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 flambĂ©. 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.