Tag Archive: Humor

Silver Screen

Outlet Radio Network
March 20, 2005

Silver Screen

James Bond roars across Europe in an Aston-Martin and tens of thousands of people rush to their local car dealer demanding to purchase one just like the one he drove. No? Make that Dr. No and let him mention Dom Perignon ’53 (which he preferred to the doctor’s ’55), and the public rushed their local wineshops demanding the ’53. The same scene is basically repeated in Goldfinger; yet in Thunderball, he goes for the ’55, and in You Only Live Twice, the ’59. Marilyn Monroe was a big fan of the ’53. Various vintages of Bollinger champagne are featured as well… ’69, ’75, ’88, and ’90. The ’34, ’47, and ’55 Chateau Mouton Rothschilds from Bordeaux make their appearances as well. (I won’t get into all the rest, there’s [was, no longer in existence] a great site for James’ drinking habits at Make Mine a 007… I’m only using these to make a point… soon.)

Demi Moore offers Michael Douglas a bottle of ’91 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay in the film Disclosure. Sales of Pahlmeyer wines, and not just the ’91 Chardonnay, rocketed. It became “the” cult wine to get for a short time. Prices were raised.

And now, we have Miles in Sideways proferring pretentious wine advice on Pinot noir, Merlot, and what have you. Sales of Pinot noir have climbed, sales of Merlot have dropped. It will no doubt be temporary. But try getting your hands on the three featured wines in the film. Many retailers and restauranteurs (not to mention the wineries themselves) have raised prices or are doling them out in small quantities. Tourism in Santa Barbara has gone up (well it is beautiful).

I won’t go on and on, though it’s possible to, I’d rather get to my point. Starting back from my opening line, the point comes down to… hey folks, it’s a movie. Some scriptwriter wrote it. Some director directed it. Actors were given scripts and lines to say. In many cases some winery, or at least their marketing company, horror of horrors, shockingly, paid for the product placement!

Now, I’m not disparaging the tastebuds of Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Demi Moore, Michael Douglas or Paul Giamatti, or anyone else who appears in a movie. I haven’t a clue. I haven’t gone out to dinner with any of them. Some of them might have amazing palates when it comes to wine. But here’s a little secret…

Dom Perignon 2265Sean Connery did not personally recommend to you that you go out and buy 1953 Dom Perignon. Really, he didn’t. Paul Giamatti may play the pretentious wine snob well, but he did not personally recommend that you run out and buy Hitching Post’s Highliner Pinot noir, Sea Smoke’s Botella Pinot Noir, or Fiddlehead Cellars’ Sauvignon Blanc. Really, he didn’t either. And without knowing their personal tastes, even if they had, why would you run out to buy it?

Nonetheless, “the herd instinct is strong,” as someone posted on one of the wine geek websites.

Now, I have to get back to explaining to my trekkie customers that the 2265 Dom Perignon (opening sequence of Star Trek VII: Generations) won’t be produced, if at all, for another 260 years… and no, I cannot get them a sample bottle…

I started writing food & wine columns for the Outlet Radio Network, an online radio station in December 2003. They went out of business in June 2005.


Doneless Deconstruction

Outlet Radio Network
August 2, 2004

Doneless Deconstruction

“Grilled Doneless Pork Chips in AMex Spicy Saucy”. I hope and pray that this special advertised at a local eatery was merely the result of a poor command of the English language. If it isn’t, the trend towards “creative” cookery has just gone way ’round the bend. The image of thinly sliced, undercooked bacon with bits of credit card and chilies piled on a plate doesn’t do much for my appetite.

Now, I’m all for experimentation in the kitchen. I do it all the time. We all do. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that. Sometimes you open the refrigerator and there’s a jar of olives, some left over fried chicken, and an apple, and we say “oh, what the hell…” We don’t tell anyone we ate them together. Over day old rice left from the Chinese food.

But there’s a trend out there in the world that makes me uneasy. The current shining light is a Spanish gentleman by the name of Ferran Adria. He is touted by many as a slightly mad genius – turning food into foams and essences, powders and leathers. I’ve never eaten at his restaurant, and am unlikely ever to do so. I can’t say that it wouldn’t be an interesting experience. I can say it’s not really the way I want to experience dinner.

He’s not the only one. Every major dining city now has it’s dean of “deconstruction”. Yes, deconstruction is the term used for turning a perfectly delectable melange of flavors into an awkward experience of its components. Two of my favorite writers from the New York Times recently hosted a dinner party where they experimented with the concept. I enjoyed reading about their experience, it would have been fun to attend, but they also approached it with a “just what the hell is this all about” attitude. And you can bet the next day dinner was a bit more, well, put-together.

I’ve had dinner at a couple of those kinds of places, one in New York, one in Florence. My experiences at both were of the “this kind of stuff will be liked by people who like this kind of stuff” variety. Or, as one of my best friends phrased it, “blender food”. Lacking in a bit of substance to sink your teeth into. Air, foam, essence. Not dinner. I haven’t been back to either place.

And, by the way, it’s been done. There’s a packet of orange powder inside the famous blue box alongside the macaroni. Let’s see one of these temples of dining experience line that up with a pat of butter and splash of milk… Now that’s a cheese plate.

I started writing food & wine columns for the Outlet Radio Network, an online radio station in December 2003. They went out of business in June 2005.


Blue, Blue, My World is Blue

Outlet Radio Network
June 2004

Blue, Blue, My World is Blue

They fight aging, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s, they fight bad cholesterol, infection, cure the common cough, prevent blindness (and improve night vision) and strokes, improve your motor skills, and improve your memory. In fact, if I’m reading the USDA’s study correctly, they apparently helped laboratory mice remember just where they left their car keys. Bears will travel fifteen miles on an empty stomach just to find them.

You can eat them. They have vitamins, fiber, and free-radical antioxidants. They are not, however, a cure-all, I found no listings for eliminating hang-nails, regrowing hair, or making your teeth whiter. They are low in carbohydrates, and approved, I believe, by all appropriate low-carb diet plans – since all of us are on one of those these days. They are, by the way, blue.

Blueberries in fact.

There are entire websites devoted to them. “Googling” on the health benefits of blueberries yields up a serving of over 26,000 websites. Blueberries all by their lonesome manage nearly half a million sites. According to these various sites, blueberries are the oldest known plant still living, with evidence of their existence from over 13,000 years ago! They are one of the few native foods indigenous to North America, or so these websites proclaim. In fact, they are so All-American that when they first appear on their bush, they are white, then turn red, and finally blue!

E-Bay, as of today, has 1145 blueberry related items for sale (well, okay, a few of those are Macintosh computers in blueberry color, but…)

The Maine Wild Blueberry Association is sponsoring research into Blueberry Burgers.

They come in lowbush and highbush varieties, they are known by aliases such as Bilberries, Whortleberries, and Hurtleberries. They are not, however, and this is emphasized in many places, the same thing as Huckleberries. Confusing the two is apparently a major Berry Faux-Pas. They are the state berry of the state of Maine. And, for nearly two centuries, there has been a special tool, the Blueberry Rake, dedicated to their harvest.

Next month, July, will be the fifth annual National Blueberry Month. Really and truly.

In preparation for the festivities, my team and I set out to provide you with all the tools you need to make sure you can have the best of the summer blueberry soirees.

Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins

Let’s face it, most of us only eat blueberries in muffins, so we had to start there. These are not your average, day-to-day, blueberry muffins. These will bring tears to your eyes. And your car keys will magically appear in your hand immediately after consuming one.

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon salt
3 large eggs, beaten
3 cups milk
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup molasses
1 cup melted shortening or butter
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Take about a tablespoon of the flour and toss the blueberries in them to lightly coat, this will help prevent them all sinking to the bottom of your muffins as they bake. Sift together the dry ingredients, and in a separate bowl, combine the wet ones. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, and then stir in the blueberries. Grease a muffin tin and divide the muffin mixture evenly. Bake at 400F for 25 minutes. Makes 12 large muffins.

Savory Blueberry Sauce

Anyone can open a can of sweetened blueberry sauce to pour over cheesecake, onto blintzes, or just to eat with a big spoon. We wanted a sauce that could be used for savory dishes – a delicious fruit sauce for meats – game, ham, turkey, use your imagination!

2 tablespoons chopped shallots or onions
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
½ cup dry red wine
½ cup water
1 pint of fresh blueberries

Saute shallots in butter in small saucepan. Add flour, thyme and rosemary, cook and stir until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Add wine and water and stir in the blueberries. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes until it thickens.

Makes 2 cups.

Our last task was to set out to explore the world of Blueberry Spirits. Nothing you might worship, light incense for, or perform any particular rituals on behalf of. Wine and liqueur. There is a thriving industry in the production of Blueberry Wine, and a fair amount in world of sweet cordials. They are not always easy to find unless you live in a Blueberry-centric part of the world, but we managed to scrounge up a few to taste and review.

I started writing food & wine columns for the Outlet Radio Network, an online radio station in December 2003. They went out of business in June 2005.


The Greatest Threat to America…

Outlet Radio Network
April 2004

The Greatest Threat to America…

I have just returned from a week in Las Vegas. Sin City. Gambling Capital of America. Crowded, noisy, a trifle on the grungy side, too much neon, too much spandex.

Home of the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.

There is, perhaps, no greater evil threatening America. The words all-you-can-eat bring out the worst in people. How so? Thank you for asking.

First, the eating all you can part. I have watched friends push away half-eaten plates of pasta, steak, well, anything, at fancy restaurants where they were shelling out three-figures for dinner. Comments like, “oh, I couldn’t eat another bite”, and “it’s just so much food”, and “it’s so rich” echoed across the table. I watch with amazement as some of these same folk belly-up to the steam table for their third and fourth load of deep-fried, cream sauce laden, over-cooked mediocre slabs of unidentifiable victuals. “I’m gonna get my money’s worth!” seems the cry of the day.

I myself was guilty of consuming a stack of three chicken-fried steaks with biscuits and sausage gravy at breakfast one morning. That was, of course, after the pancakes, fruit, yogurt, bacon… oh, and save room for dessert at the end. Dessert? At breakfast? Oh, why not, a slab of apple pie is just fruit, right? So much for last month’s anti-cholesterol efforts… thank god I’m only in Vegas for a few days.

Second, woe betide anyone who gets in the way of one of those spandex clad neon-phytes enroute to the mound of recently thawed shrimp cocktail. When I went up for my first dozen they had just put out a basin the size of a small bathtub mounded a foot high with the pink and white critters. By the time I’d reached the end of the steam table there were scraps left and two hefty visitors were slashing at each other with tongs for rights to claim the last few. I was passed by a gentleman who had two dinner plates heaped as high as he could with crustacea.

A few years ago in May, I hosted a dinner on Mothers’ Day. The old adage always was that the best thing you could get mother on that day was a reservation somewhere. In my family, the budget tended towards take-out and fast food. So, for that dinner, I reinterpreted a collection of classic take-out fast foods – and made ‘em all you can eat style. It was a simple parody of culinary gems from Taco Bell, Arby’s, McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Wendy’s.

With apologies to Micky D’s for stealing their obviously trademarked, registered, copyrighted, servicemarked, and probably patented McMuffin name, I present the modern, updated, and actually probably decent for you, Mushroom McMuffin.

Mushroom McMuffin
Serves 4

4 large biscuits, english muffins, crumpets, or something similar
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced

4 portobello mushrooms of roughly equal diameter to the biscuits
1 cup of chicken stock
¼ pound of asiago cheese
4 quail eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

I’m not going to tell you how to make the biscuits. Use your favorite recipe, buy the Pillsbury ones in a tube, pick up a pack of Thomas’ – it’s all good.

Combine the garlic and olive oil and let sit for a few minutes. Split open the biscuits and brush with the oil mixture. Toast in a warm oven until they are just lightly golden.

Meanwhile, separate the mushroom caps from their stems. Take the stems, chop them coarsely, add to the stock in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until liquid is reduced by half. Strain, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Season the mushroom caps with salt and pepper and saute in olive oil (you could also grill these if you have a grill) until they are soft, lightly browned, and smell wonderful.

In shallow bowls place the bottom of each biscuit. Top with the mushroom caps, then carefully crack open the quail eggs and top each cap with one (uncooked). Shave asiago cheese over the whole thing, add a little more salt and pepper, and lightly spoon the mushroom reduction sauce around each. Eat. Oh, you should have made more…

I matched this dish with a slightly off-dry Vouvray, a Chenin blanc based white wine from the Loire Valley. It was a delightful combination, and the whole thing somehow seemed better than an Egg McMuffin and burned coffee.

I started writing food & wine columns for the Outlet Radio Network, an online radio station in December 2003. They went out of business in June 2005.



Outlet Radio Network
March 2004


Bombs in Iraq, bombs in Pakistan, terrorism threats, the rise of anti-Semitism, banning of head scarves in French schools, gay marriage and a bad white truffle harvest. It’s clear we’re headed for some sort of disaster… or, to paraphrase the Ghostbusters team:
Real wrath of God type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes. The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats, living together. Mass hysteria!

Now I know this stuff is important. But my cholesterol is up and I put on a few pounds. I’m supposed to go on vacation and lay around a pool with some friends in a few weeks. While that may not sound like a disaster of Biblical proportions, it certainly borders on Rubenesque proportions.

I have to admit, that occupies more of my concern than any of the above, except perhaps the white truffle harvest. I don’t want to start taking Lipitor, that would just seem like license to go out and eat badly. I didn’t put on enough weight to “go on a diet”.

It’s more like I actually have to make use of my gym membership and eat more carefully.

Top that off with some of my readers actually demanding that I provide vegetarian and fish recipes! I was all ready to share some sort of spring lamb extravaganza and then the weight of the world is dumped on my shoulders. Well, if Atlas can shrug, so can I. Have some fun with these dishes:

Pan Seared Salmon in Shallot Sauce

Serves 4

4 6-8 ounce salmon fillets, 1″ thick
garlic powder
coarse salt
olive oil
2 dozen small shallots, peeled and quartered
1 stick unsalted butter or margarine
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon almond or hazelnut oil
2 branches of fresh rosemary
green lentils
butter or olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Start the lentils cooking according to package directions (plan on 20 minutes cooking time). Melt the butter with the nut oil, salt and sugar. Add the shallots, rosemary, salt and pepper, toss to coat. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until shallots are soft and caramelized (plan on 15 minutes). Lightly coat the salmon fillets with salt and garlic powder. Sear in olive oil until lightly browned on both sides. Cook until medium rare-medium. Drain lentils, toss with butter, salt and pepper to taste. Put into individual serving bowls, top with salmon fillets and portion the sauce over each fillet.

Okay, there’s butter in this recipe. Deal with it… (actually, I’ve found this great “butter-flavored” olive oil spread from Fleishmann’s that I’ve been using as a substitute).

Farfalle with Peas & Radishes

Serves 4

1 pound package of dry farfalle (bowtie pasta)
8 ounces fresh green peas
8 ounces french breakfast radishes with greens
1 tablespoon chopped mint
salt & black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Follow package directions for cooking farfalle to “al dente” texture. Simmer peas in water with one tablespoon of the butter until tender. Drain. Thinly slice the radishes, salt lightly and cook slowly in the other tablespoon of butter. Rinse the green thoroughly and roughly chop. Quickly saute in the olive oil. Add peas and radishes and season to taste. Add drained pasta to vegetables. Toss with the mint, adjust seasoning and add additional olive oil if needed to coat pasta.

I started writing food & wine columns for the Outlet Radio Network, an online radio station in December 2003. They went out of business in June 2005.