Friday, November 30, 2012

I Get It, But I Don't Really Get It

"LudoBites - Recipes and Stories from the Pop-up Restaurants of Ludo Lefebvre" with JJ Goode and Krissy Lefebvre   Harper Collins Publishers   373 pages   $24.99 

Pop-up restaurants occur when a chef has lost his own kitchen (restaurant) but is able to borrow another's on a short lease; hence his restaurant "pops-up."  They are advertised by word-of-mouth and Twitter.   It's a gypsy-style life. 

Lefebvre is young, clearly talented (has trained in some of the fanciest restos around) and in fact is listed as one of the 50 Best Chefs in America.  I'm old-fashioned and I don't "get" using agar-agar, sheet after sheet of gelatin or a PolyScience smoking gun (instant smoked taste) a sous-vide or immersion blenders. 

He specializes, he says, in keeping the same flavors but in new forms for classic dishes.  That would help explain his Bouillabaise Milk Shake (his wife wouldn't even taste it) or adding Gruyere marshmallows to the classic bread soup.  He never hesitates to mix meat with sweet as in his "Chocolate Cupcakes with Fois Gras Chantilly Cream and Maple-bacon Coulis, Carmelized dragees and Balsamic-maple syrup." 

He is passionately fond of using ice cream as a garnish.  He handmakes his own.  I noted that his "mustard ice cream" called for only 1/4 teas. of tumeric and no other mustard at all. 
His cauliflower ice cream was created to go with a roast, I believe. 

His other go-to favorite is fois gras.  Now that California has banned the sale and use of it, I bet he just about tore out his hair. 

His cooking style is interesting, certainly, but I'm not so sure how "meaningful" it is in the sense that he really is breaking new ground or just a passing fad.  Time and Twitter will tell.   

Thursday, November 29, 2012

No Eagles Were Harmed in This Experiment

"They're so tight they can make an eagle scream" is an expression used to describe someone who is so reluctant to spend money that they can make the eagle on a quarter scream in pain when it's pried from their hand.

Despite what this may sound like to you as it unfolds, I can assure you in front of God and two other responsible witnesses that the eagle on the quarter in my change purse never let out a peep.  Not from July 10th to yesterday, a time span of four months.

My long-term windfall began innocently enough.  Richie and I decided to go to La Vegas for three days, beginning July 10th.  To fund my gambling, I withdrew five $20s from my account and stowed all but one of them in the back of my checkbook (which is an excellent hiding place, by the way.)

I lost $4 at video poker at the Rio and I exerted so much effort winning it back that I really didn't have the stomach to dip into my fund and gamble more.

Once home, the money languished in my calendar until we flew to Marseilles for that wedding.  I wanted some walking around money and Richie wanted to cash in some traveler's checks.  We walked into the nearst bank and were politely told, "Oh, no, we do not accept American money -- and, Monsieur, no one in France will take your traveler's checks."

Richie is rather stubborn and he tried three other banks to no avail.  So my $100 had a free tour of France.  Again it languished unspent through September.

On October 11th, I took $40 with me to the jazz club and bought the first pitcher of beer ($14 with $26 leftover)  At the end of October, we hit a couple library book sales, but the grand total for that was maybe $6.50.  I remember a couple of runs into the supermarket and paying cash for such as two sandwich rolls or a pound of hambuger or a can of corn.  I paid $7 cash for a prescription drug.

Yesterday I was finally down to a dollar bill and a dollar's worth of change.  Make no mistake, I can spend like a drunken sailor when I'm using a credit card (and, sadly, often have) but it takes me a long time to spend it when it's cash.  I mean, cash is worth something, right?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Flocked Christmas Trees Are an Insult to God!

Not that I feel strongly about flocked Christmas trees or anything...

Despite the fact that today is November 28th, our two local Christmas tree yards, both in Hermosa Beach, are up and doing business.  The Kiwanis lot at Pier and Pacific Coast Highway is selling - to the best of my recollection - all green trees, or "trees au natural" if you will. 

Debbie and Jeff's Christmas trees on the corner of 21st and Pacific Coast Highway has several small trees, painted in aggressive pastels; a rather fluorescent pink; finger paint blue and a sorta neon white.  Our route home from the gym passes Debbie and Jeff's and this morning the flocked trees were nowhere in sight and I thought, "Thank God, I don't have to see them!" until I realized that the tarp-covered short bundles next to a shed were probably those very trees.  We're supposed to have rain today which would undoubtedly improve their looks...But old Debs and the Jeff-ster have them protected. 

Why this unrelenting rage against a poor 'lil ole flocked tree?  Okay, it's convoluted.  See if you can follow along with the mad reasoning of a seriously-deranged person. (That would be me, of course)  Christmas is celebrated to honor the birth of a man, born in extremely humble circumstances - and I've always wondered how Mary managed to give birth in a manger which is a feeding trough to me, usually located about four feet off of the barn floor. 

Anyhow, where was I?  The newborn's parents were sehltering in the manger in the desert around a burg called "Bethlehem."

This particular birth is simplicity itself.  There were no hotel rooms with gold faucet taps or an available spa.  There were no flocked trees in the manger's lobby 'cause there wasn't even a lobby.

Moving on.  God is credited with creating everything in the world - oceans, mainlands, deserts, mountains and furnishing them with shores, cliffs and forests.  God made several varieties of trees - some bear nuts, others vegetables or fuits and some just sit there, looking pretty in groups or alone.  You could say that posing is their job.

My point is:  if these trees "as is" were/are beautiful to God, who are we to come along gild the lily?  I knew you'd see it my way. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Boxing Day cont'd

Now I'm thinking "food."  It needs to be substantial because no dinner offered; it has to be winter appropriate so no pastis or salsa and chips...

Leafing through a cookbook, I came across these... mini Reuben sandwiches on party rye -- corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing.  Nope, too messy.   I considered Won Tons, but too labor intensive.   All of the meat kabobs were out as we don't have an outdoor grill and I'm not really crazy about using Broil on the oven. 

There was a recipe, called "Onion-buttered Tidbits" which was pita pockets cup open slathered with Lipton's Onion Soup Mix and butter, then cut into triangles and baked in a 325 oven.  Do you know how much salt onion dip mixes have? 

No, I think I'll stay with the tried and true.   Things people have actually devoured.  To my amazement, one of those things is quesadillas!  I get the medium-size tortilla --- the ones the size of tablecloths would make more of them at once, but I don't think I have a pan large enough to cook them. 

QUESADILLAS - flour tortilla, chopped Swiss cheese (lovely buttery flavor) and that's it.  Fold the tortilla in half, butter the top side and fry the "dry" side in butter, peek and flip them onto the buttered side and finish.  Cut them into slices with a pizza cutter, plate them and have fresh salsa sitting beside that plate. 

They're labor intensive, but I love them.  Pigs in Blankets  (doesn't date me too much!  I think these were a '50s hottie...)  
Tube of Crescent rolls, dough spread out flat on a cutting board.  "Butter" with Coleman's mustard and orange marmalade.  Now cut them into strips and wind them around mini-Lil Smokies or hot dogs and bake at whatever heat the roll package says to use.

 I also like a bunch of the frozen appetizers -- mushroom and Brie pastries,  shrimp won tons with various sauces beside them;  Bacon-wrapped scallops, Mac and Cheese balls - surprisingly supple...quiches that can be cut in thin slices...  Brace yourself, Trader Joe, I'm going to be inbound!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tah Dah! (Yet) Another Holiday to Celebrate!

From my voracious reading, I'm familiar with English writers and their mentions of "Boxing Day."

You may not be, so to explain, it's the day in Great Britain set aside for giving servants and tradespeople a "Christmas box" of money, treats or goods.  It's a national holiday there and in many other countries, pretty much, just not America. 

It could be compared to our (loathsome) "Black Fridays."

We used to have a Christmas Eve Open House from 3 to 7 p.m. and the idea was that if you were going somewhere else, take time to pop into our house for a drink and a bite and be on your merry way.  If you didn't have anything else to do, well, come early and stay late!

Christmas day parties (and I only tried  it once) don't really work out.  Most people have set routines with family and/or friends.

But most of our friends are older and I don't like to think of them driving in the dark which now arrives around 4:30 p.m.

So I thought, what about a Boxing Day party from 1 to 4 p.m., same rules as for Christmas Eve?  Since none of us have servants, I thought it might be fun to trade off any White Elephants received for Christmas.  Some light-hearted horse trading would be tremendous fun!

For this kind of event, you need to offer substantial appetizers because it's not a sit-down dinner.  I bought a three-dish heating tray from Target last year ($27) and it works perfectly because the lids are clear, you can see what you're about to stumble onto and the hostess can pass the table and see at a glance what needs to be replenished.

And I can tell you now with no hesitation whatsoever that the food I'd serve would be as far away from "holiday food" as you can get!  We just pushed back from Thanksiving and a three day turkey-thon.  I'm good for a whole year of no more turkey and trimmings. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"She's a Fascist!" "She sleeps with Nazis!" "My dear, she worked in a Chinese brothel and (whisper, whisper)"

"That Woman: the Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor" by Anne Sebba   St. Martin's Press   344 pages   $27.99

The Queen Mother is the one who never referred to her in any other way than "That Woman."  In return David and Wallis called her "Cooky" because she (to them) looked and acted like a cook. 

Yes, adoration on both sides.

This book finally discloses the real reason Simpson was so reviled in the British press when the affair was discovered.  It wasn't because this common, Yankee woman was determined to steal the heir to  the throne.   It wasn't because she was said to have led a very "interesting" life.  It was because she had not one, but TWO living ex-husbands! 

In the '30s, divorces in England were hard to get.  In fact, the pleader had to essentially go through divorce proceedings twice.  The first to establish adultery (the only grounds at that time) and wait for the judge to mull over the circumstances for a decree nisi and then go back for a second hearing to get the final, permanent divorce.  And there was no guarantee that the judge would grant it.  If he did not, hey, baby - that's it.  You're joined for life!

Moreover, the greater population of England - East Enders to the highest peerages and positions were (more or less) devout Christians and the King is the titular representative of the Church of England.  That was the source of the raging uproar of indignation. 

The King was stupidly stubborn, too.  He refused to marry her and then keep her hidden in the shadows of a morganic marriage.  He wanted her on his arm, afforded the exact same courtesies as were given to him.  For the rest of his life he fought to have her recognized as royal.  And Cooky turned up her nose and laughed.

I was always curous about Ernest Simpson.  Why did he knowingly allow her to cuckold him without making scenes about it?  Because she told him that David would soon lose interest in her and at the end of this affair, they would have improved what today we would call "name recognition."  But the King turned into The Joker and at the end, the joke was on her.  He flatly refused to give her up!  I'll abdicate!  I'll kill myself!

She was obsessed about money (never having had a lot of it) and during the abdication scenes urged him to make sure that he/they got a substantial allowance.  (Remittance money, actually.)  This despite being covered in glorious gems.  Apparently it never occurred to her that in case of desperate need, she could sell a piece or two.  But she never relinquished what she felt was hers and hers alone.

It's a sad cautionary tale about two very selfish and shallow people.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words...

And then the wolves went to another house.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thanksgiving Poem to Amuse You

The following ran in this morning's "Annie's Mailbox," Daily Breeze.  The author is unknown.

Twas the Night of Thanksgiving

'Twas the night of Thanksgiving,
but I just couldn't sleep.

I tried counting backwards,
I tried counting sheep

The left-overs beckoned --
the dark meat and white,
but I fought the temptation with
all of my might

Tossing and turning with anticipation,
the thought of a snack became infatuation

So I raced to the kitchen,
flung open the door
and gazed at the fridge, full
of goodies galore.

I gobbled up turkey and buttered potatoes,
pickles and carrots, beans and tomatoes

I felt myself swelling so plump and so round,
till all of  sudden, I rose off the ground

I crashed through the ceiling,
floating into the sky
with a mouthful of pudding and a handful of pie.

But I managed to yell as I soared past the trees...
Happy Eating to all!
Pass the cranberries please!

Indeed -- happy eating to all. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Etiquette Tips

As a general rule, Thanksgiving dinners are most often attended by family members so you may be wondering, "So why do I have to mind my manners around them?"

Because you do, that's why.

If you are a guest, the usual good manners apply.  Some of them include:

Do not bring your hostess cut flowers; bring a small plant instead.  Reason?  With cut flowers, your hostess has to stop everything to get out a vase, put water in that and arrange the flowers.  A small plant means it can be cooed over briefly and then stuck on a table or the mantle piece or anywhere and the chef can get back to the kitchen.

Prior to the meal, do not offer to help.  "What?" you gasp.  The person cooking the food has mapped out a complicted menu in his/her head and already Has A Plan.  "This will be done by the time I do that..."  Don't distract their train of thought.  This is food we're talking about.

When you step in is after the repast.  Guest:  quietly gather up your plate and silverware, offer to take the person's next to you, go into the kitche and scrape and stack both.  Family member:  Stand up and bellow, "I'll be bussing the table in a minute,  so eat up!"

Make your first servings small so that you can go back for "seconds" and melt the chef's heart.

But before the first bite is taken, it is customary to lift a glass and toast the chef.

If grace is to be said and you're asked to say it, do not go all religous and ramble on about Jesus and "things to be thankful for" for about for five minutes.  There are hungry people here.  Do you really want them to be thankful that you finally shut up?

Guest:  if the silver is obviously old and admirable, say so.  Family member:  do not say, "That's Great-Aunt Hilda's gravy ladle!  I was supposed to get that!"

Feed any kids first so that you can then plop them down to watch a video and everyone else can enjoy an adult dinner. 

Never bring your dog.  Exception:  police and seeing eye dogs.  They know how to behave.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Prep Work...

My sister just e'd me a Williams-Sonoma recipe and wanted to know if I thought it sounded good.

Fresh long green beans, wrapped in a 3 or 4 bean bundle with a strip of bacon holding the bundle together; a glaze of butter and brown sugar over the bundle and then bake for 20 minutes. 

It didn't appeal to me (too much grease) but you might just love it. 

I made a marvelous discovery at Trader Joe's Monday.  I'd been mulling the turkey situation - brined or kosher.  Frequent readers know that I abhor adding salt to foods - either during preperation or to the finished product. 

As I stood there, looking dumbly at the two types of turkeys, my eye wandered and I found they are also selling whole, totally-cooked roast turkeys!  I slammed one into our grocery cart with more speed than perhaps was called for...

Advantages:  it only has to be in a 350 oven for an hour and 30 minutes.
I don't have to root around inside a cold turkey (from the disposal end of a large bird) for a bloody bag of entrails.  I don't have to endure the ghastly odor a raw turkey makes when it starts to cook.

I thought it was a bit pricey - 10.83 lbs. for $39.80, but my sister reports she paid $50 for a 10 lb. organic bird. 

This year I have upgraded the green-bean/mushroom soup casserole to new heights of glory.  For years, I have drained two cans of Dole French green beans into a casserole dish, dumped in a can of Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup and stirred it up.  I set the Durkee fried onions aside in a little bowl so people can use the amount they want. 

The upgrade?  Trader Joe's frozen imported French green beans (which are thinner than Blue Lakes) with their Cream of Portobello mushroom soup.  I bought a can of their fried onions and can report that they have considerably less breading than other brands.  The recipe printed on the can says to saute crimini mushrooms and onions in butter, add the frozen green beans and cook, then dilute the Cream of Portobello and add that; cover with cheese and the fried onions and bake until bubbly.  I think that's taking it just a little tooo far...

If you're doing a ham, this is a quick stuffing to serve with it - PINEAPPLE DRESSING
Cream 1/2 cup sugar and one-half cup butter together.  One by one, beat in four eggs.  Add 5 cups of torn-up white bread slices and then dump in a 19 oz. can of crushed pineapple - juice and all -- mix thoroughly and bake at 350 for an hour. 

My final advice?  Do every bit of prep work that you can before Thursday.  Yesterday I cut a baguette into half-inch cubes, bagged it and it's ready to rock and roll.  Good thing I've been doing upper body work at the gym;  it was a day old baguette.   Those babies don't want to give an inch.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Seasonal Stress Reliever

Much is said about holiday stress; the running around from shop to shop, making sure you got the right toy for the demanding kid ("No!  Not the one with the polka-dot dress!") meal planning and food shopping.  Not unusually, all of us will have an entertainment to throw - an open house on Christmas Eve aka The Arrival of the Grasshoppers or a meal after midnight mass.  The family Christmas breakfast with every relative you ever had.

Enough to drive you out of your mind, especially if you throw in bad weather, heavy traffic and fighting over the last cart in the lot.

Should we all start taking a 5mg Valium with our morning coffee?  No! (not that it's a bad idea) not at all.  I recommend selected doses of Erma Bombeck.

If you have never heard of this writer, this is an excellent time to discover here.  There's an old saying in writing and  it is "write what you know."  She wrote about being a wife and the mother to three kids.  And she's funny as hell.

On a son't apartment and his life style:  "Actually the cockroach and our son had a lot in common.  They both came out at night, ate cold fast food and knew how to empty a room."

Her husband loved Halloween and greeting the various kids although he was prone to mistakes.  "Well, what have we here?  Silver shoes.  A fringed shawl.  A comb in the hair.  I got it!  A Spanish dancer.  Come here, Erma, and help me guess who this is."

For crying out loud!  It's Evelyn picking me up to go to the shopping center!"

Erma married Bill Bombeck in 1949 when she was 22.  Age 20 she'd been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disorder (genetic) but most of her adult life it didn't trouble her.  In 1992, she was diagnosed with breast cancer; in 1996 she needed a kidney transplant which was attempted on April 3rd, but due to complications she died April 22.  She was 69.

Arguably she didn't have much to laugh about in her later years, but she never lost her sense of humor.  She was a woman of awesome bravery and great wit.  She's an inspiration to us all in times of stress.  Like the holiday season.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Set In Stone

And that would be the Thanksgiving Day menu.  A lot of our nationally-celebrated holidays have set menus - a ham or side of beef at Christmas and ham agan at Easter. 

The only variations are the side dishes which vary from family to family.  I've been cooking these for as long as I can remember -- green beans and mushroom soup casserole, candied yams with baking spices -- allspice, mace, cinnamon, ginger - whatever's around. 

Years ago I used to make Lime Green Jell-0 with Cottage Cheese.  Finally one T-Day I realized  that no one had eaten any of it but me so I took it off the line-up.  But I still like cottage cheese and canned peaches in the summer - so there!  It's something we do in the Midwest to explain our love for this old-fashioned dish. 

This year I'm upgrading the green bean casserole by using Trader Joe's fresh, frozen French green beans, Portobello Mushroom Soup and their house-brand fried onions for the topping.

Another change - instead of crescent rolls, I'm going to make a pan of jalapeno and corn kernels cornbread with honey butter.  I've always enjoyed making the rolls - Pla-Doh! but only half get eaten and they don't make very good leftovers. 

Richie and I have settled the annual war about the turkey amiably this year.  Since no one will eat the dark meat, I want to do just a breast.  But Richie howls like a wounded hyena, "I want a REAL turkey!"  By this he means the whole bird, wings, legs and all.  But the other week, my friend Marcelle mentioned in passing that she likes the dark meat.  "It has more flavor," she said.  She just won the Legs Lottery!

I like to think of all of the happy people across our nation, happily speculating on what will be served to them when they are hosted at someone else's table.  The residents, of course, already know.  Same as last year.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Playing With A Turkey

Richie got a little creative --  and he made that pumpkin pie!

The Cat's new best friend - and bolster


Friday, November 16, 2012

A Fascinating Read

"Unreal Estate" by Michael Gross   Broadway Press   488 pages   $30

This book details the histories of some of the most famous homes in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Holmby Hills and Beverly Park including the people who owned them and, more importantly, how they made the money to buy in any of those communities as well as the scandal's some of them created.   It's gossipy, but factual; Gross is very good at that.  It's a yenta's dream book!

As it happens, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment at 425 N. Oakhurst Drive, BH 90210 for 14 years.  My friend Berenice and I used to walk the residential streets or the walkway along Santa Monica for exercise  on most Saturday mornings.  So I've seen quite a few of them.  But, of course, never met the owners!

The history begins back in 1911 when Beverly Hills was pretty much just ranches and farms. 

One of the early residences was Greystone aka "The Dohney Mansion" and it's one of the most opulent homes with 45,054 sq. ft. and 67 rooms for cards,  linens,  sewing and gift wrapping!  Candy Spelling wasn't the first person to think of that.  The estate had its own telephone system with two switchboards. 

Today it can be rented out from the City of Beverly Hills and Richie's niece Kate did just that for her wedding reception.  We were not allowed inside of the house, but the spacious terrace that we were allowed to use ran along one, loooong wall of the house.  To use the facilities it was necessary to walk across a lot of lawn and skirt a couple of gardens to reach the park-maintained facilities.   

Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay bought Rudy Vallee's old house at 10100 Sunset in Holmby Hills.  Hargitay, formerly a carpenter and plumber painted the exterior of the house and the wall around it a bright pink and it glittered because he mixed in quartz dust with the paint.

As if that wasn't enough to make themselves noticeable, they furnished the house with such as a pink shag carpet, pink furniture, a paino painted with cupids, a heart-shaped pink bathtub.  Oh!  And a heart-shaped swimming pool. 

When we used to use Sunset to go to Malibu, we'd always look for it on the lefthand side of the street.  Incidentally, Mansfield was not beheaded in the car crash that killed her.

Random addresses to google - 10644 Bellagio Road, Bel Air aka "Casa Encantada" home for the Conrad Hilton clan.  10236 Charing Cross Road, Holmby Hills aka Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion. 

How the neighborhood has changed...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

You Put What In This?

We're all accustomed to the universality of some foods.  Eggs, for example, can be dressed up with various additions or dressed down - poached or hard-boiled.

There are many dishes that combine chips of some kind in scrambled egg.  In Israel, they're Matzo Brei which is eggs beaten with water-softened matzos; In Mexico, they're called  Chilaquiles which are eggs beaten up with pieces of a tortilla or tortilla chips, but this is something new:

1 dozen large eggs
1 5-oz. bag of jalapeno-flavored potato chips, lightly crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large scallions, sliced

Get the olive oil going, break the eggs in a bowl, add the bag of "slightly" crushed potato chips -- and what about barbecue or red-hot Fritos -- beat them up, start the scallions in the skillet and add the mixture. 

So, where did it com from?  Potato chips... Irish potato famine... aha!  Dublin!  And!  If you use salt and vinegar-flavored chips, then you've made that old British classic minus the fish and the chips.

Food & Wine, Dec. 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Winter Foods

But I Bet George H. W. Bush Still Wouldn't Eat It!

2 oz. sliced pepperoni
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs which is weird because as far as I know, the Japanese do not eat bread)
1/4 cup plus 2T olive oil  (they call for extra-virgin, but when I saw what happens to it, "regular" olive oil is just as good.  And cheaper.)
2 lbs. broccoli, trimmed into long spears
2 T Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 425.
Chop the pepperoni, garlic and bread crumbs in a mini-cuisinart
Put 2 T of olive oil in a skillet and cook the bread mix until it's crisp then scrape it onto a plate and let it cool. 

It also occurs to me that one coud boil or steam-cook the broccoli, dip the florets in a shallow dish of Dijon and then wrap a slice of pepperoni around the brocc' and toothpick it.  Be a helluva lot easier...

Toss the broccoli with the rest of the olive oil, spread it on a rimmed cookie sheet and roast it for about 15 minutes.  Turn it once.  Then spread mustard on one side of the broccoli and press the broccoli into the crumb mixture. 

Anthony Bourdain remarked in the December issue of Food & Wine that you can never have too much cheese, bacon or starch.  This is first cousin to scalloped potatoes, but doesn't contain milk. 

2 1/2 lbs. potatoes peeled
1/2 lb. slab bacon cut in a small dice
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup dry white wine
pepper to taste
1 lb. Reblochon-style cheese, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350.  Cook the potatoes, drain and let cool until you can cut them into a small dice and set them aside.
Cook the bacon, drain off all but 1T bacon fat and saute the onion until it's a golden brown. 
Add the bacon, the wine and finally the potatoes.  Stir it up.  Put half of this mixture into an oven-proof dish.  Spread half of the cheese over the potatoes, add the rest of the potatoes and cover with cheese again.  Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes  or until it turns golden brown and begins to bubble. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gleanings From a Barren Field

At the Jazz Club
When we walked in, everyone was on their feet and the pick-up band was playing something so badly -- all tweets and twits with the odd horn screech -- that I didn't recognise it until the last eight bars!  "God Bless America" which explains why no one had their hand over their heart - except me.  Better safe than sorry...

Umami In A Bottle
Trader Joe is selling a seasoning blend called "South African Smoke" composed of paprika flakes, sea salt, garlic and basil.  These are all big flakes so the 1.76 oz. bottle has a twist grinder in the top of the jar. I used it on a t-bone steak and it fitted right in.  I still haven't figured out what to do with the Smoked Salt that Joe also sells. 

Good With A Bloody Mary? - Bacon Candy
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teas. chile powder
20 slices of thick-cut bacon

Pre-heat the overn to 400.  Line two rimmed cookie sheets with foil.  Mix the sugar and chile powder together and cover the raw bacon with it.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the sugar carmelizes, then un-pan it onto a rack.  Store at room temperature.

As Long As You're in the Kitchen - Brazilian Truffles
1 14. oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 teas. salted butter
chocolate sprinkles for rolling the truffles

Combine everything but the sprinkles in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until it's thick and shiny - about 15 minutes.  Spread the mixture out in a shallow dish and let it cool.  Butter your hands and form the mixture into balls and roll in the sprinkles.  Variations could include coconut shreds or candied orange peel that's been cut into a fine, fine dice -- think "dust."   

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Tony Tour of Long Beach and San Pedro II

After we left Out of the Closet (picture me, morosely sulking in the back seat) we headed to the Catalina Sea and Air Terminal, Berth 95, San Pedro for dinner.  You might think that dinner in a terminal would hardly be chic, but Bistro Catalina will surprise you.  Situated on the San Pedro end of the Vincent Thomas Bridge, Bistro has a big patio between two banks of outdoor seating with a gorgeous view across the water towards Long Beach. 

One of the views

The Charcuterie Plate

Richie's Bistro Burger

Pulled pork Sliders
 Inside the terminal there is a take-out counter on your right and a glassed-in dining room on your left, beautifully done up in Italian marble and muted tones.   Because we were belatedly celebrating Tony's birthday - very belatedly; it was Sept. 30th, I ordered a bottle of Domaine St. Michel rose champagne for Tony and self.  Richie had an Alaskan Amber Ale.    This champagne is $17/bottle and is a bargain - Tony and I managed to get nearly three full flutes each.  A single flute of a different champers is $8 a glass! 

Wonderful onion rings and Tony's fish and chips

Tony liked his fish but said the cole slaw was a little dry.  Mine was but mine was on the plate and his was in a little cup.  Go figure.  Richie ate all of his burger but said the meat had chopped onion and Portobello mushroom mixed into it (which didn't sound like a bad thing to me.)

The onion rings and the fish both use the same batter which I suspect had traces of cayenne pepper.  A faint heat, but nothing to complain about.  Portions are huge.  I didn't eat any of the grilled King's Hawaiian rolls and still only managed to eat most of the meat on one slider.  Our bar tab was $31; the food before taxes was $47.50.

At dusk, the bridge's blue lights come on and Tony couldn't get over the fact that this place exists -- and he hadn't known about it!  He was born in this area and has lived all of his life in it.  He was blown away by the scenery -- the bridge arching up high, high above the water and the new Catalina Sea Terminal, of all places. 

Bistro Catalina, Berth 95, San Pedro  310-519-7971    I'd like to go back on a sunny, summer day and soak up the view (as well as some of their good food.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

At The Gay Thrift Shop

The other day, pulling out of the gym's garage, we were overwhelmed by the sight of a shocking-pink van emblazoned "Out of the" tooling smartly down the street.  What a cool name for a thrift shop!  When we got home, I Googled it and found that they also offered free AIDs tests, had a pharmacy and clearly catered to a gay clientele.  The closest store was located in Long Beach.

Instantly, I e'd our friend Tone who is a Long Beach resident, born in San Pedro.  He knows that area like few  could.  He knew about "Out" - had even been in it once.  One thing led to another and ...

Yesterday afternoon, we left our car at his house, hopped into his 4-door pick-up truck and embarked on The Tone Tour.  "This corner used to have a fruit and vegetable market ... See over there?  that used to be a bar..." 

And, speaking of bars, we rolled into his local pub for a refreshing pitcher of beer.  After all, we'd been driving on a bitter cold and windy day for as long as 10 minutes!  Hydration was clearly required!

After we all took our meds, we rolled onward.  My excitement mounted.  When I'd realized that "Out of the Closet" was a gay charity I had had wonderful visions of rows of Great Big, High-Heeled Shoes, feather boas, foaming off their racks,  shelves of costume jewelry, sequined tops and tables of black mesh stockings lined up in a row.  And groups of large men shrieking in delight, "Girl!  That is SO you!" at their finds.  A sort of roadshow version of either of the two  "Cage Aux Folle." s.

Reality was shockingly different.  There wasn't a tranny in the place, but there were two Hispanic women quietly browsing the women's section.  Richie and Tone picked through the men's stuff - a Polo here, an Armani there...but nothing stirred them to reaching for their billfolds.   True, there were fancy cocktail dresses glittering in the windows, but they were probably left over from Halloween.  The shelves of glasses, vases, bric-a-brac could have been in any old store.

It was a true thrift shop, indistinguishable from any Goodwill or Salvation Army or Children's Hospital.  You cannot begin to imagine my disappointment.   

To Be Continued

Friday, November 9, 2012

Not My Cup of Tea, But Maybe Yours...

"Dinner, A Love Story" by Jenny Rosenstrach   Harper Collins Publishers   312 pages   $27.99

This is the story of how Rosenstrach and her husband managed to eat dinner with their two daughters almost every night of the week despite the fact that both parents worked full-time.  In addition to favorite family recipes, she discusses how to plate the food to accomodate everyone at the table. One kid doesn't like avocado?  The other won't eat cheese?  Serve the hated foods on the side and let everyone add what they want to add.  

 There are tips on how to get your children to converse at the table - Never ask them a direct question,  such as "How was your day at school?" instead ask about someone else in their class.  How to introduce new foods to them without a fuss on their parts - She made "fish presents" of salmon  filets in aluminum foil that had been baked in the oven - and meal planning.  "Date night" turns into Saturday morning grocery shopping - both parents like to cook and eagerly clip recipes.

The following recipe appealed to me for several reasons -- I like Asian food, Richie doesn't; he's currently on a peanut butter rampage (Ritz crackers with a smear of peanut butter) and, finally, as a tribute to our French godson who lived with us a couple of months when he was 20 while his parents fondly thought he was learning fluency in English.  What he was doing was riding his bike all over the beach cities and playing pick-up basketball.  He lived on peanut butter and frozen waffles!   He's now 30 and thriving so I guess it didn't hurt him.

1 lb. udon noodles or spaghetti
1 small garlic clove
1-in. piece of peeled ginger
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2/3 cup warm water
2 T soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
1 T red wine or cider vinegar
1 teas. sugar
red chile flakes to your taste

Cook the pasta and drain it.  While it's cooking, put the garlic and ginger in a food processor  until they are finely chopped.  Add everything else and process the whole mess until it's creamy.     Suggested toppings include sliced cucumbers, chopped peanuts, sugar snap peas or shredded chicken. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Who Knew?

High Times In Israel!
Richie, who reads the newspaper a lot more thoroughly than I, told me that Israel has had legal marijuana for the past 10 years!  We have friends in a Tel Aviv suburb and Sheila has never mentioned it.  Apparently it is a milder version of the drug; even very ill children are prescribed it.

"Salty Snacks - Make Your Own Chips, Crisps, Crackers, Pretzels, Dips and Other Savory Bites" by Cynthia Nims.  $16.95

Make your own crackers?!  The secret?  A pasta rolling machine!  Make the dough, let it rise, run chunks through the pasta rollers, cut to the desired size and bake.  I would never have thought of making crackers  - they'reare what?  $2.95 for a big box? 

I think her Salami Chips would set fire to my oven, but here's what you do:  Put parchment paper or a SilPat on a rimmed cookie sheet; lay out a single layer of salami slices and bake for about 10 minutes at 350 until the chips are evenly browned and rigid.  Transfer to paper towels and let cool. 

She recommends this dip for them - 1/4 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup mayonnaise and 2 T grainy mustard - mix together and serve with the salami slices. 

She gives recipes for all kinds of salty delicacies - Duck Fat Potato Chips (to be honest I don't get it about duck fat; I've had French fries made with it and "Meh?" was my reaction.)  Coconut Crisps with Basil and Chilis - the coconut is shaved strips of "real" coconut - you know, the hairy balls sometimes seen at the supermarket produce section?  Pickld Trout with Horseradish sauce anyone?  Popcorn with Chili-Lime butter and Cotija cheese is a riff on slices of pineapple with chile powder and lime juice. 

In retrospect, I would think that Trader Joe might try to put this book on the Banned List, if such a thing still exists.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Today we mourn the loss of Decency, Honor, Patriotism and Class, all of whom were killed on the freeway to Freedom when an out-of-control Chicago-bound bus crossed the divider.  The bus driver, who was smoking a large blunt, was unharmed. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Update

In earlier report, forgot to mention poll watchers in every corner of the room.  There was no way our place would have what is occurring in other locations:

Obama mural, Philadelphia polling place
Obama poster, polling place Florida
Poll watcher threatened by a gun in Detroit polling place, 911 refused to respond
The election judge in a Chicago district wearing an Obama cap...

File under "cheap tricks"

A Report from a Southern California Voter

Our polling place is the hall of a Masonic Center that is on the border of Redondo and Manhattan Beachs.  Their side of the street is Manhattan; the other side is Redondo.  Once inside, we were directed to the yellow table; they to the red table.

We got the last parking space in the lot.  We did the formalities and had to stand for a couple of minutes before a booth opened up.  This was at 9:35 a.m., well after most people (that have jobs) are at work. 

The poll workers said this was the biggest voter turn-out they collectively could recall.  One woman said that people were lined up into the parking lot at 7 a.m. when our polls officially open.  They close at 7 p.m.  This is extraordinary because voters here are notorious for not showing up.  We have often been the only customers of the moment and the poll workers have had to put down their knitting, magazine or crossword puzzle to serve us. 

Everyone was in a good, but serious mood.  We had one first-time voter and he got cheered. 

                                             The die has been cast - hic jacet est. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Some Cynics on Voting

"There is no such thing as not voting; you either do it or you vote by staying at home and tacitly double the value of the voter's vote."  David Foster Wallace

"Every election is decided by the people who show up."  Larry J. Sabato

"If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side."  Orson Scott Carol

"When I was a boy, I was told that anybody could become President.  I'm beginning to believe it."  Clarence Darrow


Get out the vote!  Offer a ride to the polls to an elderly neighbor; tell the parents with the young family next door that you'd be happy to watch their kids while they go vote.  Nag your friends and family and co-workers to get the lead out and the vote in.

And bartenders - give customers who are carrying ballot stubs and/or wearing "I Voted" stickers a free drink!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cats - Meet the Pandas!

To explain - yesterday Richie said, "I'm taking the car over to Sears for a new battery, you want to come?" 

Thinking quickly, I said, "Yes - they carry Land's End and I like their winter tops."  But as we passed House Slippers, I remembered I need a new pair; thus, the panda slippers above.  Not because I have special regard for pandas, but they come up over the ankles!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Head Count

We had a grand total of five (five) trick or treaters.  My sister e'd from her town, some 20 miles north of Chicago, that they had 45!    Five kids didn't use up much of the candy so it goes to Thurs. Writers this afternoon (and not directly onto my hips.) 

Still, it's better than the year our street got totally blitzed with kids -- minivans, a couple of those little shuttle buses - we were scrambling!  Apparently a grade school got the idea and the parents carried through on it with what can only be described as enthusiasm.  Manic enthusiasm.

Richie shot photos last night; I'll put them up when he's downloaded his camera.