Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

May all your ghosties and goblins be small ones!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Update from Storm Survivors, On The Ground in Huntington, NY

Richie wasn't able to talk to his brother Charlie, so he called Charlie and Rosalind's son Bryan.  Bryan's wife Kelly answered the phone and said that a tree had fallen at the side of the house, taking out an old boat that had been stored there.

She handed off to Bryan who said that the Bayliner's demise was "a blessing" - he'd wanted to get rid of it for quite a while.  As it's a wood boat, Richie helpfully suggested Bryan chop it up for firewood. 

He went on to say that it will be eight to 10 days before they get electricity again, but happily they have a generator. 

He reported that between 7 and 8 p.m. last night was the worst of it.  His exact phrase was "freakin' bad!"  That may have been when a huge limb from a tree fell on Charlie's garage roof, "But it didn't do that much damage," Bryan reported.

Kelly and her mother have horses and little Amelia has a pony in a barn on the property.  Kelly's Mom went out to check them a couple of times during the night and reported they were "dancing around" in their stalls.   Today they are out in their pasture.

Bryan said that a neighbor a couple of doors down lost every tree in his front yard and the same thing had happened after the previous bad storm.  Something about that location, he mused. 

The grocery stores are closed, but Bryan reports that a 7-11, a pizzaria and the bagel store were open -- with lines out of the doors.  He didn't stop.

All in all,  since no one in the family got hurt, the tree damage seems to be the worst that befell them.  And there are plenty of trees on the North Shore of Long Island. 

Updates as more information comes in.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Storm Pictures, Long Island

To see damage in places that we know there, go to   which is the Long Island newspaper.  Richie's brother Charlie, wife Rosalind and their families all live in Huntington.  "Eaton's Neck," mentioned on the Weather Channel made me blink.  Richie used to clam there.

Charlie and his two sons pulled their boats well before the storm, but as the newspaper will tell you, half of Long Island is without power.  Since they keep the clams they have harvested in a huge restaurant-style refrigerator in the garage...this could be a problem. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lowered Expectations

"The Richard Burton Diaries" edited by Chris Williams   Yale University Press   639 pages   $ - huh, that's funny -- no price on the inside flap or the back cover.

From a promising start - "At about 12 noon this same day I did something beyond outrage.  I bought Elizabeth the jet plane we flew in yesterday.  It costs, brand new, $960,000.  She was not displeased" to a dismal, boring finish.  Burton was an insatiable reader (good for him) but with the very unfortunate habit of giving a book review of virtually everything he was reading.  Since he had esoteric tastes, this was very much Not A Good Thing.

Throughout his drinking years and they were long, he writes over and over that he behaved outrageously last night; Elizabeth furious; huge row.  He rues some of the times, but never once does he write something like, "when I drink I have to be careful of my temper and I know that."  No, he blithely goes right on ahead and misbehaves very badly.  In fact, I rather got the ipression that he enjoyed making an ass of himself.  

Major names in the theatre, his fellow stars, famous politicians and the ultra-rich members of the jet set are dropped often, sometimes with disdain, other times with affection.  

When he buys a piece of jewelry/airplane/yacht for her, you may be certain that the price tag will not only be mentioned, but flaunted.

Despite having been inserted into a ready-made set of children, while he makes it clear that he loves them; it's equally clear that he was a very passive parent in controlling them in any way.  When Elizabeth and Michael Wilding's son Michael goes hippy, all Burton can say is that he hopes he grows out of it.

His background (poverty) made him, in wealthy adulthood, alternatively frugal and wildly extravagant.   He was a contradiction in terms.

If you like book reports (and bragging) then this book is for you.  Burton may have been amusing in company (or not) but his editor has done him no favors in this book.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Little Help From My Friends

We cancelled our planned trip to New York today due to the fact that during our stay, we would have had one nice day weather-wise.

But well before the storm, I'd made a list of restaurants I wanted to try and dishes that sounded good.  Since I can't go (yet) if you live in the area, stop in and give me a report afterwards!

Red, 417 New York Avenue, Huntington, NY  631-673-0304  Shrimp curry $28 or a "Crab Napoleon" appetizer -- flaky pastry, dense with crab, sauce -- like the dessert.

F. H. Riley's, 400 New York Avenue, Huntington  631-271-7600  Grilled shrimp and lobster BLT - lunch $15

Sweet Mama's,  9 Alsace Lane, Northport, NY  631-261-6262  Breakfast till 4 p.m. -- CB Benny - corned beef, poached eggs Hollandaise sauce - $12

Fado, 10 New Street (Main Street) Huntington Village  631-351-1010  Said to do paella.  Richie loved it in France so this one's for him.

Bistro Cassis - an old favorite - 55B Wall Street  631-421-4122  Quiche Lorraine or a lobster club sandwich.

Prime, 117 New York Avenue, Huntington  631-385-1515  This place is right on the water and very expensive so I want to just come in for a late afternoon-ish drink on the deck (before it gets too cold.)  The drink that interests me?  "A Bloody Hell" composed of chipotle vodka, tomato juice, horseradish sauce and Tabasco.  That ought to warm ya in the winter and then some!   

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Because Southern California is more prone to no-warning earthquakes than three or four days hurricane warnings, I don't know much about hurricanes.

What I do know is that Richie's brother Charlie and his sons Sean and Bryan are pulling their boats out of Huntington harbor on the north shore of Long Island.  All three men have spent their lives on these waters as professional baymen so they know what they're doing and why.

That's enough for me; we cancelled tomorrow's flight to New York.  Good luck to all in Hurricane Sandy's path.  And condolences to the families of the 21 killed by it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Got a Drinker On Your Christmas Gift List?

Potpourri, "Unique Gifts for Special People," to the rescue!

A black t-shirt with this phrase spelled out in colored sequins:  Drinks Well With Others

Nothing to do with drinking:  Discover Wildlife, Teach School spelled out on a "needlepoint" pillow.

Really rather specialied:  "Horse Lovers are Stable People."

A wall plaque:  A meal without wine is called "breakfast."

T-shirt with a glass of red wine pictured and this slogan  - "They say one glass  a day is good for you.  They never said how many times to fill it."

Wall plaque:  "Remember, as far as anyone knows, we are a normal family!"

Wall plaque (for women)  "Cinderella is proof that shoes can change your life!"

A black t-shirt with white letters that say "I have discovered the Fountain of Youth and it looks a lot like vodka"

And lastly - a wall plaque that says:  "I smile because you are my daughter
                                                                 I laugh because there is nothing you can do about it"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On The Coffee Table

A Book
"Passing Gas And Other Towns Along the American Highway" by Gary Gladstone   100 Speed Press   140 pages   $ ? Price was cut off; probably a gift

Gladstone is a photographer who used to be amused at and charmed by some of the town names in his US travels.  Feeling a certain boredom, he decided to take off for a year to chronicle towns with names like:  Greasy Corner, Arkansas; Tight Squeeze, Virginia; Zero, Montana - you get the idea.  The prose is centered on interviews with townspeople.

Since he seems to have shot most of the head shots with an f22 lens, many of the good citizens have goldfish-bowl-shaped faces.

Travel Magazine
The newest National Geographic Traveler's cover promises "127 Ways to Travel Smarter," essays by "great writers (of whom I have heard nothing) for a feature called "Paris and Other Places That Changed Our Lives."

Given the staff's long years of excellent work and beautiful photos, I was surprised to find that their travel side is curiously ... flat.  "Travel Talk" is a one-page with where to shop/eat/sleep and a couple of small photos.  At first I thought these were ads until I looked again.

A section entitled "Do As The Locals Do" instructs us that:  the A-OK sign is X-rated in Brazel.  In parts of Asia, chopsticks left standing upright in a bowl of rice symbolizes death.  In Polynesia, if you wear a flower over your right ear, you are saying, "Hey!  I'm single!"

A Magazine for Seniors
It's called Reminisce and does just that.  One of my cohorts at Thurs. Writrs had been researching a story and brought in a couple when she had finished with them.  The issue here is all about summer camp -- what you did, adventures in the wild or with fellow campers.  There is also a feature on roadside attractions and the first is our own Cabazon Dynosaurs on I-10 on the way to Palm Springs.

This magazine is a tremendously good conversation starter with older people.  If you are a nursing home volunteer or similar, they can be invaluable in distracting a patient from reiterated material.  For a historian or a novelist, they give pitch-perfect notes of what it was like back in the day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Amish and Mennonite Cooking

"From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens" by Phillis Pellman Good and Rachel Thomas Pellman   Good Books, Intercouorse, PA   420 pages   $11.95

Disclosure:  I have an interest in Mennonite cooking as my mother's family were Mennonites.  I grew up eating such as Bombuski or Nollesnicki on wintery Sunday evenings.  (Both recipes previously given.)

The two groups are similar in their faiths.  The Mennonites came first, a product of the 1525 Reformation.  Menno Simons was one of the founders.  From the Mennonites came the Amish who had splintered off in dissatisfaction in 1693, led by Jacob Amman.

The one trait that they share and do to this day was a strong belief in hard work.  They were largely farmers with  ancillary jobs such as shop keepers, mill keepers that were necessary to their communities.

Because they worked hard from sun up to sun down, they ate well.  In looking through the book, I noted that they relied heavily on dairy protein, found in the butter, cream and cheeses that they made themselves.  Meat seems to have been used rather more sparingly than not.  They were also lavish with eggs in their recipes.  Diced hard-boiled eggs were frequently a dish addition.

They were also good at eking out recipes to feed more people.  

Rivels - used in soups
1 cup flour
1 egg
1/4 cup milk.

Combine the flour and the egg, add the milk.  Mix by cutting with two forks to make crumbles the size of cherry stones.  Drop them in the boiling broth (chicken, beef or vegetable) and stir to keep them from sticking together.  This seems like a cousin of spaetzl where you push the dough through the holes of a colander.

Knepp - a type of dumpling
2 cups flour
3 teas. baking powder
1/2 teas. salt
1 egg, beaten
2 T melted butter
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk

Mix the flour, salt and baking powder.  Add the beaten egg and milk.  Use enough milk that the dough will be sticky but will still slide off of the spoon into the boiling broth.  Put the lid back on quickly and don't peek for 15 minutes.  (I can still hear my mother shouting to me from another room into the kitchen, "Leave that pot alone!")

The other thing that I noticed is that they ate an extremely bland diet.  Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, molasses, lemon  seem to have been saved for pies, cakes and cookies.

Monday, October 22, 2012


I turned the last page of Lady Colin Campbell's thick volume on "The Queen Mother" and sat, musing.

According to Campbell, the  Queen Mother was justly famous for her totally winning charm, but her charm was expended only to either put her in the spotlight or get her something she wanted.  She was said to be horribly catty and would typically praise the person to their face and then, well behind their back, make insulting remarks about that person.

Such duplicity is hardly rare in the World of Women, but Campbell claims that the Queen Mother's vivid hatred of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, was merely disguised jealousy because, back in the day, she wanted to marry David - who spurned her nicely - and had to settle instead for Bertie.  

The Queen Mother earned the nickname "The Other Lady MacBeth" for her behind-the-scenes maneuvering and slyness.  She is said to have deliberately cultivated her grandson, Charles, while basically ignoring daughter Margaret's dilemmas about whether or not to marry Townsend.  The Queen Mother told her, essentially, "Get over it." 

The Queen Mum absolutely insisted on getting her own way and frequently observed, "I am never wrong."  She did lead poor Bertie quite a dance and, in fact, may have been the de facto King of England, since he never made a decision without her input. 

Campbell alleges that the Queen Mum disliked the intimacy of marriage and that both daughters came to be via artificial insemination. 

On the other hand, Lady Campbell herself is something of a poseur in that she came from a part Lebanese-part Russian family in Jamaica; suffered from sort of physical sexual confusion until she was 18 and got surgical treatment.  The first years of her life she was considered and treated as a male. 

She married Ian Campbell, the 11th Duke of Argyll, which gave her the title "Lady Colin Cmpbell" in 1974.  She divorced him 14 months later in 1975.   And for 37 years has styled herself as "Lady Colin Campbell."  Frankly that seems a little tacky since she claims to have despised him.

Ah, these Royals and wanna-bes with their didoes.  An interesting read if you can get past Lady Campbell's preachy, teachy "voice." 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Yesterday Gets A Mixed Review

Over breakfast, Richie said, "There are two things I want to do today - the library book sale and then the clam chowder cook-off down on the Pier."  I shrugged, "Okay."  I can always use more books and while he takes in and tastes at the cook-off, I'll find a quiet table in one of the many Pier restos and eat and read my book.  I don't like clam chowder.  Both parties should be as happy as clams.  (Couldn't resist.)  ((But I should have.))

The book sale was a better deal than I had thought 50 per cent off the price sticker on the book.

Because this chowder cook-off had been cancelled at the last minute previously, we decided to roll through the underground parking lot to see where it was before we parked.  It was nowhere to be seen and since we hadn't logged any time looking for it, we didn't have to pay any parking.

We decided to go "up top" at the Pier (now sign-boarded for some inexplicable reason as "The Redondo Landing" for an overlook of the entire Pier area.  Once again it wasn't anywhere to be seen.

Since we were next to it, we decided to have lunch at The Boiling Shrimp.  "Up top" is mainly office buildings, all New England-themed. 

We went in, were shown to a corner table and ordered.  We decided to split a bucket of crawfish which comes with your choice of sauces -- Louisisana, lemon-pepper, butter and garlic or a "medley" which is all of them thrown together.  We ordered that.  All of the sauces can be adjusted as to degree of "hot."  The medley was very good.

Soon we were given an oiled- paper table cloth, a shell discards plate and fork and glasses of water.  The crawfish come steaming hot  in a closed plastic bag in an orange plastic bucket.  

The crawfish were good, but even a bucket is a meagre serving since we don't "suck the heads" (How vulgar!)  We only eat the tails which are one small bite each.  Slices of lemon and chunks of red potato and the crawfish and that was it.  More of a surprise (and not a pleasant one) was the fact that halfway through the bucket there was nothing more but a pile of crawfish claws!  They are, to say the least, minuscule and not even worth messing with.  "What a gyp," I thought indignantly.

Richie paid; it was only $10, and now we know.  If I go back, I'm going for the Alaskan king crab; there's nothing "little" about them.  

We left and I was still hungry.  Because the calories had been few, I suggested that I treat us to an apple fritter as we could "afford" the calories.

Our favorite donut place was out of them.  So was the shop Richie remembered.  The third place was out, but did have apple bear claws, so I bought a pair of them in sheer desperation.

So -- the book sale was a steal; we learned not to order crawfish at the Boiling Shrimp and that if we wanted an apple fritter, we'd better damn well get it in the morning before lunch time.  A day of learning all around...

125 W. Torrance, Redondo Beach*

* This is misleading so here's how to find it -- go west on Torrance and on the driveway that circles the front of the Pier take the first right you come to, push the button for a parking ticket and continue up the slight incline.  The Boiling Shrimp will be on your left.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Give A Goat for Christmas!

Okay, as of October 19th, the Christmas Season is upon us.  Never mind that we're more than a week away from Halloween and a month from Thanksgiving -- means nothing!

Yesterday's mail brought the Heifer International gift catalog (  These are the good people who give the well-off the opportunity to lift the less so out of poverty by giving people on the other side of the world from Fat Cat America such as a flock of chickens or a pig or a heifer.

If you have an aunt that is a knitter, give her the symbolic gift of four animals that provide the materials -- a llama, an alpaca, a sheep and an Angora rabbit to a family.  She's knitted plenty of stuff for you so fork over the $480 and buy this for her.

Someone to gift who has a medical interest?  The Community Animal Health Worker Kit ($200) can include a thermometer, stethoscope, hoof trimmer, scalpels, gloves, disinfectants and even important medicines.

Apparently this is a respectable charity - but do not consider this column as an endorsement under any circumstances; I'm merely reporting on an oddity -- because the late President Ronald Reagan awarded it the President's Award for Voluntary Action in 1986 and former President George H. W. Bush gave it the Presidential End Hunger Award in 1990.  The idea is that as the animals breed, the owner will give a neighbor one of the off-spring and they, in turn, will do the same. 

Prices are as low as $20 for a flock of chicks up to $5,000 for a Gift Ark which should cover the needs of an entire village.
2 cows
2 sheep
2 camels
2 oxen
2 water buffalo
2 pigs
2 beehives
2 goats
2 donkeys
2 trios of ducks
2 trios of rabbits
2 trios of Guinea pigs (meant to be bred and eaten!)
2 flocks of geese
2 flocks of chickens
2 llamas

Wonder if they'd deliver all of that to the States?  Talk about a conversational item! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Primogeniture and English Royal Bloodlines

"The Queen Mother, the Untold Story of Elizabeth Bowels Lyon, Who Because Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother" by Lady Colin Campbell   St. Martin's Press   487 pages   $29.99

In 1900 when she was born and before, the right of primogeniture meant the first-born son inherited it all.  Daughters didn't figure in and sometimes the estate was said to "slip sidewise" to a distant male cousin, simply to follow the letter of the law.

Naturally, this was a fate nearly as bad as death (and certainly caused by it) for the then-owning family.  What to do?  The problem was often solved in this fashion:  the husband and wife, colluding with one another with gusto, would have a surrogate child.  The sterile party would stand aside and allow the non-sterile to procreate with a much lesser being.

Husbands would take up with a household maid, a real convenience for the wife who didn't have to bother with a pillow around her waist for five months.  If the husband was sterile, three different London doctors offered this valuable service.  Basically it was a stud service with no unseemly contact between the shy, retiring wife and a male.

The wives would come to the doctor's office where they were put in a room to await the sperm, legs akimbo and speculum inserted.  Meanwhile, in a distant room in the house, the men, uh, gave their all which was sped to the waiting putative mother-to-be.

The males were all butlers!  Butlers were considered good breeding stock as they occupied in the house what would be the CEO position in a corporation.  Chosen, in part, for their attractiveness they had also had had the grit to pull themselves up from a really menial position to top of the household elite.

What the hell does this have to do with the Queen Mother, you ask?  She was born of such an arrangement.  Cecilia and Claude Bowes Lyons were the couple in question.  Cecilia had already given birth to eight children and it was feared that she would not survive another pregnancy.  But the couple wanted more children. 

Enter the family cook, a Frenchwoman named Marguerite Rodiere.  She later gave Elizabeth a baby brother, named David. 

I was surprised, too.  She certainly wound up with a mixed bloodline - some royal blood back in the day and an unknown Frenchwoman whose ancestors were ... common.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Un-Cited, Very Local, Labor Statistic

Today - October 18, 2012 - The Drudge Report lists these statistics above-the-fold, so to speak:

Welfare soars 32 per cent in four years
Jobless claims rise (by) 46,000
Welfare is now at $1.3 Trillion

What is not making headlines nationally or even locally is this:  home contractors are clearly on their uppers.  We have averaged -- for more than a month -- three to five calls a week from home contractors, looking for work. 

(Phone rings)
Either one of us "Hello"
Merry voice:  "Hi, is this Mr./Miz Murphy?  This is Jack/Don/Billie/Andrew with (contracting company name) and we're going to be in your neighborhood today and would like to give you a free estimate..."
Either one of us:  "No thanks - have a good day."

Yesterday, she said modestly, was a Personal Best.  THREE of them called!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hey! Take a "Haycation"!

This was a new one from PBS Car Radio.  Apparently many people are now planning vacations on working farms and ranches.  These also go by the name "farm vacations."

Having visited my Aunt Vera and Uncle Floyd's farm outside of Yates Center, KS, many times as a child, I'm in a position to advise you that "farm vacation" is truly an oxymoron.  And theirs was only a traditional small farm with limited acreage, a pair of immense draft horses, a couple of pigs, a milk cow or two, a flock of chickens and a mindless Collie named "Ringo."  Vera worked with all of the animals while Floyd took the draft horses to the plow or reaper.

She had a vegetable garden and in summer, she canned fruits and vegetables as they became ripe.  She had an electric separator for the milk and a manual churn for butter.  She also cooked or baked every bite they ate

Stays there were, for me, a vacation -- fetching the eggs, getting water for the baby chicks gathered around the base of the big stove in the kitchen, trying to edge past the fence that kept them close to the warmth on still-not-Spring days... jumping from the barn loft into the shelled barley...

Curious, I looked up farm vacations and found a surprisingly robust industry.  Some of the listings on   invited one to come to a bison ranch, to apple cider press, stay on a chicken farm.  One advertiser wrote, "I raise English Shire horses, Nubian goats, chickens and pigs."  Ranches offered riding lessons, trail hikes and actually helping out with the farm chores.

Visitors are advised to bring clothes that won't cause the owner to have a heart attack if they get dirty, rubber boots for muddy farm yards, to find out which meals will be provided (usually breakfast only) and whether you will have admission to their kitchen and whether you can help yourself to vegetables in the garden.

Chantilly Ridge Alpacas, in Florida, sounded interesting.  Pholia Farm Goat Cheese Dairy's guest headquarters are a restored 1970 Airstream trailer.  You're invited to learn how to make goat cheeses but beware of their advertised boast:  "This farm is completely off of the power grid!" like it's something to be proud of!  Alors!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Quite Possibly More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About ...

Altoid's - "The Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Mints." 

Despite having been created in England during the reign of King George III in 1780, Altoids are not heavily marketed in their own country of origin.  When Wrigley purchased the company, they closed the factory in Wales and began manufacturing Altoids in Chattanooga, TN. 

Wondering about Altoids, I Googled and came across   which has all the information anyone could ever want on all the lines that Altoids makes.  Who knew they were into ginger or raspberry? 

The Web site also has games (help the farmer herd his sheep into the barn,) and an Altoids exam and the Altoids Museum collection. 

Altoids are sold in small metal boxes with a liner paper.  The liner on the box that I have remarks in passing that "For three days in 1924, Altoids were stronger than the U.S. dollar."  I wrote about a previous one that protects against "raven attacks."  When the box is empty, the back of the bottom of the wrapper offers more "cute."  Hamster acting up again?"  Make a dunce cap for it out of this wrapper.  An opportunity that I must say I had never considered.  I'd call this kind of humor "professional whimsy."

The boxes have a long life after being merely a mint container.   There have been contests and winners have included a (small) 1st aid kit; a tool kit for small electronics bits and bobs; an ash tray - the peppermint smell is supposed to disguise the cigarette (or joint) smell; a cuff links container. 

Some wag suggested making your own Altoids and listed the ingredients (but not the amounts) which are:   gum paste, powdered confectioner's sugar and flavored oil. 

Three pieces per serving equals 10 calories.  If you have nothing to do (as clearly I didn't) Help the Farmer Herd His Sheep should amuse for awhile. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Grillish. Not Girlish. Or "Girlfish"

Because we often shop at the Riviera Village Trader Joe's, we see Grillish all of the time.  Grillish, 1700 S. Catalina, Redondo Beach   310-316-5800

It's almost next door to the Kinights of Columbus hall where the South Bay New Orleans Jazz Club meets, so yesterday I suggested we get a bite of dinner there.

The musicians quit and the hall is closed at 5 p.m. which is awkwardly early for any kind of real meal.  I was thinking perhaps an appetizer or something equally light.

The dirty gin martini, up, that I had visualized would not be forthcomig.  They serve beer and wine, period.  I had to be content with a flute of Verichon & Clerc champagne ($7.)  And I was.  Richie had a Stella which was brought to the table in the bottle with a short, fat pedestal glass.  I know the champagne was "fresh" - we heard the cork pop in the bar.

I'm not going to be able to describe the interior other than to say a vague impression of European Modern decor because we had been encouraged to dine out on the patio which is a lovely space and roomier than it might look.  I did slither in to wash my hands which is the only reason I can tell you that much. 

Grillish' menu is extensive in an all-over-the-map way.  Check their Web site, I'm just hitting oddities/unusual offerings here.  The appetizers include Fried Green Beans, Meat Balls, a Cheese Plate (eight varieties available) Smoked Salmon Crostini or create your own Crazy Quesadilla from the ingredients on offer.  There are 10 salads and 10 pasta dishes. 

Hamburgers include the Bloody Mary Burger, an 8 oz. patty, grilled onions, avocado, grilled mushrooms finished with a home made Bloody Mary sauce. 

Mains include rack of lamb, grilled Baramundi with a garlic-butter sauce.  They offer grilled trout with picata sauce.  Their take on Pasta Puttanesca uses pine nuts with the chili flakes, garlic, black olives, capers and olive oil.  Pine nuts???

Richie ordered the Plato de Camarones - grilled shrimp finished with a Diablo dipping sauce, cole slaw and your choice of French fries or rice.  He had French fries and dipped every one of them in that sauce.  He brought the cole slaw home for further exploration.

I had the Two Tigers appetizer which turned out to be something I make at home -- melt butter, add Old Bay seasoning, stir, saute the shrimp and serve over toasted baguette slices with lashings of the butter sauce.  Still on my quest for The Perfect Caesar Salad, I ordered that.  It was a huge serving, mostly dark green leaves, not the lighter Romaine green and the dressing was unobtrusive.  Every leaf was coated lightly with it.  However, it was enough for four and cost $10.  I'd really rather have 1/4th that amount at a commensurate cost.

Now we've been there; now my curiosity has been satisfied.  I would still consider Grillish for "real" dinner, just no more bites after the jazz club.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Promising Day...

We woke up to sun - glorious sun! 

Both papers were out in the driveway.  (Sometimes they aren't.)

I only have one stubborn block left to solve in the LA Times crossword; the NY Times is going a helluva lot better than they have for the past three weeks.

This afternoon is the Jazz Club (more formally, the South Bay New Orleans Jazz Club) and they are always enjoyable.  Yes, of course, I'll have my notebook handy for any scandalous or amusing incidents.

Then we're going to try a restaurant new to us, just down the street  from the club named "Grillish."  Not "Girlish."  Can you imagine going to eat in a restaurant named Girlish?  Little teensy tea cakes and scones on doily-topped silver trays... Pass.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

When Families Don't Love Each Other

"Maine" by J. Courtney Sullivan   Alfred A. Knopf   385 pages   $25.85

This is one of the story types I love -- multi-generations fighting it out amongst themselves.  In this case, it's three generations of Kelleher women, an Irish family with city residences, but roots in a summer home in Maine, won by the grandfather in a post-war bet.

Portrayed is the summer home life many of us would fancy.  Bare feet, grubby clothes and idle fancies.  The Kellehers haven't forgotten their Irish roots.  Cocktails follow Sunday Mass, lobster rolls are eaten left and right.  Swimming and sunning are the order of the day.

This book is the story of why and how the various estrangements came about.  Grandmother Alice is rigidly Catholic, atoning for an act she was responsible for committing many years ago.  Her daughter-in-law is closer to her than her two blood daughters.

One daughter fled long ago to California where she and her live-in boyfriend own and run a worm poop farm.  She swore never to come back...but, of course, what's the point of saying "Never" if you don't break that vow?  Kathleen is as bitter-toned and combustible as her mother, Alice.

Granddaughters figure into this stew of warring women and a good time is had by the reader.

Friday, October 12, 2012

My Error: Good Manners NOT Dead

This is an update of sorts on the poor, little house down the street.  As we drive past it nearly every day, it's easy to keep track of any changes that might occur.  None have so far.

The other day, Richie brought in the mail and, puzzled, handed me a letter -- not a magazine renewal nor a bill, but stationery!  A letter!  I raised an eyebrow as neither the sender's name nor return address were familiar.  Expecting a new way to solicit something, I opened it.

And discovered this nice note:

"Dear Nina -
Just wanted to follow up with you and let you know we looked up the owner for xxxx Wollacott.  According to the tax records, they live in XX, California.  We are in the process of contacting them to find out if they are interested in selling.  I'm sure a builder/investor would love to purchase that property.

Thank you for your courtesy when we were at your door.  It's not easy knocking on doors, most people are not as pleasant as you!

Thanks again, (signature)"

It was one of the real estate ladies from Re/Max.  The note was not typed on company paper, it was handwritten on pretty notepaper!  Truly, I had to sit down.

But as well as Good Manners was doing that day, I fear a major setback today after last night's debacle.  The actions of a 69 year old, badly-behaved child for all to see.  To interrupt the other guy 82 times?  To continue laughing for no apparent reason?  Oafish beat you last night, sigh.

But take heart, Good Manners -- they aren't all like that.  You will survive and flourish again.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

When Man Assumes God Status

"Island Practice" by Pam Belluck   Public Affairs Publishing   264 pages   $25.99

This is an accounting of the life of Tim Lepore, MD, on Nantucket.  Over the years, he has added jobs to his doctor's resume -- internationally-known tick expert (Lyme disease.) accidental homicide detective, medical examiner, and occasional veterinarian work.

He has a regular schedule with office hours, but he and his wife live 100 ft. away from the hospital and he encourages patients to "just stop in at the house."  He also makes house calls 24/7 when needed.  His wife said that she always wanted to marry someone interesting.

You would think that all of the above, plus serving on various civic boards would keep him busy, but he makes time to go hunting, however briefly.  He frequently wears his hunting vest in the office.  He and his fellow hunters believe that the island is overrun by deer which carry Lyme diseas ticks.  The more deer the hunters can kill in season, the better, for that reason.

He has a red-tailed hawk, Ajax, that he trained himself.  He scours the local roads for road kill to feed Ajax and grateful customers often bring tidbits they have found and bagged at his front door.  He and his wife have always had four or five dogs, all of whom shed, so he decided to try to knit garments out of dog hair.  When the unusued corners of the house became filled with plastic bags of dog hair, the wife pitched them.

His office is deliberately eccentric with smart-aleck slogans, a taxidermied armadillo, lying on its back holding a soft drink can, antique guns and posters.

I don't doubt that he has done many positive things for the community there or that he is (mostly) deeply loved by the general population.  But there was just that telling trace of thinking he is all things to all persons that gave me a frisson of alarm.  That faint, shrill cry, 'Look at me!"that was off-putting. 

Belluck is a health and medical writer for the New York Times and the Old Gray Lady's stolid lack of humor shows.  Belluck just wasn't able to pull off factual reportage with a sense of the absurb thrown in.   

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Poor, Sad Little House Down the Street

The street is Wollacott which is a big name for a street that is only three blocks long.  All of the residents have learned that we'll always have to spell it out for as long as we live on it.

The house looks even worse due to the appearance of the house on the other side of its driveway which has just been refurbished to a fare-the-well.  The contrast is thus made even more vivid.

This house has looked as you see it for at least six months and quite probably longer.  The other day I passed it for the 6,000th time and resolved to do something about it.

I e'd our Councilman and told him.  He asked me to get a street address and  I reiterated plaintively that it doesn't have one but it is directly across the street from 1620 and absolutely unmistakeable.

"Did I know if anyone is living in it? he wrote back.  "Do you want to go over and knock?"  I recoiled in horror!  God only knows what might answer.  The only indication that there may be someone (or something) living there is the fact that I finally noticed a difference in the way the drapes are hung from time to time.

I counter-proposed that perhaps the civilian volunteers of the police department might want to do that.  These people don't carry guns, they drive a little, white sedan with "RBPD Auxiliary" (or equivalent) on it and they check on old people who are known to live alone.  I also think you can call to have them keep an eye on your property if you take a lengthy vacation. 

The very next day, I was down in the office, grinding away at yet another brilliant piece of prose, when I heard a pair of women's voices out on the front porch.  I came to the security door to find a pair of attractively-dressed women of a certain age who presented themselves as brokers for Re/Max, a real estate company. 

After cheery greetings, they perkily asked if we were thinking of selling and I said that we weren't but -IDEA! IDEA! - just down the street was a house that really should be bulldozed and the dirt sold.

They were on this idea like a rat terrier on a rat.  "Oooh," they cooed as one, "a contractor would love that kind of thing!"  All a twitter, they made a note of the location and all but ran up our driveway (in spike heels, no less) headed straight for the next block. 

One week later, everything is exactly the same.  To Be Continued.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Great Description of the Effects of Champagne

"Burgundy makes you think of silly things,
Bordeaux makes you talk about them,
And Champagne makes you do them."

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

On another flavorful note - if you come across Brillat-Savarin cheese, stop and  taste it.  It has a Brie-like texture with a faint lemony back taste.  It is insanely good. 

Monday, October 8, 2012


Much like a turkey carcass the day after Thanksgiving, Food & Wine has been stripped of anything I found interesting and/or useful.  Today we turn the bones into soup. 

Cuban Sandwiches
We often go to Havana Mania for lunch with friends.  I have always wondered why the description for a Cuban classic contains the same ingredients as a "Medianoche."  It would puzzle me.   Then I read that the BREAD is different.  A Cuban is served on a crusty bread; the medianoche on a softer, egg bread.  Since "medianoche" means "middle of the night" it does make sense to have a "quiet" bread if you're going to raid the refrigerator!

In An Effort to be Helpful
The magazine gave an illustrated lesson on salting food.  We were instructed to buy three porkchops.  Take the first, soak it in a saltwater brine and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  Remove, dry and cook.  The salt is said to be absorbed by the chop resulting in a chop that is "extra plump and juicy." 

Take the second chop, rub it well with salt and let it sit on a small plate - uncovered - in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  Here air drying is expected to "concentrate its porky flavor."

The third chop is to be treated "normally."  Unwrap it, sprinkle salt on it and fry it. 

As I don't approve of salt in cooking and never use salt while cooking, I can hardly endorse such foolishness as this.  You're on your own with this one.

This One's For You, George Bush!  How ya been?

Lemony Brussels Sprout Slaw
1/2 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 teas. finely-grated lemon zest
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup chopped dill
Pepper to taste
2 lbs. raw Brussels sprouts, finely shredded.
1/4 cup + 2 T salted, roasted sunflower seeds.

Mix it up, chill it a bit and eat it.  Not you, George, I just remembered it's broccoli you dislike.   Apologies.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Here - Let Me Help You Spend That...

The monthly magazines are beginning to trickle in and, as always, I amused myself by looking at all of the various things the well-heeled consumer could have for the flick of a credit card and a substantial credit rating. 

Food & Wine teased me with a layout on the new stoves, wall ovens and cook tops.  The absolute peak in over-paying is La Cornue's "1908" stove for $14,500.  At least I thought so until I read that this outrageous price tag is 25% LESS than the custom-made Chateau model!  Further, unlike the Chateau which takes months to construct, the 1908 is ready to come cook at your house.

There is a 22 in. wide Viking "does everything" - convection oven, steam oven and microwave all in one for $1,800.  I would remind everyone that any oven becomes a steam oven if you put a big pan of water on the oven floor.  I bought a DeLonghi toaster oven that does all of that from for less than $200.  So hah!  And do you think I could get Richie to hand over the $1,600 I saved him?  Let's just say "Never."

If you are a techno-freak, Gaggenau makes a cook top that doesn't have any burners as we know them.  Instead, the entire no-seam, flat cook top is heated to allow the chef to put his pots and pans any old where he wants.  $5,500.

Architectural Digest has given me some startling insights on the state of the Irish economy.  Last month I discovered that a Ryan family castle (Ryan-Air) was up for grabs.  This month there is a castle in Kiltegan (ad doesn't say where this is) with a granite Victorian domecile of 25 bedrooms, 17 baths, 2 half baths contained in 46,200 sq. ft.  It was built starting in 1867.  Addditionally, your $10.1 million will get you 427 acres of woodlands, two lakes, formal gardens as well as lodges, stables and cottages.   Hmmm, cottages?  Servant cottages?  Are the servants being sold, too?  Or will they be auctioned them off separately?

Then I turned the page to find a listing for Alexandra Bay, NY, known locally as Millionaire's Row.  There are only three houses on this isalnd which is "just minutes away from the mainland by boat."  One of the three is for sale with this caveat:  In need of significant restoration.  The house - or what's left still standing, photo wasn't very clear - is still owned by the descendant's of the original owner, one Alson E. Clark, an industrialist.  It has 8 bedrooms and 3 baths (and I see a problem right away) and contains 4,700 sq. ft. in its three-storied Shingle-style building. 

Gnawing bitterly at my disappointment that it was not the entire island for sale, I misread the price and gasped out loud.  $985 MILLION.  But then my vision cleared -- my gasp had dried my eyes - and I read it right.  $985,000.  As is.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Ginger People

This is not a Ginger Rodgers fan club gone wild.  Instead these good folks create ginger-based foodstuffs.  I first encountered them on a foray through Trader Joe's where their Ginger Chews candy looked appealing.  I must say they weren't kidding when they named them "chews."  It takes several minutes to eat one and then more minutes to clean the residue out from between yur teeth. 

Established in 1984, Ginger People have locations in Marina, CA and Queensland, Australia where they make crystalized ginger in covered vats which is said to deepen the ginger flavor. 

The candy wrapper gives their Web site -- -- so I went calling on them.  I discovered that in their minds, ginger is a miracle drug, no more, no less.  Upset stomach?  Drink Lemon Ginger Beer!  Sore throat?  Ginger Soother with ginger, honey, lemon and fizzy water.  They also claim that ginger MAY fight obesity, cancer, sore muscles, arthritis and can boost the immune system.  Perhaps these claims are valid, but I bet you would have to eat 10 lbs. of ginger a day to find out.  I like ginger, but...

Ginger Ale is an old remedy for an upset stomach. Richie's mother gave him ginger ale when he was a child and 71 years later, it's still his "drug of choice." 

The Web site has a store directory and it was a happy discovery that Whole Foods, 405 N. Pacific Coast Hwy, Redondo, stocks their line.  I'm interested in their sauces -- Spicy Ginger Teryaki and Hot Ginger Jalapeno; meh on the Thai Green Curry.  I'm thinking about steamed shrimp doused in Ginger Jalapeno ...

Why, yes, they do make Ginger Snaps!

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Salute to S. J. Perelman

Perelman was an imaginative man with a solid sense of satire.  He was a member of the Round Table, Algonquin Hotel set as well as a highly regarded Hollywood writer and playright.  Born in 1904, he died October 17,  1979.  

His specialty was to pick up a brief item in a newspaper or, more likely, a magazine and skewer it.  He read voraciously and always resented the fact that the people who wrote long novels got more praise than he did for his short pieces.

In fact, in person, he may not have been much fun.  His marriage to Laura West, (writer Nathaniel's sister) was rocky from the start due to his constant womanizing, which certainly seems doubtful given his looks, which were, to say the least, unremarkable.  A less kind observer might use the word "ugly."   

He regarded children as non-essential to his happiness and ignored his.  Son Adam spent some time in a reform school.  Perelman devoted his love to his MG (car) and his mynah bird, both of whom he pampered considerably. 

Richie is cleaning out our old books and handed me, "The Road to Miltown or Under The Spreading Atrophy."  I've been laughing ever since.   It's an excellent book to keep in the door pocket in Richie's car.  He decides to run an errand while we're out; I choose not to go in and instead settle in for some laughs with Perelman. 

"The Wickedest Woman in Larchmont" covers his introduction to and enthrallment with Theda Bara in 6th grade.  Sample:  "I accidentally got my first intimation of Miss Bara from a couple of teachers excitedly discussing her."
"If you re-arrange the letters for her name, they spell 'Arab Death'! "one of them was saying with a delicious shudder.  "I've never seen an actress kiss the way she does.  She just sort of glues herself onto a man and drains the strength out of him!"  The other replied, "I know - isn't it revolting?  Let's go see it again tonight!" 

Needless to add, I was in the theater before either of them, and my reaction was no less fervent."

He has the deft ability to put himself into a story and then going on from there.  His characters often have ridiculous names -- very Charles Dickens of him.  I'm thinking of British earl Lewellyn Fitzpoultice.  He has an awesome vocabulary.

October 17th is not that far away.  I think Perelman is deserving of remembrance from his fans so I propose Wednesday, October 17th be Perelman Satirical Salute Day, to be celebrated with a gin martini at lunch.   

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Timely Cartoon...

Mallard Fillmore by Bruce Tinsley     You have to imagine...

Mallard Filmore is slumped on a couch, watching TV through his duck feet.  The TV is saying, "Tonight's presidential debate is being brought to you by the Chevy Volt, the official car of the Obama administration."


I like Tinsley's work as he skewers both parties unmercifully. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Consolation Prize!

We'd planned a Fall Family Tour in early October.  First to my sister and that family outside of Chicago and then on to Long Island to see Richie's brother and his family. 

I checked flights on a near-daily basis and something odd appeared -- all of the flights from LAX to Chicago were consistently over-sold.  And then our neighbor who works for MAA (a Major American Airline) told us the pilots were forcing cancellations by "discovering" mechanical problems.  There is no convenient way to get to New York from Chicago on MAA.  It's either Newark or La Guardia because there is only one flight a day to JFK, our airport of choice.    Collectively the whole picture looked so bad that we said the hell with it. 

But given the fact that we really wanted to do this, we're feeling a little ... let down.  Obviously we can't plan on flying anywhere so what do we love that we can drive to and from?   Palm Springs, that's what!

Ever on the hunt for new restaurants (and Palm Springs is surprisingly good at that) I went online and sure enough - three that we haven't tried!  And that actually sounded like they had good stuff behind their front doors.

Cheeky's, 622 W. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs  for breakfast and lunch.  "First of Fall apple omelet with sharp Cheddar and bacon - $9"  This is easily made at home - saute some slices of Grannie Smith in butter, and when they're done, pour in the well-beaten eggs and finish the omelet with a dusting of grated Cheddar.  Whether or not to crumble your bacon over that is Diner's Choice.

Tropicale, 330 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs  Richie and I could share this and eat nothing else and still be full.  The Pupu Platter - coconut shrimp, Thai chicken skewers, Korean beef skewers, spring rolls and Korean ribs.  Bring it on - $26, or $13 each.

Jake's, 664 N. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs    Lunch and dinner and a three course dinner for $29.  (Two days ago, it was $27 so we'd best not tarry here if we want in on this deal.)
Starter of soup or salad (including Caesar) and a main of chicken Milanese or meatloaf with macaroni and cheese or roasted salmon or fettucini or something called an "Eggplant Tower" and dessert. 

I'm feeling better by the minute!

Monday, October 1, 2012

An Ancient Rule Was Right...Too Bad I Didn't Listen

The rule?  "Do as I say, not as I do."  I know better than to try to bake something.  I accept the fact that since I'm too impatient to fry bacon or fill an ice cube tray that baking is not for the likes of me.  In day-to-day cooking, I can be sloppy "Needs more pepper" or "Yeah, that looks like a half a cup of chopped onion."  Baking is demanding, up to and including using a knife blade (flat sided, not curved!) to measure exactly one teaspoon, etc.

I knew all of this yesterday afternoon when I set out to make Parmesan Tuiles (tiles.)  It's a simple recipe calling only for flour, butter and Parmesan.   How hard could that be?!   No baking soda, no yeast, both of which I avoid like a cat does water. 

Mistake #1 - at Trader Joe's I bought a wedge of Parmesan-Reggiano, not the already grated in a plastic container.  If I was going to do this properly, I would grate the cheese myself, thank you very much!  Besides I have a dandy little French grater that makes the job go very quickly.  Simply put a chunk  of cheese in the little basket and turn the handle.  Viola!

Except that I couldn't find this grater.  I dug around in the "Miscellaneous" drawer (corn on the cob handles, scissors, fried egg forms, and more, much more) and there it wasn't.  Then (and only then) did I remember that the little knob on the handle had broken off and I'd thrown the whole thing out.  Mistake #2 - bad memory.

So I got out the box grater.  I would still be using it 18 hours later if I used the smallest hole side of it.  So instead I got out the cheese knife for hard cheeses and cut strips, using the chef's knife to chop them up.

Finally I had the dough assembled, but it quite resisted being turned into a roll from which I could cut slices for baking.  It tended to crumble.  Undaunted, I got a cookie sheet and put down the parchment paper the recipe said to use.  As it was 80 degrees, I decided to use the toaster oven.

Mistake #3  I thought that the parchment paper might pose a fire hazard, but then reasoned that it is designed to be used in the oven, rests on hot metal and doesn't catch fire so it should be okay.  But:  remembering CERT training, I emptied the sink and got a pot holder should it turn out to be a bad idea.

Slices on the paper, cookie sheet in the little oven, I stood glaring through the glass window of the oven door.  The first 3 minutes, all was well.  For the second 3 minutes, you're to turn the pan around.  I did, it caught fire and I had to grab the potholder and fling the whole tray into the kitchen sink, (which is, happily, stainless steel) and run a torrent of water over it all.  But it takes more than a tiny kitchen fire to scare  me off.  I will do this again, but I will use Trader Joe's grated and I will use the regular oven.

And if that doesn't work, the hell with Parmesan Tuiles.  Someone, somewhere must sell them...