Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reader's Note

To my loyal readers, few though you may be: I will be posting less in the coming weeks. The New Haven Independent has agreed to publish a series based on my years-long research into the mafia in New Haven and I need to focus my limited time on that project. The series will appear in June.

I intend to resume regular posting once I, to paraphrase the don in Prizzi's Honor, remove this stone from my shoe.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Disney Eats

I've been away. My wife, daughter and I spent most of last week in Disneyworld where I was unable to post. We had a great time on the rides and, of course, eating.

Food at Disney is an odd and interesting amalgamation. On one hand, Mikey gives the people what they want and love: hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, soft drinks. But at the same time, he pushes people. At Epcot, you can dine on the authentic cuisines, well authentic with an eye toward the middle American palette, of Morocco, China, Japan and France. So Mikey pushes the envelope as he delivers the familiar and the beloved.

Among our best meals were two dishes at Pop Central, where we stayed. One was an Asian citrus sesame salad with chicken. It was so good, my daughter insisted on returning to the hotel at least once for lunch to have it again. Another big hit was a Mediterranean flat bread on which was spread capers, artichokes, kalamata olives, chicken and a tangy topping. Very, very tasty.

Of course, we went to the French bistro at Epcot for dinner one night. My daughter and I had a superb lobster bisque and a decadent, to-die-for chocolate and ice cream desert.

All in all, a great time. Yes, Disney overcharges. I estimate everything has a 20 premium. But when you consider all you get -- the rides, the buses, the flawless Disney attention to detail, service and efficiency -- it's well worth it. I contrast it favorably with Las Vegas, where the premium is more like 40 to 50 percent and they expect you lose money at the tables. Give me a break.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Well Done Gordo

Ramsey did it. At the conclusion of last night's Hell's Kitchen episode, he called all the backstabbers and incompetents together and told them that he was inclined to pull the plug on the whole thing. None of them deserved to win.

One of the contestants whined, "How dare Ramsey take away my dream!" Really? That's how you see it? Pretty cheeky, if you ask me.

Obviously, there's more drama to come (got to move that merchandise). We'll see what happens, but I commend Ramsey for a gutsy, honest move (assuming, of course, this isn't all fixed).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Zig Zag

About a year ago, I bought my parents a fancy rabbit ears cork screw. I have one and love the ease with which it uncorks wine. I especially love the way the cork pops off the coil when you push the lever down after opening.

Alas, my parents' rabbit ears has crapped out. My father diagnosed the problem as a broken bearing and (being my father who never wastes anything) he's going to try to fix it.

So, sans rabbit ears, my parents have returned to their old standby, a French Zig Zag cork screw they bought years ago in a secondhand shop. Their Zig Zag is an antique, one of the originals produced in France in the 1920s and 1930s. It's nickel plating is flaking away, but my father insists that it should never be re-plated as that would diminish its significant value.

The key to the cork screw's design is it's accordion-like latticing that allows easy opening with a single pull. I used the cork screw to open a bottle of wine over the weekend, and it was nearly as easy and somehow slightly more aesthetically pleasing than my rabbit ears. Perhaps it's the simplicity of its quirky design compared to the supper efficient, slightly cold rabbit ears.

Makes you wonder about the French. They can design the greatest cork screw in the world, but their cars look and drive like bumper cars. C'est la vie!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Shut it Down?

This season's Hell's Kitchen has become more and more of a slog. What with the skinny redneck and the fat redneck and the hairy guy all preening like they're the greatest chiefs since Jacques Pepin even as they screw up royally show after show. The women are no better. Backbiting and bitchy to the extreme, not to mention incompetent.

I thought Giovanni was going to win until the blind taste test where he showed a palette so bad that you could feed him blue cheese and he'd think it was chocolate cake. Ramsey places a huge premium on palette. Giovanni can't win.

It grows more painful and annoying to watch each week.

At this point in the program, the dead weight is usually gone and the survivors are skilled enough to pull together and complete dinner service. Not this year. By my count, they've only finished two or three services all season. As Ramsey would say, pathetic.

I bring this up because the preview for this week's episode, which airs Thursday night, hinted that Ramsey would conclude none of these culinary catastrophes is fit to be head chief of Borgata in Atlantic City, and he's going to pull the plug on the entire competition.

I hope he does. In previous seasons, there have always been people to root for as well as villains to hiss. This year, I hate them all. They're all egotistical, unskilled and downright mean.

Shut it down Ramsey. Put them out of their misery.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Zesty Orange

The other night, I made a Thai stir fry that called for an orange. I sliced off the orange rind and left it on the counter. My daughter decided to make a dinner of orange zest for her dolls. She retrieved our zester from the drawer and proceeded to carefully shave the orange skin into confetti. The dolls had a fine dinner.

As I was cleaning up, I thought, why waste the zest? All that flavor just sitting there waiting to be put in something.

I pulled out my cookbooks and found a few recipes for orange cake, but nothing that was quick, easy and for which I had all the ingredients. Then I found a recipe for orange muffins. It was perfect.

I mixed the ingredients, popped it in the oven and in about 20 minutes, viola, orange muffins. They tasted fantastic, like eating a glass of orange juice, only richer.

Irony of ironies, my daughter, who did all the heavy lifting by zesting the orange, didn't like them.

Here's the recipe:

Mix two cups all-purpose flour with three tablespoons sugar, one tablespoon orange zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3 teaspoons baking powder. Melt 4 teaspoons of butter and let cool. Add butter to 3/4 cup of milk, one egg and beat. Add to dry mixture plus 1/4 cup orange juice. Stir 12 to 15 times until just mixed. Do not over stir. Put in a 12 cup muffin tin and bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


NBC has canceled The Chopping Block after three shows. I'm bitterly disappointed. I really liked Marco Pierre White and his kinder, gentler approach to reality cooking shows.

The New York Times says he didn't yell enough. If so, a sad commentary on the average American viewer.

A more likely explanation is the decision to put it up against American Idol. As Ramsey would say, "What are ya do'n?"