Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I am a longtime fan of the 1967 Mustang seen in the 2000 remake of Gone in 60 Seconds. Last year Classic Recreations of Yukon, Oklahoma started manufacturing a beautiful replica of that Mustang, and this is my article on it: Eleanor. I hope that you enjoy it!

Chef BQ Project #1

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Feast of the Holy Family


God truly does work in mysterious ways, and I, personally, do not believe that every miracle is evident as such. Many miracles are subtle in nature, often affected through human means, and may be difficult to detect.

My darling, beloved and beautiful wife chose to go to church with me at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament as a favor to me. It was not something that she particularly wanted to do, but she was interested to see the recently restored cathedral, and so we packed up and went. At the cathedral they celebrate an odd sort of Mass – kind of a transitionary version bridging the Tridentine and the modern vernacular Masses. They sing the Mass and they have lots of incense, but it is all in English. Her feeling was that there was too much rite and ritual for her taste and not enough homily. I explained that this was the Christmas celebration at the cathedral, and it was quite different from the weekly Sunday a celebration at Saint John's in Folsom.

I did not ask her to go again, but, the following Sunday, last Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family, she asked if we could go again. We packed my darling daughter up and off to church we went. And, lo and behold, the modern style mass spoke to them – they loved it! Now, I am the first to admit, I like old things. The High Tridentine Mass speaks to me in a way that modern celebrations cannot. For those not raised in the Church, and for those who do not have a profound affinity for the past, the Tridentine Mass may be a bit intimidating. Beautiful, but intimidating, much like a thousand year old French cathedral might be. Much of the point of the second Vatican Council was to make the church more accessible, and, whilst those like my sainted mother and I may not agree, it seems to have done its job for others.

Our priest, Fr. Ignatius Haran, gave a wonderful sermon on the sacred nature of the family, and lent our little family a sense of significance. It was wonderful. Moreso was the fact that both Jennifer and Megen are going to attend adult catechism classes starting in January, and I may go along for moral support.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hawai’i Cruise 2010

For Christmas my beloved mother-in-law, who is invariably excessive when it comes to Yuletide, gave my wife and me a cruise to Hawai'i in February of 2010. This cruise will be over our eighth wedding anniversary, so whatever I do on for that one will seem eight times as romantic. Honestly, I cannot wait. I am more than a little nervous, as I would like to have spending money for the cruise, and right now I am wondering where the next mortgage check will come from, but I am hoping nonetheless. Hoping and cultivating my freelance clientele.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Visit from Saint Nicholas

by Clement Clarke Moore

’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap;

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and Saint Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Saint Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Mass

The story of my immediate family is a complex and convoluted one of which I will spare you the details in this sitting. I will mention, however, that my dear and sainted mother was a Catholic. She was born in 1914, entered the convent around 1930 and got a dispensation from Rome in 1954 when she entered private life for the first time. By November of that year she had met and married my dear father who was baptized as an Episcopalian at birth but, upon the early death of his father, his mother dragged him through a circus of assorted faiths. The Masonic Lodge brought him back to his Episcopalian roots, though not passionately – he treated the lodge as his church. When they married, however, he signed an agreement that all progeny would be raised in the Roman Catholic Church, so I was raised such.

By the time I was born in 1963, however, the Second Vatican Council was in full stride, and by the time I was aware of my faith, the Mass was celebrated in the vernacular, round churches were being built, the alter was turned around so that the Mass was delivered to the onlookers, rather than the priest and onlookers all respectfully facing the Eucharist. These were some of the changes made to the church, and they were cosmetic, made to make the Mass more accessible to parishioners. Despite the fact that the changes were not fundamental to the church, they were sufficient to cause my dear mother, a devout Catholic, to drift away rather quickly. Despite this fact, religion was present in my household. My parents, my father in particular, took his contract with the Church quite seriously, and I was made acutely aware of my Catholicism. I was taught the catechism, he said prayers with me nightly, and he taught me how to say a really good Act of Contrition. I have received the Host a few times in my life, though not often enough for my comfort. Sadly, I was raised to be uncomfortable in the post Vatican II Church.

Before my dad passed on, on Saint Nicholas Day 2000, he asked that I go to church. Not a lot of explanation, but he asked. You see, despite the fact that the mentally retarded "M.D." that was secured by the evil, stupid and morbidly obese court appointed conservator, Carolyn Young of Carolyn Young Fiduciary Services in Sacramento, California, declared my father to be suffering from advanced stage Alzheimer's Disease, I was able to carry on a fully lucid two hour conversation with him two days before he died. Despite the fact that I do try hard to be a forgiving Christian gentleman, I harbor a good deal of wrath towards that particular sub-human and her vile minions.

Pardon my digression. The short version is that Dad asked me to go to church, and I have not done so very well. At his gravesite, however, Father Francis Lawlor of St. Rose's in Sacramento spoke. Father Lawlor is an ancient Irish priest who, as it happens, sings the high Mass in Latin every Sunday. He celebrated midnight Mass on Christmas Eve of 2000 in memory of my dad. Since then I have remained a stalwart non-church-goer, I am sorry to say. A good friend of mine, however, not only is a good Catholic and Christian gentleman, but he is willing to track down traditional Masses for the two of us to attend, which is something I appreciate deeply. We are going on this coming Sunday. On Christmas Eve I hope to take my dear wife to midnight Mass at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, which should be a stunning experience. She is passionately a non-church person, but I think that she will enjoy that.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saint Nicholas Day

When I was a boy, in our family, Saint Nicholas Day was the cause for celebration. It was the earliest day that my parents would allow the "Christmas Season" to be recognized in our house. The tree went up in the living room and decorations were lavished about the house and we would exchange gifts. The gifts were small and of inconsequential value, usually Christmas ornaments with some sort of a Saint Nicholas theme, but they were ornately wrapped and given with great ceremony and festivity.

Eight years ago my father passed away on Saint Nicholas day. That was the saddest day of my life, so far, but there was some compensation in the fact that he died on that day. You see, my dad was as much the embodiment of Saint Nicholas as I can imagine in our day and age. He was a combination of the historical saint in his goodness and generosity and of Father Christmas in his delightful spirit and the fact that small children seemed oddly attracted to him. I remember being in a department store in my late teens, and my dad was waiting for me patiently. Once I got back to him, he had a couple of small children with him – they had gotten separated from their parents, and they naturally gravitated to my dad.

Since he passed on, I have taken Saint Nicholas as his patron, and I attend mass on his feast day. So today, Saturday, December 06, 2008, I attended early morning mass at Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Folsom, California only to find that there was no mention of Saint Nicholas. I suspect and fear that this may be because his image has become such a cheesy icon of commerce and it has lost its true meaning of love and selfless generosity. We are surrounded by the garish images of Santa Claus, and have lost track of Saint Nicholas along the way.

Perhaps Dickens was correct, and we have to keep the spirit of the season with us in our hearts. I had hoped that there would be vestiges of it in the church as well, but it is not, so in our hearts it must be. I have a dear friend who reminds me of what I like the best about my fellow humans. She reminds me peripherally of my dad, though she would not understand that reference. In honor of St. Nick, my dad and of the Christmas season, I will give her an ornament today. She will find this odd and faintly out of place, but that is alright. It will be my symbolic passage of a tradition on to another generation.

O most good father Nicholas, pastor and teacher of all who in faith call upon thy protection an warm prayer, make haste to deliver Christ's flock from the wolves that attack it; and guard every Christian land, and keep it by thy holy prayers from worldly unrest, upheaval, the assault of enemies and civil strife; from famine, flood, fire, the axe and sudden mortality. And as thou didst take pity on the three men who were imprisoned, and didst deliver them from royal anger and death by the sword, so have mercy also on us, who are in the darkness of sins of mind, word and deed, and deliver us from the wrath of God and eternal punishment, so that, by thine intercession and help, and by His mercy and grace, Christ our God may grant us to lead a quiet life without sin in this age and deliver us in the next from standing at the left side, but rather grant us to be at His right hand with all the Saints.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Review of Pommery Pop Champagne

Originally submitted at Cost Plus World Market

Pommery Champagne dates back to 1836. POP Blue, an extra dry French bubbly, is the latest fun creation from the House of Pommery. True, the cool blue bottle is unconventional but it has the traditional cork and the Brut Champagne inside is nicely dry, yet soft and slightly sweet. The stuff dreams a...

Wonderful Little Treat

By Greg from Folsom, CA on 11/11/2008


5out of 5

Pairs Well With: Seafood, Chocolate, Spicy Food

Pros: Clean, Balanced

Best Uses: Special Occasions, Entertaining

Describe Yourself: Connoisseur

Contrary to the description, this is not a Brut Champagne. It is, however, an exquisite extra-dry with a playful sweetness making it perfect for those whose palates are not accustomed to Bruts and to those who prefer a bit of sweetness to their bubbly. Additionally, the great packaging makes them perfect for parties!


Saturday, November 1, 2008

November is. . . .

International Drum Month, Peanut Butter Lovers Month, Slaughter Month, Aviation Month, Good Nutrition Month, National Epilepsy Month, Latin American Month, Hunger Awareness month, National Diabetes Awareness Month, National Red Ribbon Month, National Stamp Collecting Month

1. All Saints' Day, Dia de Los Muertos, Plan Your Epitaph Day, St. Marcel's Day
2. All Souls' Day, Dia de Los Muertos, National Deviled Egg Day
3. Sandwich Day, Housewife's Day, St. Martin de Porres's Day
4. Election Day, Waiting for the Barbarians Day, St. Charles Borromeo's Day
5. Gunpowder Day, Guy Fawkes Day, St. Elizabeth of Hungary's Day
6. Saxophone Day, Marooned Without a Compass Day, Basketball Day, St. Leonard of Noblac's Day
7. National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day, St. Willibrord's Day
8. Dunce Day, The Four Crowned Martyr's Day
9. Sadie Hawkins Day, Chaos Never Dies Day, St. Theodore's Day
10. Forget-Me-Not Day, St. Andrew Avellino's Day
11. Veterans Day, Remembrance Day (Canada), Air Day, St. Martin of Tours's Day
12. National Pizza With the Works Except Anchovies Day, St. Emillion's Day
13. National Indian Pudding Day, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini's Day
14. Operation Room Nurse Day, St. Josaphat of Polotsk's Day
15. National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day, St. Albert the Great's Day
16. Button Day, St. Margaret of Scotland's Day
17. Take a Hike Day
18. Occult Day, St. Odo's Day
19. Have a Bad Day Day, St. Nerses I
20. Absurdity Day, St. Edmund's Day
21. World Hello Day, False Confessions Day, St. Gelasius I's Day
22. Start of Sagittarius, Start Your Country Day, St. Cecillia's Day
23. National Cashew Day, St. Clement of Rome
24. Use Even If the Seal Is Broken Day, St. Colman of Cloyne's Day
25. National Parfait Day, St. Catherine of Alexandria's Day
26. Shopping Reminder Day, St. John Berchmaus's Day
27. Pins and Needles Day, St. Maximus of Riez's Day
28. Make Your Own Head Day, St. Catherine Laboure's Day
29. Square Dance Day, St. Sermins's Day
30. Stay at Home Because You're Well Day, St. Andrew the Apostle's Day

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Illegal Immigration Problem

The following was received as an email forward by my dear wife, so the providence is questionable at best, but, nonetheless, it is quite witty, so I am re-printing it here.

From the MANITOBA HERALD, Canada (a very underground paper):

A flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration.

The possibility of a McCain/Palin election is prompting the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray, and agree with Bill

O'Reilly. Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night.

"I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota. The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. "He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left. Didn't even get a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?" In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. So he tried installing speakers that blare Rush Limbaugh across the fields. "Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through, and Rush annoyed the cows so much they wouldn't give milk."

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons, drive them across the border and leave them to fend for themselves. "A lot of these people are not prepared for rugged conditions, "an Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a drop of drinking water. They did have a nice little Napa Valley cabernet, though."

When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about the

McCain administration establishing re-education camps in which liberals will be forced to shoot wolves from airplanes, deny evolution, and act out drills preparing them for the Rapture. In recent days, liberals have turned to sometimes-ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have taken to posing as senior citizens on bus trips to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans disguised in powdered wigs, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior-citizen passengers on Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney hits to prove they were alive in the '50s. "If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we get suspicious about their age," an official said. Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and renting all the good Susan Sarandon movies. "I feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them," an Ottawa resident said. "How many art-history and English majors does One country need?"

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mrs. Walker's Birthday!

Today is my beloved wife's natal day. I will not say which one, as that would be telling, but I will say that it is significantly fewer than my own. Happy Birthday, Sweetie!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


As a wee lad, I found particular horror in stories of the reanimated dead. Monsters made up from the parts of dead bodies and, by far the worst, the zombies. Zombies carried the visage of the deceased, but they were forced to the will of the voodoo witch doctor who summoned them from the grave. This horror seemed the most complete to me, as my sympathies lay with the poor zombie who was under the impression that he had earned his eternal rest, but was now summoned forth to do some asshole's wicked work. I hated that.

Then, I grew out of it, and the concept no longer bothered me. The movies went from horrifying to stupid and inane, and they passed from my regard.

Then, one day, I came to realize that these movies and stories were parables. They are parables that tell of a horrid truth.

You see, also as a wee lad, I had a profound affection for certain icons of American commerce, most notably the ancient and steadfast Abercrombie and Fitch. It stood at 55/57 West 35th Street in Manhattan, and they carried all the best stuff. They had hand-made fishing baskets and THE safari shirts – the ones preferred by Teddy Roosevelt and Hemingway and everyone who was anyone in the early twentieth century. It's where Dad got his Greener shotgun. It's where I learned to tie a fly and cast a bamboo fly-pole. It's where Mom got the fishing pole she gave me for my high-school graduation. Hem died in '61, and Abercrombie and Fitch declined. The store began its death rattle in the late '60s, and it died in the mid seventies. It was sad, but they were gone.

And then the voodoo witch doctor came. He carried the ominous moniker of The Gap, and he summoned the corpse of A&F back to life. The store now does more business than it ever did, but it is an abomination, carrying inferior Chinese made crap aimed at teenagers who don't give a crap about quality or the history of Abercrombie and Fitch. Teenagers who have more money than brains, who want to look like or to attract the current sex-bomb from the TV, and Abercrombie and Fitch feeds that frenzy. Hem would turn in his grave.

The saddest part is that it is not a phenomenon unique to A&F. Eddie Bauer went the same way, and before A&F, but, at least, they pretended to be similar to the older store for awhile. The one that really gets me most recently, however, is L.L. Bean. I knew something was horribly wrong when I called them to find out if they could send me a Norwegian Sweater, and found that they no longer carried it. L.L. Bean with no Norwegian Sweaters? How could it be? I will tell you how – the witch doctor has come and has streamlined and modernized their business, and it is becoming another reanimated corpse of what it once was. Soon it will be in a mall near you, and you will be able to buy inferior Vietnamese made khakis that will, startlingly, look exactly like the khakis that you can get at Abercrombie and Fitch and The Gap and Eddie Bauer and The Banana Republic and every other store on the mall.

For a Halloween fright, I don't need to rent a movie nor dig out the Lovecraft. I only need to stroll down to the mall.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mama's Birthday

My beloved mother, rest her eternal soul, would have been 94 years old today, had she lived to see it. By the time she passed on, she was quite decrepit and her mind had left her. I deeply wish, however, that she had retained her faculties and that she had lived another decade. I miss her very much.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Perils of eBay

I have been quite fortunate on my many forays onto eBay, only having been duped once, and that by an idiot who may have actually believed that "Self Published" equated a sheaf of poorly done photocopies. Otherwise I have been very lucky, and, as time has gone by, I have become more careful.

Nonetheless some of the criminal behavior I find on eBay when hunting for antiques truly startles me. When searching antiquities the biggest thing is, of course, misrepresentation. Things like the numerous modern Chinese made chess sets that are being sold as antiques are obvious and malicious attempts to bilk the uninitiated or the uninformed, and, I am sorry to say, I do wish that eBay would make some attempt to regulate these, but I do not know how.

On the other hand, things like the pair of mismatched cufflinks I found this evening that are being sold as "Two Vintage Antique Lapel Pins Studs Gold Tone" offends me on so very many levels. Either the seller is painfully stupid, or he is practicing upon the deep stupidity of his clientele. I suspect the latter, but, in either case, he needs to be run off of eBay on some sort of digital analog for a rail, if not as a criminal then as an idiot.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Vive La France

To my mind, the American La France Speedsters of the early twentieth century represent the true epitome of American motoring. They were the Cobras of their day, made from the remains of American La France fire trucks with gargantuan six cylinder, 14.5 liter motors, stripped down to little more than a chassis, engine and wheels. The intrepid motorists would then, goggles and gauntlets in place, accost the road at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour! These are truly my favorite motor vehicles, and, if the day comes that I can manage to afford a brass age supercar, this will be my supercar of choice. Leave the Bearcats and the Raceabouts to the more timid of spirit – I will take the American La France every time!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Le Trianon

Another of the inspirations from my youth was René Verdon's Le Trianon. This restaurant was the epitome of a classical restaurant. It was dark and plush and beautiful. The environment was contrived to allow the diner to focus on his food, amidst the dusty pink brocades and ivory walls.

And the food! My God, if there is food in heaven, let it be prepared by René Verdon! Common misperceptions about classical cuisine: It is heavy, unhealthy and wasteful. Truths about classical cuisine: It uses butter appropriately, but not excessively (René Verdon was no Paula Deen!); it employs more fish and poultry than "pop" cuisine and it uses up every part of the animal! I am not going to suggest that Le Trianon was an ideal place for a dieter, no good restaurant is, but the food was exquisite and wholesome.

Verdon's first claim to fame in this country was as the chef to the white house during the Kennedy years. In his later years he wrote a marvelous book that does not get nearly enough attention titled The Enlightened Cuisine. In addition to his brilliance, he was a gentleman, through and through. When I was a sprout, dining at my parents' table atop a stack of cookbooks, Verdon made one of his typical tours of the dining room. In order to afford my parents some privacy, I now suspect, he took me to the kitchen where the help fawned over me. He gave me his toque and signed and dated it. That remained my most prized possession until a few years ago when it was lost with many other treasures.

Back in the era of places like Ernie's, Le Trianon was the true queen of the San Francisco restaurants. It was the last exponent of a great era of San Francisco dining.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Zeiss Ikon Contessa

The Zeiss Ikon Contessa is a pocket rangefinder camera dating from the early 1950s. It came equipped with a Zeiss 45 mm lens and, even in its era, it had a retro 30s appeal about it. I have always loved high-end rangefinder cameras, and this one stands out in my mind as being another work of functional art. I need to get a camera for work purposes in the near future, and I desperately want to get one of these, but, sadly, my good friend Steve has talked me into a digital (blech) camera for all sorts of practical reasons. One day, however, it will be mine. Ah, yes, it will be mine. . . .

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Cookbooks I Wish I Still Owned

  1. The 1928 leather-bound edition of Ali-Bab’s Gastronomie Pratique. I learned most of my very limited French whilst decoding recipes from that encyclopaediac volume at my sainted mother's kitchen table, and I miss it like an old friend. Anything else that appears on this list is a distant relation to this work of art.
  2. Samuel Chamberlain’s British Bouquet, An Epicurean Tour of Britain, or, for that matter, any of Samuel Chamberlain’s books. Though not a cookbook, per se, I highly recommend the recently reprinted Clementine in the Kitchen, a narrative with a number of recipes included. The great thing about Chamberlain’s cookbooks was not so much the recipes and more the wonderful travelogues that he included. They were cookbooks for the foodie. In addition, the 50s Gourmet Publishing editions were these big beautiful white leather volumes that made you want to read them all the more. Everything of Chamberlain's should be in reprint.
  3. “Trader” Vic Bergeron’s Trader Vic’s Kitchen Kibitzer from 1952. It was a fantastic reference for things like “How to cook a steak” or “How to make a moderately interesting tossed salad with iceberg lettuce” and the like. More than a reference book, though, it was just a great, fun read.
  4. The big, brown Gourmet cookbook, two volumes that were my mom’s general reference. A wonderful basic.
  5. An old edition of The Joy of Cooking. I had one that was published just after WW II, and it was great! I liked the quirkiness of the older recipes.

This is one of those lists that I am bound to add to as time passes, but these are the ones that come to mind immediately. Are there any great old cookbooks that you wish you still had?

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Despite the fact that the name sounds a bit like a piece of Irish furniture, this is a fantastic resource for a beginning writer! Twenty years ago, when I was first contemplating being a writer, you had to head off to the library to find the latest edition of the Writer's Market to see who accepted what. Despite the completeness of that work, it was by no means all-inclusive, and you never knew who actually needed what at any given time. The days of the Internet are boom-times for writers!

ODesk is a terrific site where writers and those who need them are put together. My wife and I landed a wonderful stint with an elegant new Denver publication, 1 Magazine, through oDesk, and I have another nibble that I am very hopeful about.

In short, if you are interested in pursuing a writing career, do not overlook oDesk!


Friday, June 27, 2008

The Palomino Room

Since I am reminiscing about great old Sacramento landmarks that have passed into the mists of time, I must take a few minutes to recognize the old Palomino Room. I grew up in that place. It was a classic, old school steakhouse, back before the term "steakhouse" indicated that you were about to fork over $45 for a Porterhouse with no salad, no spud, no dessert, no nuthin'. The Palomino Room was first class. When I knew it best it was run by the Borowski brothers, Ray and Harry, both great guys who you just wanted to sit down with and have a few beers. The brains of the outfit was Ray's wife, Stella, and she made sure that the ship was run tight.

The Palomino Room, in the days that I knew it, was dark with wormwood walls and a wagon-wheel chandelier over the piano bar. Steaks and taters were the fare.

The one who inspired me the most though was their chef, Nick Jukich. Nick's brother fought on Tito's side in Yugoslavia. Nick didn't. His brother became a general, or something like, Nick became a cook in a steakhouse. Oh, but what a cook! The steaks at the Palomino had a distinctive flavor – it was Nick's secret. And it was great. First, it may go without saying, he was downright finicky about the quality of meat he served. Secondly, he seasoned with salt, and a lot of it. Finally, there was the oil. Next to the grill he kept a cup of oil that he prepared before service every night. It was regular grade olive oil infused with a healthy portion of garlic. He kept a pastry brush in it, and swabbed every steak with it before he put it down. Simple though it was, it was amazing. I think that Nick may have been the one who really made me want to grow up to be a chef. I am sure that he is long gone now, but I would pay money to have a nice long visit with him today.

In later years the place was taken over by David and Freddy, the sons of the original owners, and they did their best to update the ambience and bring the restaurant into the twentieth century. It was very nice, but it wasn't my beloved old Palomino Room any more. The menu went the direction of light, modern Italian, but it wasn't Nick's kitchen any more.

It's been said that what goes around comes around. I really hope that someplace like the Palomino Room comes around again soon. I am getting hungry.


I discovered a fabulous new foodie site! Ok, to be fair, I don't know how new it is, per se, but it is a great foodie site. It's called Foodista, and it is a treasure. Absolutely what I look for in a food site – writers who are passionate about food, people who travel for the sake of finding new and exquisite food experiences, and a great sense of humor. The only thing I could ask is that it be published in paper form. Like fountain pens and typewriters, I love good ol' paper magazines. I know. I'm a dinosaur.

Nonetheless, take a look at Foodista. It will make you want to go to Argentina for some wine and cheese.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Baltimore Pit Beef

Adapted from Big Fat Daddy's
Time: 1 hour, plus 3 hours to 3 days marinating

For the rub:

2 tablespoons seasoned salt
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the sandwich:

1 3-pound piece top round
8 kaiser rolls or
16 slices of rye bread
Horseradish sauce (see recipe)
1 sweet white onion, sliced thin
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced thin (optional)
Iceburg lettuce (optional)

1. Combine ingredients for the rub in a bowl, and mix. Sprinkle 3 to 4 tablespoons all over the beef, patting it in. Place in a baking dish, and cover with plastic wrap. You can cover the beef with the rub for a few hours, but for maximum flavor, leave it for 3 days in the refrigerator, turning once a day.

2. Prepare a hot grill. Grill beef 30 to 40 minutes, or until outside is crusty and dark brown and internal temperature is about 120 degrees (for rare). Turn beef often. Transfer to a cutting board; let it rest 5 minutes.

3. Slice beef thinly across grain. Pile beef high on a roll or bread slathered with horseradish sauce. Garnish with onions, tomatoes and sliced lettuce. Serve.

Yield: 8 sandwiches.

Adapted from Big Fat Daddy's
Time: 3 minutes

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup prepared white horseradish, or to taste
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and black pepper to taste.

Combine ingredients in a bowl, and whisk to mix. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups.


The Flaming A. Aldo’s was a continental restaurant in Sacramento up until about a decade ago. It was a great place. Reviewers often bemoaned the fact that the quality was variable, and in the many years since Poul Culatte, Aldo’s original chef, retired, they may have had a point, but I invariably loved the place.

It was owned and presided over by the inimitable Aldo Bovaro, one of the most elegant gentlemen I have ever known. He was a good friend of my father’s, and, though ten years might have passed between my visits, he would always greet me with a hug and kisses on the cheeks and treat me as though I was his most prized guest. I think that everyone at Aldo’s always felt like his most prized guest, and that is what made the place so very special.

Aldo was Italian born but most recently expatriated from Uruguay. Aldo was a citizen of the world. He spoke numerous languages perfectly and fluently and he had traveled everywhere. Aldo and Poul were my first inspirations to pursue a cooking career.

The focus of Aldo’s restaurant was tableside service with lots of flambé. The restaurant was appropriately dark, waiters wore black dinner suits. In the spring and summer, Aldo would wear a white dinner jacket, and in the cooler months he, too, would wear a black suit. There was a pianist, Mario Ferarri, who was excellent, and, for a period of time, on Thursday nights, Aldo would sing Italian songs in the bar, accompanied by Mario. Mario would woo the young ladies, but their hearts belonged to Aldo.

I remember being impressed when my parents went in one evening, and were seated at a corner table – the matre d’hotel gave them menus and exchanged pleasantries with them. A couple of minutes later, Aldo appeared and seated himself at our table, and began to visit with them in earnest. When the waiter came by, he would not allow my parents to order, instead, Aldo took their menus away and gave them to the waiter. He said, “I will take care of you. I promise, you will have a fine dinner!”

I do not remember all the details of the dinner, but I do remember that it was excellent. I had escargots, because it was one of the few places in Sacramento where I could get them. I also remember the pheasants that were decorated with their own feathers and, around the time that the dessert zabiones were being served, Aldo brought a service cart out and prepared Caffé Diable. It was a flaming and alcoholic coffee beverage, served in demitasse, and it was tremendous. It remains to this day, my favorite after dinner beverage.

I could go on for days, reminiscing about Aldo and his restaurant. It was a heartfelt loss when I drove by one day and it was gone. It was one of the major inspirations in my life, and I pay tribute to it every time I prepare a meal.

Aldo's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My Other True Love

This is my puppy Maggie. She is really nearly a doggie, as she will be a full year old in July. She is my favorite dog, hands down, no question about it. The end.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Star Trek Gnurd

Several years ago, before my wife, Jennifer, and I were married, we were sitting up late one night watching Star Trek: Voyager. It was one of many episodes dominated by the insanely hot Jeri Ryan and the Borg. Jenn asked me, “Where do the Borg come from? What was their origin?” She often deferrs to me on these issues, as I am a long standing Star Trek nerd, while she is fairly new to such things. Given that I am not privy to any origin story for the Borg, I started spinning my yarn:

The Borg is an ancient species within the Star Trek universe. Their genesis was millions of years ago as an orbital grain elevator, circling an agricultural planet. The grain elevator and the planet that it supported belonged to a space-faring race whose name is lost to the mists of time – all that is known about them is that their grain elevator outlasted them by a thousand millennia. The elevator was built to be self-sustaining, so, when repairs were needed, it would send a servo unit to make them. If it needed a new servo unit, it would build it. If it needed steel for the new servo unit, it would send robotic units groundside to mine the iron and make the steel, or it would use a piece of now useless machinery, etc. As a result, it stayed in orbit of the planet, filled to capacity with grain, and working perfectly. Eventually, running low on maintenance resources, it built a small spacecraft and populated it with robotic units to scavenge parts and materials from passersby, and, as it assimilated more and more of these strange, alien technologies, a consciousness began to awake. It realized that it was a mere agricultural tool, but that it could become more by assimilating these strangers, and so it continued.
The problem is that she swallowed the whole story, hook, line, sinker. I thought that I was being freaking hysterical, but she did not. Genius is rarely appreciated. . . .

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

New Orleans Mystery

Ok, so I have got this collection of great characters. First of all, my main "amateur detective" character, a mysterious gray-haired French doctor, an anthropologist, who is referred to by his compatriots alternatively as "Doctor" and "Professor". He has a faint residual French accent, but speaks fluent and educated English. Secondly, an attractive socialite in her late forties or early fifties who has a string of ex-husbands, scads of money, killer legs and a Bugatti limousine. Third, a longtime companion of the professor, southern French in appearance, can repair an automobile and cook reasonably well. He acts as valet, gentleman's gentleman, cook, chauffeur and bodyguard. He is very quiet, obviously has a history, can shoot anything that shoots, and can kill a man with a rubber band and a piece of chewing gum. He has a heavy accent, and intersperses French into his language heavily, though he speaks quite fluent English. Also, an elderly bloodhound who cannot smell (result of a bullet wound to the head), and who will not eat anything but dog food, much to the chagrin of his caretakers.

Now I need to outline. I have an early 19th century deposition that acts as the backbone of the mystery, and chapters are cut with excerpts from the deposition. The deposition alleges to be the true story of the Mystick Krewe of Comus, its membership and practices, and what they are “really” up to.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Book Update

I made some good progress on the book this weekend, getting into the meat of the plotting. I think I need to outline more. Sad to say, I am no Hem, and I need structure imposed from somewhere outside my mind.

Nonetheless, character development is going well. I may need to cut some, but I like the direction that it is taking. It is finally taking on a life, which makes writing it much easier.

I found a fantastic recipe this weekend for a cranberry chutney. I would post here, but I fear that this is becoming too much of a recipe blog, and noone wants or needs that.

Speaking of Hem, I have found the typewriter that I desire! It is a Corona No. 3 folding typewriter. It is a well designed object, and it served as Hemingway's therapist for many years.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Glorious First of June!

It is upon us once again: The Glorious First of June, anniversary of the Third Battle of Ushant. Of course, the actual battle, being a naval engagement, took place four hundred miles off the coast of the French island of Ushant, but that was the landmark at hand. The conflict was between the French and the British fleets, and both sides suffered vast losses, and both sides declared the day a victory.

It is days like this that I really wish I had a British naval jack.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Yesterday, May 29, was my dad’s birthday. He would have been 95 years old. If anyone who ever lived went on to a better place, he was the one.

Summer is the time for biscuits or muffins or toast and marmalade. Dad loved really good marmalade, and not just the orange kind, but that is an exquisite place to start. He favored Dundee brand in the clay pots.

This is a good traditional recipe, using a blend of Seville oranges and sweet oranges. If you want your marmalade less bitter, use more sweet oranges and fewer Sevilles. Also, most importantly, if you are using store-bought fruits, be sure to blanch them quickly in boiling water to remove the wax on the surface of the peel.


  • 6 Seville oranges
  • 3 Sweet oranges
  • 4 Lemons
  • 1 c. Sugar for each cup of fruit
  • 1 wine glass Spirits (I like to use Irish Whiskey)


  • Cut the fruit very thin. To each cup of fruit, add 3 cups water and let stand 12 hours. For each cup of fruit, add 1 cup of sugar. Simmer until syrup jellies when tried on a cold plate. Add one wine glass of spirits.
  • Pour into sterilized glasses; when cool, seal with paraffin.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Murder," he wrote. . .

I am currently doing research for a murder mystery set in post-Katrina New Orleans. This is problematic, as I want to lend the book a sense of being from an "insider's" perspective, avoiding as much of the turisto cliché as possible. Sadly, my most recent visit to that intriguing city was two decades back, making current knowledge unreliable, at best.

I have a query out through the fabulous Marja Claire Martin, currently of Santa Fe, New Mexico, formerly of New Orleans. She is doing some research for me, and I look forward to hearing back about what she has to say.

I have been out of touch with Marja since about 1988 – it is so hard to believe how quickly twenty years may pass! It was a delight to catch up with her again.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sour Milk Waffles

Mom was a great cook. In addition, she despised waste, and, given that we had two quarts of milk delivered daily, sour milk was not unknown in our house.

What follows is not her recipe, but it is very similar, and it is one of the numerous uses that she had for turned milk. Believe it or not, these are the best waffles you have ever consumed.

For 6 waffles:

  • 1 1/3 c. All-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. Salt
  • 1/2 t. Baking soda
  • 1/4 c. Shortening, melted
  • 1 c. Sour milk
  • 1 t. Sugar
  • 2 Eggs

  • Sift flour, measure, and sift with salt and baking soda.
  • Beat egg yolks until light and foamy.
  • Add sugar and shortening.
  • Mix well.
  • Add milk alternately with sifted dry ingredients to egg mixture.
  • Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.
  • Bake in hot waffle iron.
6 servings. The Household Searchlight - 1941

Saturday, May 24, 2008

An Exciting New Journey!

Alright, to be perfectly fair, all new writers have to write something in their little locked journals about how they are starting an "exciting new journey" in their self-important little lives when they decide to fire up their writing careers. The typical writing career lasts about three months, then peters out in favor of their next "exciting new journey".

Nonetheless, this is something that I have been planning to do for the better part of three decades, and it really does feel like the start of a new voyage in my life. The voyage I have been on up until now has been more like floating about in a life-raft.

So, at the ripe old age of two score and five years, I am going to become a writer. Finally.

So far, I have produced some limited content for Associated Content, and little else. I am shopping for more markets - I will keep you informed of developments.