Wine Tasting




A friend of mine recently mentioned that one of his co-workers was looking forward to the new season of “Hell’s Kitchen”. While I am a fan of several reality shows, including “Top Chef, I told him I had no desire to ever watch that show again…as I get to see “hell’s kitchen” up close and personal a little too often in my life.


Here is an example an editing difference  between the two shows


a) Top Chef = neatly uniformed waiters serve twelve plates in unison to the awaiting panel of tasters and then the tuxedoed captain returns to the kitchen “fire the fourth course please chef.”


b) Reality Kitchen = neatly uniformed waiters await behind an imaginary line at the front of the kitchen, six inches from the wall, silent with arms folded behind their backs, until Chef points at the floor to signal approach possible. Chef then hands the waiter a plate of passed appetizers “Miniature crab cakes with lemon dill mayonnaise with capers”. Waiter then repeats the sentence “miniature crab cakes with lemon dill mayonnaise with capers. Chef! “ or else? An engaging eight minute scene from Dante’s Inferno= lots of bleeps, smashing china, flashing knives, insults and impromptu apologies for mistakes of such magnitude in the world wide scheme of things  that they can’t   possibly be rectified.


Working a wine tasting dinner has a lot of quirks and small challenges. Just setting the tables; each place setting with nine pieces of silverware, five types of wine glasses in a progression of seven wine pours while polishing each piece takes time. What interests me is just how beautifully each course of food has been designed to perfectly compliment each wine. There is usually heady magic in the air as the intoxication builds, the wine maker makes mostly witty introductions to each wine and the guests become even more “engaging”.


Last night, somehow we started out backwards- before the first guest I offered “miniature crab cakes with lemon dill mayonnaise with capers a wonderful match with the tet-du-cuvee champagne” came into focus…I noticed the aqua blue eye shadow, a strangely cut fur coat (the outside temperature was rather chilly) and immediately wished I had my reading glasses on.  Her purse was so unusual I temporarily lost my breath. Peeking out of the interior was a taxidermist’s replication of a five pound Pug Puppy. At first I wondered if the dog was real- as in who would bring a dog to a wine tasting. But, apparently this stuffed dog was a fashion accessory! (Clearly a candidate for table five =desperate single members of the wine club?)


Usually after each course and the plates are cleared the wine for the next course is poured and the previous glasses are removed. One of guests had other ideas about moving on for each wine. At the end of his meal he loudly proclaimed “the service was superb and I certainly got my money’s worth.” I should say so; even at wholesale the three bottles of wine you drank during the meal should warrant at least 800mg of Advil tomorrow morning.  


Most uninhibited guest = entered the kitchen to request a large carry out box- he then trolled the room for any uneaten designer chocolate truffles made by the pastry chef.


Best course= single vineyard pinot noir 2006 with foie gras stuffed quail with black truffles.


 In light of today’s release of the latest unemployment figures …I look forward to getting my ass singe-ed in demi-hell’s kitchen a little more often. And look forward to the season finale of Top Chef? Will Carla make it to the top three chefs’ elimination?


Will I be serving fire roasted gerbil butts with chipolte aioli on house made saltine crackers in a brown polyester uniform from the Park Service Fashion Week in Big BendTexas…stay tuned!!!


“The Wine Holder Necklace costs $25 for two and holds a regular sized stemmed glass with a stupid looking lanyard.

Keep your hands free at parties by keeping your wine close at heart! This clever little clip with adjustable strap holds a regular-size stemmed glass to your chest, giving you the freedom to snack and socialize as you sip! ”





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Buy a Book Today


Wow! What a difference a week makes as there are no longer throngs of people crowding the streets in downtown DC. In fact this afternoon was a breezy mostly solitary commute, punctuated by an occasional salt truck or two.No cheering crowds, no banners, television crews, military uniforms- only a couple of banks of rented bleachers encrusted in ice.

Not even the Pharmaceutical companies ventured out tonight. I did catch a glimpse of the new Secretary of Energy and Gloria Estaphan’s husband (VERY gracious ) who was in town for a Latino fund raiser.
Stunned when one guest asked me to acknowledge that in less than a week, the new President had totally tanked the economy with his “new” plan. As he told me that it wouldn’t be until the next administration in four years until we saw a turnaround, I quietly spun my  knife around the capsule of the moderately priced bottle of wine he ordered, and thought geez “I might see an economic turnaround this evening if you guys drink three of these bottles… and afterwards I kinda felt sorry for them as they were preparing for a trial  that involved telling people that bought insurance (for something or another) that the company actually couldn’t afford to pay  their claims – rather the money they paid in premiums would be returned. In a moment of bad taste, after they asked who had offices upstairs, I mentioned the $50 million settlement one of my regulars had spearheaded in regards to oil deregulation in Texas a few years back.
I am not doing too good on the keeping my mouth shut aspect. Three gentleman indicated that they hadn’t seen each other in years and were looking forward to a visit over dinner. I asked them where they were from? The third man responded Oakland, CA. I asked them if they had seen the special on CNBC on the economics of the marijuana trade  on Sunday night? They said no- but one indicated that Oakland is the US center of the legal trade… Funny thing- the reason they were having a reunion is related to the upheaval at the FDA?
Most shocking and upsetting= I went into Borders to kill a few minutes, the main entrance was locked. For a moment I thought maybe the email I had recieved about store closings applied beyond Sacramento? In the 3,000 square feet main floor of the store, there were two people reading magazines, one cashier and two customers counting myself. I almost bought a cookbook marked down from $55 to 4.99 minus my grand “blowout sale” coupon (wondering just where it would fit on my bookshelf that spills onto the floor more often than not) when I was overcome with a grand sadness almost beyond belief. Hundreds of thousands of books languishing on their shelves, perhaps to be read in the future after being borrowed from the library or downloaded to a Kindle? Or a less than subtle signal that the economy is in deeper trouble than ever imagined.
I somewhat intimately understand the correlation between clever food, saving gas and electricity in a day by day balance of unrelenting hope. But what happens to our society if all of the not so superfluous “icings” of our existence fall by the wayside? What happens if NPR recycles most  of their programming and  long tenured producers of Science Friday are “laid off” (which has already happened)  ? What happens when the new geniuses of Fiction experience eclipsed opportunities to publish their work? What if the only “new” music released has to fit an exact imagined profile of  advertiser driven sales? What happens if the main revenue stream of the Washington Post  becomes  legal notices?
Asking each  of you to go out and buy a book in the next week certainly won’t turn the tide. Perhaps the inevitable demise of the neighborhood book store will be followed by the collapse of several of the big box book stores?  Buying  green is a wonderful – but if  you can buy “gold” as investment in the continued support of the intellectual and artistic JOY  of our beings- whether a new Music CD, A contribution to NPR , a piece of art and/or a book …consider it!

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Inauguration 2009..


 Several people have emailed me expressing curiosity as to my take on  Inauguration 2009. As this was my fourth Inauguration experience from near “ground zero” – I do have experience with these types of events.

 However, I am not sure I have much to add to what one could easily see’ on the television in regards to the festivities.

This afternoon I walked by the back of the White House to get to work about 4:00pm and there were nearly 1,000 people in the near vicinity trying to take pictures of themselves next to the White House. This was different in that usually I get to hear at least seven languages being spoken as I wend my way on what I consider a thorough fare sidewalk and most people consider an opportune time to stop and take pictures (while backing up to the far side of the fenced sidewalk) and then calling  everyone they know on their cell phone to say “guess where I am right now?” )
If I stopped to let everyone take their pictures… then it would take at least an hour to make it 100 feet.  So, unless they are counting off one-two-three- I duck and keep moving. So far I am probably “included” in on several hundred thousand digital camera downloads as a deleted image= weird American actually walking forward on sidewalk in camera zone.
Today the crowd was different, 95% were black Americans with their small children, here to celebrate a moment in history. I overheard one man talking on his cell phone “I am here at the White House, um… I mean Barack’s House.”
What also felt different to me was that there were three serious motor cades that arrived during my walk by the back end of both the Executive Office building and the White House. Usually for these all pedestrian traffic is diverted to the other side of Constitution Avenue for a lovely additional four block walk towards 15th Street. Either anybody got a ten car motorcade complete with ambulance, motorcycles, dummy cars and blacked out SUV’s and a Hum-Vee this afternoon or? Who knows, in the past if Bubba’s dog needed to poop on the south lawn, rush hour traffic was diverted for hours.
It will be interesting to see if there is any change in the landscape crew this spring… I have anxiously awaited the breaking news by some enterprising reporter = “No green cards for White House Landscape crew.” and/or “tractor trailer sized shredder trucks seen leaving grounds late a night prior to transition.”
Understandably security is at an unprecedented level. While I didn’t see the machine guns and Haz mat suits of the post 9-11 weeks…things are being taken seriously. As they should be. This evening when I left there was a six square block lock-down, roving motorcades, helicopters, airplanes inside the no fly zone…and hundreds of people lining the streets in anticipation of getting a glimpse of B in transit. Geez.. and instead of being excited I was strategizing on the possibility  of making it to my car in the near zero wind chill after walking six blocks and escaping the Manhattan rush like traffic jam  to Constitution avenue at 11:00pm.
So…did I get to “see” the parade?…through one window, in the glare if sundown, between five fences, fifty porta-potties, seven stashed tour busses…yes I did! as they turned the corner for the last lap to the White House.But, after one hour of sleep on the floor of the restaurant, five days of four hour plus public transportation commutes, and five days of eating cold leftovers standing up …I still was amazed by the notion, that probably there wouldn’t be another moment in my lifetime that I would be in close proximity to millions of people that were happy, jubilant and hopeful. If I closed my eyes I could feel the ground vibrating (not the cars sealed with security tape in the garage beneath me, with stickers that indicated that national security concerns might make destroying your car necessary ) rather a moment of hopefulness on a dark, cold winter day- that it just might be possible to face dawn with an empowered enthusiasm.
However- if it is against the “rules” to entertain lobbyists, politicians and CEO’s – with sit down dinners, junkets and/or trips to Hawaii… it is still NOT against the “rules” to invite people to an event with “heavy” passed bite sized morsels @ $400 plus /person.
I will be interested to see just how telecommunication de-regulation in regards to the Internet  might be changing in the next couple of months… I might even Goggle this!
Cynical prevails…Landing on the moon may have launched the whole earth catalogue..but didn’t make for a “Whole Earth” …but then again- unlike the Inauguration eight years ago where I saw six years old girls from Texas wearing sable coats that equaled in price to ten Habitat for humanity homes- things are a changing-hopefully the long slow climb back  from a global political, human rights and economic melt down- as difficult and daunting as it may will seem at the moment – has witnessed a turn of the tide.
How did you celebrate the Inauguration?

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One Line Zingers…

The restaurant rating site has a section called Outtakes that are quotes from diner’s reviews of individualrestaurants in the Los Angeles area. Each one is the “Out take of the Week.”  Here is a sampling:

  What they lack in quality, they make up for with butter.
  The waiters are trained to bang into you.
  Proof that there’s no shortage of people who want to eat bad food in historicbuildings.
  I’d love to go back – if you were paying.
  I liked the concept until I ate here.
  I actually pulled out my cell phone and called to ask them to please bringus water.
  Our wine was a year older when it finally arrived at the table.
  I was told by the waiter that I have the wrong palate.
  Like eating in an NYC subway station, only nicer.
  Besides the cockroach crawling up the wall, it was ok.
  Service exists in two modes: know it all and not at all.
  Dishwashing utensil in my gumbo tainted the meal.
  The service is like a bad high school play: warm, well-meaning and completelyinept.
  I don’t tip if I get groped.
  I thought I was looking at an oil painting when suddenly it moved –it was my waitress.
  I’m pretty sure I ate cow’s udders and liked them.
  The special occasion place for people with bad taste.
  Quail With Figs had exactly one fig. When asked for more, the waiter replied,”There’s one fig per customer! ”
  The maitre d’ made us wait to be seated, apparently for no other reason thanbecause he could.
  I would rather eat sushi from a vending machine.
  Great food amid a sea of shorts and black socks.
  Even their ‘regulars’ have stopped going there.
  Foie gras does not need to be put into a mascarpone cookie.
  The waiter took my order, went outside to smoke and then waved throughthe window.
  Could someone do something about the uniforms? 1982 just called and it wantsits suspenders back.
  We could have lived without knowing that our waiter was ‘Steven from Long Beach.’
  If I wanted to be treated with distaste, I would just stay home.
  They make you walk around with a horse stick and blow a whistle. That’llteach you to tell someone it’s your birthday.
  Overpriced and undergood.
  The food may be bad, but at least the service is slow.
  It seems that the owner, the chef and I have lost interest.
  My waiter was so soft-spoken I thought he was a mime.
  Breaking bread’ should not mean you have to use the side of thetable.
  The No. 1 spot in town for crooked pharma reps to stuff fat doctors fullof $50 steaks.
  Once you drive through ax-murderer country to get here you arepleasantly surprised by all the people and the buzz. 

Oh My! Thank you Jan for this link!

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Miniature Polymer Clay Food…

Alas, I live in an area that doesn’t feature food delivery service… and an order of Pad Thai would be perfect right about now. 


I stumbled upon an interesting miniature food blog today. I am inspired by the work of Mary Ellen , especially her miniature Thai food and was pleasantly surprised that it could be delivered!


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Homage to the Blog-O-Sphere…

A dear friend mentioned to me yesterday that I hadn’t posted on this blog and quite some time- perhaps I was feeling better? Absolutely!

I ran across a blog today that addresses movies and food, “It came from the Kitchen”…two subjects dear to my heart. So far there are only a few posts, but I look forward to seeing more.

“Enjoy with: Crackers with Maple baked ham, Monterey Jack cheese and a glass of milk and/or chai tea
Genre movie to see: 28 Weeks Later
Classic movie to see: The Tin Star

This is my first post of my new blog It Came from the Kitchen, which is based on the book I co-wrote with my friend Gord Reid. It is a cookbook we put together based on Sci-fi, horror and fantasy film-makers, writers and actors. Most of the recipes were compiled from celebrities from those fields and the rest were either written by me or chefs that I have known. ”

P.S. = some of my favorite movies-

  • Like Water for Chocolate
  • Eat Drink Man Woman
  • Babette’s Feast
  • The Big Night


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Lunar Eclipse…


Here on the eve of a grand weekend…the moon is poised for an eclipse. Its a little cold outside, light cloud cover, but great gazing.

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