food

in the hills of beverly

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i’ll begin this epistle with why i’m here. sadly, the browned eye girl is in the hospital again here in BH. her slightly less than a year and a half old new hip fell apart due to several factors, which i’m not going into here. so, this was like her 16th or 17th surgery on that hip. we’ve both lost count. her current surgeon is world class and we’ve been onboard with him for the last 4 surgeries, counting this one. he’s pretty confident that this time around things will be different. so are we but if things can go sideways, the brown eyed girl seems to always be in the crosshairs. prayerfully, things will go her way this time. she is a trooper. and just one of the reasons i love her so much.

all that being said, the surgery went well, though she is in considerable pain at the moment. big time pain meds work, kids. and they aren’t anything to mess with unless under the watchful eye and care of several doctors. she’ll have go to rehab for possibly a week or so but we’ve been down that road before. she’ll be home soon for another 5 or 6 weeks of recovery and then we can start planning our next vegas trip.

as for me, last night i had dinner downstairs in the hotel restaurant. a very nice place and the food is very good. i was in the mood for some comfort food so i ordered spaghetti bolognese. it was outstanding. really good. when i was finished and as i was leaving i asked to speak with the chef. he came out and we chatted. i told him the bolognese was amazing and the best restaurant bolognese i’d ever eaten. but it still wasn’t as good as mine. he got a kick out of that. though i wasn’t kidding. we shook hands again and i went back into the bar.

i’ve stayed at this hotel a number times while the brown eyed girl has been in the hospital, as the place is convenient. with my number of stays i’ve become friends with some of the staff. all the bartenders, of course, and the food and beverage managers. the senior food and beverage guy in particular. we hit it off the first time we met. i’ve come to call him my brother from another grandmother. anyway, i’m sitting at the bar sipping some texas vodka on the rocks and my friend comes by and just like every time we first meet it’s like old home week even if it was last night.

we chat for a while and he says, let’s go sit in the lounge, i want you to meet my boss. i’m like sure ok. we go into the lounge area and his boss comes over. we meet and chat somewhat. nice guy. then he gets right to the point. he’s wondering if i would like to do a bolognese throw down with the chef. i’m like what? sure thing but i need to wait until the brown eyed girl can join me. he’s ok with that. no details as yet but i’ve appointed the brown eyed girl as my agent for the throw down.

so, a beverly hills chef, my friend the food and beverage manager, and me will duke it out some way or another in one of their kitchens and somehow somebody is gonna pick a winner. sweet. i hope they don’t mind losing. i’ll also be doing some recon this evening. i’m having the spaghetti bolognese again.

i wrote the above several days ago. the browned eyed girl has been moved to the acute rehab unit in the hospital and, so far, is doing much better. even with the pain. hopefully, she’ll be home by next weekend.

the bolognese recon went well and i’ll probably do another one this week. the throw down has been tentatively set for sometime in late october.

jmh

dinner dinner applebee’s not a winner

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The brown eyed girl and I had sworn years ago we would never go to Applebee’s again. Never say never. We were seduced by their new TV ads for their diet friendly menu. We decided to give them another try. Last night was the night. Both of us ordered the diet friendly shrimp and steak dinner, medium rare for the steak. It did look good on the menu.

When the food finally arrived we were appalled. It looked disgusting. More like vile and looked nothing like what was on the menu let alone the TV ads. Plus, it was as if someone had just thrown the food on the plate in some haphazard insane manner. To make matters worse, the steaks were far from medium rare. Way too far from medium rare.

Somehow, when the waitress sat the food down in front of us she knew we weren’t happy. I wonder why? The manager appeared soon after and wanted to know if things were cool. Far from it. He said he would take care of it and asked if we wanted something else. We opted for leaving post haste vowing this time never to go back ever again. Regardless.

Yes, I lodged a formal complaint with the company this morning via email. Their web site is so lame it allowed me to enter a completely bogus telephone number after prompting me I had to enter one in order to file the complaint.

At any rate, we ended up going to a Chinese place that has some pretty good mu shu chicken, among other stuff. A much better experience all around.

jmh

random rainy day dream away randomness

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winter has finally hit socal.  cold weather.  well, cold for this desert anyway.  plus a nice hard rain.  there’s nothing like a nice rain especially after the last few winters of desultory or just vague rain fall.  if the state doesn’t go broke in the next few days i’m certain the water police will be out and about this coming summer.  count on it. 

my friend, jwfh, did a nice piece on rain today.  it got me thinking.  rain is god’s atonement for us or a washing machine, as it were.  sure sometimes there is a bit too much rain but sometimes the washer overflows or one of the hoses breaks.  none the less, those of us who live here in this desert love the rain and god’s stellar rinse cycle pretty much anytime it’s available.

this past friday the brown eyed girl and i attended a family function.  a funeral to be exact.  one of the brown eyed girl’s uncles.  funerals are funerals and this one was just the usual except for the music.  a small mariachi group, led by the uncle’s oldest son, played some fine haunting stuff during the mass, at the graveside, and at the lunch after wards.

during the lunch i had to make several trips to the food line to get stuff for the brown eyed girl and myself.  it was a small room and a large crowd of relatives and friends.  there was an attractive young blond woman with huge tits who was clogging up one of the aisles.  she was chatting with someone and seemed to get annoyed with anyone who had to walk through her, i’m sure, very very important conversation.  women pushing kids in strollers or old white guys hauling stuff to and from the food line.  it didn’t matter.  she wasn’t happy and only grudingly moved.  anyways, i’m thinkin’ she’s one of the reasons it’s raining.

the brown eyed girl and i spent yesterday afternoon making english toffee candy and merange cookies called brutti something or another.  she was supposed to do the deal with one of her girlfriends.  they do it every year around this time.  trouble was they just couldn’t work out a day and a time.  something always happened.  so i volunteered to assist the brown eyed girl. 

i’m a pretty good cook but baking has and never will be one of my fortes.  i just don’t have the patience for it.  even though my mom was an amazing baker and my dad made a living doing it before ww2.  i guess those genes didn’t get passed along.  it was fun and i enjoyed it but after 3 or 4 hours of the fun i’d had enough candy cookie making for one day.  i must say the stuff tastes wonderful and i’m happy i was able to help but as a regular thing.  no thanks.  but then i’m not a sweets or desserts person for the most part.  i’m a ‘call any vegatable…call one today’ sorta guy.  ok.  before someone asks the veggie reference is an old mothers of invention tune of the same name.

the rain has been coming down for almost 12 hours straight now.  it’s still raining hard.  the street out front is a sorta rampant stream.  one i’m glad i don’t have to ford.  the temperature is hovering around 43 degrees.  winter has finally fallen and i couldn’t be happier.

jmh

another wine whine

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the brown eyed girl popped her cooking cherry at my place last night.  yeah, it was her first time cooking here.  she made a really good pizza for us.  pizza on indo naan bread.  yep.  don’t knock it less you tried it.  olive oil, roasted tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, mushrooms, mozzarella, and fresh basil.  just outstanding.  i cooked up some organic squash as a side dish.  yellow squash, zucchini, shallots, olive oil, thyme, and sage.  sounds good, huh?  well, believe me it was.   

i wanted to score a nice bottle of vino for the occasion.  we’d been out and about and on the way home we stopped a local vino institution known for carrying high quality stuff.  i wandered around a bit and picked up a bottle of really really good ruby red california port.  for those that are interested it’s, ficklin vineyard’s 10 year old tawny port.  probably the best port this side of spain and portugal.  the bottle of vino i picked up was another story.

i decided on a local winery’s zinfandel.  another of the last standing and producing wineries here in socal.  not the one in the painting blog or the recent tasting place.  supposedly local grapes.  zin grapes.  still searching for the holy zin grail.  at any rate, it was a 2001 galleano winery, zinfandel.  it wasn’t cheap either.  we were both excited about tasting it.

of course, it turned out to be another in a long line of expensive vino that turns out to be crapola.  the stuff was not good.  way to sweet and oxidized.  we couldn’t finish it.  i actually tossed out a bit less than half a bottle along with what was left in our glasses.  it was that bad.  plus it’s something i rarely if ever do.

my point?  once again.  find inexpensive wine you like and stick with it.  pure and simple.  going outside that vino realm is a crap shoot at best.  plus those are words to live by.  trust me.

for those that missed it here’s one of john budicin’s lovely oils once again.

‘are they zn?’

jmh

biscuits and gravy

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i watched a crazy lady eat biscuits and gravy.  it was on wednesday.  an older heavy set woman.  alone.  in the booth by herself.  i’d watched her come in.  she seemed normal.  more or less pleasant.  she had a newspaper.  don’t they all?  it was probably the press-enterprise. 

her breakfast came.  along with it the insanity?  biscuits and gravy.  did they strike some dead synapse?  or dead husband?

i wasn’t sure at first.  a quick look to her right.  lips moving.  back to the biscuits and gravy.  anger now.  now i knew.  almost excited.  animated conversation.  tears choked back.  a pointed fork.  to her right.  loaded with biscuits and gravy.  lips moving.  anger.  almost tears. 

a lady.  a newspaper.  insanity.  biscuits and gravy.

 

thanks to my friend, ruby, for the inspiration this morning.

jmh

cookies and vino

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there’s times then there’s times when i’m more italian than chinese or asian.  yeah, my olden friends realize this.  this euro rooted boy has got some serous asian roots from some damn place or another.  but that ain’t why i’m here.

i venture back to those days of my youth and my maternal grandfather,  luigi.  he never became a us citizen.  nope.  my grandmother did back in the late 50’s.  luigi never did.  not sure just why but it was what it was. 

nono or grandpa, had lots of stuff happening.  tonight, after dinner, i went back to my youth and one of his semi sorta rituals.

he couldn’t eat a biscotti or any cookie, for that matter, unless it was dunked in a glass of dago red.  yeah, don’t knock unless you’ve tried it.  any damn cookie.  chocolate chip.  one of those peanut butter deals.  or maybe some wafer thingy.  perhaps strawberry.  macaroon?  damn straight. 

it doesn’t matter.  cookies and vino.  dago red is best for some reason.  sure i’ve tried cookies and white vino and it doesn’t work.  ok, it works on some sorta level but it doesn’t sing.  cookies and dago red sing.  big time.

sure there’s cookies and milk.  a wonderful invention if there ever was one.  count on it.  dunk and soak what the hell ever kind of cookie in the milk.  soak it up then eat it.  sweet.  childhood lives forever.  yep.

same deal.  cookies and vino.  i have or had some sort of cookie with macadamia nuts and white chocolate.  yeah.  nice.  i dunked em up in some dago red.  same deal as milk.  ah.  nice.  one of life’s small pleasures. 

perhaps not for the kiddies but i was once one and i was allowed at times to dunk biscotti in some dago red.  a kid’s dessert turned adult.  one of those italian deals turned immortal. 

jmh

iron chef tofu

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i went over the hill today.  no, not in the army sense of the term but i went over kellogg’s hill and back into the place where i’d been living for a number of years.  a couple of missions.  a drug script re-newel and chinese food.

i hadn’t cooked on the stove since i’d moved in here.  well, ok, i steamed stuff a few times but for the most part it had been frozen stuff or deli stuff.  i was jonesing for some chinese food.  more to the point, home-made chinese food.

i can cook the stuff.  a number of dishes.  i’m no, let’s get it on restaurant cook, but i can hold my own with enough main course stuff and lots of veggies.  good healthy stuff.  i packed the ice chest with some ice and with list in hand hit the road.

the mission went ok.  i should have gone to 99 market in rowland heights instead of the hong kong market in w. covina.  that market is limited in what the have on hand.  however, i did ok.  i’m good for a while.  i can fix mistakes after the eric the red boat sails in a few weeks.

i picked up the usual chinese condiments.  though i messed up on the veggie oyster sauce deal and got something that, well, wasn’t planned.  my bad.  i wasn’t paying attention.  oooofa.

so the first actual totally home cooked meal here in the upland meadows crib was…stir fried baby bok choy, jasmine rice, and iron chef tofu.  plus of course some vino.  white while cooking and dago red while eating, in this case.  it’s a case by case type deal.

ok.  iron chef tofu.  that’s what the old g/f named it.  it comes from the very old real iron chef show from japan that used to be on channel 18 here in lala land years ago.  and for a time on the food channel.  some day i’ll tell you about a conversation i had with one of the ch 18 folks, years ago, about that shit hot original iron chef show.  veering.

iron chef tofu started out as this weird tofu soy sauce deal the old g/f had come up with.  it was ok but i knew i could amp the deal up.  it took a year or so to refine the dish but now it kicks ass.  there’s several variations and i did another today with shitake mushrooms.  good, but the mushrooms soak up too much sauce.  whatever.  i’m a rice sauce guy.  kinda italian chinese.  capice?      

i have no intention of giving you the recipe as the damn dish sings.  good enough to be proudly featured on any decent chinese restaurant menu.   yeah, well, ok.  it’s tofu, wine, chicken stock(you can make it buddhist with veggie stock), green onions, garlic, and shallots plus other stuff.  it is chinese soul food to be sure.  the one i made today was ok.  it could have been better but it sang and i ate too much.  leftovers tomorrow.  sweet.  plus the rest of the baby bok choy cooked up fresh.

good luck with those ingredients.  i wasn’t very specific at all and there’s at least 4 more that are involved.  you might stumble on to it in five years or so.  maybe.

all is good for now.  or at least sorta.  once the eric the red voyage is over and done i can deal with more issues around here.  fine.  bring it.

the really cool thing about today’s cooking was the house doesn’t smell like paint anymore.  it smells like garlic.  i love the smell of garlic.  it smells of victory.

jmh

doctor, doctor give me the news…

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one of the reasons we went to l.a.’s chinatown over the past weekend was so the g/f could score a chinese scale.  the other reason being so she could find some herbs for a special concoction she had read about.  then there was my reason for going, staring at hot asian babes.  kid in a candy store time.  yes, well, some of you have already read what happened in that regard.  drifting. 

i’ve been around the asian culture for a number of years.  the chinese scale is one of the things that hasn’t come up before.  i’d seen them being used but just figured it was like any other scale.  it is and it isn’t.  it doesn’t weigh grams or ounces.  no, sir.  it weighs chinese weights.  sorta different from your usual american and eurolander weights and measures.  yes, we probably could have found said scale around here but it would have meant driving around where as in chinatown once we were there it was just a matter of walking around.  plus driving around you can’t really look around.  if you get my drift.

the chinese scale is not a cheap piece of equipment.  one was found for $50 but g/f wasn’t happy about that price.  we found one later for $35.  a better deal in any man’s language and chinese in particular.  at any rate the scale is a one hand held device with a nice brass plate and brass weight which are hung from some sort of bone, hopefully not ivory anymore but one never knows.  the bone has graduated weight lines carved into it.  there are 3 tassel like things on one end to be used for increasingly heavier weights.  for lighter weigths you hold on to the first tassel etc.  astute chinese make sure to watch anyone using said scale that they aren’t cheating with their pinkie finger by adding or subtracting weight. 

as for the herbs they were no problem.  chinese herbs are everywhere.  nice thing about the herbs for this concoction is they are over the counter stuff.  no chinese herb doctor needed.  simply dried dates, we got the pitted ones.  and not the dried dates of western culture.  chinese dried dates are very hard little things that are really and truly moisture less.  another of the ingredients a these small red dried berries found only in northern china around the himalayas.  as for the main ingredient it’s astragalus.  a root of some sort that supposedly has some fine properties going for it.  it actually looks like a tongue depressor that hasn’t been finished.  a sort of rough hewn version of the one your doctor has in his/hers office.

ok, so you take the herbs add water and bring it to a boil then let it simmer for a good hour.  it takes that long to get the dates and berries soft.  and that long for the astragalus to give up it’s good stuff.  apparently it’s very good for the immune system and other maladies.  g/f found the recipe on the net by a chinese doctor who practices western medicine.  uh, it’s in chinese.  sorry.

once it’s cooked up and most of the water is gone you toss out the tongue depressor stuff as it’s inedible even after cooking that long.  you drink the liquid and eat the dates and berries.  it’s not sweet but it’s not bitter either.  it’s like in between and not unpleasant.  some cantonese restaurants make a similar version of this with beef and beef bones.  a soup.  a very tasty soup.      

when the stuff is being cooked up it reminds me of perhaps a banana nut bread being baked in the oven.  pretty nice actually.  at least it smells better than the herb stuff the chinese lady next door is always cooking up.  she cooks it up out on the patio as it smells.  an almost unpleasant odor to be sure.  bordering on a vegetable soup gone horribly wrong. 

so does the stuff work?  i guess.  my allergies are in abeyance as are the g/f’s.  still around but no sneezing fits that go on and on.  this is after just drinking a cup a day since saturday.  interesting.  the stuff is also supposed to be good for the kidneys and liver among other things. 

ok.  so it’s not like i want to live forever.  not by any means.  it’s quality not quantity.  this stuff doesn’t seem to have any side effects.  i mean the chinese have been drinking and eating similar stuff for thousnds of years and there’s more of them than anyone else on the planet.  something to be said for all of that i suppose.

below is a photo of the chinese scale at work. 

jmh

it’s lunar new years eve, happy tet, happy year of the rat

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yeah, take your pick.  don’t matter.  it’s all good, as the sad saying goes.  stupor tuesday is a thing of the past and just grist for the mills.  moe better, the new year deal goes down tomorrow.  though it’s already been there done that in mainland china.  yeah, the mother ship of asian culture.  as it should be.  sorry japan.  ok, so like there’s this and that culture wise.  though my chinese culture family mavin’s say the japanese stole shit.  language and otherwise.  like i’d know but well, i believe them.

today is rat year chinese/tet new years eve.  my birth year.  my 60th on the planet.  a big deal asian wise.  i look forward to my year.  you should too.  i think it just might be a good one.  if only for us rats.  yeah, the black plague bearers of middle centuries past euroland.  what can i say?  not much other than…ah, clean up your act, wash your hands and fucking clothes in hot goddamn water with some soap for christ sakes.  plus, um, stay the fuck away from rats.  sweet marie.  yes, of course, way too late for that action.  just as well or the planet would be even more or way more over populated.  guess we have lots of wars to thank for that as well.

it’s new years eve.  china/nam/japan/korea/et al asia time.  sweet.  rat year.  my year.  get down and boogie time year.  prolly one of the last get down and do it years.  life schleps onward to what has been written.  capice?  at any rate, perhaps vino and some old old fleetwood mac with peter green to help shake that moneymaker and welcome in the new year.   

sure, the whole rat year could end up a toilet year.  i hope not.  the deal needs to go down to be sure just what it all means.  after all it’s just rock and roll but i like it. 

a bit later it’s off to a nice beijing joint for a few of our favorites from the place.  one called three delicacies, a shredded 5 spice tofu, with shredded leaks, shredded pork, and some kickin’ hot peppers.  damn, a very fine dish you ain’t gonna find in your local chinese joints.  trust me.  the other dish a nice buddhist delight, braised tofu and mushrooms.  like wise.  um, yeah, we’ll bring em home, nuke em up later, along with some other stuff we already have here for new years eve west coast l.a. time dinner.  yes.  plenty of vino as well.  sure.  it’s the year of the rat, new years eve.    happy lunar new year!!!  happy tet!!!

jmh

of mice and men (with apologies to steinbeck)

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it didn’t look like it was going to be one of those days but it turned out to be anyway.  just another day for the best laid plans of mice and men.

the whole thing got rolling at breakfast.  g/f was home taking a vacation day.  what do you want to eat for breakfast?  um, egg rolls, but not fried.  we’ll nuke em first then put them in the toaster oven.  yeah, ok, sounds good.  i’ll get them going.  the toaster oven, however, wasn’t cooperating.  the fucker was only working half way.  time for a new one.

i tossed the old one out and g/f says since we are going out for the toaster oven i want some new toilet seats for the toilets.  fine, ok.  i’m thinking the damn things are fairly new but from years of experience i sorta know not to argue.  sometimes. 

we figure this will be just a one stop shopping trip plus a quick stop for a few groceries.  we know what size toaster oven we need.  it can only be so big or it won’t fit where it’s been for like ever.  i’m even bringing along the tape measure just to make sure it all works out.  it’s 9am and off we go.

of course the toilet seat deal is a bust but we find a nice toaster oven and the measurements seem to be just right.  cool.  well, we stop at another half dozen places looking at toilet seats.  none of which suit the g/f for a variety of reasons.  by this time it’s almost noon so we decide to give up on the seat search and go home.

the new toaster oven is a very nice stainless steel model with all of the new bells and whistles.  only thing is the new toaster oven is too fucking big for it’s spot.  just a quarter of an inch or less to fucking big.  oh, we could have shoved the damn thing into it’s spot but it would just mean trouble in the long run.  we take it back and get our money back then hit the road again looking for another toaster oven. 

we go back to the same stores we had already been to looking for the seats but this time we are looking for a toaster oven, again.  none of the damn things is the right size.  g/f is like maybe we should just go back and get the same model from the first store and just jam it in place.  i say no to that deal.  i’m not walking back in that store to buy the same fucking toaster oven i originally bought, then returned, then go back and buy it again.  jesus, if i were the store i’d call the mental health cops and the real ones as well.

when we finally got home yesterday afternoon around 3pm we still didn’t have a toaster oven.  they are all too damn large.  now the plan is to rearrange shit in the kitchen in order to make room for the larger size.  thankfully, we found 3 possibilities at a store just down the street.  at least no driving all over town again.  or that’s my hope.

the toilet seats? g/f went on line after dinner last night and found just what she was looking for.  she’s buying 3.  one for each throne.  if only the rest of the day had been so easy.

jmh