Sunday, December 28, 2008

Furry Portraits

These photographs were taken by Brian Berman, a photographer interested in fan subculture. Like most people, I find the furry subculture terrifyingly odd, but Berman treats them with respect.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

CSA Winter Blues

If you're considering joining a community supported agriculture (CSA) group, here's a tip: don't join in the winter. That's because winter is green season. As usual, I've been inundated with tokyo bekana, bok choy, kale, rapini, turnip greens, kolrabi greens, and every other type of green you can imagine. If you're new to CSA cooking, you'll hate it because if you're like most people, you won't know what to do with all that green, it'll go to waste, you'll feel guilty, and cancel your CSA membership next quarter. I've been doing it for years and I'm still learning how to cook all this stuff. But in the spirit of helpfulness, I will be experimenting and posting recipes that use these greens in the hopes that others will get more out of their CSA experience.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pad Thai with Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash and I still aren't friendly, but we're speaking. I tried this out tonight and it tasted pretty good. Give it a whirl next time you find yourself staring at one of these peculiar cylindrical plants.

one half spaghetti squash, roasted and peeled (see below)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, diced and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 tbsp. red pepper
1 tsp. lime juice
a few sprigs of cilantro (optional)
1/2-1/4 lb. chicken (or miscellaneous chopped vegetables)
salt, to taste

To prepare the spaghetti squash, slice it in half, rip out the guts (save the seeds if you like), rub the outside of both sides with vegetable oil, line a tray with oil, and preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cook the squash until it's soft and yields easily to a fork, flipping each side once (usually about 45 minutes). Remove from the oven, peel off the skin, and then loosely push apart the squash into pasta-like strands with a fork. This can be done ahead of time.

For the main meal, grab a wok or large saute pan and line it with vegetable oil. Turn heat on medium and let the pan heat up for 2 minutes or so. Drop the onions in the pan and cook until fragrant and slightly translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the chicken (or vegetables), ginger, and half a tablespoon of red pepper and cook for another few minutes (or longer, if the chicken isn't precooked). Now turn the heat up to medium-high and add the squash. Toss it around, and add the remaining red pepper, plus a little oil if needed. Cook for another 6-8 minutes. Add salt, lime juice, and cilantro. Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pirate Radio

So Tucson has a pirate radio station again. It's on 90.9 FM, and it's pretty good I guess, especially if you like hearing "fuck" and "shit" on the radio. The musical lineup is pretty veried, sort of like legit independent station KXCI actually. Which makes me think: do we really need pirate radio in this day and age? Now that everyone and their brother has the means to make their own podcast or internet streaming radio station, where's the driving need for pirate radio? I guess it's kind of neat as a throwback, and there are illicit thrills for those involved to stay one step ahead of the FCC. But beyond that, who really cares?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mini-Review: Burger City

There's an attractive new burger joint on Sixth Avenue, right across from the Ronstadt Bus Terminal and just down the corner from Tucson City Court. It's called, appropriately enough, Burger City. If you choose to stop there for a tasty burger, you'll be supporting the downtown area in more ways than one. That's because all profits from Burger City go to ArtFare, a tax exempt charitable organization devoted to revitalizing Sixth Avenue and supporting local artists. That's a noble goal, but how are the burgers? Read on.

The décor is rustic and pleasant. Lots of roomy wooden tables wait inside, each of them covered with doodles (upon request, the staff will supply you with pens of your own, to add to the display). Rusted sheet metal lines the walls. Overall, it creates a nice, clean Western steak joint look, not necessarily a metropolitan look as Burger City's name might suggest, but nice. To the right is a fully stocked pickle bar with pepperoncinis, sweet peppers, pickles, gherkins, and pickle slices for noshing. The menu is ambitious, ranging from the simple Naked City Burger to the Mem'fis City (creamy peanut butter with optional bananas) to the top-drawer Sin City (ground sirloin AND pork with braised red onions and sauteed wild mushrooms and spinach, toasted pine nuts, and gruyere). I kept things relatively simple and ordered the Bacon n' Cheeseburger, featuring smoked, peppered bacon, white cheddar, and Granny Smith apple slices, with a side of hand cut fries. The attentive, friendly waiter took my order promptly. While waiting, I snacked on pickles and watched “The Great Outdoors” on the restaurant's flat-panel TV.

My meal arrived promptly, but without the promised apple slices. Fortunately, my waiter corrected the problem with little delay. The bun was okay, but a little too large for my liking. The patty, although serviceable, was not especially memorable; it tasted a little like one of those frozen patties they sell by the bulk at Costco. This is not to say that the preparation of the burger was flawed in any way. It's just that the patty wasn't exceptional, and for a $6.75 burger, that's a little disappointing. On the other hand, the other ingredients brought the burger together nicely. The apple slices added a wonderful, sweet note to the smoky, salty cheeseburger. The fries were decent as well: not too greasy, and cut from quality potatoes.

In sum, it's not my favorite burger joint in town (that would be either Lindy's or In and Out), but the money goes to a good cause, and the pickle bar is genius. I'll probably stop by again soon, just to try that Sin City burger.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Jewish Christmas: 8-Bit Jesus

OK, there's nothing Jewish at all about this, really, but it is 8-bit, and since I have a penchant for all things retro and 8-bit I'm posting it here. Doctor Octoroc has compiled this wicked bunch of Christmas tunes and remixed them in true Nintendo style. Check it out, and maybe shoot him a donation.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Spaghetti Squash

Since joining the Tucson CSA I have developed a deep love for all things squash -- expect for spaghetti squash, that is. No matter what I try to do with these things, nothing seems to work: roasting them, breaking them into strips and serve them spaghetti-style with marinara sauce, putting them in stews, all failures. I've got an entire roasted and chopped spaghetti squash sitting in my fridge just waiting to become another disappointment. Can anyone help me out here?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Jewish Christmas: "Christmastime for the Jews"

A classic Robert Smigel claymation bit in true Rankin-Bass style:

A Jewish Christmas: Guide to Christmas Specials

Courtesy of Slate.

"Who is more of a Grinch than a grumpy old Jew?" And a Jew with a heart problem no less?"

Mini-Review: Tucson Tamale Company

The strip mall at 2545 E. Broadway is a cursed spot for restaurants. Ever since my favorite Chinese-Vietnamese place, Hoa Mai, closed there three years ago, I've seen one restaurant after another move into the area and then fail within six months. Tucson Tamale Company opened last month, in the spot next to the former Hoa Mai (now Sabor, a Mexican seafood place, which is apparently closed as well). Based on some positive press it had received on a local radio show, I decided to check it out.

Inside, the shop is spartan, like a cafeteria. Each table has a special husk bucket for easy husk disposal. There's a dry erase board listing the daily specials. The staff is extremely friendly and enthusiastic; the owner gave up a job in the financial services industry to start this business, and it's clear that he loves what he's doing. I chose the combo meal: two tamales of my choice plus a side for $6.75. I chose a pork tamale with green chile, a shredded beef tamale, a side of spicy black beans, and the hottest salsa available. One of the chefs asked if I wanted to try the OMG Arizona, their hottest tamale, and I acquiesced. Both tamales were perfectly steamed, with a light, sweet masa that yielded gently to my fork. The pork was delicious, but the OMG was the real standout. Filled with chopped habaneros, it was sweet and significantly hot, but not inedibly so. Habaneros have a sweetness that is often overlooked by most chefs, but this tamale really nailed that sweet/hot balance. And the black beans were the perfect side: moist, spicy, with just a bit of sweetness.

Overall, I was very impressed with Tucson Tamale Company, and I hope it lasts longer than its predecessors. I still miss Hoa Mai, but TTC mitigates the loss just a little bit.

Back from Hiatus

Yep, I'm back.

So I didn't make it to 50,000 words last month. In the end, it wasn't even close. But I still think it was an educational and motivational experience, being forced to write each and every day, and to abandon the constant impulse to correct myself. One of the biggest difficulties I have when writing is the need to supress that impulse. Working on a project on a daily basis forces me to overcome that impulse out of necessity. And even though I didn't complete my novel, I'm hoping that the experience I gained will spur me into making more blog posts.

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 31, 2008


As some of you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month. This year, I've decided to participate. The folks at NaNoWriMo have created an excellent website for the project (my personal page is here). In short, the goal of the project is to write a novel at least 50,000 words long. You can check this link throughout the month of November to see how close I am to reaching the goal and, if necessary, provide words of encouragement and/or harassment if I fail to keep pace.

What kind of novel will it be? I have some ideas, some characters, some general scenarios sketched in my head, but all I know is that it will be a comic novel, and that it will be semi-autobiographical.

Friday, October 10, 2008


The first drug approved for sad-faced, doomed Republican presidential candidates.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Taking the I out of TIA...

...leaves us with just T&A?

Sorry, couldn't resist. But Aeromexico just suspended its weekly flights to Hermosillo, Sonora, leaving Tucson International Airport with no international flights.

Sign of the times.

My Fellow Prisoners

The John McCain LOL-watch continues.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mad Men Illustrated

OK, so I haven't even gotten close to watching Mad Men yet. I've still got a stack of unwatched BSG DVDs in my Netflix queue to finish before I will allow myself to start another TV series.

But the show looks beautiful, and so do these drawings.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Doomsday Trigger

I just watched the veep debate. Was I the only person who, during the above discussion of nuclear weapons and triggers, who thought of this famous scene?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Crush Object of the Day: Extra-Toothy Edition

Kelly MacDonald!

She's been on a roll this past year, first in No Country for Old Men and now Choke. Both times I didn't realize it was her till I left the theater. She's so throughly Scottish (look at those teeth!), but her American accent is so flawless that she never betrays her lineage.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Burn After Reading

Saw it last weekend, with mom and sis. Massively disappointing.

The movie added up to a great pile of nothing. While there were some great performances (Frances McDormand, George Clooney, even Dermot Mulroney in an amusing cameo), the whole picture felt like an arrogant, cruel joke being played on the audience. My sister put it best when she said that "this was a movie that had no reason to be made." I know that a lot of Coen brothers pictures can be described that way. But when they're at their best, the Coens ironically portray humanity at its best even among humans acting at their worst: Frances McDormand in Fargo, Holly Hunter and Nicholas Cage in Raising Arizona, and of course, Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men. There are no redeeming characters in Burn After Reading, and the slapdash plot fails to reach any satisfactory resolution. The ending reeks of a weak, narrative "happily ever after" copout.

But let me spare one final piece of invective for the Arizona Daily Star's movie critic/idiot-in-residence, Phil Villareal. His review of BAR is a textbook example of shitty newspaper review writing. About 80% of the review is devoted to a plot summary. He drops a key spoiler about midway through the review. He incorrectly lists George Clooney's profession as a "security guard" (uhhh, he's a U.S. Marshal, dumbass). And he refers to John Malkovich as Tilda Swinton's "hubby." What is this, Page 6 of the New York Post?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Arizona: A Battleground State?

The New York Times thinks so.

McCain doesn't have strong personal ties to Arizona. Since he first moved here in the 1980's, it has existed solely as a conduit for his political ambitions. Today, half of the congressional seats and the governor's mansion are held by Democrats. So why does the news media treat it as a given that McCain will win this state? Why isn't the Obama campaign contesting Arizona as intensely as New Mexico and Colorado?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Read the collected comics, and watched the movie after returning from Israel. The influence of Maus is profound. Like Art Spiegelman, Marjani Satrapi is deeply ashamed of an upbringing that, in comparison to her family members, is shallow and frequently pathetic. She's even more honest, and far less self-pitying than Spiegelman, in fact. I admire her family for staying in Iran, especially when it would have been easy for them to move to Los Angeles like the rest of the privileged Persian population.

As for the movie, the dual casting of Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve -- a real-life mother and daughter playing Satrapi and her mother -- was genius. Sean Penn, as Marji's father, was significantly less so. He sounded like Spicoli on quaaludes.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Man Shoots Dog

In light of the tragic death of Tucson Police Officer Hite, this Daily Star headline strikes me as a little ghoulish:

Tucson Police Officer Fatally Shoots Biting Dog

At a quick glance, it reads like "Tucson Police Officer Fatally Shot." Maybe this wasn't the headline writer's intent, but to me it seems crass and calculated.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Failure to Register? Go to Prison FOR LIFE

Arizona has its share of stupid laws, but at times like this I thank God I don't live in the South.

Legal analysis of the day, provided by Orin Kerr:

"If you're a registered sex offender, failing twice to properly register your home address is really dumb."

(thanks Volokh)

Junot Diaz on Grand Theft Auto IV

(via WSJ Online)

He's a fan, but thinks the praise is a little overwrought.

Can't say I disagree, but I genuinely felt feelings of conflict and distress when faced with the choices the game poses (kill a useless but loyal friend to advance your career, or kill a highly useful yet major asshole?). In general, I felt the game handled moral choice better than the slightly overpraised Bioshock.

Major Victory for Tort Plaintiffs at AZ Court of Appeals

That huge sigh you hear may not be the monsoons, but Arizona plaintiff's attorneys breathing a sharp sigh of relief.

Today, Division 2 of the Arizona Court of Appeals delivered a major victory to plaintiffs suing state agencies in tort. The case, Jones v. Cochise County et al., represents a pushback against the harsh new requirements imposed by the Arizona Supreme Court in Deer Valley School District no. 97 v. Houser, 214 Ariz. 193, 152 P.3d 490 (2007). The ruling presents a far more accommodating (for plaintiffs) reading of Arizona's notice of claims statute, A.R.S. sec. 12-821.01 which, if upheld by the Supreme Court, will curtail the number of successful defense motions for summary judgment in state tort claims.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

The awful saga of Katy Perry, continued

Brief paranthetical explanation: Tucson's "modern rock" station, KFMA, airs an actual Alcoholics Anonymous meeting every Sunday morning at six o'clock sharp. Why, I don't know. Probably part of some ancient FCC-imposed public service obligation.

This is frightening enough to wake up to on any morning, especially after a typical Saturday night of ribaldry. But THIS morning, I awoke to Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" followed IMMEDIATELY by the groggy, dirge-like sounds of Tucson's alcoholics. The juxtaposition was so terrifying I couldn't fall back asleep. Thanks again, Katy Perry!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Things that have the same names as other things (or: where have you gone, Jill Sobule?)

Does this annoy anyone else? I was looking for Sunshine, the Danny Boyle-directed sci-fi picture that came out last year, at Casa Video. And I kept finding the other Sunshine, the snooty British Ralph Fiennes vanity picture from 1999. Why can't these producers exercise a little foresight and put just a little more effort into naming their pictures? Don't even get me started on Kicking and Screaming, the offensive Will Ferrell comedy/disaster, versus Kicking and Screaming the ruminative post-college comedy by Noah Baumbach.

But this is but a warm-up to the greatest offender of all, Katy Perry's I Kissed A Girl:

...aaaand here's Jill Sobule:

Thursday, June 26, 2008


This is a photo of me with my cousin Steve and his wife Hannah.

People often tell me, usually upon first meeting me, that I "look like I'm from New York." Maybe it's just because I wear glasses, don't dress like a surfer, and lack a deep golden brown tan, as so many Arizonans do. Or maybe it's because it's a polite way of saying that I look like a Jew. Either way, I never really agreed with that statement. The idea of New York generally makes me feel uncomfortable, hordes of harried, angry people shouting at each other under skyscrapers that blot out the sky. And I never liked the Jews I grew up with who came from that part of the country, either. Too many of them were spoiled, maladjusted twits, and their parents were little better.

This may seem silly to say, but I was genuinely relieved and surprised to learn that Israel isn't a giant clone of the Lower East Side. I felt much more of a kinship with the Israelis than I ever felt with the guys I went to Hebrew school with, and it's hard to explain just why. Many Israelis are just as rude and bigoted as their American counterparts, after all. I can instinctively understand why Steve decided to stay in Israel, even if I can't quite elucidate it.

Now Playing: West Indian Girl

Saw these guys at the Tucson Club Crawl a couple months ago. They're kind of like a modern, shoegazy Fleetwood Mac, if that makes any sense. I dl'ed their latest album, 4th and Wall, through iTunes. It's very breezy, with lots of sustained harmonies and busy keyboard melodies: the perfect sort of album to listen to while staring out a moving train window.

Official site


Monday, June 23, 2008

Crush Object of the Day: Marianne Dissard

I chatted her up at Congress on Saturday. She's Tucson's resident chanteuse (Myspace link). I've never seen one of her shows but there's lots of ink about her in the local papers. She's really sweet and humble in person, and of course, very French.

Official site

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Snack Shack at the Old Courthouse

Snapped this with my phone camera. I like the wrought iron frame.

Luke's - mini-review

Tucked into the corner of Ft. Lowell and Stone Avenue, Luke's rests inauspiciously near a gas station, a grungy minimall, and some repair shops. From the outside it looks pretty dingy. Inside it's a much cleaner affair, with mostly spotless tables, pictures of various Chi-town sports heroes, and a ceiling-mounted television playing Nancy Grace. I ordered a Polish sausage with fries and was handed an enormous bundle of food, which unwrapped into the meal you see above. The sausage was perfect, with strong notes of pepper and spice. It was a revelation compared to all the tasteless Polish sausages I've had in Tucson and elsewhere. As you can see from the picture, Luke's serves their sausage on a hard baguette rather than a gooey potato bun. This makes it easy to eat the sausage two-handed, without having to resort to knife and fork. I like to eat my sausage without having to remove the peppers or pickle spear first, and this arrangement makes it much easier to do that. The fries were quite crispy, but a little on the dry side.

First impressions overall were quite favorable. I'll have to return to sample their hamburgers.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

9th Circuit <3 Texting and Fourth Amendment

(via Volokh)

According to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, text message users have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the content of their messages, even though that content may be saved on the servers of their service providers.

Good news, especially in light of the continuing telco amnesty struggle.

Still, the thought of sending dirty or otherwise compromising text messages makes me feel queasy. You never know when an off-color text message will come back and bite you in the ass.

Bela Lugosi Is Not Dead

He's got a cafe in Tel Aviv!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Here's a travel tip: if you're in Israel in June, and you're thinking about hiking to the top of Masada, don't.

Swallow your pride and take the cable car.

Eggy breakfasts in Tel Aviv

The Hilton in Tel Aviv serves a wonderful casserole in their breakfast smorgasboard. It consists of a layer of what appears to be hard-boiled eggs that covers a warm interior of tomatoes, onions, and peppers, stewed in cumin and black pepper.

They also served an eggs florentine that was different from what I was used to. It consisted of, once again, hard-boiled eggs in a creamy bechamel-type sauce with thyme -- no olive oil. It's not bad, but I think I prefer it over easy with copious fresh thyme and olive oil.

I'm looking forward to experimenting with the casserole concept. I'm a huge fan of cumin.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"This is a Shabbat lift!"

On Friday I blundered into a lift with an attractive, middle-aged British couple.

"It's a Shabbat lift," the man told me. Awkward pause.

"It stops on every floor. You can still ride it if you want."

Hastily, I stepped backward and waited for the next lift.

Okay, so the idea behind the Shabbat lift is to be able to ride an elevator without pushing a button, thus violating your covenant with God. But if you're observing Shabbat, shouldn't you eschew heathen technology altogether? Just a thought.

A Jewish Wedding

Did you know that the breaking of the glass symbolizes grief over the destruction of the Second Temple? Neither did I.
When they told me I would be attending a wedding in Jerusalem, I had some typical preconceptions: lots of black hats and peyeses (ed. payot? payesim?), modest dress, lots of Hebrew, and typical Jewish seriousness. So I was pleasantly surprised that the actual service was none of those things. The bride, a Harvard Divinity School grad student, recruited her girlfriend to perform the ceremony. Both the bride and groom were vegans, so the service was entirely meat-free (and delicious!). Best of all, instead of breaking the glass at the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom crumbled a sprig of rosemary at the beginning, as a less-forlorn and more forward-looking gesture of remembrance.
It was a wonderful, inspiring service, and I was very grateful to have been invited.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Conventional wisdom states that Arabs are extraordinarily hospitable, while Israelis are assholes. There are exceptions to both, of course. But my experience in Tel Aviv confirms this. Israeli drivers are rude, abrasive, and honk constantly. The shop owners are largely taciturn and brusque. On the other hand, the Arab-run shwarma joint in Jaffa couldn't have been run by a friendlier group of people. Our server, from Nazareth, told us he had his own restaurant until about a month ago, when a group of thugs destroyed the place. He said the police did nothing about it. But he wasn't the least bit bitter about it, either. I was reminded of all the friendly Morrocan homes I visited a decade ago. It's good to see this hospitality has survived the panic over 9/11.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Holy Land

Tomorrow, my father and I leave for Israel. I don't really know what to expect. Growing up as a Jew and a native Arizonan, I felt doubly alienated: no deep regional ties, no cultural connections. There were no Jews in my neighborhood, and the Jews I knew weren't really from Arizona. They were from Chicago or New York; they rooted for the Cubs or the Yankees. But Israel is full of Jews. They may come from Russia or Ethiopia or Spain or Morocco, but they all serve in the military together, play soccer together, live and suffer and strive together. Will it feel like home?

(photo credit: Lou Marano)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Perfect Ribeye

I've been trying to master it since I saw Gordon Ramsay's video. After a little practice, and a better understanding of how basting works, I think I've got it down.

Don't be fooled by the video's title; it takes far longer than one minute to cook, more like 8-9 minutes.

Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil into the pan. Turn the heat up to medium or just beyond medium, depending on your stove. Let the heat build up for a good minute or two.

Drop the ribeye on the pan (don't forget to season both sides with salt and ground black pepper), and listen for the sizzle. Brown each side for one minute. Then, cook one side for about three minutes. Now drop the butter in the pan, about 2 and 1/2 tablespoons (just cut it like Ramsay does in the video), along with the rosemary and crushed garlic. Swish around the butter and oil, and baste the meat every thirty seconds or so. After about one minute, pick up the rosemary and garlic and place it on top of the steak so it doesn't burn. Continue for another three minutes. Flip the steak again, and cook and baste for another minute or so. Check the temp, it should be about medium rare (130 deg. F).

Very juicy, very delicious.

Also, I think the distinction between prime and choice is pretty overrated, at least to my untrained eye. At A.J.'s, the prime cuts were larger, but only slightly more marbled than the choice cuts. The steak I picked was both thick and lusciously marbled, and about $12 less than its prime equivalent.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Potato Ricer, cont.

Tried the ricer with the apples last night, and, well, it didn't work that well. Perhaps the apples were too small and didn't allow me to get enough torque on the handles. I popped in a few slices and only a trickle of apple juice came out. So I threw them in my Magic Bullet instead.

The curry came out great, though. These days, I start with mirepoix and sweat it in the pan, like I were starting a sauce. I added the apples with water and reduced, then added white chicken stock and reduced again. I strained that and used the resulting sauce as the liquid base for the curry. The result: just the right hint of appley sweetness.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Potato Ricers

Devoted Cirroc reader David bought me a potato ricer a few weeks ago. He and I were talking about cooking, as we are wont to do, and he mentioned his love for the peculiar device. To his surprise, I was completely ignorant of its charms. Shocked, he left immediately and returned with a brand-new ricer.

I admit I was skeptical of the device initially. But when I received a bounty of potatoes from the CSA last week, I decided to try it out. (A word of warning: be sure to boil the potatoes to a near soup-like consistency before inserting them in the ricer or risk shoulder dislocation.) The ricer produced a fine stream of potato which produced the lightest, most delicious hash browns I have ever tasted. I tend to prefer home fries over hash browns, but the potato ricer may turn me into a hash brown convert.

Tonight I'll integrate the ricer into the curry-making process, as an apple mincer. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Potato Bacon Bombs

In honor of the inimitable Patton Oswalt, I created these delicious appetizers for last night's dinner party.

(I'm such a bad Jew.)

8-12 Red La Soda potatoes
24 uncooked shrimp
12 strips of bacon
1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Pour in the potatoes and boil them till they're al dente (stick a fork in them and check; the fork should pass easily through the potato without tearing it apart). Remove the potatoes and let them cool off, 5-10 minutes.

While you're waiting, take this opportunity to shred about 1 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, or more if that's your thing. Then, pour the olive oil into a small bowl and mix in the rosemary, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Now chop the potatoes in half. Carefully dig out the insides with a spoon using a circular drilling motion; set aside the insides for mashed potatoes or something. Bring some more water to a boil and cook the shrimp (tails removed) for about a minute.

Slice the bacon in half. Wrap each piece of shrimp in one half-slice of bacon, and place it in a potato-half. Do this for the remaining bacon, shrimp, and potatoes. Brush the bottom of each potato with the olive oil mixture and place each on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Top each potato bacon bomb with shredded cheddar cheese. Place the sheet in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Let sit, covered, for about 15 minutes before serving. Be careful when eating the potato bacon bombs; fatty juices tend to accumulate inside the bombs as they cook.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Watch your Ass, Arizona

You may remember this gem of a Fourth Amendment case from last year, in which Division Two of the Court of Appeals rejected a warrantless search of an arrestee's anal cavity.

The State didn't take that rebuke too kindly. The case, State v. Patricia Barnes, has been accepted for review by Arizona's Supremes.

(Here's the original Division Two opinion.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hamburger Steak with Cointreau Sauce

Voila: the latest fruit of my kitchen experiments.

Here's how I like my hamburgers. Gather up a ball of meat, about a 1/3 to 1/2 lb. works best, and rub in some kosher salt and pepper. Splash it with soy sauce -- just a splash, or else your burger will become soggy and lose consistency. Flatten it into a patty, turn up your stove burner to medium heat, and pour some olive oil onto a cast iron pan. Throw a little butter on there, too. Drop the patty on the pan and leave it alone. Don't prod it, don't mash it with a spatula when it starts to rise, or you'll knock out the juices. Flip it once after 3-4 minutes, cook it for another 4 minutes, and take it off the heat. Drop it on a nice toasted piece of bread of your choice.

For the sauce:

1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp. oil (or if you just cooked your hamburger, use the leftover juice)
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 tbsp. flour
1/3 to 1/4 cup demi glace or beef stock
1/2 cup Cointreau
salt and pepper, to taste

Toss the onion into the oil/juice on medium high heat, coating it in the oil; cook for about 2 minutes. Add Cointreau and turn heat to high; cover pan and reduce by half. Add butter and flour and rapidly whisk together. Add demi glace. Check seasoning and add salt & pepper as necessary.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Fight the Power

Another trip to the neurologist's office, another act of petty rebellion.

Last time I swiped a recipe for curried pumpkin soup from the waiting room. This time:

To learn more about the Ban Comic Sans campaign, click here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cooking with Clemenza

"Heh, come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn't stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh…? And a little bit o' wine. An' a little bit o' sugar, and that's my trick."

Everything I know about spaghetti sauce, I learned from Pete Clemenza. Which is to say, not much.

I tried it recently with half a clove of garlic and a diced onion. First I cooked the beef and took it off the pan. Then I added the onions and garlic. Next, a 1/2 cup of red wine reduced to 1/4 cup. I added two spoonfuls of tomato paste and a couple diced roma tomatoes, thyme, cumin, cayenne, and flour for thickening. Plus a pinch of sugar, of course.

Result: not nearly thick enough, very strong winy taste. Tomato paste makes me trepidatious; maybe add more? (serving size I'm shooting for is 2-4).

Here's another food blogger's approach.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


I've noticed a disturbingly frequent tendency
among young American women to
pronounce "thank you"
with an ear-piercing long "e" sound, as I have
illustrated above. It seems especially prevalent in the
industry. This trend does not appear to be limited to a specific
geographical region; I hear it in the speech of women from Boston
to Orange
County. Rather, I think it is a kind of learned
behavior, psychologically
reinforced on young women by their
environment. It also seems to be
confined to "pretty" girls. Not
necessarily those that I would consider
pretty, mind, but the kind of girls who are told from a very early
age that
they are pretty, and are subsequently bred into size-0,
reed-thin, sorority
girls with bleached blond hair and acid-stained

Anyone else witness this interesting psycholinguistic phenomenon?

Bistro Phillipe - Mini-Review

Located on the burnt and buried corpse of the execrable pan-Asian clusterfuck Firecracker, Bistro Phillipe is the newest part of Bob McMahon's Tucson restaurant empire. I was looking forward to trying it. It would be nice to have a good French restaurant so close to my apartment. And although none of Metro's previous restaurants have blown me away, Old Pueblo is reliable and McMahon's serves a decent slab of beef. (For now I'll just pretend Firecracker never existed.) Sadly, Bistro Phillipe left me quite disappointed. Granted, it's been open only three weeks, and I expect it will improve as the staff gains experience, but I can't recommend it just yet.

The fluorescent hues of Firecracker have been replaced with a simple, clean red-and-white color scheme with vaguely Art Nouveau flourishes on the mirrors. Sadly, the dingy checkered upholstery on the couches in the main dining room remains. Red awnings bearing the names of various French wine-producing regions line the hall. I can only assume the fleurs-de-lis, tricolor flags, and Jerry Lewis photos are on back-order. When we arrived, the hall was about 2/3 full, mostly with elderly couples, and the bar was mostly empty. Our friendly waiter sat us and brought a warm loaf of bread with truffle oil (more oil than truffle). The waiter was still somewhat unfamiliar with the menu, and couldn't explain to me what a "hanger steak" was (hey, I'm no butcher). So I went with something safe and ordered the pepper steak with a side of caramelized carrots and a crepe with mushrooms, cheese, and leeks as an appetizer. My companion ordered a duck meat pie with a side salad and French onion soup.

And so we waited...and waited. Twenty minutes later, our appetizers arrived. The presentation of the crepe was unique, to say the least: flat as a pancake, it resembled more a soggy quesadilla than the cylindrical delicacy for which the French are known. Apart from its questionable visual appeal, it was tasty enough. The same cannot be said for the French onion soup, which was undercooked, lukewarm, and thin.

The wait resumed for our entrees, for at least another thirty minutes. Our waiter was polite and professional, but appeared only infrequently at our table, and showed little interest in refilling my wine glass. When the pepper steak arrived, however, it did not disappoint. The filets were seared and seasoned to perfection, and the sauce was rich yet unobtrusive. One of the filets was slightly less medium rare than the other, but not so much that it lost its moisture. The duck meat pie was sweet and succulent, although the crust was uninspired; it resembled one of those prefabricated crusts one finds in the pastry aisle at A.J.'s. I might have sampled the desserts but my companion was not interested in remaining any longer.

Bottom line: Bistro Phillipe knows how to put together a meat dish, but if I want a decent filet I'll just go to McMahon's across the street. Chef Phillipe Trosch may have earned a five-star rating at the Ventana Room, but he's got a ways to go before he earns my repeat business.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Arizona Senate President Tim Bee has a steep hill to climb in his challenge of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in CD8, including a 5-1 fundraising disadvantage.

But he might want to pick a better slogan.

Yesterday I saw a proud Pima County Republican with a "GGG" bumper sticker. Naturally, I immediately thought of this. Turns out it stands for "Gabby's Gotta Go."

Not quite the connotation he was aiming for.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Exploding Head Necklace

Our society grows to resemble the military-dominated dystopia of The Running Man a little more each day. You know: endless war, secret torture, suspension of civil rights. True, Richard Dawson is dead, and Mick Fleetwood has yet to found his own underground armed resistance (that I know of). But Momenta, a peculiar neck-mounted camera that activates upon sudden elevations in heart rate, looks like an exploding prison collar straight off of Ben Richards' sweaty neck.

(thx Engadget)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Grammar Massacre

Check out this AP lede (from WSJ Online by way of Volokh):

A woman reported missing for several days was found stabbed to death in a minivan by family members who were called by police to pick up the vehicle because it was illegally parked near Pomona Superior Court, authorities said Monday.

Crush Object of the Day (and perhaps Week)


Looks, musical ability, and intelligence: HOT.

Clark Munger versus John Q. Public

It seems our presiding probate judge in Pima County has quite the fan following.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Adventures in Stock and Demi Glace, cont.

Okay, I reduced the stock by one half, but the resulting product is still quite liquid -- not very gelatinous, as the Pepin photos suggest it should be. Does it matter? I don't know. But I kind of liked the idea of being able to make and freeze gelatinous cubes of demi glace for my discretional use. Not sure what I'm going to do with all this stuff.

Dinner party at my house, maybe?

Monday, February 18, 2008

I'm Still Alive

In case you were wondering. Which means the stock preparation was successful.

Unfortunately, I left the lit on the stock pot throughout the night, which according to Jacques Pepin is a no no. This causes the albumin from the bones to melt back into the stock, making it thicker and "more caloric" (i.e. fattier).

Next task is to reduce the stock to demi-glace and glace de viande.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Beef Stock

I'm making stock tonight. That means I'm leaving the stove on overnight to let the bone juices simmer.

So in case you don't hear from me it's because my apartment burned down while I was sleeping.

Tucson's GOP Elite

I sat behind Jim Kolbe and Tim Bee at Starbucks today.

One expects to see them buried in some secret north Tucson bunker discussing strategy. But instead they were just a couple of average Joes as (apparently) clueless about the direction of Arizona politics as the rest of us.

If there are plans in motion for McCain to resign and present a successor to his Senate seat, these two don't appear to be in the loop.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Dark Side of World of Warcraft

It ruins people's marriages. Shocking! From Kotaku:

The sad thing is, Jocelyn herself had an unwitting hand in her marriage's downfall. A former Blizzard employee (she didn't work on Warcraft), she gave her husband the game as a Christmas gift when it first came out in 2004. Nine months later and their relationship was already beginning to crumble. According to Jocelyn, her husband's obsession caused him to not only ignore her, but he stopped taking on any household responsibilities in his quest for the next big raid.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Indy 4 Trailer


Myspace "Friend Request" Violates Protection Order

So finds a New York state court judge.

I'm starting to see cyberstalking issues more frequently in practice. Definitely a hot issue.

Mienckowski, continued

Cirroc reader Dave notes that the name was spelled Manchowsky once the family came to North America, to distinguish Polish from Russian. This distinction is partly moot because, as Dave points out, "Jews were not really Polish or Russian, they were just Jews." And I'm not a linguist. But I suspect Mienckowski might be more correct given Lomza's proximity to the then-Russian, now Belarusian border.

Of course if you use the Cyrillic spelling, all of this becomes moot once again.

I may consult my old college Russian lit professor on this matter.

Caribbean Vegetable Stew

(thanks again to Tucson CSA for inspiration)

What makes this stew "Caribbean," you may ask? I'm not sure; perhaps it has something to do with the spices. This is a versatile stew that can be made with just about any vegetables you have on hand.

1 cup beans, pre-boiled
1-2 Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed OR 1-2 turnips, cubed OR 1-2 rutabaga, cubed
1-2 diced carrots
2 cups greens (more or less), thoroughly washed
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Heat oil over saute pan over medium heat. At the same time, bring stock to a boil. Add onions and cook for 2-3 minutes/until fragrant. Add garlic and cook for additional 30 seconds. Add potatoes/turnips/rutabaga and cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne; toss with spatula until mixture is evenly coated. Add stock and beans; cover and simmer, reducing heat to medium-low. As stock becomes absorbed, add water to dilute mixture. After 10-15 minutes, add carrots and greens. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Barbara LaWall loses Kumari Fulbright case to State AG

The Pima County Attorney's Office is forced to turn over yet another high profile case. First the Stidham murder trial, now Kumari Fulbright. From the Daily Star:

The County Attorney's Office decided to turn over the case [to the Attorney General] after learning that a part-time law clerk within the office is a close friend of Fulbright's and that she had spoken with Fulbright after her arrest, [Chief Criminal Deputy David] Berkman said.
Although the conversation took place before the case was presented to the County Attorney's Office by the Tucson Police Department, Berkman said, "We just thought it was best to let the Attorney General's Office deal with it."

When will Barbara LaWall get her Mike Nifong moment?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Guinness Ice Cream

I'd like to give a shout out to my college chum Agnes L. and her award-winning vegan ice cream blog. Today she has a rather interesting recipe for Guinness ice cream.

Sounds better than the food atrocities committed on that ice cream episode from Season 2 Top Chef. Marcel's bacon ice cream still makes me shudder.

Monday, February 11, 2008


This is Lomza, in northeastern Poland, near the Belarusian border.

My paternal great-grandfather, Isaac Manch, emigrated to Montreal from Lomza. His original last name was probably something close to the title of this post. No one really knows for certain (at least, not yet). From there he moved to Niagara Falls, New York, where he worked as a rabbi and glatt kosher butcher. Along the way he gave birth to my paternal grandfather, Joseph Manch. He grew up among the other Poles and Italians in Niagara Falls before eventually moving to Buffalo, New York. He met and married my paternal grandmother, Dorothy Strom Manch. I know very little about my grandmother's upbringing, except that she came from a very poor family, and that she had a twin sister I never met whom she harbored a lifelong grudge against.

My paternal grandfather excelled at virtually everything he attempted, from sports to literature. At the University of Buffalo (now State University of New York at Buffalo), he was a star football player and wrote his honors thesis on Jonathan Swift. Upon graduation he became a teacher, got his Ph.D., and eventually worked his way up to Superintendent of Schools for the entire city. He was an early and forceful advocate of school integration, and met with Presidents Kennedy and Nixon. He was also a gifted poet and photographer. At family functions, he would always bring his camera and write a special poem commemorating the event, which he would read in his sweet baritone. In 1987 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died shortly after the diagnosis. My grandmother was never the same. She was never as joyful or extroverted as my grandfather, and she sank into a deep depression after his death. She had a stroke in 1998 or so, after which she finally had to move out of her house in Buffalo (which she resented). She died several years later, in 2001.

I grew up in Arizona, a place without history. This is not entirely true -- it has a strong identification with the old West and Manifest Destiny, with the Mormons, and for the mining towns and families who settled. But as a half-Jew growing up in Phoenix, I was isolated from that history. What family ties I had came from Buffalo and my father's family (and my mother's, too, which will be the subject of another post). In one of my college application essays I wrote about this lack of history and how it defined me as a person. I concluded that my lack of history left me open to new experiences, and without attachment to the past (read: stagnation). I lied; my lack of history makes me feel more alone.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

"This is so good, no wonder it's illegal!"

L.A. cracks down on the classic, delicious Sonoran (i.e. wrapped in bacon) hot dog.

I take exception to L.A. claiming ownership of the Sonoran hot dog, though. It's just as much an Arizona tradition, if not more so.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Salmon with Dill and Garlic Marinade

(inspired by Allrecipes)

I wanted to use up the rest of my dill from Tucson CSA. And I was in the mood for a fish dish. So I bought some Alaskan salmon from Trader Joe's and made this. It's very easy and quite succulent. Just be careful not to cook the salmon for too long! The marinade helps keep the salmon warm and moist while cooking.

1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 salmon fillets
1 oz. fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Throw the garlic into a blender/food processor (I love using my Magic Bullet for such tasks). Then add the olive oil and dill and puree it carefully. Don't turn it into a mush. It should have some texture to it. Once you're done, place the fillets in an oiled pan and generously brush them with the blended mixture. Let sit for at least 90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375. Cook for 15 minutes. Try it with some sauteed asparagus or rapini.


My favorite Kids in the Hall sketch:

I'll try to put some more substantive posts up later, some recipes maybe.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gay '80s Tribute!

As part of my irregular tributes to the 1980s, I offer you the ORIGINAL Frankie Goes To Hollywood "Relax" video (sorta NSFW):

Friday, January 25, 2008


Just came back from the new Rambo movie. Fan-tastic.

Y'know, it's great to see a real, genuinely violent action movie in this day and age. Complete with exploding heads, buckets of blood, and cheek-splitting arrows.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger

Here's the best article I've read on Ledger's passing, from Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle. Simple, and moving.

Money quote:

There's no way to make sense of this. No way to end an appreciation like this on an uplift when the news is so sad. If there's something positive to be said, it's that the best work Ledger left behind will last forever, and the rest is already forgotten.

Starcraft English

South Koreans love Starcraft more than breathing. Literally! So I'm surprised that someone didn't come up with this idea sooner. Years ago, when I was studying Japanese, I wondered why someone hadn't yet put together with a language learning book pitched specifically at gamers. I especially like the helpful prefix diagrams they've drawn up. Starcraft makes learning fun!

(image courtesy of Siliconera)

Monday, January 21, 2008


Great Wired article about MMO griefers, or people who make a hobby of making MMO players' lives miserable.

The Albion Park section of Second Life is generally a quiet place, a haven of whispering fir trees and babbling brooks set aside for those who "need to be alone to think, or want to chat privately." But shortly after 5 pm Eastern time on November 16, an avatar appeared in the 3-D-graphical skies above this online sanctuary and proceeded to unleash a mass of undiluted digital jackassery. The avatar, whom witnesses would describe as an African-American male clad head to toe in gleaming red battle armor, detonated a device that instantly filled the air with 30-foot-wide tumbling blue cubes and gaping cartoon mouths. For several minutes the freakish objects rained down, immobilizing nearby players with code that forced them to either log off or watch their avatars endlessly text-shout Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Get to the choppaaaaaaa!" tagline from Predator.

Reading these stories gives me no small amount of pleasure. Some sad-faced SL nerds call this terrorism:

People laughed at those attacks, but for Prokofy Neva, another well-known Second Life real estate entrepreneur, no amount of humor or creativity can excuse what she sees as "terrorism." Prokofy (Catherine Fitzpatrick in real life, a Manhattan resident, mother of two, and Russian translator and human-rights worker by trade) earns a modest but bankable income renting out her Second Life properties, and griefing attacks aimed at her, she says, have rattled some tenants enough to make them cancel their leases. Which is why her response to those who defend her griefers as anything but glorified criminals is blunt: "Fuck, this is a denial-of-service attack ... it's anti-civilization ... it's wrong ... it costs me hundreds of US dollars."

*cue tiny violins*

Call of Duty 4: War Porn

I don't play games much lately, but I do enjoy an occasional game of Call of Duty 4. It's intense, it looks great on the HDTV, and the multiplayer is oodles of fun.

But the game also has a sort of primordial appeal that reaches to the dark recesses of the male brain not unlike conventional pornography. There's a level in the single player campaign where the player takes the gunner seat of an AC-130. The mission plays out in gun camera view (think of those Gulf War missile cam videos). Before the mission begins, a stylized computer graphic lovingly accentuates the AC-130's instruments of death: 40 mm Bofors cannon! 20 mm Vulcan! 7.62 mm minigun! As you dispatch the hapless ground forces, a breathy voice provides commentary: "Get those guys! Cleared to fire! Oh yeah, you got 'em! There's one for the highlight reel!" It's all quite well-done, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I felt queasy afterwards.

And then there's the structure of the multiplayer itself. More kills earn you more experience, which in turn gets you more weapons. This relentless urge to unlock weaponry -- to progressively build oneself into the ultimate badass -- is hard to resist, and its appeal defies easy explanation. Apart from the glib statement that CoD4 is, well, war porn.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pancetta and Garlic Encrusted Pork Loin

I watched Giada DiLaurentiis make something similar to this dish on the Food Network. Unfortunately my short attention span got the best of me and I didn't watch long enough to get the whole recipe. So I thought it would be fun to get some pancetta and pork loin and try to improvise the recipe. Here are the results!

Pancetta and Garlic-Encrusted Pork Loin

1 pork loin, about a couple of pounds worth (Costco sells a "two-pack" of loins, each about a foot long; you can use just one of those)
8-9 slices of pancetta
1 garlic bulb, minced
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. rosemary
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grab the pork loin and cover it in olive oil. Use a brush if you have it; otherwise just pour it over the loin with a spoon and coat it evenly with your hands. Spread the minced garlic all over the loin. Rub it, knead it, spread it, whatever, so long as the whole thing is covered in garlic. Spread the thyme and rosemary evenly on both sides of the loin. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Coat a cooking pan in a layer of oil, and place the loin in a cooking pan. Dip each slice of pancetta in olive oil, then lay it on top of the loin. Do this from front to back until you've covered the entire top of the loin in delicious bacon. Cover the pan and put it in the oven for 30-60 minutes, depending on the heat of the oven. Check on the loin periodically with a meat thermometer. When the temp reaches 155 degrees, you're done.

You can serve this straight or with a nice dijon mustard wine sauce.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Freaks and Geeks

Linda Cardellini interview at the AV Club is up.

I discovered this show thanks to my sister. It's such an odd beast of a show: hour-long episodes, uneven pacing, and a pervasive sense of awkwardness (is it a comedy or a drama? A serio-comedy? Is that a word?). I love the show but find it difficult to watch sometimes. Like the episode where Linda Cardellini's boyfriend tries out for that local band and fails miserably. Others I can watch repeatedly with glee (i.e. any episode involving Thomas F. Wilson).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kumari Fulbright Lawyers Up

When this story broke I was sad to learn that Ms. Fulbright had retained out-of-state counsel.

Apparently she's had a change of heart and retained local superlawyer Michael Storie.

Well done, Mike!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Zinburger - mini review

Zinburger opened last month in the spot formerly occupied by Bistro Zin, on River Road west of St. Phillips Plaza. Like its predecessor, Zinburger is owned by Tucson-based restaurant powerhouse Fox Restaurant Concepts. Unlike its predecessor -- a ritzy contemporary cuisine joint -- Zinburger focuses on burgers and shakes. Or to put it more accurately, burgers and shakes with that gilded, upscale, au courant gloss that Fox RC is so famous for.

Zinburger is essentially a more focused version of Fox's late Metro Grill, which was also heavily burger-oriented. Pastoral pictures of cows line the walls, and a stylized cow logo sits perched over the entrance. Small flat-screen TVs tuned to various sporting contests are spread across the dining area, concentrated near the bar. The place was packed when we arrived at 6 pm. The hostess ushered us to a common booth area that was slightly cramped. Our server was friendly and attentive, although service in general was quite slow; I suspect the staff is still working out the kinks of their floor service.

The menu is simple and uncomplicated. Burgers and shakes are the keystone, supported by an array of sides. I chose the Kobe burger with wild mushrooms and cheddar cheese, and omitted the mayo in favor of maple bacon from the extra topping menu (extra toppings are $1 each and include jalapenos, bacon, mushrooms, and BBQ sauce). My companion chose the Samburger with American cheese, maple bacon, and thousand island dressing, and added mushrooms. As a side I selected the double truffle fries (truffle aioli and truffle oil). I chose to forgo the shakes (which looked imposing and delicious) and ordered a beer instead.

The burger was marvelous: a perfectly-prepared, half-pound patty of Kobe beef, cooked medium rare, and bursting with flavory, meaty juices. But at $13 (plus $1 for the excellent maple bacon), it damn well better be. (The Samburger is priced at a more reasonable $10.) The truffle fries were equally marvelous, deeply fragrant and rich. Once again though, at $5 a basket, there's little margin for error. Each hamburger is presented well, with a heaping of pickles and container of ketchup.

Overall I was quite pleased with the food, less so with the prices and slightly sluggish service. I am anxious to try those shakes, however. Perhaps alongside a second helping of truffle fries.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Congratulations, Terri Comer

...for having the highest BAC I've ever seen: 0.72!

JANUARY 10--In what may be the most extreme drunk driving case ever, an Oregon woman was arrested last month with a .72 blood alcohol level--nine times the state's legal limit. Terri Comer, 42, was arrested after she was discovered unconscious in her car, which sheriff's deputies found running and in a snow bank on a highway in Klamath County at 11:30 AM on December 28. After breaking a car window, rescuers removed the comatose Comer from her Toyota and transported her to a local hospital, where a blood draw revealed the .72 BAC. She was reportedly hospitalized for a day before being released.

Photo courtesy of The Smoking Gun. And no, that's not a photo from the night of the incident. That's from a prior DUI arrest.

I'm in the Tucson Weekly


(Thanks again, Kristine P.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Curried Pumpkin Soup

At the neurologist's office, I spied a copy of "Conceive" Magazine, a magazine devoted entirely to the topic of conceiving. Amongst many horrifying articles, including one discussing the best place to spend your "conceptionmoon" (oooh, Paris!), I found this wonderful recipe. I liberated it Tony Soprano-style when the nurse wasn't looking. As a side benefit, it supposedly increases fertility. So don't forget those IUD's, ladies.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 cups whole milk (2% works fine, it's what I used)
1/2 vegetable broth
1 15-oz. can of pumpkin (butternut squash works great, too)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 black pepper

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and carrots and stir for 6-8 minutes, stirring periodically. Stir in turmeric, coriander, cayenne, mustard seed, and 1/2 tsp salt; cook another 2 minutes or so. Add milk, broth, and pumpkin, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 mins.

Place soup in a blender and puree until smooth, a little at a time and with the lid ajar, otherwise the blender will explode and soup will go everywhere. Return soup to the pan and add cilantro and remaining salt and pepper.

I Want This Book

The Bacon Cookbook

" In this exuberant parade of pork fat, there is no doubting the flap copy when it states that Villas, former food editor for Town & Country, has been beguiled by bacon since he was a boy. However, Villas's statement in his preface that staunch vegetarians and non-pork-eating religious traditionalists are haunted instinctively by the sensuous, irresistible enticement is about as nutty as his Bacon-Almond Cheese Spread (made with cottage cheese and chives). Nonetheless, there's plenty good to be had in these pages. An introductory chapter explains the difference between Salt Pork and Pancetta, Paprikaspeck and Bauchspeck, and provides a thorough list of mail-order sources. Breakfast choices range from a nifty ole Bacon Scrapple to a rich French Cheese and Bacon soufflé. There's a BLT, of course, but most of his other sandwiches go to extremes with ingredients like Jamaican smoked fish. For those who sometimes eat vegetables, there is Lima Bean and Bacon Casserole, and several amalgams mix a menagerie of meats, as in the Spanish Chicken, Bacon, Meatball and Chickpea Stew. Of the six dessert recipes, bacon-wrapped figs work, but Bacon and Peanut Butter Chocolate Truffles would be hard-pressed to create irresistible enticement in even the heartiest of carnivores."

Anthony Bourdain

Great interview at the AV Club featuring America's favorite ex-heroin-addict-turned-celebrity-chef.

My favorite part, though, is the comments section, where there's a heated debate about the proper name for our current decade (the "00's"). My favorite? "The Ooze."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Monday, January 7, 2008

Revisiting Maus

I picked up Maus off my bookshelf this weekend. It's just as wonderful and heartbreaking as I remember; parts of it still make me cry. A Google search revealed this interesting lecture from a Canadian professor. He argues that the story is less about the Holocaust than it is about the desire to use history -- family history -- to define and understand oneself.

In fact, the issue of Artie as an artist striving to give symbolic shape and narrative form to his family's experiences in order to cope with his own pain is such a persistent feature of the books that the matter of central concern at times moves beyond Vladek and Artie and becomes the text itself: can the artistic result—Artie's attempt to "catch" his family's past—provide whatever it is that Artie needs or wants, that is, satisfy him as an artist and a human being?

This is true. Now that I'm at a point in my life where family is more important to me than ever before, Maus resonates on a much more personal level.

I don't have any Holocaust survivors in my immediate family. I don't know if my relatives from Poland died in the Holocaust or not. But I want to find out more about their history. And I want to go to Poland.

Chicken Curry with Vegetables

Curry is the quintessential guy recipe. It's fast, relatively easy to make, and yields disproportionately high benefits: it's delicious, and it impresses women. When I lived in my first post-college apartment in Boston years ago, curry was the first thing I learned how to cook. This recipe has been refined through experimentation, and remains a work in progress.

1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small carrot, chopped
1 Yukon Gold potato, chopped
1/4-1/2 pound chicken, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 tbsp. curry powder
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups water
1 apple, cut into slices
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tbsp. peanut butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 tbsp. oil and 1/2 tbsp. butter over medium high heat in saute pan. Add onion and cook until yellowed, stirring occasionally with spatula, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add curry powder and stir with spatula; reduce heat to medium. Add chicken and cook for about 5 minutes or so, less if you're using leftover or precooked chicken.

Meanwhile, you should be preparing the stock, heating to a boil. At the same time, peel the apple and cut into slices. Drop it into a blender, add a small amount of water, and puree for a few seconds. Once the stock has begun to boil, add a tbsp. of flour, a little at a time, and beat with a whisk to avoid clumping. Add 1/2 tbsp peanut butter and beat into mixture. Add apple slurry to mixture, and stir together.

Add stock-slurry mixture to saute pan; add vegetables. Begin heating water and beating in additional flour; add as much flour as desired to achieve desired thickness. Cover pan and cook for approximately 30-45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice, and with fresh chopped cilantro (optional). Serves 2-3.

Feel free to substitute vegetables and meat with whatever is on hand. Beets are especially fun, because they turn the entire mixture red and then you have BLOOD CURRY.

Britney Spears, Child Abuser

Why hasn't Britney been charged with child abuse?

I'm glad I don't practice in California, where celebrities are clearly held to a different set of laws than us common folk. Last week, Spears instigated a standoff with police when she refused to turn over her children, doubtlessly while under the influence of alcohol and other illicit substances. Such conduct in Arizona could be considered child abuse, and I've seen people charged under our statute under far less flagrant circumstances.

EDIT: People reports that she tested negative for drugs and alcohol during her stay at Cedars Sinai. Looks like you win this round, Britney. Just hope they don't test the kids' hair for drugs.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Darjeeling Limited

I loved this movie! I finally saw it on Thursday. Going in, I was highly skeptical. I'm no Wes Anderson fanboy. His movies leave me either completely disappointed (Rushmore) or nonplussed (The Life Aquatic), or casually amused (Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums). None of them have changed my life or connected with me in some deep way. But in Darjeeling, Anderson seemed more restrained then usual.

Like the twisted ensemble in The Royal Tenenbaums, Darjeeling's three central protagonists harbor layers of deep resentment for one another buried under layers of personality quirks. Here, though, Anderson has a much smaller volume of characters in his stable, so he can focus more intensely on them. And it's a short movie, too (not counting Hotel Chevalier), which I always appreciate.

Also, I have a major case of travel envy right now. That may explain why I liked it so much.

Pumpkin Risotto (thanks to Tucson CSA for inspiration)

I know it's late for pumpkin recipes, but I made this for Thanksgiving and it was a big hit. I thought I'd record it for posterity. You can substitute other types of squash if you want.

The First Thing You Got To Do

Cut a hole in the top and pull out all the seeds. You can do this however you want. Get a bunch of kids together and rip out the guts, if that's fun for you. Once you've done that you can save the seeds and toast them, but again, that's your business. Cut the pumpkin into halves or quarters and stick it in the oven for, like, 30 minutes at 375 degrees, flipping once or twice. Don't take it out until it's mushy.

Once it's done, take it out and scoop out the soft stuff with a fork, spoon, or ice cream scoop. Set aside about two cups worth. Save the rest for a pie, maybe.

The Next Thing

Next up, you've got to get your mise en place set up. Get out some butter, rice, dried sage, onion, white wine, grated Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. Mince up the onions nice and fine. Make sure to get all your ingredients together before you start cooking, 'cause that's real important.

Start Cooking

Heat up about 4 cups of broth to a boil. Keep it at a slow boil until ready.

Get out a decent sized stock pot and turn the heat up to medium. Heat a couple of tablespoons of butter or oil. Throw in the onions and watch them carefully, sauteeing them until they turn yellow and fragrant, it should take a couple of minutes. Add the pumpkin and about a cup of rice. If you want more risotto you'll need to adjust your broth and pumpkin proportions accordingly. Stir everything together, then add 2 teaspoons of sage and a good size splash of white wine. Use your discretion on this one.

Here comes the fun part. Start adding broth, about two cups at a time. Watch the mix carefully as the rice absorbs the liquid. You may need to dilute your broth with water if it's a salty mixture, or if you're planning on making a lot of risotto. Stir the mixture as you go, adding more and more broth as it gets absorbed. All told you'll be adding anywhere from 6-10 cups of water/broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook till al dente. Add cheese once finished (if desired).

This recipe should be vegan friendly, so long as you use vegetable broth, oil, and omit the cheese. I used vegetable broth last year and it worked great.