Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reporting Back, Sir!

Day before yesterday, Richie was thumbing through ""Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2" and said, "I think I'll make this Olive Garden Sicilian Scampi" tomorrow night."  Accordingly he bought shrimp and a new baguette.

2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 teas. minced white onion
1 teas. minced garlic
1 T Chablis wine
6 fresh medium shrimp, butterflied
1 teas. lemon juice
1/2 teas. minced parsley
pinch black pepper
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 T heavy cream
1 T sliced black olives
5 toasted slices of baguette

Heat a small skillet and add the butter and olive oil.  When the butter melts, add the onion and garlic and sweat them.  Then add the wine.

Immediately slide the shrimp in and then the lemon juice and peppers.  when the shrimp are done, add the cream and olives.  Cook for 15 seconds or so and plate the shrimp on the baguette slices and serve.

Optional garnish - diced Roma tomatoe and Parmesan cheese. 

The Olive Garden kitchen staff makes "scampi butter" - the parsley, peppers, onion and garlic in melted butter, re-shaped into sticks and set so that they can just whack two tablespoons of it off the log and start cooking. 

Richie followed the recipe and only omitted the heavy cream - I suggested some of the sour cream he bought for another dish for the "cream effect."  It didn't help it or make it worse.  The whole thing just didn't have much flavor of any kind. 

(Shrug) Another day, another dinner!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Rick Bayless Annoys Me

Bayless has spent the last 40 years exploring the foods and cooking styles of Mexico.  His book "Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen" was 10 years in the writing.  You may have watched him on "Mexico, One Plate at a Time" on PBS or known that he was named Chef of the Year (1995) by the James Beard Foundation and the International Associations of Culinary Professionals.

I am not in any way questioning his qualifications.  His writing style is what irks me.  His first shot across my bows (so to speak) was the beginning of the book when he lists and gives the recipes for ESSENTIAL sauces.  Excuse me?  How the hell does he know what is essential to me? 

Then in the recipes, "Take 1 cup of ESSENTIAL garlicky achiote seasoning paste" (list of other ingredients follows.) 

I like simplicity of construction in cooking.  He says to chop 2 cups of onion, par-boil them and then drain them saving 2 T of the cooking water!  How about this, dude -- chop the onions, cook them in 2 1/2 T of water and move on.  The extra 1/2 T water will boil off.

Still and all, it is an interesting book if you can wade through complicated (and to me unnecessary) instructions. 

PICKLED RED ONIONS are a staple condiment on Yucatan tables and whenever I've managed to run across them, I liked them so --

1 small red onion, peeled and diced
1/4 teas. black peppercorns
1/4 teas. cumin seeds
1/2 teas. dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
pinch of salt
1/3 cup cider vinegar

Parboil the onions (sigh) drain and put the onions in a bowl.
Grind the peppercorns and cumin and add to the onions (why not start with black pepper and cumin powder?)
Add the rest of the ingredients, plus enough water to cover the whole thing and let stand until the onions turn pink.  Cover and refrigerate; they'll be good for several weeks.

Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen" by Rick Bayless with Deann Bayless and Jeanmarie Brownson   Scribner   448 pages   $35

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Old Dudes Were 'Way Ahead of Their Times

"Man must rise above the earth - to the top of the atmosphere and beyond - for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives."
                                                            SOCRATES, GREEK PHILOSOPHER, 469 BC - 399 BC

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Oddities of Life ... and Death

From today's Daily Breeze -- "Sunken German U-Boat is found off Massachusetts" and the article goes on to detail how it was found in waters off of Nantucket.  Of note to Richie, self and the Thursday Writers was this:

""On April 16, 1944, the U-550 torpedoed the gasoline tanker USS Pan Pennsylvania.  The USS JOYCE saw it on sonar and severly damaged it by dropping depth charges.  The Germans, forced to surrender, manned their deck guns ...The third escort, the USS PETERSON then hit the U-boat with two more depth charges.  The crew abandoned the submarine, left."

JOYCE PETERSON was an adored member of the South Bay Writers Workshop.  She died at 12:45 a.m., July 25th, 2012, aged 94.  Her funeral rites will be conducted next Wednesday (viewing) and Thursday (funeral.)

h/t Richie Murphy

Friday, July 27, 2012

This'n That - Slow News Day

She really does love to dance!

Bob and Pat (Brodsky) introduced us to the fun at the South Bay New Orleans Dixieland Jazz Club (aka the jazz club and you can see why) and we have been partakers ever since.  When they moved to a retirement community in Claremont, they quickly found and joined a club in nearby West Covina.

Pat was telling me about it last night on the phone and mentioned that our club president plays drums at their new group.  "Oh! And that couple -- you know --that likes to dance?  She wears culottes and has to pull him up out of his chair?"

"You mean Lou and Bernie?" I gasped.  "Is that their names?" asked Pat,  "Oh, yes, it was them."  West Covina has to be at least 50 miles from the beach and requires three freeways to get there.  God bless'em.

Summers Re-visited

"Beach books" are so-named because they tend not to be along the lines of "Einstein's Theory of Relativity and Why He Was Wrong," but much lighter fare.

When I came upon a section of the library that I hadn't noticed, I found it full of prolific authors -- people who had written 20 to 45 books apiece!  Whole shelves stretched off into the distance -- Robert B. Parker, Stuart Wood, Lawrence Saunders, James Lee Burke (who veers dangerously close to the Einstein book,) Sidney Sheldon, Judith Kranz and the ever-delightful Jackie Collins who is about as frivolous as they come.

For a good beach read, take a look back at some of your favorite authors.  You may even be lucky enough to find one that you somehow missed the first time around.  That's a find!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Backstage in Chain Restaurants

"Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 - More Amazing Clones of Famous Dishes from America's Favorite Restaurant Chains" by Todd Wilbur   Penguin   395 pages   $15 

This would be a very handy book for people who live in small towns and don't normally have access to such as Chili's, P.F. Chang, California Pizza Kitchen, Tony Roma's, Houston's or Joe's Crab Shack, to mention only a few of the kitchens included in this book.  It would also suit bone-idle lazy people like me;  too blase to sling on my cleanest pair of dirty jeans, get in the car and actually go there. 

In addition to the cloned recipes, I learned that Chevy's motto is:  No cans in the kitchen."  Now either they mean "from scratch only" or they have a separate building to store the cans.

I did like the sound of this -- Chevy's Sweet Corn Tomalito (aka "Sweet Corn Cake" at Chi-Chi's and El Torito.)

4 cups frozen corn ("frozen" - crafty devils)
1/3 cup softened butter (2/3rds of a stick)
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup masa harina
1/2 cup corn meal
/2 teas. baking powder

Preheat oven to 325.
Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the milk and masa harina and mix well.

Puree two cups of the corn and add that to the butter-masa mixture.

Add the corn meal, baking powder and the rest of the corn and stir together.

Pour this into an un-greased 8 x 8 in. baking pan, cover it with foil and then put it into a 9 x 13 in. baking pan.  Fill the second pan with hot water to about the 1/3 full mark and bake it all for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until it's firm in the center.  Let it sit for 10 minutes and then scoop out half-cup portions and serve. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Small Stature; Huge Heart

         Joyce Peterson
          1918 - 2012

        Godspeed, Joyce!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Do-It-Yourself When a Pet Restaurant Goes Out of Business...

Seven years ago, we were in Kansas City, MO, for my high school reunion.  While there, we discovered a great place in Westport called One80.  We loved the menu, the good prep and the waitress was even nice.  Sue (a friend since kindergarten) was with us and we went nuts for the flatbread pizzas.  We wound up ordering three of them, one after the other.  We'd finish one, order another and wait for our next victim of greed while swigging away.

Yesterday, Richie was poking about in his volumnous files and came across the menu from that memorable lunch.  One80lounge.com is still up despite the fact that they've closed.  You can read it and find things to tempt you that you can easily (more or less) duplicate at home. 

Ah, I remembered fondly the Blind Dates - roasted garlic and almond paste stuffed into a date, wrapped in prosciutto, bathed in a port fig glaze  served warm. 

We have dates in the refrigerator -- incidentally there as much potassium in one date as there is in three bannas -- and it's the work of a minute to slice off the top of a whole clove of garlic, bathe it in olive oil, wrap it in foil and roast it.  The mini-Cuisinart would make quick work of the almonds and garlic.  Prosciutto is available in supermarkets.  For the port fig glaze, I'd boil down a cup of port with dried figs in it to a half cup.  Cuisinart that and go from there.

Tuscan Cobb Salad -- here's the list of ingredients:  chicken breast Milanes, smoked bacon, gorgonzola, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, mushrooms (shrug) chopped romaine and Green Goddess dressing.  They used to get $8.99 for this dish.

But this struck me as 'way too many tastes.  It's a One80 Benny, served at the weekend brunch.  House-made, citrus-cured salmon, sliced tomato, boursin cheese (they were fond of it) and lemon hollandaise on toasted garlic bagels.  It was served with rustic Yukon Gold potatoes. 

Another brunch speciality:  Drunken Donuts -- small, powdered-sugar donuts (or a mess of donut holes) with a mixture of hot chocolate and Grand Marniere to dunk them.  $4.99

Tuscan Steak Kabobs - a rather elegant summer barbecue dish ... skewer Italian-marinated beef chunks -- an Italian salad dressing would work fine -- red pepper and onion chunks, and grill them.  Then slather them with balsamic glaze (boil a cup of balsamic vinegar down to half a cup) and serve with gorgonzola fondue for dipping the meat.  Get a good-sized chunk of the cheese and nuke it would be my suggestion.

Bon appetite! 

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Trial Run

I wrote a short story and decided to test the market with all of you.  I normally wouldn't (and haven't) run any fiction here and even if this proves to be readable, would only run one maybe every six months.  This column is meant to educate, inform or amuse.  Is the very occasional short fiction a good idea?  A bad idea?  What?! (in my best New York accent.)

Lou and Bernie

We've seen this couple for years at the jazz club.  I initially noticed her clothes because they were very often out on the dance floor.  She often wears little flared culottes and she also has a great-looking black dress with scarlet buttons from neckline to hemline.  It reminds me (vaguely) of a Catholic bishop's robe.

He wears a dress shirt, tucked into belted khakis and well-polished loafers, a very preppy look that suits him.  He dances very '50s cool, sliding his feet instead of stepping out briskly.  Very smooth-looking.

She is an energetic little thing who clearly loves to dance.  He always seems happy to accomodate, but I've never seen him formally ask her to dance.  An exchanged glance; up and off they would go.  One minute they're sitting; the next glissading across the floor.  Some 60 years of marriage gives a couple intuition. 

As the years have passed, so has his energy.  When once he stepped lightly and confidently, now she struggles to get him up from his chair.  Once up, he is able to shuffle onto the dance floor and "dance" by shifting his weight from side to side while she twirls and cavorts. 

His physical bounce has steadily declined.  At the last meeting, we happened to be at the same table and I saw her grasp his left arm tightly, just above the elbow, and pull upward while his right-hand fingers scrabbled for purchase on the table top. 

She was smiling away, but he was expressionless.  He has the frozen face of someone with Parkinson's disease.  His expression rarely changes from a thousand yard stare to the faint tracings of a smile.  He used to grin while dancing with her...

They danced two dances and returned to the table.  Later Lou again began to haul him up for the dance floor, but Richie quickly stepped in and helped him instead.  Off they went, he shuffling; her prancing.

The afternoon passed, the raffle was called and the musicians settled into their usual closing jam session.  Lou had danced several times with other men - with never a word of warning to Bernie.  She was there and then she was gone, whirling enthusiastically across the dance floor.  His expression never changed.

Now, Lou looked around at the dwindling audience and handed Bernie his came.  Before she could do it, I stepped forard, bent my right elbow and extended my forearm for him to use as a stair rail.  He used it to pull himself to his feet.

She handed him the cane and I took a tight grip on her upper arm and said, "It's a good way to let someone help themselves - just give them something to hang onto rather than hanging on to them..." and she thanked me profusely - she hadn't thought of that!  And they left.

Yes, grasping her arm was an evil act, but I couldn't bear to think of him always being pulled from pillar to post, so to speak. 

Normally, I'm not an emotional person, but every time she hauled him up and off to the dance floor, tears spurted into my eyes and I had to blow my nose.  Bernie is 86, Lou is 84.  I thought it was imensely touching that Lou's man, who had once been young and strong, was now old and ill, still gallantly doing his best to make her happy. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Thought

"Falling in love consists merely in uncorking the imagination and bottling the common sense."
     Helen Rowland, American writer and humorist  (1875-1950)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Writer Changes His Style - and I Thought It Couldn't Be Done

"Taco USA - How Mexican Food Conquered Ameria" by Gustavo Arellano   Scribner   310 pages   $25

I loved Arellano's first book "Ask A Mexican."  It was a collection of his columns of the same name which has a circulation of more than 2 million in 38 markets.  The book's answers to what could only be considered rude questions scandalized me.  "Polite people would never ask that!" (gasp)  Arellano's book considerably improved my language skills in vulgarity, Mexican style, which was appreciated.    askamexican.net

This book is nothing like that one.  It is a scholarly quest to answer such as:  what is authentic?  What is Tex-Mex? What is "Taco Bell" and does it even matter?

The author remarks in the frontispiece, "It's a little-known history, one that's crept up on this country like your Mexican neighbors - and left us better for it."

Glen Bell, founder of Taco Bell, ran his idea past his wife, who snorted that white people wouldn't eat tacos - too spicy.  To which he responded that he'd tone it down.  She then said that Mexicans wouldn't eat them!  She later divorced him.

Chi-Chi's founders, Marno McDermott and Max McGee, a former Green Bay Packer's star, started Chi-Chi's in Minnesota.  Interestingly enough, Chi-Chi was McDermott's wife's nickname, but it's also crude Mexican slang for breasts.

That's the kind of history I like!  The human touches.  I recommend it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Recovering Husband Is No Fun At All

Thankfully, the figure I know as "Richie, my husband" is making a good recovery from rotator cuff surgery yesterday afternoon.  However, given this person's disposition, I have to ask:  Will the real Richie please come back?

Normally, Richie is one of the nicest people on earth.  He is generous, giving, willing and able to led a hand.  This person has been replaced by an impatient and rather demanding patient.

This is, based on the many words of advice from fellow wives, entirely related to the fact that a husband in a hospital is angelic; at home, they are the exact opposite.  Thank you, ladies, it's good to know that I'm not toiling in the vineyard alone. 

A conversation from yesterday afternoon.
"Would you get me a Dove bar?"
Wife puts down thriller she is reading, goes to kitchen, opens freezer, takes out a Dove bar and begins to rip the bag containing it open.
"No! No!" (anguished howl) Get the scissors and cut the top off of the bag and then about halfway down the sides of the bag.  Good - thank you."

Frankly, I liked it better when he has had the flu or his back went out.  When he's seriously sick, he takes to his bed and sleeps.  No muss, no fuss.  Just a faint snoring noise traveling up the stairs to the living room.  A woman can enjoy that kind of sickness.  I'd say more on this subject, but I've got to go cut up a t-shirt so that it will fit over his sling.  He wants to go out this afternoon. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Richie Is The Star

He is having out-patient surgery for a rotator cuff tear, starting at 11:30 a.m.  He was told that the person transporting him could have him back around 4 p.m. today.

That would be me. 

When he had the angiogram, the doctor came out to me in the waiting room, briefed me and departed.  I flew quickly to my poor husband's bedside, ready to soothe and comfort him only to find him nodding in and out for the next couple of hours.  To say he was conversationally challenged is understatement. 

If he stays true to his previous form, I'll be okay to slip off for an hour to the South Bay Writers Workshop which he has urged me to do - does he have an eye on a comely nurse?  Best not to linger at Thurs. Writers...

He's home, he's settled in his recliner.  Surgery was 55-58 minutes and he was in Recovery.  He's complaining of a sore throat - they used a gas and propofil to knock him out, but he's not singing and dancing like Michael Jackson...

Barring my killing him (anesthesia makes him cranky, not groggy) he will make an uneventful recovery.

One funny note:  the receptionist told me the doctor would see me in the doctor-patient conference room which turned out to be a small windowless room with a half table and two chairs.  The table held a vase of flowers and a very large box of Kleenex.  This struck me as ominous on two counts - doctors have always come out to me in the waiting room -- and there is no Kleenex to hand.  I remarked on this to his doctor which rattled him and then he said, "Patient privacy" and fled.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nanny Laws Be Damned!

Here in Southern California, we have nanny laws like this -- you will be ticketed if you are smoking in a vehicle with a baby in it.  Doh? 

Some are sensible - freeway billboards say, "Hang up!  $157 ticket - it's not worth it" (or words to that effect.)  Cell phones in cars have to be hands-free.  But now, it is legal to TEXT as long as it's a hands-free device.  I guess you would dictate?  "C" "U" "L" 8" "R"?

No phone use, no text use at all would make our roads a lot safer.  No one is so important that they have to be reachable 24/7 and those that think they are?  Well, they are asses.

Most recently, the great metropolis of Hermosa Beach (winter pop. 30,000+/-; summer pop.100,000+/-)  banned all smoking on the beach.  It's a weird situation -- picture a lower case "t"  The short crossbar is Hermosa Avenue, "t" top represents the Plaza with numerous patio bars/restaurants.  On the far, or eastern side of Hermosa you can smoke, but if you cross the street and smoke?  Cops will get you.  I have no idea how much the ticket might be, I don't go west of Hermosa any more.  

The Redondo Beach council is now considering banning smoking on the Pier which is our biggest attraction to inner city people.  However, the council forgot a critical factor with these visitors.  A great many of them are gang members and they are armed.  What do you suppose might happen if a sworn officer stops one of these mad dogs and says, "Put it out!"

I discussed this thorny point - police risked vs. smokers banished - with a retired L.A. County Sheriff and he was appalled.  (Deleting some colorful adjectives) the gist of his message was:  Our lives aren't risky enough?

Here are others...

San Francisco:  if you don't recycle your trash, you can be fined $500
Minnetonka, MI:  fined up to $2,000 for having a muddy car
San Juan Capistrano, CA:  it's against the law to hold a home Bible study without a conditional use permit.
Hilton Head, SC:  it's against the law to have trash in your car

Various US states:  it is illegal to collect any ranwater that falls on your property; legislation has been passed that makes it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their kids; feeding the homeless has been banned due to "health reasons,"  the lunches that little kids bring to school are opened and inspected to make sure the contents match USDA guidelines. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Belated Photos of Las Vegas

View from the room

Waitress takes a break, sings and dances on a table

Lunch, Paris

A Rio trademark  The color inset in the mirror on the wall is actually a window so that the person taking a shower can see the view or the TV

Granted, it was hot in Vegas, but gambling topless?
Richie was fascinated by the trains.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I Wish I'd Thought of This

Ideas so great they have to be mandatory.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Twice Wrong

Some time ago, we had a memorable dim sum lunch with Bob and Pat Brodsky which was made memorable by Bob's greed.  A full mouth didn't stop him from gesturing and mumbling, "What's that?" before ordering a couple of whatever it might have been.  We laughed at him  all the way through that lunch.

Thus, when I learned that the Rio now sported "KJ Dim Sum & Seafood Restaurant," I determined to re-create that happy meal.  After breakfast, I poked my nose in the door and made reservations for that night.

Comes the hour, comes us -- to a practically-empty restaurant.  Reservations, indeed!  Mistake #1.

It's a calming room, after the incessant noise of the casino and we both appreciated that.  Mostly cream-colored walls with accent walls of brilliant Chinese crimson.  Dark wood tables and chairs, snowy white tablecloths.  The art work is 4 ft. x 5 ft. blown-up photos of koi or flowers, all topped by a lovely, undulating ceiling.  

Richie had snagged a take-out menu during our morning visit so I knew exactly what I wanted. 

A lobster roll (2 for $8.95) -"I'm sorry, Madame, lobster all gone." Shrimp balls (6 for $12.95 but they only brought 3 and halved the price) and Kung Pao Shrimp ($16.95)  Richie ordered the only thing I've ever seen him order in an Asian restaurant:  Chicken with Cashew Nuts ($12.95)

The shrimp balls were chopped shrimp, shaped into big meatballs, dredged in smaller-than-panko crumbs and deep fried.  The sauce, a pale cream color, set them off perfectly -- a hint of sweetness and citrus.  Intrigued, I asked our waiter about it.  "Ha Ha! Mayo!" he crowed, adding " with a pinch of sugar and a dash of lime juice." 

The Kung Pao Shrimp disappointed me.  They were so bland, the dish could have been fed to a very small child.  I look for Heat!  Sizzle! when dishes are labelled "kung pao" or "Szechwan."  Mistake #2.

To Round Eyes like ours, some of the dishes sounded extremely exotic.  You decide...

Jelly fish and pork leg, sliced - $14.95
Spicy beef tendon - $11.95
Hot Spicy Duck Feet - $11.95
Sauteed Geoduck Clam (international market price)
Clam with Ginger Scallions - $17.95
Imperial Peking Duck - $42

The kitchen must be packed with sous-chefs -- 16 rice dishes, 12 appetizers, 8 soups, 10 clam, oyster, squid dishes...ro mention only a few items on the their menu

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Quick Takes

We got to the hotel a little after 3 p.m. and on the way to the room, we paused for a beer at the Masquerade Bar.  Most of the bars in Vegas have video poker games inset into the top of the bar and this bar was no exception.

I had four $1 bills so I decided to just play with them, one at a time, rather than break a $20.  We must have played (and have drunk beer) for an hour, but I got my $4 back!  Gambling is war - me against the greedy, faceless casinos and their fat cat owners.

That night I put in $20 and got zero back.  Discouraged, I went to bed.  Our last night, I put in $20 and took $21 back.  So, hah!  Take that, Vegas - I'll let you recover for now, but I'll Be Back.

Seafood Village
One of the great treats I was looking forward to here was a foray on the seafood buffet.  Visions of lobster tails, fat crab legs, succulent shrimp danced through my fevered brow (did I mention that it was 111 degrees that day?)

As usual, reality was quite different.  The crawfish looked a luscious, deep red, but their interiors were like dust in my mouth.  Mud Bugs clearly don't like steam tables or else some wag had put a couple of display crawfish in with the real ones and I got both of them...

The lobster tails had been quartered into chunks.  We ate a lot, but ... $97 for steam table food?  I learned something.   Go to the seafood restaurant and get it fresh.  It will no doubt be more expensive, but it'll be freshly-cooked, not left to languish on a steam table.

Fried Hard-boiled Eggs
At the breakfast buffet, I noticed in the Asian section something called "Fried Hard-Boiled Eggs in Tamarind Sauce."  When the manager heard me telling Richie about them, she said, "They're really quite good - the sauce is kind of sweet-ish, probably due to the sauteed onions in it."

So I went and got one.  It was sweet-flavored but the texture was weirdly chewy.  I examined a bite carefully and finally decided that the skin we normally peel off with the shell had been left on.  The skin toughened up in the frying and gave every bite that "brown lace" of an over-cooked egg.  

People of the Mist
We were just inside the open French doors to the patio of Mon Ami Gabi, Paris, when I noticed something.  Almost all of the passers-by on the Strip sidewalk would stop and bask in the misters lining the patio railings before slogging on in the heat - 110 degrees.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Help, Vegas Style

I put the coffee together the night before so that in the morning - presto!  Hot coffee. 

The coffee pot in our room at the Rio was a complicated-looking thing that made one cup at a time.  The coffee container hole looked like it was for a giant-sized, round cream container.  There were two cups put out, but no coffee or amenity pack.  I looked high and low and couldn't find these items.

So I called Housekeeping and asked.  "Oh, it's in the mini-bar," the bored voice responded.

Okay, where in hell was this mini-bar?  Turned out to be in the cabinet supporting the TV.  The left side was a refrigerator, filled conventional mini-bar selections.  The right side door opened to what looked like a chicken roaster in an oven.  A V-shaped rack holding absolutely nothing at all.  No coffee.  I shrugged and went to bed.

Next morning we asked the Concierge what the chicken roaster thing was?  A shrug and "I don't know."  We asked a desk clerk.  Wide-eyed, she said, "I've never heard of anything like that!"  Discouraged, we went back to the room.  In the hallway, we ran into the maid and asked her.  She came in, looked and laughed.  "Oh, that's the rack for bags of potato chips and Fritos and stuff.  The person that fills them just forgot."  So, if you ever find one of these, do not rush out and buy a chicken to roast.  Ain't gonna happen.

She also gave us a valuable tip:  if you pick up anything in the mini-bar, a sensor underneath it signals Bookkeeping to put it on your bill.   In my failed coffee search in the mini-bar I'd seen a small, white box, sealed in cellophane,  with "Love Kit for Intimacy" written across it.  Curious, I picked it up to see the list of contents, but the rest of the box was blank except for the title.  Horrified ($12!) I told the maid what I'd inadvertantly done and she said to call Accounting and get it taken off of my bill.  I did, they did and all was well.

Side benefit:  next morning the coffee pot was fully stocked.  It pays to talk to the maids; clearly, they've got The Power.  And they may well be the only ones in the hotel that know what's going on.

(Photos - still working on downloads but expect to have photos soon.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vacation? Stay-cation? More Like Outlaws on the Lam!

This week we're flying to Las Vegas to hole up in the Rio.  We've been going there so long that we can remember when the Old Wing was brand new.  And that wasn't yesterday afternoon.

A friend, bemused, asked, "What are you going to do in a hotel all that time?"  I thought about it and realized it isn't going to be "all that time."  The flight doesn't get in until 2 p.m.  We're both taking a carry-on bag, so no standing around waiting for that.  The cab line and the ride to the Rio, should put us in there around 2:45/3 p.m.  Check-in isn't until 4 but if the room is ready, up we go. 

The next day is a full day, and the day after that we have an 11:35 a.m. departure which means leaving the hotel around 9:30 a.m.  Vegas traffic is horrific any hour of the day, but at rush hours, the natives really exert themselves for "Most cars cut off"  "Most horn honking in a limited length of road" and diverse other amusements, not limited to flipping the bird, or jamming on the brakes for no apparent reason. 

This is something of a spa visit for me --casinos require a lot of walking.  Traversing one several times has to add up to at least three miles a day.  If the misters are on full blast and some of the pool is in the shade, we can do aqua-robics.    Thus, I can fearlessly eat any damned thing I want to eat.  I'm getting exercise to compensate.

I'm far too cheap to gamble more than a quarter at a time.  My favorite thing is sitting at a bar (any bar) playing quarter video poker and hitting on the bartender for those refreshing free beers.

Richie wants to see a show.  He feels he hasn't been if he didn't see one.  We've already seen Penn & Teller (Penn desperately needs some anger management therapy) Richie wasn't interested in the Chippendales performance and that leaves some kind of Tribute to '50s Rock 'n Roll (or equivalent.)  which will certainly be a damned sight less than P &T.

It's going to be 111 during our visit, but Las Vegas and Palm Springs discovered misters a long time ago.  In fact, you can easily make one for your patio or pool area.  Buy a length of garden hose, cap one end, take an ice pick and punch holes up and down the length of it, connect it to a faucet, turn it on full blast and - viola!  A mister!  You get started on that - we're going to Vegas!

Monday, July 9, 2012

New At Hudson House

First, the jazz club was as enjoyable as ever, but, sadly, I don't have any scandalous events to discuss.  Some months are like that...

But on a happer note (because it involves food and I like to eat) Hudson House, PCH, Redondo Beach, has added some new dishes to its menu.  I've liked Hudson House since my first visit because it has a menu that I consider to be sophisticated without being oh-so-aware-of-itself.  You've all seen the little girl who knows she's just the most precious thing in shoes - and preens.  For me, Hudson House is a "learning experience."

Grilled Avocado Toasts - marinated radish, mustard seed, corn nuts!  Corn nuts are "essence of bar noshing" and this is witty.  $8

Grilled Shrimp Tacos - cucumber-chili cream, pickled onions, cilantro.  $9  Based on the two grilled shirmp that come with a Bloody Mary, these are worth investigating. 

Tangy Mushroom and Crispy Kale Flatbread, Arugula pesto, Buffalo Mozzarella, Fried Egg  $10  This is kind of a riff on French pizza which comes with a raw egg, sitting in its shell in the center of the piping hot pizza!  Pesto is basically basil and olive oil mashed together so why not substitute arugula?  $10

Tomato-Beer Steamed Clams with a lime leaf and grilled bread.  $10  A cute take on the classic French mussels dish.

Grilled Salmon with white corn-pesto farro, pickled beets, fennel  $14

Pressed, Pulled Pork and Prosciutto Cubano with sweet pickles, Swiss cheese, honey-mustard  $9  Richie had this and liked it and I liked the bite he allocated me.

Lamb, Chicken Sausage, Eggplant and Feta Meatballs with piquillo pepper sauce, baby celery leaves  $10

Until last night, I'd never even noticed that they serve dessert!  Undoubtedly too full to care!  Their portions are meant to be shared so they're generous.   I love the Brown Sugar Pork Ribs ($12) but there seven or eight of them per serving.  Guess what's for lunch...

Their three desserts are:
Baked-to-order oatmeal-cherry cookie with salted caramel ice cream and crushed pretzels.  $6  Our server said it's the most popular of this trio. 
Salty smoked almond Rocky Road fudge  $5
Crispy beer-battered Twinkie!  $4  Damn!  I think you'd be about on the edge of "I'm sorry, the bar is closed to you" status to order  that!

If you're geographically distant from Hudson House, I bet many of you could duplicate several of these dishes in your own kitchen! 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Jazz Club This Afternoon!

Amusing anecdotes tomorrow?  We will see!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"It's Really Good Monsoon Weather Over Here"

This is what Vijayendra Pratap Singh said to me during the course of his/her making sure this computer does not have the DNS malware (it didn't.)  He/she asked if I had ever been to India and I replied, "No, but I have friends who have and they were impressed."  That's when the above invitation was offered.   As an inducement... uh, no, but thank you for thinking of me. 

I spent a grey Saturday morning on this DNS malwear thing as a result of Richie's reading about it in the Business section of the LA Times.  Having recently had iYogi.com installed in conjunction with McAfee, I went to the pushbutton on the top of the screen, pressed "Live Help" and up popped Mr./Ms. Singh.

What I love about programs that allow the tech to enter your computer and fix it from within is the fact that I don't have to unhook and tote; I don't have to have a tech come to the house and best of all, I don't have to go to computer school and learn how to do it myself.  This is not laziness, it is with the sure and certain knowledge that I would kill my own computer if I did.  I am not computer savvy.  You read it here.

Friday, July 6, 2012

An Interesting Juxtaposition

"Every Step You Take" by Jock Soto wih Leslie Marshall   Harper Collins   271 pages   $24.99

Soto is a retired (at 40, no less) principal dancer with the New York City Ballet.  He joined the NYC Ballet in 1981, was promoted to soloist in 1984 (he got fat; there aren't that many solos in ballet) and then to principal dancer in 1985.  He retired in 2005.

He is the son of a Puerto Rican father and Native American mother.  He began dancing at age 3 - a Navajo hoop dance, performed with his mother.  By age 14, he was ready for an audition and subsequent scholarship to the School of American Ballet to work with George Ballanchine.

During his career he got interested in cooking.  This book includes recipes for Spicy Guacamole - use 5 to 10 serrano or jalapeno peppers!  I like "hot" but this has got to be torrential!  To make a Bagel and Caviar Treat, toast a sesame bagel, cover it with cream cheese, layer on lox and red onion slices and then top all of this with as much caviar as is possible. 

The typical ballet dancer is terrified of gaining an ounce, so to find a dancer that loves to cook and eat is rare.  His cuisine draws on America, Puerto Rican and Navajo tradition.  Fried chicken next to beef enchiladas with a side of Navajo Fry Bread!

4 cups all-purpose flur
1/2 teas. salt
1 T baking powder
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
4 cups cooking oil

Take a large bowl and combine the dry ingredients.  Add the water slowly, kneading it until it's soft, but not sticky.  Divide the dough into about a dozen 3 in. thick balls, and then flatten the balls into 1/2 in. thick circles.  Get the frying fat shimmering but not smoking and slide the discs into it.  When they're nice and golden, put them on paper towels.

For use as a dessert, sprinkle them with powdered sugar and serve them with honey.  As "regular" bread,  simply give them a tiny sprinkle of sea salt.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chips Are For Plates (Not My Shoulder)

Every time I walk into a restaurant new to me, I'm interested, alert, alive.  What're they going to have that I'm going to love?  (Even though 90% of the time I've Googled their menu.)  "This is going to be an adventure!" has never deserted me.

If I didn't like the food/place/service, I just don't go back for more abuse.  Occasionally circumstances (namely Richie) conspire against me.  In this case, it was a return to Aimee's Bistro, 800 S. Pacific Coast Hwy, Redondo Beach  310-316-1081

Aimee's has been in this location for the past 17 years; we must have last visited 15 years ago.  Aimee herself greeted us rather brusquely; she was trying to do three things at once -- direct servers, shoot dirty looks at the chef and seat us. 

Since her English had a French accent, I addressed her in French.  She ignored me.  Her attention was elsewhere.  By the end of the meal, I'd concluded she was, perhaps, a bit hard of hearing.  Almost nothing on her menu appealled (due equally I'm sure to our reception and the fact that I don't eat innards, fish or lamb.)

With Bastille Day approaching, Himself decided he wanted to go French.  As in Aimee's Bistro.  I pulled up the menu and decided on escargot and a Caesar salad. 

Aimee was nowhere to be seen, but a woman who could have been her daughter (but wasn't - I asked) was in charge.  Our waitress was from Russia, a young dumpling of a woman with a small nose set above a tiny, rosebud mouth.  She had absolutely beautiful skin.  She spoke English quite well. 
This is lemon-cured shrimp with diced peach, mango, red and yellow tomatoes and glazed avocado on a thin slice of cucumber.  Sprinkle brown sugar on the avocado and torch it for a crust. 

These are the escargots.  Billed as having the traditional garlic sauce, these had a lemon front taste with a faintly garlic back taste.  The dish looks yellow because of the Parmesan cheese topping!  They were different, but acceptable unless the real deal is available.  

I finally figured out that when a Caesar is served like this, it's okay to pick up a leaf by the stem end and daintily nibble on the lettuce.  Who knew?

Richie's entree - filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus and a potato galette as decor. 

Drinks and dinner $130 with a $22 tip.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July Surpasses Thanksgiving for Eating?

The gym garage -- all six levels -- was crammed with lines of cars trying to stab their way into a spot so the owner could go haring up to the gym.  It was 9 a.m.

After we finally found a spot so deep in the ground that the cell phone wouldn't work, we took the four escalators up to the gym.  I asked the receptionist about this strange population surge and she shrugged and said, "There's a lot of food on the 4th of July - I guess they want to be able to eat it all."

There you have it from the horse's mouth - gym rats want to pig out on the 4th.  The only way to statiscally compare the two sets - July and November - is to conduct a personal survey when they all come back.  Frankly, I don't care that much, but have at it if you are curious. 

Whatever you eat or not eat, have a wonderful 4th of July!  And put down those Roman candles!  Not while you're drinking beer - the similar shapes could confuse you  (especially if it's not the first beer of the day) and give you a rather nasty surprise.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


We were running errands and the car was parked near The Counter, so Richie said, "Let's have lunch!" 

My problem with The Counter is that while I love the idea of creating my own burger, I don't particularly like the burger part.  Can't really put my finger on it, but something about the texture... I love their onion strings though.  As something of a connoiseur of them, these are very close to perfect.  Just the right amount of flour, just the right amount of pepper in it. 

Compromise!  The Asian Veggie with 1/3 lb. house-made vegetable patty, organic mixed greens ("Hold the lettuce, please!") chopped red onion, grilled pineapple, roasted red peppers, scallions with little cups of ginger-soy glaze and peanut sauce.  It arrived with the veggie patty atop the red onion, the red peppers to the side and covered with grilled pineapple slices and a scattering of chopped scallions in a bowl.  No bun  Just all in a big, flattish bowl.   Having only eaten store-bought vegetable patties, (Morningstar Farms?) I was very impressed with their home-made patties. 

There are The Counter restaurants in Hermosa Beach, Hollywood, San Jose and Chicago.  Visit thecounterburger.com to see the other four bowls on the menu.

Successor to "The Help"?

"The Healing" by Jonathan Odell  Doubleday   340 pages   $26

What's happened so far (am still reading it.)  A white plantation owner's 12 year old daughter dies of cholera.  He has refused to have her treated, saying disdainfully that cholera is a "slave disease."  His wife goes insane in her grief and takes (literally) a newborn slave girl as a replacement for her dead child.  The daughter's and the slave girl's souls may have met in the transition from life to death and from the womb to birth as both events occurred simultaneously. 

Yes, rather a heady start...  So far, the point-of-view is that of the black servants.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Richie's 29th Anniversary Surprise

The monogram he is pointing to reads "nMv" because it's my purse and this is a gag shot.
No worries!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Spending Money To Save Money

A sad Catch-22 tale.  Kleeneses at the ready.

Our neighbor, Anne, told me she is so glad they got an Aadvantage Citi Master Card.  They put everything they bought on it and - viola!  They had enough miles for all four of them (parents and two adult kids) to fly from LAX to Montreal to Dublin and back -- all cosily ensconced in 1st Class.

The imagination can barely imagine how that fueled my competitive spirit!  Which is considerably smaller than, say my laziness is enormous, but I digress.

I already had a Citi MasterCard so I called the nice people there and asked that they shift this card into an Aadvantage card.  They wouldn't do that so I got an entirely new account.

Armed with it, my new battle cry became, "I'll get that!  I want the miles!"  Friends, family and waiters were delighted!  I've never heard as many toasts to my continued good health or as much special treatment from the servers.  "Shall I cut your meat for you, madam?"  "Perhps you would like me to butter your roll?"

I finally spent my way to 62,000 miles.  Discovering that LAX to Las Vegas, round trip for both of us, would cost 50,000 of those richly-spent points, I decided to treat Richie for ur 29th anniversary.

And subsequently spent 45 minutes online, figuring out how to cash in miles, make the system accept the flights I want and then -- MAA (Major American Airline) charged me $160 in "service fees."  This mean that it will be $40 each to fly there and $40 more to fly back -- and killed 50,000 hard-earned miles. 

There's got to be a better way...