Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Kitten Who Liked Bird Seed

Fred is now nine months old.  He is full of pep and energy; can outrun a fat man going to the table and is curious about absolutely everything in this house.  Sink strainer to ballpoint pens (what?  he's going to write his Mom?) nothing seems to escape his scrutiny.

And speaking of that, Richie was the first to notice what he was doing at the bird's cage.  Lady Bird is a fearless cockatiel and clearly regards taunting him as an indoor sport.  He tries to stick his nose into the cage  and she charges  him, wings spread wide, beak open and squawking like a wild animal.  Oops, she IS a wild bird. 

Undaunted he continued to try to pull the tray out from the cage bottom.  And then Richie said, "Look!  He pulls the tray out to run his paw like a scoop for the stray bits of bird seed and  eats it!" 

Instantly I felt guilty - "Oh, my God - aren't we feeding him enough?  How awful!"  I should point out that he goes through two cans of wet food per day plus the 24-hour kibbles buffet. 

I asked Google if there was something wrong?  The reassuring answers came thick and fast.  The best response was a farmer who wrote "I've been watching cats after the outdoor bird feeders for 45 years and I have never come across a dead cat lying under the bird feeder." 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Delayed Gossip

"Joe and Marilyn - Legends in Love" by C. David Heymann   Emily Bestler Books   438 pages   $27

This book seems to be a fair representation of their lives, relying more on actual quotes rather than the author's speculations ... "She must have been crushed."  You will note that no source is cited in that remark.  Speculation has no place in a biography. 

Joe and Marilyn's marriage only lasted nine months.  She dumped him -- taciturn, jealous and cheap - for playwright Arthur Miller.  It has been suggested that this marriage was to impress others that Marilyn, too, was an intellectual.    This marriage lasted for three years until Marilyn, having grown tired of a husband who locked himself in his study every day, all day, to write, embarked on a wild affair with Yves Montand. 

And then Montand's wife Simone Signorer returned from a business trip to Paris.  Busted! 

Heymann was clever in his choice of "legends" to portray because though divorced, Marilyn and Joe continued to see one another until she died.  Heymann gets to cover all of her paramours for just that reason - Joe was always close at hand to pull her chestnuts out of the fire. 

Much of the book is a more factual look at the events which was not possible during the throes of the event actually occurring.  Delayed (Joe would be 100 and Marilyn 88 today) but still delicious gossip.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Square Watermelons and Pumpkinsteins

A man named Tony Dighera, 53, of Fillmore, CA, has come up with a Halloween/Octoberfest pumpkin that resembles Frankenstein's head. 

Dighera is a retired backhoe operator for the LA Dept. of Water and Power.  Ten years ago, he retired and bought a 40-acre organic farm that he named "Cinagro" or organic backwards. 

Not content with merely growing everything organically, he searched for a money-maker.  Inspired by the inedible Japanese square watermelon (grown in square jars) he spent four years and $500,000 (mostly borrowed) to bring to fruition (couldn't resist, apologies) his version of Frankenstein's head from a pumpkin.  He uses two-sided molds as the pumpkin grows.  Apparently it's a tricky process -- too much area covered and the pumpkins will condense; too small and they won't develop into the final shape.  

He is about to reap his initial investment big time - each Pumpkinstein wholesales for $75 each and retails at such as Bristol Farms, Gelsons and Whole Foods for $100 an $125 each.  He reports he has sold 5,500 of them and is very nearly sold out for next year's crop.  

dailybreeze.com or Cinagro probably has a Website.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner = $5,881 (Plus Tip)

Town & Country put out a travel issue which I perused excitedly because the editors there are all seriously delusional about the amount of money anyone would spend on various items.  They clearly feel that we all have $10,000 per day to buy "fun" things like an $8,000 bicycle or $2,000 each bangle bracelets and so on.  I always laugh when I get this magazine.  I don't have that kind of money nor does anyone I know and none of us ever will, barring a lucky strike on the lottery. 

Be that as it may.  I found an article titled "Monumental Meals" which sounded interesting because I was thinking 20-course meals.  Wrong. 

Their suggestions:
Breakfast on the top of the Arc de Triomph, Paris
From 8 to 9:30 a.m. the roof is available for a lavish breakfast of caviar, truffle omelets and croissants with mimosas to wash it all down.  You and seven of your besties will pay a total of $21,450 or $2,651 per person.  The meter is running ...

Lunch on the Great Wall of China
A section of the wall about 2 1/2 hours from Beijing is not well-traveled so it serves as the spot.  But there is no cooking allowed on the wall.  Are they afraid it would catch fire?  From what I've seen of it, it seems to be singularly  fireproof.  Chinese food doesn't travel well 'tis said so you may wind up paying $1,000 per person for a much-handled Quarterpounder. 

Dinner at Angkor Wat
This venue is used as a private dinner theater.  In addition to special Khmer classic foods, you will be treated to a tour of the whole place (with guide) and traditional dances will be performed for your post-prandial delight.  Dinner and a show and a tour (breathtaking, eh?) for $2,200 per person.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Oh, No! Here She Comes with the Figs Again!

I'll be brief. 

Richie brought home more fresh figs and when I screamed, he said, bewildered, "But you said you like figs?!"

I sighed, finally got around to doing something with them and that was to wash them and halve them, and put them in a jar for the refrigerator.

I remembered them when I had leftover cheese ravioli in  Alfredo sauce and tossed a couple in along with some pre-cooked cubes of pancetta.  Quite tasty!

Yesterday at Trader Joe's I came across boxes of Fig & Olive Crisps.  Reading the back of the box, I learned that figs and olives have been eaten together for "thousands of years."  They are small bites of what could have been thin, toasted slices of baguette, dotted with both fig and olive chunks and they go so well with Carambazola cheese that it's almost obscene.  Very definitely got added to the "What to feed company" list. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sahrvints in 2014

Due to the hugely popular British series - "Upstairs; Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" more of us than not know all about the servant's lives back in the day.

But what about today?  Do people still have servants?  I can reassure you on this point merely by remarking that if you have great swags of money and  things that  yourself would prefer not to do - you betcha!

"Servants" by Lucy Lethbridge   W. W. Norton& Co.  385 pages   $27.95  canswer any questions from the 19th century to 2014.  

Ex-military members are in high demand as butlers/bodyguards - oops, it's no longer "butler" but "house manager" and might include getting plane tickets or downloading the Boss' Blackberry. 

Flight attendants, hotel caterers and funeral directors (!) are all prized for their efficiency and frequent dealings with the public. 

An employment agency named Greycoat (est. 1996) caters to the Chinese new-rich looking for a British butler (and ONLY a British butler need apply,)  governesses are greatly in demand in Russia, but they have to have the paperwork showing their teaching exams.  Ladies maids are now called "wardrobe managers" and they are snapped up by women in the Middle East. 

Interestingly enough the same ban on interaction between master and servants is still of prime importance.  The roaringly expensive condos we see advertised?  The architect's plans included subterranean tunnels and hidden elevators so that the owner is promised privacy. 

Childcare is another wide open field for parents who both work (think Brangelino) and others well above the median income level.

As far as hiring out is a consideration, think of the words of Voltaire, "The comfort of the rich depends on an abundant supply of the poor."  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Love of Words and Phrases

P.G. Wodehouse was born in Britain on October 15, 1881, and died in America on February 14, 1975, at the age of 93.  He wrote humorously for 73 years! 

He is well known for his Bertie Wooster and butler Jeeves books.  The plot line is format:  Bertie gets into a scam or a scheme; Jeeves saves the day.  This series is a part of his 90 novels, 300 short stories as well as collaborations with musical productions as a lyricist for such as Noel Coward. 

Wodehouse had an enormous vocabulary in English, Greek and Latin and inventiveness in a lot of his prose.  The Bertie-Jeeves books take place post WW1 and are filled with the slang of the upper class.  "Lemon" or "bean" for "head."  "I scratched the old bean and said..."  Everyone prized and competed  for most originality or most wit.   "Pop your clogs" and "hand in your lunch bucket" both signify death. 

Throughout his books, there is a lightness of being; the characters may thrash around on the horns of various dilemmas but the reader knows that all will end as it should.  There is no darkness. 

And this is interesting why? you mutter?  Because Wodehouse mantel, dropped at his death, has been picked up, dusted off and slung around the manly shoulders of one Sebastian Faulks, a London writer.  The Wodehouse estate permitted him access to various papers and approved Faulks homage to Wodehouse -- "Jeeves and the Wedding Bells." 

"Jeeves and the Wedding Bells" by Sebastian Faulks  St. Martin's Press   243 pages   $25.99

Monday, September 22, 2014

Miss Manners at Work

"Miss Manners Minds Your Business" by Judith Martin and son Nicholas Martin   W. W. Norton and Co.   302 pages   $26.95

As a long-time fan of Manners, I seized upon her latest book.  Not because I am planning to actually get a job!  Perish the very thought!  But I was curious about how many things in an office setting would be new or strange to an old war horse like myself. 

Some of her ideas for a cultured (yet prosperous) office setting seemed rather dated to me.  For instance, to write a thank you note after a job interview.  And it should be handwritten on good paper.  In today's fiber optics-dominated world?

I agree whole-heartedly that when someone does something for one or is given something - whether expensive or merely a trinket - thanks are in order.

Miss Manners told me that writing the note keeps you fresh in the interviewers mind so that if you didn't get that job, down the road there may be another one and the note serves as notice that you are alive and well and just itching to get a job with that company. 

She uses the Q and A method, answering queries from people with specific questions.  Should a wife throw a retirement party for her husband?  No is the answer because he probably has work friends that would like nothing better to take him out for a drink or dinner. 

Miss Manners deplores "Casual Friday" dress.  She feels that a workplace is designed to promote  a professional air for the company.  She feels that the CEO who has to look out over a surge of men wearing earrings or women with cocktail party (or street corner) plunging necklines must wring his hands in impotent despair.  She adds that of course you want to "be you" -- but is that the "you" you want to be? 

Miss Manners suggests that management issue a memo, outlining in no uncertain terms exactly what constitutes "casual" in an office.  And then drop the word "casual" forevermore. 

Office Christmas parties - Miss Manners sums them up drily with this remark:  It still provides every employee an opportunity to obliterate a promising career in one carefree moment.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Not the Greatest Idea in the World

The Travel section of today's LA Times has an article of interest for people who are terrified of bringing home bedbugs and/or lice in their suitcases.

The Thermal Heated  Strike luggage has quite the feature.  Leave it shut, set a timer and the suitcase interior heats up to 140 degrees and kills the vermin.  It must be left "on" for two hours when the bag is empty (because you unpacked your clothing directly into the washer) but if you are leaving your clothes in it, their recommendation is eight hours.  

This is the part that I don't think is a good idea AT ALL.  You are leaving flammable materials alone with the power on.  The makers claim the heat will stop automatically.

But:  In Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training it was stressed that one should NEVER walk off and leave the electricity on - think crock pots, electric toothbrushes   In fact we unplug our toothbrushes before we leave town.  Frank the Cabbie always asks if we left the iron on.  As I have no idea what an iron is or what it is used for I am always able to say "No." 

Go see it for yourselves at thermalstrike.com

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Do You Know Your Sell-by Date?

That title was chosen rather than "Predicted Age at Time of Death"   This was thought to be more tactful.  Some people get all jumpy about Death.  Note that this is the most UN-scientific test possible and does not  consider any other factors aside from the ages of parents and grandparents at their time of death. 

If any (or) all of the above are still alive and flourishing, don't bother with this.  It is quite possible that you are 'way too young to be considering things like your own demise.

Begin your study by writing down the ages of your parents when they died.  We'll use my family as an example.

My father was 81;  my mother was 87.  Added together the sum is 168.  Now divide 168 by 2 and we get 84 which is the age I can be expected to pop my clogs.  As I am 74 now, 10 more years seems a bit scant somehow.  

My father's parents:  his father died age 64 ,  bringing the averages down but his mother helped the cause by living to age 101 and five months.  

My mother's parents:  her mother died at 87, her father to 96.

516 is the combined age of all of the above.  Divide by six because there are six of them.  The grand finale is 86 which is better than 84!

Disclaimer:  This very  not-scientific idea is presented to readers for amusement purposes and is not in any way to be considered seriously.  This is just rainy afternoon fun.

Friday, September 19, 2014

I Did It!

This is my 2,000th column and my columns have had  had 50,713 page views. 

                                                Thank you!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Zombie Pedestrians - Dead From the Neck Up

Richie and I run errands on a near-daily basis and for this reason, I am able to report on multiple sightings of pedestrians blithely stepping off of the curb and never looking up; never mind looking right or left. 

How insane is that?  Are there now whole generations who believe they are car proof?  That their deodorant or drone repellent will protect them?

They often have pods stuck in both ears, further increasing the danger of being hit by a car.  Oblivious, they saunter across the street, heads bobbing gently in time to the music.

Men and women both do it.  Teenagers in their hunting packs are aware of lights and traffic.  But the largest number of offenders are in their late '30s to early '40s.  What was going on in the '70s?  Did all of the parents work and leave the kids with a sitter who never got off of the couch or missed an afternoon soap opera? 

Did schools never teach any of these kids to "Look both ways" - they were hell-bent on drumming into us  Stop! Drop! Roll!  I have to wonder if they really did fear a pyromaniac on the playground. 

This is very rude behavior on the pedestrian's parts.  If a driver did hit and kill one, the guilt would require several months in a psychiatric facility and who is going to pay for that?!  Not the pedestrian's family, that's for sure.

I wish cities here would do what we've seen in Ireland and England.  At every stop sign the street is painted "Look to the right."  We could spend a little more on paint and mark ours, "Look both ways!"

Then, if they ignored the signs and did get hit, drivers would have the legal right to display the body like a hood ornament.  Be a great warning sight for other pedestrians - except they never look up to see traffic.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Indian Summer

This is a phrase most of us have heard from childhood on.  It refers to warm weather after the first killing frost of the approaching winter.  Since we don't have extreme weather in So. Calif. we pretty much have to depend on an El Nino or two to represent Indian Summer. 

In view of the fairly recent screams of protest against sports teams using anything "Indian" in their logos, I wondered if this prejudice extended to weather.

No, it does not.  Indian Summer by any other name is still the same thing.  But Europe and Asia have all been there long before upstart America appeared, they use a different name, not having any Indians of their own. 

Italy, Spain and Portugal all named it for a local saint.  In Germany and Austria it is called "Old Wives Summer" for reasons quite unclear to me.  Slavic countries refer to it as "Ladies Summer." 

But, America's "Indian Summer" became so popular that cargo ships using the Indian Ocean for transportation of goods, all had I.S. applied to the height that would be the amount of cargo that could be carried. So, hah!  Europe and Asia.

My fellow locals this heat surge currently tormenting us is just lingering "hot."  Console yourselves with an ice-clanking glass of tea - it's just another heat spell with no fancy name to it at all.  (sigh.) 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

Winos Who Recycle

The Daily Breeze Style section on Saturday featured an article on empty wine barrels that have been refurbished into chairs, stools, wine racks and "metal hoop art."  (Their phrase.) 

They reminded me strongly of Mexican patio furniture - the barrel-shaped chairs with the lattice work leather seats and backs, to give you a reliable visual.

I went to the two sites mentioned.  kingbarrel.biz  offers a bar table for four with a footrest or bar rail for $749.  To really class up the patio, buy a wine barrel trash can (trash bags extra) for $209.  

Over at  vita-vino.com  they are offering metal hoop art - mounted heads such as a moose ($1,195) or an antelope ($995) or even a chair (!) made from the staves of the wine barrels.  

All in all, now that you've planted the vines, reaped the harvest, crushed the grapes and you're ready to begin offering tastings, consider furnishing your tasting room with authentic wine barrels that have been re-purposed!  How cool would that be?  And you could keep a clean, but empty barrel to trundle over-enthusiastic tasters back to their cars discreetly.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Figging Out!

Not a misprint for "wigging out."  I am talking about too many figs...I wrote about them recently and Richie apparently took it to mean "Bring more figs home!"  And with a will, he tore through the Thursday Redondo Beach Farmers Market and bought another basket. 

Friday he had to go the Hermosa Farmers Market for strawberries and flowers.  He and The Strawberry Lady had struck up a conversation about figs the previous Friday and this Friday, she handed him the gift of a pint of homemade fig jam!  Rich and dense looking, absolutely packed with figs.  (Yes I will send her a return gift next Friday.) 

I was perplexed.  What could I do with all of these figs?  But then, just as despair was mounting, Food And Wine plopped into the mailbox and there I found this.

1 lb. fresh figs, stemmed and halved
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
Pepper to taste

Get your outdoor grill going - or your indoor grilling pan - and grill the figs, cut side down.  Put them in a bowl with the olive oil, vinegar and pepper.  When cool run once through the Cuisinart. 

I think you could save this in the refrigerator and have a go-to dish if we suddenly have company. 

The only problem remaining?  I already had a jar of fig jam in the refrigerator.  But:  waste not, want not.  And I really don't need (or want) any more figs for awhile.  I'm figged out. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

How To Tawk Dinah Tawk.

An American version of the English Cockney rhyming speech can be found in diners.  Strange statement, true, but I ran across a sample of it and it was intriguing.

A Cockney might say, "Up the apples and pears."  Stairs.  A diner waitress might call to the busboy, "Gimme two dog soups heyah."  No, it's not what you may be thinking - it's "water."   

You will undoubtedly be more exposed to Diner Talk in New York (18,780 diners there) than Southern California where we are pretty much limited to Ruby's or Johnny Rockets. 

mentalfloss.com "Understanding Diner Lingo:  55 Phrases to Get You Started" for more, but here's a sample:

Blonde with sand:  coffee with cream and sugar (sand.)
Bloodhound in the hay - hot dog with sauerkraut
Italian perfume - garlic
Burn the British - English muffin
Drag one through Georgia - Coca-Cola with chocolate syrup
Houseboat with a maiden's delight - banana split with a cherry
First lady - spare ribs - "spare" get it? 
Cackleberries - eggs
Customer will take a chance - hash
In the alley - served on the side
Mystery in the alley - side of hash
Heart attack on a rack - biscuits and gravy
Hemorrhage - catsup
Yellow paint - mustard
Nervous pudding - Jell-O
Frog sticks - French fries (and a not-so-veiled insult to the French)
On the hoof - any kind of meat cooked rare.  In the Dales, that phrase means "eating while you're walking."
Wax - American cheese
86 - to remove an item on a menu or in an order such as "86 the wax on the hockey puck" -which is a well-done hamburger.

Like many things in life, diner language is sometimes funny and sometimes very complex.  "Burn one, take it through the garden and pin a rose on it" would be a hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion.  On it's own "breath" is onion.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Help! My Left Foot Is Trying to Kill Me!

Let me begin this vicious tale of attempted revenge by saying that I have never done anything malicious to my left foot (or the right one either.)  I didn't force it to wear a too-tight shoe or one too high-heeled.  I didn't make it run down a beach covered in sea urchins nor across a desert covered in cactus!  Never! 

It begins in July ... when, after a 74 year peaceful interaction between us, I got up in the middle of the night to pee, cut it a little fine around the end of the bed and slammed my little toe and the bigger one next to it into the bedpost. 

It hurt, of course, but I was intent on other business and it would not have been the neighborly thing to let out prolonged screams of anguish at 3 a.m.

Turns out that both toes were broken.  The doctor amazed me when she referred to the "pinky toe" and commented, gesturing at the x-ray,  "You smashed it good!" 

This was after extensive x-rays (and a nice conversation with the tech, a man named Evgenky who is from Russia), supportive taping and, finally, an orthopedic shoe.  I thought then and still do today that was all a bit excessive when the most common treatment is to tape the two toes together and go about your business.  But it was nice meeting Evgenky whom I would see again rather shortly.  

Last Tuesday night, I again got up for the same reason.  But when I walked into the bathroom, something was different ...what on earth was that in the sink?

It was Fred, our eight month old kitten, sound asleep in the wash basin.  I was startled to say the least.  Between "What's that?" to "Oh, I see" took a nanosecond, but -- I was traveling at full speed and BAM!  I slammed my big toe head-on into the cabinet door.  OUCH!  Fred, terrified, took off at warp speed.  

Yes, it is broken, to.  The little toe isn't much of a factor in balance or perambulating, partly because it is tucked so tightly into its neighbor.  The Big Toe is another matter.  

And now Left Foot is being coddled in a half-cast or splint; extensive wrapping and the orthopedic shoe is snugly back on my foot.  I am firmly convinced that Left Foot is out to get me - you've only to look at the evidence above.  That's three toes out of five.  If Toes #2 and #3 join the fun (crippling Nina) my goose is cooked.  Or, rather, the orthopedic shoe is welded to my foot.  

Donations to" Beat Down!  Left Foot" are being readily accepted and my appreciation for the money, liquor and array of weapons.    Richie covets the baseball bat, but sorry, it was given to me.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

13 Years Ago ...

We were  visiting New York for a family wedding.  It was a doozy and afterwards, we and Richie's brother and his wife went out to Montauk for a couple of days.  Tuesday morning I noticed a group of guests staring at the TV in the dining room and wandered over to see what was so interesting.

I returned to our table and answered the question in their eyes by saying, "Some idiot flew a small plane into the World Trade Center." 

At the pool an older woman laughed to me, "My son is a cop and he got assigned moving the cars in the underground parking garage.  His back is going to kill him!"  Another remarked confidently that her husband is a nurse, but that it was their 15th wedding anniversary and he could just call in tomorrow. 

By mid-afternoon, flags fluttered from balcony railings in front of nearly every unit. 

The empty sky was a clear brilliant  blue despite the fact that Montauk is on the flight path for JFK.  Silence and stillness ruled the air.

Back in Huntington, the front door of St. Patrick's church had a list of known dead parishioners - 12 - and the next day the number was 18. 

At breakfast at a diner, the man in the next booth , back to me, was recounting his escape from one of the buildings to two women facing me.  He was speaking as if he was in a trance.  Their faces were horrified.  I looked down at the table top.

It took us three years to be able to visit The Hole.  Despite cranes and mechanical things crawling around below us, there was a deep sadness still permeating the sit.

And now there is a 911 Museum, filled with macabre remembrances of those terrible days.  Admission:  adults $24, seniors and US veterans, $18

No thanks; my memories are vivid enough.

"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal."  Anon. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Got Your Mourning Clothes Back From the Cleaners?

Comes word via the Star that Zsa Zsa Gabor is having "sad last days" and goes on to relate that she has accepted that these are just that "says a close friend.".  I have to question this statement because I've read several places that she has been comatose for the past five years or so.  Maybe she said it before going into Hinterland?

The article states that funeral plans are in place; including a closed coffin so that onlookers can just remember her former beauty.  The woman is 97 years old!  Of course, funeral plans have been in place and for quite some time! 

I think this "article" is really a plug for Prince von A-Hole (his tabloid name, universally accepted) as this is included:  He has stayed by her side and loves her very much. An opening shot across the bows of her daughter Francine in the soon-to-be-disputed Will?

She's been dying for the past 12 years...so no need to get hysterical in paroxysms of grief at the funeral...  But I did want to prepare you for the headlines. 

Stop the Presses!

Purely by accident, have discovered a wonderful new snack!  I happened upon it at our local Giuliano's, but they are said to be available at Publix, Wal-Mart,  Whole Foods, Winn-Dixie, Bristol Farms and Gelson's.   I'm not tormenting you by describing something wonderful and making you want it -- and it's only available at a specialty store in the mountains of Italy,  reachable only by mule trains during the month of March.

FocacciBites are sold in a 4.23 oz. sack for $3 (Giuliano's).  Six  crackers = 155 calories or 25.8 calories per cracker. 

Why Olive Oil and Sea Salt FocacciBites?  They are silky-looking pillows of  toasted bread with a delicate coat of olive oil.  The sea salt taste is apparently dissolved in the olive oil and then both are painted on to the "bread."  The texture is crisp, but soft, very airy...

Other flavors are:  Tomato and Oregano or Garlic and Parsley.  abracogroup.com is located in Doral, FL  These snacks are a product of Spain.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Well-received - the Figs

When I cleared up last night, there were only a few mortadella-wrapped figs left.  Good!  Our pregnant guest told us that her doctors forbid deli foods - salami, mortadella, etc. - for sanitary reasons as in packing conditions.  Who knew?  I certainly didn't but now we all do. 

I found two other fig recipes that might work out well ...add some figs to  the Thanksgiving dressing along with a double handful of pistachios or in this sauce from epicurious.com

Caramelized Fig and Balsamic Sauce
8 softened figs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 T sweet butter
1/2 teas. Dijon mustard.

Caramelize the sugar, by swirling it around in a heavy skillet.  Add the water gently down the side of the pan, shaking it frequently.  The sugar will harden and that's when you add the figs, balsamic, butter and mustard and beat it in.

epicurious.com said it is good on meat; I dunno about that.  I "saw"  it on generous scoops of  vanilla ice cream

Richie made his acclaimed guacamole and something that made it even better than usual was this:  a tube of Gourmet Garden Cilantro.  It's chopped fresh cilantro in a water suspension that lives in the refrigerator until you need some of it.

Fresh cilantro here is a pain because it is only sold in great bushel-sized bouquets of the stuff and the only way to store it is in a water glass with half an inch of water in the bottom.  In seconds (or so it seems) the bouquet has become a collection of sad-looking, slimy weeds. 

Ralph's Supermarket, fresh vegetable section.  There are tubes of other herbs, but because we needed the cilantro, my focus was solely on that. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Modest Discovery

Friends are coming over this afternoon for drinks and bites and to visit; all occupations we enjoy a lot (astute readers will note what was listed first.)  Drinks are easy - wine or beer but what to put out as bites?

Meanwhile, down at the farmer's market, figs were briefly on offer.  The fig season here is extremely short - very nearly, "Oh, look!  Figs!"  (next sentence) "Nope, season's over."  Richie scored a box and now I sat staring at them. 

I wanted the taste of figs and bacon, but didn't want to go through the hassle of wrapping fig halves in bacon and frying or broiling them.  "Pain inna ass," as they say in New York. 

It occurred to me that mortadella has a strong bacon-y taste...it doesn't have to be cooked ... hmmm...  so I washed a fig, cut off the stem end, cut it in half longitudinally, cut a slice of mortadella in half and wrapped each fig half in mortadella and ate it.  Very definitely a keeper - quick, too.  I ate my samples raw so to speak but will serve them next to a bowl of focaccia bites which are olive oil and sea salt-flavored.   

Will report back on their reception tomorrow. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

When It All Works Out Anyhow

Thursday afternoon, I had a late afternoon appointment with the audiologist to pick up my new hearing aids.  Young Ham, the audiologist, is a perfectionist and insisted on fussing with them.  We got out of there a little after 5 p.m.

We were over in Torrance, on the wrong side of the street to go to Elephant Bar or Red Lobster  for a drink and a leisurely menu scan.   

"Remember that Italian restaurant at the end of the little strip mall at Anza and Torrance?  We ate there for an anniversary years ago ..."  "Yes!" he replied and away we went.  Aliotta's is located at 4485 Torrance for postal reasons, but it faces Anza.  Map it at aliottas.com.

We walked in and were seated.  The waiter, an older man, stooped and bent but with a radiant grin saluted us.  I had been dreaming of an icy cold dirty gin martini, but alas!  Beer and wine only which was no hardship as they had three brands of prosecco.

I had wanted to test my new ears against crowded restaurant conditions - we were the only customers in the place. 

Undaunted, we ordered.  We shared a Caesar salad ($9) which was "good enough" but not particularly distinguished in any way.  Richie said, "The lettuce is sure cold."

He ate all of his Chicken Cacciatori ($20) with chicken breast, onions, olives, red peppers, mushrooms, basil and tomato sauce.  My main was the appetizer Carpaccio di Carne or thin-sliced beef tenderloin raw with a dressing of lemon juice, capers and shaved Parmesan lavished with extra virgin olive oil ($15) 

The dish I remembered so fondly from the previous visit - probably 12 or 13 years ago - is still on the menu.  Don Mike's Shrimp - big shrimp wrapped in prosciutto with a Sambucca Romano Cream Sauce ($20.)   Thinking about this dish ... we'll have to go back.  Soon ...

Friday, September 5, 2014

That's One Way to Put It, I Guess...

Drudge Report, September 5, 2014


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wine 202

So far, no irate winery owners have called in a fury, threatening law suits and/or damages nor have any piteous (collect) calls come in from the Napa Valley police station so am going to assume that you all behaved with exemplary good manners.

A visit to a winery is pleasant enough but did you know that you can walk into many restaurants, be seated and handed something called a "wine list"?  And you choose from an often stunning variety and the waiter brings a bottle of it to your table?!

Slick, eh?

Food & Wine is rapidly gaining a well-deserved reputation as "pushy" in their advice.   Here they are dead wrong -- red with meat; white with fish.  Okay.  Maybe in 1955.

Turning to the computer, one can suss out the chosen restaurant's wine list and know exactly what you'll be ordering when you get there. 

Really enjoyed that bottle of wine?  Phone camera the label for later references in other restaurants. 

My nephew is a poised and suave sommelier in a posh resort near Dubuque - Steve, F &W says these are smart questions to ask your sommelier - true or not?

"What grape or region are you most excited about right now?"  (Grovel much?)

"Do you have anything open that's not on your by-the-glass list?"  Say, huh?  People do not leave wine behind or at least no one in my acquaintance would.

"Can you bring me something nerdy?"  How about the check, chucklehead?   

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fall Indulgences

Fall is my favorite season of the year -- that crisp little edge of cold air behind the sunny afternoons...the intensity of the light -- and savoring the knowledge that  the good times are about to begin ... long afternoons with a book; casserole dinners perfuming the air and heating the upstairs...

For the fullest enjoyment possible of this season, now is the time to go winery visiting.   Food & Wine offers some suggestions ...

Before you get in the car, did you

Call ahead to make sure they're open? 

 Eat something or pack a picnic lunch? 

Make sure you're carrying cash?  Many wineries charge a fee at their tastings - sometimes comped if you buy a bottle. 

Most important?  Hire a designated driver.

Avoid Saturday wine tastings - they're big with bachelorette parties and other rowdies. 

Leave the perfume or after shave at home. 

Above all - don't get drunk.  No one wants to see that...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Happy Labor Day, Tourists

You are now free to move about the country and GO HOME!  Our beaches are now closed to all but we locals.

Calendar  "Memorial Day at the Beach" in your 2015 schedule when we will re-open for the summer.