus trees seemed to be nodding, "Goodbye - do come back and see us again."

Back down on the flatlands we occupy, we sauntered in to Baskin-Robbins and had sundaes. That treat finished our profitable day and the sundae will probably finish any chance I'll be able to get into my new pants.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Show Is Over

I read in this morning's Daily Breeze that LA Food Show, Manhattan Beach Mall, has closed. Parent company California Pizza Kitchens said they had evaluated all of their restaurants and LA Food Show lost.

This is too bad because the chefs there were willing to explore, using innovative foods and tastes together.

For that area, we're now down to Tin Roof Bistro, across the parking lot, from the old LA Food Show's location. Not that there's anything wrong with Tin Roof Bistro. I had a glass of prosecco and a banh mi Portobello mushroom sandwich that was delicious several days ago.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Overkill Alert!

And that would be "Cleanliness is next to Godliness." I'm referring to the article on the front page of today's LA Times ( The article diagrams a new trend among the super rich among us -- multiple bathrooms.

Profiled was Sandra Beltre, wife of former Dodger player Adrian Beltre. The couple has 16 bathrooms in their Bradbury home. All of the bedrooms have en suite bathrooms, plus: a bathroom off of the children's play room, the kitchen, the game room, the gym, the batting cage and the guest house has two more. There are his and hers bathrooms in the pool cabana area and one in the gardens of the 4-acre property. Beltre was traded; this 16,600 sq. ft. house is now for sale for $19.5 million.

"Pickfair," (the former home of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and wife Mary Pickford) has 25,000 sq. ft. and 30 bathrooms for 17 bedrooms. If this sounds interesting to you, the price tag is $60 million.

"A house in Bel Air" (no owner specified, but I'd bet is the former Spelling mansion) was built in 1985 with 15 bathrooms. Today there are 41 bathrooms inserted here and there in the house.

Real estate agents made various comments:
Boyd Smith: the idea is never to inconvenience yourself or a guest.
Konstantine Valissarkos said he had a buyer that would only inspect homes with 15 bathrooms or more. He entertained a lot.
Bret Parsons once had this delilghtful experience. He was showing a wealthy husband and wife through properties and the husband insisted on sitting on each toilet in every bathroom to see how it felt. Presumably he remained clothed while testing.
Felix Penn quipped that with that many bathrooms, you need a fulltime plumber!

Still ... isn't it worth it to spend a little to keep nosy guests out of your bathroom cabinet?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Green Artists

It used to be called "assemblage art" and it consisted of found objects (a piece of driftwood, some china cup shards and preserved butterflies, say) being turned into an art object.

Today it's called "found art" and can incorporate such as cast-off industrial equipment, digital/electronic refuse. Essentially, the artists who work in this style are recyclers.

The show "Lost But Profound" will open Saturday, March 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Zask Gallery, 550 Deep Valley Drive, Suite 151, Rolling Hills Estates, 90274 You can RSVP by calling 310-429-0973 or e-maiing

Gallery owner Peggy Zask had this to say about the medium: "I'm interested in it as an art form because it is growing so rapidly as an art movement; artists are embracing the rich world of material cast-offs with an unprecdented vigor." The show contains the works of 14 different artists! Yeah, I'd call that a growth industy myself. Take a gander at

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A New Idea

This would never have occurred to me -- twice-baked sweet potatoes! There's a reason Murf Ink subscribes to Bon Appetit, Saveur and Food and Wine! Ideas! I'm only one person; I can't think of everything (she whined.)

Bake the sweet potato as you would ordinarily. When it's forkable, take it out of the oven and handling it carefully with an oven mitt, cut it in half. Scoop out one half, leaving a 1/2 in. "wall" of skin and meat. Clean out the other half completely and discard the skin. Mix the meat with butter or maple syrup or maybe crushed candied pecans, pile it back into the remaining half shell and eat.

Bon Appetit suggests a brittle to sprinkle over the top of the sweet potato.

4 slices bacon, cut in 1/2 in. wide pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1 T sesame seeds

Cook the bacon but save 1T bacon grease. Leave it back in the skillet, put the drained bacon with it and the sugar and sesame seeds. Cook and stir until the sugar carmelizes, then pour it into a rimmed baking sheet with either baking parchment or a SilPat undeerneath it. Spread it out and let it cool and then break the brittle into shards and sprinkle it over the top of the sweet potatoes.