Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Irish Steamed Chocolate Pudding

I did not do the chocolate mint pudding for Christmas, as I intended, but I did to my old reliable steamed chocolate pudding. This requires semi-sweet chocolate, but do not skimp on it and go with the Nestlés – this is a great place to use the good stuff. The end product is really dependent on the quality of the chocolate used. Warm from the kettle this is deeply decadent.

Irish Steamed Chocolate Pudding


  • 9 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour


  1. Fill the kettle and set it on to boil.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together; set aside.
  3. Beat the egg whites until foamy, gradually add 1/2 cup sugar (still beating), then beat to soft peaks; set aside.
  4. Beat the egg yolks, gradually adding the remaining sugar. Continue beating until the mixture has about tripled in volume, and the sugar is dissolved. The yolks should look light yellow.
  5. Add the chocolate mix to the yolks, beating until blended. Then add the flour, beating on low speed until thoroughly mixed. Fold the mixture into the egg whites. When completely mixed, pour into a very well greased 7 cup pudding basin, or a bowl suitable for use on the stove. If using the bowl, construct a lid as follows: Cut a piece of wax paper large enough to cover the bowl, with some excess for folding. Fold a 1-inch pleat in the middle of the wax paper. Do the same with a piece of aluminum foil. Cover the bowl with the wax paper, then with the foil, lining up the pleats. Secure with kitchen twine; cut off any excess. You may wish to construct a lifter out of twine, or you can use two spatulas to lift the pudding.
  6. Pour about two inches of water into a pot large enough to fit your pudding basin. Place the basin inside and cover the pot. Keep the water in the pot boiling for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (You will need to add more boiling water from the kettle from time to time.) The pudding will be firm and cake-like on top when it is finished. If you are not sure, boil it longer, as it can't be overdone. Once it is ready, let it cool for a few minutes in the basin, then turn it out on a plate.
  7. Serve warm or let it "age" in an airtight container, which will enhance the flavor.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bûches de Noël

It is the season of Advent, and Christmas will soon be upon us. I will refrain from political rants until after the first of the year and reserve my opinions to food.

And why not? Historically, the breaking of bread with others was a means of making peace. The table was a place for conversations – conversations among families, among diplomats and among kings and princes. Food is a primal need, and at the dinner table, we are all equals. We speak reasonably at the dinner table for fear of being banished. We offer sustenance to others there, and we accept it from them too whether they are strangers, friends or family. We are vulnerable at the dinner table too and we must put our guard down in order to partake in this ritual. And it is a ritual – a joyous ritual of feasting, sharing the same Latin root word as "festival".

We are in our season of feasts and festivals, a rare time when we return to the dinner table and bask in the warmth of our loved ones. Some brilliant Teutonic baker in times gone by decided to celebrate the Yule by reproducing a mighty fire-log in the form of a wonderful chocolate confection. Often these Yule Logs are simple, cartoonish affairs, and they are quite lovely and delicious. At the hands of a master, however, the Yule Log is transformed. It is a rare time when a baker with a sense of humor can go a bit wild. I have seen Yule Logs that look like vast fallen branches, moldering in the forest damp, complete with entirely realistic white chocolate and marzipan fungus and worms about. The dusting of cocoa reinforces the realism of the dull, dirty log. These are amazing things.

The French, contrariwise, elevate the Yule Log to something. . . well. . . French. In the United States we often malign the French. Personally, I loathe the current political climate of the nation of France, but I have always loved the Gallic people. And, particularly, I love their ability with food as art. And clothing as art. And women as art.

Recently, whilst looking for ideas for decorating Yule Logs, I found the one pictured above. Designed by men's clothing designer Alexis Mabille and executed by a brilliant Parisian bakery, this Bûche de Noël will put you back about €80 - $118 at today's exchange rate. No, I do not know what it tastes like, but who really cares? It is worth the investment to have something perfect in your life. It is much the same as my argument in favor of owning a Jaeger-Le Coultre watch or a 1929 Bentley – perfection is rare, embrace it.

No, neither this nor a witty reinvention of it will grace my holiday table this year. I see this, and I want to go back to a nice stew. I will leave creations like this to the Bo Fribergs of the world and I, I will eat Oreos.

Joyeux Noël!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Puddings

The Christmas season is upon us, and my vision of the holiday celebration includes all things Dickens. Central to the Christmas dinner is, of course, the Christmas Pudding! Traditionally, a Christmas Pudding is a Plumb Pudding, sort of a steamed fruitcake filled with all sorts of candied fruits and sometimes coins. A variant of that is actually called Christmas Pudding, and it is generally the same idea.

If your family is like mine, however, the concept of a cake filled with candied fruits is revolting to them. They would be hard pressed to touch it as a punishment, much less as a celebration of this joyful Holy Day. So what to do? Are we stuck with store-bought pumpkin pies? I say, "No!"

My wife's particular pleasure is chocolate mint. It is one of her favorite flavor combinations. Whilst perusing Anglo-Irish dessert recipes that might be in the spirit of a Dickensian celebration I came across the following, which seems as though it will fill the bill. Furthermore, unlike plumb puddings and Christmas puddings which have to ripen for a month, this one looks as though it might be best served warm out of the mold, so you can have it simmering away on the evening on which you will serve it! This recipe is, as yet, untried by me - I will report back after I attempt it.

Steamed Chocolate Mint Pudding

• 100g Softened butter
• 100g Golden caster sugar
• 200g Mint fondant chocolate
• 2T Hot water
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 175g Self-rising flour
• 4T Milk
• 200g White chocolate, broken into rough pieces, about 0.5 cm

1. Cream the butter until pale and fluffy.
2. Place the mint fondant chocolate and hot water in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until melted and leave to cool for a couple of minutes until cool but not set. Stir the chocolate mixture into the butter and sugar mixture.
3. Beat the eggs, a little at a time. Fold in the flour, adding enough milk to give a soft-dropping consistency. Finally, stir in the white chocolate pieces.
4. Spoon the pudding mixture into a greased 900ml pudding basin. Cover the top of the sponge with a circle of greaseproof paper, seal with aluminum foil and secure with string.
5. Steam the pudding in a saucepan half filled with simmering water for 90 minutes, replenishing the water as it evaporates. You may also use a steamer to cook the pudding.
6. Cool slightly before turning out and serve with clotted cream and a glass of dessert wine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rediscovering Beefsteak Pudding

I have long been fascinated by the steamed and boiled puddings of the British Isles. My first exposure to them was via a richly spiced persimmon pudding that Mom made for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Later I experienced rich chocolate and toffee puddings, but I have long been curious about the savory puddings that served as such a staple of the pre-war British diet, so I decided to try it out.

Savory puddings are the antithesis of fast or convenience foods. For unpracticed hands, such as my own, it takes a good 45 minutes to get the pudding prepared. Then it boils for 2 ½ to 4 hours. On a cool autumn day, however, it makes for a delightful, quietly gurgling pot on the back of the stove.

The result of this cooking method, which is a sort of well controlled moist cooking method, is an intensely beef flavored filling in a flaky biscuit crust. As opposed to stews, where meats are immersed in liquid, the pudding filling is relatively dry, though there is a small amount of good beef stock included. The liquid assists in the breakdown of the connective tissues in the beef, rendering it tender and making the sauce rich and toothsome. By limiting the liquid, the flavor of the beef is not diminished, but, rather, is intensified. In a typical American style beef stew, meat is, in essence, boiled with vegetables until everything is a bit mushy. By immersing the meat in a volume of water, the beef flavor is diluted. Beef stew at its very best, such as the classic Southern French Daube Provençal, has a cooking broth that is rich in flavor so even if the beef flavor is diluted a bit, the trade-off is well worth it. The beef may lose some of its "beefiness", but it gains flavors brought by wine, stock, anchovies, olives as well as mirepoix. In the simpler beefsteak pudding we start with the same cut of beef, my personal preference is boneless chuck-eye steak which is rich in flavor and in connective tissue which contributes so well to the broth. Instead of immersing the beef in a cooking liquid, we are creating a closed cooking environment with a very limited volume of liquid. The liquid used is a good quality, rich beef stock. Other elements in the pudding are limited – they may include kidneys, mushrooms or oysters, but vegetables and starches are cooked outside the crust.

The crust itself is a biscuit-like affair. To my surprise, it cooks to a delightful pale brown despite being cooked in the water-bath. The recipe that I used was a pure butter crust, mainly because in my area butter is more readily available than suet. For the next foray I hope to get some suet and do either a true suet crust or, perhaps, part butter and part suet. That said, the butter crust came out quite nicely and lent a rich butter flavor to the finished product.

Here is the recipe that I used. It is Frankensteined from other recipes, but it worked well.

Steamed Steak & Mushroom Pudding



  • 2 cups (284 gm) all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp (4 ml) salt
  • 2/3 cup (160 gm) butter
  • cold water to mix



  • 2 chopped onions
  • 500 grams chuck-eye steak (or good chuck trim, if you are close to your butcher!)
  • 6 large white button mushrooms or assorted wild mushrooms, quartered
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) good beef stock
  • 1/2 tsp (3 ml) Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 tbsp (45 ml) all purpose flour
  • fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste


Prepare the pastry by cutting the butter into the flour and salt mixture in a bowl until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Using a fork add cold water gradually and combine to make a dough. Do not over-knead! Sprinkle dough with flour, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Sauté the onions in a little oil until tender, then combine with the beef and the mushrooms in a bowl along with the flour and dry seasonings.

Roll the rested dough out to about ¼" thickness and cut out a wedge amounting to ¼ of the total. Line a buttered pudding basin or bowl with the larger part of the pastry and fill with the beef and onion mixture.

Add the Worcestershire sauce and beef stock and top with the remaining pastry and crimp. Cover the top of the pudding with a round of parchment and then seal the top of the bowl with a layer of foil, tied in place with butcher's twine.

The bowl is placed in enough water to come half way up the exterior in a large sauce pot.

Boil for three hours, covered, being careful to keep the water about half way up the basin. When adding water, do so with boiling water so as not to lower the cooking temperature.

Remove the basin from the water and allow it to set for about ten minutes. Invert the basin on service dish, and allow it to stand for another three to five minutes. Carefully tap the basin with a metal spoon and remove from the pudding. If your pudding crust is firmly made, the pudding will stand! If your crust is too tender, it may collapse, but that should not be viewed as a defeat – the pudding will still be excellent.

Kidneys and oysters make lovely additions to a beefsteak pudding. In the case of kidneys, clean them well and leach them in milk for a few hours prior to making the pudding, and put them in with the beef. In the case of oysters, refer to Mrs. Beeton's work on British cookery – shuck half a dozen fresh oysters pour any liquid that they secrete off. Reduce the stock by the amount of the oyster liquor and proceed with the pudding. Cook the oysters enough to plump them just before you serve the pudding, and spoon a few oysters about the plate with the pudding. This is a foodie marriage made in Heaven, and it is suitably delicious for any festivity!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I have long been fascinated by the Edwardian cult of technology. It was the launch pad from which the twentieth century's rocket of tech was launched. It did not give rise to the automobile, but it allowed the automobile to evolve to its highest forms, both in the high and the low end. The steam locomotive advanced by leaps and bounds and science, in general, took gigantic steps forward. It was in this era that men sprouted wings of wood and silk and took to the air, and monstrous craft, lighter than the air that they glided through, were the promise of the future. Much of what Verne envisioned in Paris in the 20th Century was, in fact, part of Paris at the dawn of the 20th century. This was truly the golden age.

My love of this early twentieth century technology is oft perceived as a fondness of the "Steampunk" genre. It is true, as I have discussed elsewhere, Steampunk had a great deal of potential as a science fiction and design genre at one point, but it has taken a turn for the juvenile and the trashy, which, in my view, has utterly undermined any virtue that it might once have had.

I think that the genre of "Futurism", or the prototypical science fiction of writers such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, should not be lumped in with Steampunk, as it often is, because those were works of carefully thought out genius. Within the Steampunk genre, The Difference Engine should be considered a stand-alone work, transcending and inventing the genre as a whole. Everything else in the Steampunk genre is unmitigated crap. Garbage. Sewage. The very worst of the literary dump.

In any case, whilst on a hike in Folsom, California the other day I happened upon a magnificent old iron bridge. It was made by the San Francisco Bridge Works in 1895 and it served as the sole bridge across the American River into Folsom until 1917 when the larger, stone "Rainbow Bridge" was built. At that time the city of Folsom sold the old iron truss bridge to a buyer in Japan, but it was never shipped and it stayed in place until 1930. In that year the State of California bought it to span the Klamath River on Walker Road in Siskiyou County, and there it stayed until 1998. The City of Folsom bought the bridge back in that year, and it was reinstalled here as a foot and bicycle bridge, running next to its replacement.

What really caught my eye about this old bridge is that, from a distance, it is a purely functional span. As one draws closer to it, however, you begin to notice the Edwardian detail – the decorative iron work and the beautiful punched sign declaring the manufacture of the bridge. Once you are really close to foot of the bridge you notice the original signage: "$5 fine for driving over this bridge faster than a walk. $25 fine for driving more than 20 head of horses, 50 head of cattle or 200 sheep, hogs or goats over this bridge at one time." This is a magnificent coalition of technology, art, the modern age and the age gone by. This is what Steampunk should be about.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Corned Beef

So, there I was, surfing the net, searching for some sound advice on how to cook a corned beef in a manner such that it could be sliced into sandwich meat. See, I love corned beef sandwiches more, even, than that American Saint Patrick's Day staple, the Boston Boiled Dinner. In fact, my favorite parts of the corned beef experience are 1) corned beef and Reuben sandwiches and 2) the corned beef hash which, if you are really lucky, comes the next day. The problem with all this is that if you are going to start with a boiled dinner, and if your family consists of more than just you, you need at least two corned beefs to get all this out of it, or you need to plan for your corned beef and only get certain treats out of your one corned beef.

So, anyway, there I was, surfing the net, searching for some sound advice on corned beef cookery, and I found one of the best articles on the subject that I have ever seen in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It is a very intelligent discussion of the topic and links to some great recipes too. I hope that they keep this article up!

UPDATE: The braised corned beef turned out to be everything I had hoped for! It was moist and delicious, but it sliced satisfactorily and held together nicely for sandwich making. We had two days of first-class Reubens and corned beef hash for breakfast on day three.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No. 39

I got a lovely email this morning from the owner of an American LaFrance roadster that is pictured in an earlier post in this blog. The car in question is labeled on its yellow petrol tank with a number 39, and it is, in my humble opinion, the best looking LaFrance roadster that I have ever seen. This car is no museum piece, however: It gets 10,000 miles of road work per year traveling across Europe. It has the home-craft quality that makes the LaFrance vehicles stand apart from other Edwardian vehicles, but the craftsmanship appears to be first rate. It is a truly beautiful expression of the Edwardian cult of technology, and it reaffirms my desire to own such a car myself one day.

As a point of interest, the Spitfire in the photos was flown by the LaFrance's owner's father during World War II.

Viva LaFrance!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My New Toy

I picked up a terra cotta garlic baker today. Now this is the kind of kitchen toy that I generally ridicule people for buying because it takes up space and it is a task that can be just as easily accomplished in any other small baking dish that you already own, but it was half price day at the thrift store, and for 75¢ I simply could not pass it up. The great thing about this particular garlic baker is that it was in brand new condition – no stains, no chips. It looks as though Aunt Faye got it for Christmas; she unpacked it and put it away around 1985. Then, when it was time to move to Florida, she sent it off to the thrift store, and from there to my kitchen.

Tonight dinner is pizza with baked garlic, wild mushrooms, whole milk mozzarella and Italian sausage! The garlic already smells wonderful.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I like coffee. I like it brewed in the American style, not espresso. I like it hot or iced and with some cream. I do like Café au Lait in the manner in which my sainted aunt Louise made it now and again, but my normal beverage of choice is coffee.

So on a warmish summer morning a few weeks back I pulled up to my local McDonald's drive-through and, in a loud, clear and well enunciated voice I say, "Coffee, iced, with half and half. No sweetener, no flavoring ingredients except for coffee. In the cup I would like ice, coffee and half and half – that is all."

There is a pause on the other end of the speaker. "Uh." Another pause follows. "What kind of syrup would you like in that?"

I do not mind clarifying questions – it is evidence that my order will be correct when it finally arrives, so I encourage them. "I would like no syrup nor sweetener of any type, thank you; just a cup of coffee on ice with some cream."

"So, you want plain?"

"Exactly! Plain is what I want. I want coffee-flavored coffee in a large plastic cup and with a bit of half and half in it, all poured over a volume of icy-cold ice. That is all. Plain as can be!"

"Err." Another pause followed. "OK. One large plain iced coffee. That will be $3.20 at the first window. Thank you."

They got it! I was pleased and eagerly anticipating my perfectly concocted cup of coffee. I pulled around to the payment station and parted with my hard-earned coin, then pulled forward to my waiting coffee. The cup was shoved at my face with a straw grasped in the same hand, I got a bonus "thank you" and the window snapped shut.

There was a line behind me, but I took a second to insert the straw into my sacred morning beverage to get that first sip. . .

And it was sweet.

I knocked on the service window and the service provider behind it shoved a bag that smelled of trans-fats and despair at me. I spoke around it, "That is not mine. . . I wanted coffee with no sweetener in it."

"It says on the screen that you want your ice coffee plain. That is plain."

"I specified that I wanted it with nothing in the coffee but cream."

"No ice?"

"Yes, ice! I want cold coffee, half and half over ice in a large plastic cup."

"No sweetener?"

"No. No sweetener."

"Do you want some sugar or artificial sweetener packets with that?"

"No, thank you. The coffee will do."

I did, eventually, get my coffee.

Our friend Michy sent this video to my darling wife and me. It reminded me so much of me that I spit iced coffee with half and half and no sweetener all over my screen. Do not play this around the young or the easily offended.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Canned Salmon

I have come to realize in recent years that I deeply despise canned salmon.

In my sainted mother's pantry, canned salmon was something to be revered. I was allowed, even encouraged, to make lunch out of the tuna, but never, ever, the salmon. It was kept for things like salmon loaf, or, if we were very lucky, mom would make salmon croquettes, which was a summertime treat on the hot afternoon with a pitcher of lemonade and homemade tartar sauce. I still have fond memories of those things!

So, recently, I decided that it would be a good idea to recapture that particular part of my childhood. I found a recipe that was essentially similar to Mom's, and I headed off to the Bel Air for a supply of salmon. I wanted the good stuff, but I was certain that Mom's cans were labeled "Pink Sockeye Salmon", so I shied away from the more expensive cans of "Red Salmon". I went with a respectable national brand, not something I found t the dollar store.

When I got it home, and had my mise en place, en place, I cracked open the can to start the process. 25% of the product in the can was bone and skin. Now, I have read that it is acceptable to devour the smaller bones found in canned salmon, but, frankly, I don't want to. And the skin is just icky.

I was looking forward to a product akin to Bumble Bee Solid Pack White Tuna in Spring Water: clean, salty, faintly flavorless. It is for a recipe that is a product of Midwestern ingenuity, and I did not expect "good" quality salmon, per se, but neither did I expect this chum.

For the next go-round, I plan to buy a bit heavy when getting salmon filets for the grill, and I am going to cook an extra pretty well-done, in order to simulate the doneness of the canned product, and I am going to attempt the croquettes again using that as the base. Report to follow.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chuck’s Been Saved!

Word came a couple of days back that Chuck has officially been saved! At least, for a bit. The network has contracted for thirteen episodes with an option for a back nine, likely dependent upon how well the initial episodes do.

So I get a little bit more of the witty repartee and a little more of the lovely Yvonne Strahovski before their ultimate fate strikes. I am hoping that this turns into a M.A.S.H.-like comeback miracle. I know of no other shows that have come back from failing to become incredible hits, but if it happened once, it could happen again. Right?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Save Chuck!!!!!!!!!!

Last year, a witty and endearing television program titled Chuck debuted on NBC. The show is well written and the characters are appealing – it juxtaposes some exceptional action sequences with great comedy and some touching and real relationships. I really enjoy this show more than just about anything since QED went off the air in 1981.

Chuck is related to QED only in that they are both shows that I really enjoy and they are both shows that seem doomed to premature ends! There are sundry Save Chuck campaigns out there right now including petitions and a Subway $5 Foot-long campaign wherein everyone was supposed to run out to Subway and buy a Foot-long sandwich after the season finale ran on Monday. I am not particularly hopeful about seeing a third season of Chuck, but I am very wishful! I love the cast, and they are much like a group of old pals whom I get to visit every week, and I really want to continue visiting them!

Monday, April 27, 2009

The System of “Justice”

My darling wife was pulled over a couple of months back for driving in the evening with a single working headlight. The ticket was just and well executed by a very professional young California Highway Patrolman. She brought the car home and I fixed the headlight immediately. We took the car to the Folsom Police Department to have the correction verified, and they did so, signing off the ticket.

Here is where the story takes a turn for the worse.

One week subsequent to the issuance of the ticket, I called the Carol Miller Justice Center in Sacramento, California to get information about paying the administrative fees, and they had no record of the infraction because "it [was] too soon after the issuance of the ticket for it to be in [their] system." They recommended that we mail the ticket in with a check for the amount owed. This option did not appeal to me or my wife, as the bureaucracy of the state court system makes the administration of Dante's Pandemonium seem smooth and simple to navigate. Another week went by, and we made the trek to the courthouse a second time to pay the fine that now goes with a "fix-it" ticket, and we were told for the second time that the ticket was not yet in their system.

So we waited. Eventually, about six weeks after the initial ticket, my wife received in the mail a notice that gave her the payment options. And we forgot about it. The day after the cutoff date, the courts were well enough organized to get an arrest warrant issued for my dear wife and get it delivered. Now we were responsible for the $25 administrative fee for the fix-it ticket plus a $500 + fine for failing to appear in court. We immediately scheduled a back-up court date, nullifying the warrant, and, today, we went to court.

The judge, whose name I do not recall at this time, was a wind-up, cymbal-banging monkey of a figure. Jennifer, my wife and the criminal in this case, went forth when summoned and explained what had happened. Out of the graciousness of his moronic heart, hizzonner reduced the failure-to-appear to $150, reprimanding my wife, explaining that we not only had to get it fixed but we had to report it before the requirement was fulfilled. Jennifer, being the wise and gracious gal that she is, said, "Thank you," and moved on.

I, however, am nonplussed. I grant that we should have attended to the ticked in a timelier manner, but why should we have to pay 2¢ for a failure-to-appear when we appeared at the courthouse twice to address this ticket? If any office in the private sector were run like the Carol Miller Justice Center, it would be driven out of business. I am a long-time supporter of the privatization of the bulk of state functions, including just about everything except the military and the courts, but after today, I am seriously reconsidering the court system. A judge is due a great degree of respect because of his position, but he should show a glimmer of intellect to ascend that position, and he should have a sense of what justice actually is in order to execute that role. Even in the case of traffic court, where there is no ethical or moral decree involved, merely the rules of the road, there is still a sense of justice and its execution, and the particular monkey that we drew had no idea about that. His function is, quite obviously, to raise revenues to keep his foolish little court running and to attempt to pay off the pit of debt that the People's Republic of California has racked up over the past few decades.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Opportunity of a Lifetime

I have always wanted to have a special little place. The Rick's Café Americain of my hometown. Sadly, it is cost restrictive.

The other day a gentleman who owns one of the loveliest little nurseries I have ever seen offered me a space. It is already set up for the facility, but it needs a good espresso machine and stock, and, sadly I am in no position to fund that at this time. The space is exceptional, opening into a beautiful garden patio and with a couple of peaceful fountains running. There is a marble fireplace for the cooler months. I envision a place for poetry readings and jazz. A truly cool, beat café of the type that I have not known for many years.

I am hoping that Big Coffee (or, perhaps, Little Coffee) will come along and affect my dream.

What I need is:

  1. Professional grade espresso machine, preferably of the old, manual variety
  2. Professional grade grinder
  3. Professional grade coffee brewing apparatus
  4. Storage for coffee and tea
  5. Ceramic service ware for various sizes of café beverages
  6. Paper goods including plates, cups and utensils
  7. Stock of coffees and teas

I propose that the supplier of the aforementioned shopping list provide it up front and that we pro-rate the payment for the first three months, until the café is a going operation.

You may leave me a note here or on my Facebook or LinkedIn account!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Brother Guy Fieri?

Question of the Day: Is Guy Fieri a Mason?

I have noticed recently in a couple of episodes of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives that the iconically retro-cool host, Guy Fieri, is wearing a black onyx signet ring with what I believe is a square and compass emblem on its face. Now Guy is the kind of guy who may just be wearing his dad's or grandfather's ring because it is cool, or he may even have picked it up at an antique store because it is a hugely cool ring, but I am wondering. On the one hand, he is a bit garish compared to the Masonic set I have been familiar with, but, on the other hand, the Masons do love their bling and their bowling shirts.

I have found a couple of references on the Internet posing this same question, but no solid answers yet. This is a bit of trivia that I really want to know!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Valentine's Day for the Thoughtless

A Guy's Guide to Last-Minute Valentine's Day Ideas
Last minute ideas for thoughtless guys to salvage Valentine's Day for the girls they love the most.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Other Favorite Car

Though I do love the American LaFrance Roadsters, my true automotive loves are the Bentleys of the 1920s. I love both the Speed Sixes and the less common Blower Bentleys. I gave up on owning one many years ago, as their availability is limited (there were only 55 Blower Bentleys made!) and when they do show up, they sell for prices in the millions of dollars.

Nonetheless, these are the cars of James Bond and John Steed. They are the stuff of legend. They are elegant and nimble and fast as lightning. They have the finish of the best British craftsmanship, and they look so darned good!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Another Crappy TV “Chef”

The English. At their best they build world dominant empires, subjugate native peoples and are universally despised oppressors. They are explorers, superspys, swordsmen and sailors. They are gentlemen who will best you at fisticuffs and be so gentile about it that you will thank them for the privilege.

At their worst they are cooks. They are the worst cooks in the world. They tell lies about Irish cooks just to take the attention off of how bad the English cooks really are. The very worst of the cooks end up calling themselves "chef". Gordon Ramsey is a creation of the BBC – he represents the worst that the UK has to offer with none of the breeding nor the refinement of the truly great chefs, and the very worst of what the cooking industry has to offer as well. This is obviously a winning combination, so now they are cramming another lousy English cook down our throats, Marco Pierre White. White bills itself as a "great" or even "the world's greatest" chef.

Startlingly, the truly great chefs would have blushed to have that moniker expressed to their faces. Escoffier was self-effacing to a fault, as was René Verdon. Jacques Pepin is the same. They all struggled to get to their lofty positions. Yes, they had a great deal of talent, far more than either White or Ramsey have, but they maintained a sense of great humility throughout their careers.

I have worked as a chef and a sous-chef in my time, and I will grant you that there are times when tempers flare in the kitchen. It is a high pressure environment demanding high levels of production and quality at the same time, and it is natural that voices will be raised periodically. To cultivate a reputation as a person with a short temper, however, is not indicative of being a good chef, much less a great chef. It is indicative of being a juvenile fake, as these two embarrassing exponents of the once great Empire both are. I am sure that either of them can flip a burger with the best of them, but that is all. It is another embarrassing condemnation of the American television audience that anybody knows these creatures' names – they should be as anonymous as those other abominations of the kitchen, Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Sweet Pea
by Amos Lee

Sweet pea, apple of my eye

Don't know when and I don't know why
You're the only reason I keep on coming home

I'm like the Rock of Gibralter
I always seem to falter
And the words just get in the way
Oh I know I'm gonna crumble
And I'm trying to stay humble
But I never think before I say

Sweet pea, keeper of my soul
I know sometimes I'm out of control
You're the only reason I keep on coming
You're the only reason I keep on coming yeah
You're the only reason I keep on coming home

Sunday, January 18, 2009


In doing my wardrobe research I came across a poorly written website with some decent information on it, and some blatant misinformation. The thing that offended me the most was that it accused Steed of wearing Chelsea boots, the fashion of the Beatles and other mods. In truth Steed wore fine looking Jodhpurs, unchanged in style since the 1870s, complete with elastic sides. The Chelsea boots that he is claiming that Steed wore were normally higher heeled and had pointed toes, the Jodhpurs do not.

Steed was a gentleman and a horseman and wore the footwear of a and equestrian gent. He often integrated hacking jackets into his wardrobe and periodically rode in the series. It is a natural extension that he should wear Jodhpurs. It is not, however, any sort of connection that he would wear mod fashion. This person claimed that Steed integrated a good deal of mod fashion into his wardrobe, but it is simply not the case - Steed was a classic.

Why this rankles with me so much, I cannot say, but it truly does.

The end.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

“Clothes Make the Man.”

"Naked people have little or no impact upon society." Or so sayth Mark Twain.

As time goes by, however, I am getting closer and closer to being a naked man, with the commensurate social impact. I am a guy who, admittedly, at a time in his life was a full-fledged clothes horse. I had a closet of great suits and jackets including three really convincing dinner suits, a wardrobe of custom-made dress shirts and neckties, cravats and bows sufficient to circumnavigate at least a good portion of the Equator. What happened? Priorities, obesity and poverty.

I am now down to four pair of khakis, a few tee-shirts and sport-shirts. I have two decent dress shirts, both with my preferred spread collar, but no ties of sufficient length to produce an appropriately grand full Windsor knot to fill the spaces between those distant points. In addition, it is hard for a really fat guy to get a decently fitting suit off the rack. We are just not cut the way that the mass production suit-makers think we should be.

I, however, am facing two situations that compel me to dress decently again. The first is that I am in the position of applying for conservative, 8:00 to 5:00 work again, and that requires that I turn out splendidly. The second is that I have been watching The Avengers on DVD of late, a program (or programme) that I have loved since childhood, and fundamental to that show is the dashing manner in which John Steed presents himself.

Sadly, I am no Patrick Macnee and I don't have a Halston designing suits for me. And I am on a restrictive budget. So the next step is to do the most with a minimum of resources. To that end, I have found an Eddie Bauer produced black blazer that looks like a fairly forgiving fit. I plan to pair this with a pair of decent quality gray cotton slacks. I have a fine quality Merino wool mock turtleneck that will give me a satisfyingly "James Bond's Fat American Cousin" look, and I can certainly pair it with either the white or the blue dress shirt to good effect. As for the tie, I plan to get a good quality navy polka-dot and a navy and gold rep-stripe in memory of my alma mater.

I have a pair of dark brown jodhpur boots that I can get away with, but black would be better. I recently discovered that my favorite old black dress shoes had completely worn through soles, and they are not of a quality where half-soles are an option, so I may have to look into having them completely re-soled and heeled. Or I may pick up a new pair of jodhpurs in black, which would be quite dashing and John Steed-ish.

That is my plan as of right now. I need, of course, to get a really fine bowler or, better yet, a Coke hat with a fine and tight curl and a whanghee crooked brolly.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another of My Favorite Restaurants Where I Have Never Been

Shade is a restaurant owned and operated by the beautiful and ingenious Chef Claire Smith. Next time I am in Houston, I will be spending as much time there as possible.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009