Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Chet Helms 1942-2005

Chet Helms died last month. He was a moving force behind the Summer of Love, many psychedelic bands, Janis Joplin’s manager, Avalon Ballroom and Filmore impresario and so on. My Chet Helms story, by way of Dan Hicks…….

As a brand new teenager, and more than averagely geeky, I was whisked away from Anaheim, California to Reno, Nevada. Friendlessness leads to further geekiness and I took refuge in time-honored geek pastimes like ghost towns, fishing, rock collecting, and the Catholic Church. Reno was still “The Biggest Little City in the World”… could still go trout fishing smack in the middle of downtown, and the region was still full of ghost towns, derelict mines, etc.

The best ghost town for us geeks was the silver mining capitol of Virginia City. It was still not yet Disney-ed or Bonanza-ed and there were only a couple of open businesses. One of these was The Bucket of Blood Saloon. Another was the Territorial Enterprise newspaper, which was still owned by Lucius Beebe and still housed the ghost of its former editor, Mark Twain. There were lots of graveyards, lots of abandoned mines, and you could actually get yourself killed without much trouble at all.

In fact, for those in search of evidence of divine interference in worldly things, I offer this: I was the head altar boy for our local church, and got the call for all the big deal masses for the Bishop. I did mass every morning for the cloistered Carmelites, taught Catechism and all that. When the time came, I was the obvious pick to take the test to go to the seminary in Chico. The day of the test we had an unprecedented three-foot snowfall and all the passes through the Sierra were closed. On the day of the make-up exam, the son of the mayor of Reno and some buddies got in an ore-car in Virginia City and went careening down the tracks in an old mine. Ooops. No OSHA yet, and the boys fell a couple thousand feet down a shaft. Result: Solemn High Requiem Mass with the Bishop…..and I missed the test. I figure God must have killed those kids just to keep me out of the collar. And, in all that time with all those priests, none of them ever grabbed my ass or offered me Jesus Juice. I am almost insulted.

Anyway…….Lucius Beebe was a nut: a more or less openly gay man in the first half of the last century. He was a Yale and Harvard guy, a gourmet, and a newspaper columnist in New York and San Francisco who restored elegant railroad dining cars for fun. His column in the Chronicle was called “This Wild West”. I can only imagine. Anyway, at the start of the San Francisco rock scene, there was a strong Stanford/literary connection. Ken Kesey was at Stanford, Jerry Garcia as well. Chet Helms was a friend to both and leader of this weird commune/band called The Family Dog. Somehow, Beebe and Chet Helms hooked up, and for reasons that probably involved recreational drugs in some way, Chet Helms and The Family Dog wound up as the proud proprietors of The Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City.

There weren’t hippies yet, but there was definitely LSD, and the newcomers did not blend in real well. There was more than a little friction. Still, everyone tried……the Family and the locals. The Dog fixed up the old relic, put in a player piano, and like that. In the saloon, all the girls dressed as dance hall girls, and the bartenders wore old fashioned shirts, vests and garters.

On opening day, the locals and tourists all turned out. The town marshal came in due course to check on things. He walked up to Chet at the bar, removed his gun belt and said to Chet: “Check my weapon, barkeep?”

Chet squinted down at the pistol through heavily dialated pupils, and looked up at the marshal. Chet shrugged, pulled out the pistol, and fired two shots through the ceiling.

Chet handed back the gun and holster.

“Works fine, Marshal!”

Maitre d’ Hall of Fame, for sure.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Would you exchange.......

"Would you exchange......
A walk-on part in The War....
For a Lead Role....
In The Cage......?"

Can you tell I just got my bootleg copy of the Pink Floyd part of Live8.? We tried to buy it legally....but all they had was Sir-up Paul and 99 Bottles of Jude on the Wall. Four minutes after my successful Paypal purchase of the DVD from a high school kid in New Jersey, ebay shut us down. The kid was non-plussed. RIAA, bring it. And, for my part, I would have purchased it legally....but of course it was not available.

Still, the question seems appropriate. Not one soul has picked up on the Niger tragedy. Poor Jack Straw (the Brit white-guy version of Condoleeza) is all about it...all by himself. Well, he has me.

It seems that the last three weeks have seen ten times the money of the previous few months. A few fotos of starving babes have appeared on the TeeVee. Hard to compete with discomfitted commuters in London.

Granted: 55 or so innocents died in London. However, with three MILLION at risk in Niger, a sophomoric understanding of statistics tells us that perhaps the same fifty are dying there each HOUR. But, of course, they are black, poor and far from TeeVee cameras, for the most part.

So...would you exchange a walk-on part in the war.....for a lead role in the cage?

I am asking you to please call your Representative and Senators. Ask the staffer who answers: "Do you think there is any connection between Karl Rove and the starvation in Niger (NEEE-Cher). What has the Senator/Representative done to alleviate the starvation there?" That is it. It will cost you a nickel, and a minute. Please note that Working Assets phone company pays for all calls to elected officials Plus, they give you ice cream.

Barbara Boxer 202-224-3553
Dianne Feinstein 202-224-3841
Sam Farr 202-225-2861

If these are not your guys...who cares? Use the 93924 zip code when they ask, and good luck. If you actually know the phone number of your real guy...more the better. Phone calls are worth ten emails...they have to have staffers with a brain on phones.

Finally.....Should you choose to do some little thing: I will match you three to one, wages to donation, to Medicins Sans Frontieres. Send me an email, give me an hour...and I will send them three. These poor bastards are the only ones on the ground in Niger. Right now they are moving from being able to give food to the merely almost dead to the normal almost starving to death, based on their increased donations. They have saved a few thousand people. This is one tenth of a percent of the people at risk! We will be busy this month....I would love to send them a grand or so, which would be less than 40 of our hours. Frankly, though, I think a phone call would be worth more than an hour's work...but that is just me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

Last night was The Ultimate Wine Tasting: Monterey Bay Wine throws two tastings every year for their wineries, and their customers….one in Santa Cruz, and one in Carmel. They have all the really good California wineries. We don’t feel a need to ever call anyone else. Silver Oak. Santa Cruz Mountain. Adelaida. Storybook. Gruet. Keenan. Mount Eden. Fess Parker. And fifty others I have still been too drunk to explore, ere these last 25 years.

The tastings are always somewhere memorable: La Playa Hotel in Carmel, Stokes Adobe in Monterey, La Putadera Country Club in Limboland. Our behavior during and after has also been memorable: sabering bottles of Gruet uninvited for Joe, the poor Gruet guy; discovering the utility of the engine-protecting cow-catcher under the Alfa as we bottom out at 90 mph passing on a curve in Pebble Beach with a car full of cocktail waitresses. Like that. And not just us. A fond memory of watching the ass-wipe from the Bath House so high on cocaine at a Silver Oak tasting that he could not get his shaking hands near his mouth with a glass. The same prick who tried to hire away my own wife in my own dining room to work in “a real restaurant”. Another story.

This year was back at the La Playa. Ollie and I were the only survivors from my crew (Brendan opening in Prague, Pants and Danny fly-fishing with the aforementioned ex in Montana, Chloe in Little Rock with Bill C.), along with Hot Holly the Client, and her friend, Houston…..both survivors of the Code Pink/Resistol Resistance Night….on the Red State side. Ollie was in flip-flops and a T-shirt. He contrasted well with the geeks from the local cooking school in brilliant whites, complete with Sharpies and needle thermometers……embroidered names and ranks rampant. Ollie’s name tag read: “Your Name Here!” I love that boy......

The food was incredible shite. La Playa is an old school place, still owned by Newton Cope, or his heirs. (Newton was one of the most loveable rich geeks ever to walk the Earth. He read a lot, and drank a lot, and saved the label from every wine bottle he ever drank, and glued it into blank pages in all the books he ever read. I once watched him eat an entire plate of Carmel spot prawns, heads, feet, antennae and all….and bitch that they were not tender enough while prawn antennae stuck out between his teeth.) The La Playa Bar is the last refuge of the old Pebble Beach martini crowd, the Nearly Dead of the “Carmel: Newly Wed and Nearly Dead” crowd. There used to be a certain standard for food. No more.

We saw stuffed creamer potatoes, obviously hollowed out many hours previously, if not days. Edges shriveling around the stuffed mayo and grapes! Lavache… Quesadillas made from apples and Gruyére. What a bad idea. It was the kind of menu you get when you turn loose the Shakespeare-typing monkeys or recent culinary school grads with a box full of food-word magnets and let them have at the refrigerator door. There were no trash cans available, so I flung my queso slice out the window, and was gratified to see it ride away on the top of a beach-bound Mercedes.

Anyway, the wine was wonderful, and the crowd was worthy of the Vanity Fair Oscar party. Bruce Shipman. Tom Nash. Michele from Casanova. Crazy Paris-Hilton-channeling hookers from The Charthouse. And Jeanne Davis.

Jeanne is one of the true stars of California wine history. There are lots of guys that can by blind luck, minimal skill, global warming, main strength and awkwardness produce great wines. It takes true genius to sell this shit year after year, and produce a reliable, competitive market. This is Jeanne. She was an original Silver Oak person, and along with Brother Justin’s long-lost gift for winemaking, is single handedly responsible for the stupid prices this now-mediocre wine generates. She was at Clos du Val, which has escaped the Silver Oak insipidity. She is now at Keenan, which is all you need to know about Keenan. Go out and buy some, and rejoice.

I was so pleased to see Jeanne. We reminisced about the long history of these tastings, and how the likes of me, David Armanasco, Patrice Larroque, and Freddy Dame used to crash them, desperate for knowledge and exposure. We laughed about my leaving Brendan in his bassinette with Dorothy Durney during one tasting……Bad Dad! And Freddy Dame: The self proclaimed Wine Czar.

Freddy was the wine geek at the Sardine Factory in the old days. He was the "What Makes Sammy Run" of Monterey, with a gift for self promotion. On the occasion of his engagement to the lovely Rochelle, daughter of Marilyn (winemaker for Sarah’s Vineyard in Gilroy.) Freddy hired us to do a dinner at the winery. He wanted a Russian theme, in keeping with his title. The wines to be drunk were amazing: all 29’s, Lafite, Mouton, Haut Brion, Climens, etc.

We decided to roast one of our baby Russian Imperial boars, on a spit. Caviar, of course. I engaged Momie Hilde to help out with the details. Since her husband had been imprisoned by the Russians in WWII, I figured she had expertise…plus she did a brief stint with the Red Army as a cook in Berlin. Perfect.

Upon arrival, Freddy’s future father-in-law greeted us in his bath robe. He announced that he had tasted all the wines, and they were perfect. I was impressed. What a host! To open trial bottles of these great wines, just to make sure his guests would be pleased. Well, no. The dumb fucker opened the real wines! Twenty-four hours early! He had read somewhere that great wines need lots of time to breathe. They all tasted like Shell Detergent Gasoline. Christ on a crutch!

Anyway, Irony was the one course Freddy missed in his education. We decided to go for drama for the Wine Czar. I stitched up a passel of Corralitos sausages and apples inside the body cavity of the boar before it went on the spit. I borrowed an Afghani saber from Peterson Conway, and as a first course we presented the boar on a specially made wooden platter, rammed the Afghani sword directly up the ass of the boar and disemboweled it before the guests. We then sliced up the sausages and apples as a first course. No one laughed. They were all actually impressed and thrilled. Wow.

Later, Freddy fell into his cups, and actually smeared engagement cake all over Rochelle, apparently missing the message in her one-off designer gown and elaborately and expertly applied makeup. As she attempted to salvage the dress in the kitchen, she turned to me and said: “Michael, have you ever noticed that Freddy loses his charm when he drinks?” To her credit, that was It for Freddy.

The final touch on the evening was the trip home from Gilroy. Momie and I rode back in our Dodge tire-truck open bed pickup. On 101 we noticed how friendly the other drivers all were, waving and honking at us, flashing their lights. Also, there was the most beautiful trail of sparks, like Northern Lights following us up the highway. Oh, fuck! I pulled over, finally. The remaining heat from the grill and spit had ignited the glasses boxes in the open bed of the truck. A raging inferno ensued. Momie and I jumped in the back, giggling like school girls, and used buckets of ice to quell the flames.

Ars longa, vita brevis. Art is long, life is short.

Thank you, Jeanne Davis, for thirty years of wonderful wines. And for legacy of inspiration those wines leave the new kids......

The Marital-Industrial Complex

This weekend I was listening to Click and Clack on NPR…..absorbing my vitamin B (as in Baah-stn) the way secretaries in New York cram in their vitamin K by frying their faces with foil reflectors at lunchtime. A caller wanted the boys to decide for him whether or not he and his bride should drive from the church to the reception in his Tacoma or in a limo. A no-brainer, really….unless the poor schmuck wants to go down the Terry Bradshaw Road to Marital Hell (Terry spent the night of his wedding to Jo Jo Starbuck playing pool with his buddies…..and you thought he just acted dumb on TV). In the course of their advice, one of the Tappet brothers lamented the power of “The Marital Industrial Complex”. What a great name!

I was having a cup of coffee at the Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting the other day and accidentally sat next to a florist going over wedding plans with a bride and mother-of-bride. The florist had a thick notebook full of pictures of arrangements. As she flipped the pages, she took notes. Each page seemed to be about $500: corsages, bouquets, aisle decorations, standing pieces, cake flowers, etc. There were lots of pages….and the look on the clients’ faces was what GWB was looking for in Iraq: Shock and Awe. And that is just the flowers. My friend Tom O’Neal is a marvelous photographer: his fee starts at $5,000. The place settings alone at The Bee-ochh Club start at $30…… food with that, just silverware, plates and napkins.

And the cake. I think the cakes run around $7 a slice, which puts most cakes in the thousand dollar category. Our bakers are among the best in the country (Gerard Bechler and Parker-Lusseau), but even at a grand a pop, the stuff goes mostly uneaten now matter how glorious……even by my 20 year old soccer player workers with the metabolisms and appetites of sheetrockers.

We have had creative brides try to work around this. The most unfortunate choice is to substitute a cheese course: “Time to cut the…..uh, time to…uh, SERVE the cheese!!” Worse was the bride who had Gerard Bechler make a series of small cakes that looked like fifteen or so different French cheeses. Everyone wanted a little of each, and I actually had to have the Ray-diator intervene to stop me from stabbing a six year-old flower girl.

Cupcakes were kind of a fun option: infra-dig, low cost, really easy on the caterer, and a huge hit with the kids…..who are, let’s face it, the real consumers of cake.

Say goodbye to cupcakes. Martha has discovered them, perhaps in The Big House. Now cupcakes have gone designer. They are no longer cup cakes, they are miniature cakes, or individual cakes…..and they are at least five bucks now, and going up. There are websites.

Our bride next weekend has a new plan that I love: a wedding piñata! She hates cake, and hates the idea of dropping a grand on one, just because….So, she and her intended are going to smash up a piñata, and the kiddies can scramble for the goodies…..We will pass brownies and strawberries. Yay! Now to figure out what shape the piñata will be…….ex-boyfriend? Controlling mother-in-law? Karl Rove? Dalkon Shield? Wait till the MarthaPeople get ahold of this one. The day of the $500 piñata cannot be far away…….

This all brought back memories of our last piñata experience, more than twelve years ago. The scene was a wedding at Rancho San Carlos in the pre-Wendie Bloatie era. We did a Mexican fiesta, with lots of stations, mariachis and so on. The crowd was full-on Cypress Point. The highlight for me was serving a goat and cactus taco to a thousand year-old Yalie in a seersucker suit, saddle shoes and a straw boater. Credit due: he ate it......

Anyway, we decorated up with lots of piñatas. For some reason that now escapes me (probably that damn anarchist gene again) we decided not to fill them all with candies. The likelihood of Cypress Point fogies whacking piñatas was slim to none, so my dearly beloved ex, Loretta, went around to all the sleazy bar and gas station bathrooms and drug stores and bought mass quantities of condoms, French ticklers, little packages of anti-cum cream, faux Spanish fly and the like. The mere presence of these sleaze filled piñatas during the festivities was a huge morale boost for the crew.

Brendan was working the party, and as it goes, someone let slip to the hostess that it was his twelfth birthday. He was cute as hell, and busy and skilled as hell, so sure enough one of the guests got the bright idea of having him whack a piñata. People gathered around, a ball bat was produced somehow, and Brendan was blindfolded.

Now, Brendan was always a soccer guy…..not a baseball guy. I had a faint hope that he might just bruise the damn piñata and we would escape unblemished. Right. On his first swing he channeled all his Irish hurly-playing ancestors and completely destroyed the thing. French ticklers and penis enlargement cream rained down upon the crowd.

Ever hear the term “Pregnant Pause”? How completely apropos. The awkward silence was finally broken by my ancient Yalie: “My word, this chewing gum is awful!!”

Swear to God……

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The 8Ball opens..... Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

La Revancha

La Revancha was this great restaurant in Salinas for a while. It opened on Soledad Street in the old China/Japan Town, now degraded to Crack-and-Ho Town. The recently dumped wife of the proprietor of a mainstay Mexican restaurant (Rosie’s Armory Café) moved, quite poetically, with her divorce settlement to the red light district with all the staff, recipes and expertise. Yup, her name was Rosie. Oh, Revancha is Spanish for Revenge.

Both places faded fairly quickly. I don’t think she cared……

While we are on the subject of foreign languages, one of my all time favorite French expressions translates roughly as: “Revenge is a meal which is best eaten cold…….and with the HANDS!!! (Strangling movement included).

So, now with our obligatory food-related mention taken care of…….let us move to the Bush Administration….and the resulting destruction of all appetites....except possibly that strangling one.

Wait… more food related issue: I am an Irish person. Consequently I have always had an overdeveloped interest in that lump of damp grass and cow turds adrift in the Gulf Stream. One hundred and sixty years ago, poor planning, genetic weirdness on all sides (botanical and human), corporate rapine, and general abject corrupt greed and racism conspired to starve a couple million Irish people to death. The proximate cause was a fungus that ate the potatoes. Potatoes were the officially prescribed food of the workers, so without them they ate grass and cow turds, died or emigrated. Little noticed, then or since, is the fact that the farms my starving potential ancestors (my people actually sat it out in townhouses in Dublin) worked were owned by British landlords who maintained a steady export supply of corn and beef the whole time the producers of the corn and beef were starving in droves. The world, lacking a Bob Geldoff of then…cared less.

Back to the Bush Administration, and the news of the day. Karl Rove is a lying, manipulative cocksucker. Wow. I am so shocked.

When Ambassador Wilson went to Africa to investigate the claim that a certain country had sold yellowcake (food reference??!!) uranium to Saddam Hussein, he found nothing. He wrote an unfortunate op-ed piece to the Times stating so…..just at the start of the run up to the whole Iraq WMD deal. Bad timing, Joe…..So, Karl Rove outed Joe's CIA undercover wife as routine Revancha. The same tactic has been played out against angry, dangerous radicals such as John McCain, Richard Clark, , Christie Whitman, Dan Rather….anyone who remotely crosses Lord Jesus GWB, and his band of profits. Oops, SpellCheck didn’t get that one…..prophets.

So picture my puzzlement today: tuned to the BBC to hear more about the mad PakiBombers in London. Friggin’ Jack Straw, of all people…in the midst of the PakiBomber craze…..the Brit Foreign Secretary is on the air pleading for the major donors to rally round and save the 3+ million people in danger of imminent starvation, 800,000 of them children. The country where these fine people are starving? Ethiopia? No. Darfour? No. Rwanda? No.

Fucking Niger…..late of the yellowcake uranium, that they did NOT sell to Saddam. Somehow the major donors have lost sight of their particular agricultural predicament……and flailed on the funding. In Niger, their only natural resource is the yellowcake…..and their failure to NOT sell the stuff to Saddam to properly justify our invasion of that outfit must weigh heavily on their minds. Also, the government has failed to sign up for the ‘Just Say No’ version of family planning pushed by Lord Jesus GWB….(Wait, if you are a Republican, and concerned with mores, and social values….should it not be “Just Say No…. Thank You”?). The Nigerians are profligate condom distributors…..the bastards. Let them starve.

So, in summary: Should we be surprised that The Administration that will casually fuck over the very Intelligence organizations that they need desperately to give them information they can ignore….and fuck them over for trifling political misdeeds…..could also casually fuck over an entire generation of poor black people in a country that also failed them in their rabid pursuit of a fiction that will gratify their insatiable egos?


In Ireland the deaths of three million people, and the emigration of another three, changed America and the world. It ranks as one of the great crimes or tragedies of all time.

Niger? They can’t emigrate. There is no grass to eat, or they would have. And no turds....the cows are dead. Besides, they are Niggers. Fuck ‘em. They have nothing we need.

If you need any other proof that our civilization is howling down the toilet bowl….this is it. For this crime alone GWB is damned to an eternity in the lowest bowels of hell, surrounded by the mewling of starving children. The cost of a month’s worth of Iraq could solve the entire Niger problem. Forever.

And Geldoff? Send a fucking check, mate. After you pay your PR people, of course.

And if you want a closer relationship to La Revancha, and the Bush government.....just Google "Niger starvation"......the website that comes up......Aljazeera. BBC is in there, too. The attorney general ain't watching the BBC logs, though.

Thanks, guys......and "Howya doing, Alberto?"

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Basmati Rice...Survivable

One would think that a chef's blog would at least occasionally deal with food.....

Phone call……Can you do Persian food?

Does the Pope shit in the woods?

A couple of years ago we got just this call: “Should we bring down basmati rice from Los Gatos, or can you do it? It is very important…..The success of the rice portends the success of the marriage…..” The wedding was for a hundred people at the Stonehouse at Garrapata Beach……where the crazy anti-Semitic owner can cancel a party on a week’s notice….and has: three times!! We hoped and prayed her anti-Semitism did not extend to Persian Jews……

No problem. I did some research at a completely revolting Persian restaurant out in the Avenues in The City, and a quiet, decent little one in Mountain View. No problem with the rice… hard can it be?

Come the time, the Persians take over the Stonehouse…..and we are summoned: Mike and Ollie schlepp down the coast on the Thursday night before the Saturday wedding. Grandma is the Queen of Basmati, and wants to go over the recipe with us. Even though we interrupt the first family gathering (the Persians are marrying into a North Carolina hang-gliding family) all family bonding stops immediately to discuss the rice. Grannie speaks not a word of English, so everyone translates at once. After an hour or so of repeating the recipe back through the translators, Grannie is still not satisfied. She insists of coming out to the kitchen the next day to show us in person.

Friday morning, Grannie arrives with one of the aunts. We spend the next six hours making and re-making the rice, and discussing all possible problems and permutations. We still are not good at perfecting the crusty bottom of the rice pot….but no worries, the rice itself is acceptable. Grannie leaves us with the recipe, and a bag of smuggled basmati from Iran. We bought two big pots for cooking, and two new china hats for straining.

How hard could it be? See below the line……

Basmati Rice—AMF Style


Basmati rice Sunflower seeds
Zest of oranges Pumpkin seeds
Orange juice Currants
Sugar Bermuda onion
Scant Cardamom seeds, Fennel seeds, Cumin seeds, Black Pepper, Lavender, Saffron, Cayenne
Good cheap saffron is available from Nature’s Wild Rice in Bemidji, Minnesota…..or us……

This is an adaptation of the traditional Persian recipe. (If you want to be authentic for some reason, don’t add cumin, black pepper, nuts or fruit. Put a bag over your head, sign away all your legal rights to money, property and children and take all your instructions from men…..except regarding rice).
Buy the best basmati rice you can find. Lundberg has a decent organic one available at Whole Foods…….The best is, of course, from Persian/Iranian markets……

We use one ounce (volume) of rice per person, to be served with 6-8 other dishes, less dishes, more rice. It keeps well for several days for leftovers, so you can over-prepare and not worry….kids love this rice. Also, final volume depends on how long you cook it.

The neurotic goal with basmati rice is for each individual grain to be perfect and whole…..not sticky in any way. The first step is to rinse the loose starch from the rice. Put the rice in a boté and fill with water. We are completely anal. We fill small botés (Rubbermaid 2 or 4qt containers) with water, and then pour the water carefully over the rice (letting the tap run directly onto the rice can bruise it, releasing more starch). You will be amazed how much starch is loose in expensive rice. Drain the top water off the rice boté and refill. Do this as many times as seems sane, but at least 6-8 times. The water should run clear. (If you live in CalAm water country, there is so much bleach in the water that you might get in the habit of drawing water in a large container and letting the chlorine gas off before you use it). When you are reasonably happy, refill the rice boté with water and add a half cup of salt (Hain’s sea salt, naturally). Let this sit for half an hour or so. Then rinse the rice a few more times.

Meanwhile boil a large pot of good water…….at least 6 times the volume of rice. We add a couple of good bay leaves from Laurie Coke, a fat pinch of good saffron, a pinch of fennel seed and a pinch of lavender flowers. Add the rice. Stand there and fret. Don’t leave for a minute, or it will overcook. As the foam rises (this is the starch you missed), skim it off. Gently stir from time to time with a wooden spoon. Meanwhile, prepare a big pot of cold water in the sink, and several botés of cold water.

After five minutes or so, start checking the doneness of the rice grains. (Timing depends on the rice/water volume, size and construction of the pot, your stove firepower, etc). When the rice is just past al dente, pull it from the heat, and gently pour it through a strainer at the sink. If you use a china hat strainer, you can plunge the china hat into your water bath to stop the cooking. Gently pour the botés of cold water over and through the rice. When the rice is cold, lift it from the cold water bath and let drain thoroughly.

Meanwhile, put 4z white sugar in an omelette pan and put over medium fire. Let it melt, and just as it starts to darken, turn down the heat, and add 4-8z OJ……(we strain the OJ through a super fine strainer to take out the chunks). Add a fat pinch of good saffron and the orange zest and a cayenne or dry serrano pepper. Let it simmer until is just starts to thicken, and the caramel is dissolved from the bottom of the pan. Put the currants in a bowl. Toss the orange sauce over the currants. Reserve.

Take your cumin seeds and black pepper and a pinch of lavender (we recommend Morton and Basset coarse ground pepper…..Whole Paycheck again…..or grind your own telecherry peppercorns…get lavender from the yard, or from in front of mid-Valley Safeway or Bernardus Lodge) and put in a dry Teflon pan or quesadilla iron and gently toast. As soon as they start of gas-off, remove them from heat. Put in a mortar and crush. Reserve.

Take a few ounces (we use about the same total volume of nuts to dry rice….but we like nuts…….well, we are nuts….) of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and a couple cardamom seeds and gently toast in neutral oil. (We use flaxseed oil, because of the omega fatty acids…..Canola oil is ok……or neutral olive oi). When the pumpkin seeds start to pop, pull from the heat.

Back to the rice. Add a fat pinch of good saffron and toss. Use a long-tined roasting fork, not a spoon or spatula….they can crush the grains. When the orange peel/juice mixture is cool, toss. When the nuts are cool, toss.

Cut the red onion into brunoise (tiny dice) and toss. Sprinkle with ground spices to taste. Toss. Adjust seasoning.

We serve this dish at room temperature…..the Iranians take an oiled heavy casserole dish, line it with flatbread (flour tortillas this side of Teheran) and gently steam the rice back to eating temperature. The kids fight over the crusted tortilla bottom… has a special name that I forget…….post traumatic stress disorder

So….you can do it!........or call us…….this dish represents about $1 per person……

For good saffron, relatively cheap call my favorite Minnesotans at Nature’s Wild Rice
© 2000 Michael Jones/A Moveable Feast

The day of the wedding in Big Sur, we set up our normal catering kitchen in the garage of the Stonehouse. We had two big pots full of boiling water to deal with the rice. Grannie’s recipe called for 150 grams of dry rice per person. This came to ten kilos for the 70 or so guests. Despite my engineering background, I never questioned this figure. Grannie should know, right? Upon these feet of clay we built our wedding, and their marriage.

I dumped in the well rinsed rice in the two giant pots, and concentrated on skimming like Grannie. As the moment of perfect doneness approached the rice expanded alarmingly. I looked at my two little china hats (probably six quarts each) and realized that I was screwed. We had no sink, just a garden hose to cool the rice. As a boy raised in Anaheim, a block from Disneyland, all I could think of was Mickey as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. We dumped a fraction of the rice into the china hats to cool, but the mass kept growing and growing, and looking gummier and gummier. What to do?

I looked around in a panic, and remembered drying salad in tablecloths in Switzerland, before the invention of salad spinners and pre-washed lettuce. I had three waiters and the Anti-Semite grab corners of a big tablecloth and we dumped in a pot of boiling rice and hosed it down. Aaaacckk! In Switzerland, we had LINEN tablecloths. California is the land of Missing Linen (the last bastion of The Mob now that the Indians got the gambling) and everything is 60-40 Visa polyester: it doesn’t drain! Now we had a couple of hundred POUNDS of steaming rice pudding, trapped in the sail-like sheet of polyester….the waiters and the Anti-Semite staggering under the load. We salvaged a few pathetic china hats of gruel, each one stickier than the rest. The glutinous mass that remained…..and the OTHER pot, went into Garrapata Creek with the tablecloth…..where it washed out to sea and probably killed a whale.

On the buffet line, we tried to save the best stuff for the real Iranians…..Sure enough, Uncle Nedj….the guy the recipe was made for, scooped up about half all by himself. Like Cubans, and Puerto Ricans, Iranians cover the plate in rice first, then add the protein on top. (When cooking for non-Persians and non-Cubans use 25 grams per person, not 150!).

The corker was one of the hang-gliders towards the end of the line, casting a look at the gruel, cried out: “Wow!! Sticky rice!! That’s my favorite, Dude!” Thanks for the endorsement, bud. Tell Grannie.

Still waiting to get paid for that one………But hey, we got a recipe!!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

2 4 6 8, Geldoff is a wanker, Screw Live8.....

Huge concert….Millions of white people turning out to do something to influence something about something about Africa. Only 10k showed in Tokyo. BBC interviewed everyone in actual Africa with a telephone or an internet connection…..all 200 of them. They had not actually heard of the concert taking place, and were puzzled as to why…….BBC then pointed out that the Glorious George Whatever Bush had promised three billion dollars in aid to Africa a couple of years ago…..and actually delivered an entire……$100k. To Madagascar. I hear they have cute lemurs there…….And their Negroes are handsome and frequently abstain from fornicating……and never use condoms.

Needless to say….Actual Africans could not even muster the energy to be bored by a bunch of white people promising to eventually spend some money raised by propping up a bunch of has-been pop stars (George Michael?...well, he should know about AIDS….) on something something that might something something.

I listened to live8 on the way to the party in Salinas. (75th birthday for Norman, husband of Susan. Susan’s job ere these last 40 years has been turning out Misses….as in Miss Salinas, Miss California, Miss Artichoke……Don’t laugh: Marilyn Monroe was Miss Artichoke in Castroville when she was still Norma Jean. Lots of breasts….and Susan’s parties run to strippers, karaoke, etc. Tought to push through that crowd.)

Anyway, Live8 was on the BBC. Sting sang “Every Breath You Take” and sounded very good…..exactly like the record. I was thinking: why on earth would you go stand in Hyde Park on a summer day (England gets hot, people) with a quarter million other idiots and listen to records?

Then Pink Floyd came on….their first reunion in 24 years. They hate each other…The founding guy Sid lives under a weir in Cambridge, like a Harry Potter character….completely off his nut on the metric tons of LSD it took to make their first few records in the sixties. Whatever. They did “Money”…..just like the record.

Then they did “Comfortably Numb”……The vocals….Roger Waters….the guitar was magic. Even on an FM radio broadcast of a live concert over a car stereo…..admittedly a Jaguar stereo....blew me away. Wow. I got chills. I teared up. The song went on and on as I drove into Salinas. The guitar rang like a fuckin' bell.....When it ended, even the BBC girl announcer was sobbing. Wow. Those guys can PLAY. Even if they hate each other……

Then came the big finale……Paul McCartney…..Oh, Jesus, save us. He did “Get Back” (to where you once belonged…… I couldn’t have agreed more). I missed the next one while I was in the Missing Linen plant getting tablecloths……

The grand finale was: “Hey Jude”. Give me a fucking break. It is bad enough that Sir Paul had to come and piss all over this magic rock and roll Pink Floyd moment….but Hey Jude?

Hey Jude for me is the Jersey shore…..crushingly humid, salt-drenched nights sleeping under lifeboats on the sand…..battling squadrons of bat-sized mosquitos after having once again failed to attract the attention of any human female with intact chromosomes. Paralyzed on the Garden State Parkway in chockablock traffic with same….crushing sunstroke, melanoma and hangover added, no extra charge.

Forget Darfour. Where is Kofi Anan when this kind of social atrocity is taking place? I think any group of people that stand en masse and sing Hey Jude while swaying arm in arm should be taken immediately to Gizmo or whatever they call it, and have their HEADS flushed down those awesome Koran-sucking toilets.

What are young people to think of my generation? Hey Jude? Sir Paul? God, if they had to have a Sir Paul…what was Paul Newman doing? He could have at least handed out cookies, or balsamic vinaigrette. Someone needs to tell Sir Paul Mc. that Hey Jude is the Kumbaya of his generation……A fucking hideous embarrassment along the lines of bed pans and Thanksgiving table flatulence. No wait: that is unfair to Kumbaya. Nuns sing that on the beach. Hey Jude is the "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" of his generation. Only 13-year old hormone addled Catholic school girls sing that when the bus breaks down…..

All that needs to be said about Sir Paul has been said, as usual, by a member of the Dallas Family. My buddy BK, momentarily deranged in his pursuit of…….the pharmacist?.....bought tickets to a Wings concert at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. He struggled for breath on the walk in, surrounded by hordes of the nouveau yup: trophy wives, Birkenstocks, wall-to-wall REI stuff…smoking primo pot from ivory mini-bongs….not a foreskin in the lot……and not a circumcision to be found amongst any of their Snugli toted offspring.

AJ held his cool, though. The pharmacist was something else.....The last straw, however, came during the first song. Linda McCartney (God rest her frozen TV dinner mongering soul) had her mike turned way up, the other band guys turned way down. She howled like a beagle in heat to Sir Paul’s insipid Lennon-less lyrics. BK….who is an actual financial planner with a real job…..snapped.

He stood up and screamed at the top of his lungs:



Runaway Bride, Reprise from 2005

We worked on one party for months recently: a rehearsal dinner before a Bay of Pigs wedding. Multiple meetings with the flown-in wedding planners from Irvine, infinite emails about sites and menus, multiple meetings and a tasting with the “clients”. At the tasting, the “clients” confided that they were firing their planners (the bill, at cost, was $40,000...... for the PLANNING). We were then blessed with a second planner, a local Heather?, who ends every statement with an questioning upward inflection. Catering manager at Putadera Golf and Cuntry Club, site of the wedding brunch….., Heather was followed by yet a THIRD wedding planner, the very great Alison from…..well, she was soooo good that I don’t want to sully her name by association with us (email me for her details). We met at the final venue and hammered out the details for the fourth version of the party. Listen: we HATE wedding planners. We have actually killed some, slowly....and no one will ever find their bodies. We know of two, in the history of the world.....and Alison is one.....Maggie Lang is the other. A note in passing: we got the nod for the rehearsal dinner/picnic after Quail Lodge (Bernardus) submitted their quote for a BBQ by their pond…….$35,000 for hot dogs and hamburgers for 200 guests. Wow. The Lodge bill was well over $100k for the wedding ($30 per just for the place settings…….) The Putadera bill for the after wedding brunch was $40k. We came in at only $10k. Stupid. Not us....THEM! How can you in good conscience charge people $150 for hotdogs? No matter WHO they are...... Well..... The groom was a dick. A film guy…a “director” guy whose lists a 20 minute short in the Jewish Film Festival as his big deal. Trust funder from San Diego. Got the director disease of not being able to picture what he wanted, and expecting his PA’s and AD’s to pull it off for him. His “vision”, you see. Did I mention that he was a complete prick? At our first two hour meeting, he ran through twenty picnic scenarios, none of which he could actually afford…..and let his bride put in exactly 20 seconds worth: grilled corn. At the tasting, he remained a prick….refusing any champagne, until his bride had downed a fatty glass….They were seated by the creek at the Store, frogs in full roar….and it was some kind of auditory Prozac. He became human for minutes at a time. Even pounded some Gruet. Still, we were mystified: what is this tall, blonde, gorgeous attorney doing with this whiny prick? Judge for yourself….and if you need any real estate law in California……..God, I hope she doesn't sue me! Long story short……(and this is my third and shortest rendition). I worked my balls off on their proposal…..actually calculating the cost difference between boiled corn and grilled corn, and the actual cost of having a fish taco bar…..laid out a spread sheet and zoomed it off to the lovely and amazing Alison. Took my only two days off last month, but it was decision time. The wedding was 10 days out! Twenty minutes after the email left Carmel Valley, Alison called. “The wedding is off. Granny died.” “Get the fuck outa here….Granny died? Burn her up, put her in a fucking box….I’ll even get her a date for the wedding, box and all…..” “No, really. Granny died, the wedding is off. I am calling everyone right now.” Jesus wept! Everyone stuck them for the max: all food and bev, rentals, tax, gratuities…..even the booze they wouldn’t drink and the gratuity on the booze. People were pissed. Not us....we asked for 500 bucks......payable towards a future event. Still, I didn’t buy it. I love my mom, but if she kicked 10 days before a $200,000 wedding, I’d have her stuffed like El Cid and put back in the saddle with a bourbon in her hand. Well, one overly champagned night I sent an ill-advised email to the bride. Something like: the guy was a whingy dick, good call, let us handle the deposits, etc. We still wanna do the party for all the people with non-refundable hotels and airfare…… To my amazement, she responded. “Go for it!” . Call #1, to Bay of Pigs: “Let me talk to your publicist. Have I got a deal for you. Runaway Bride. You are charging her for the food and beverage anyway, and the transportation….and as a young attorney, she is SO concerned with social justice…we would like the busses and vans instead of going to the Monterey Plaza to go to Salinas Street in Salinas to Dorothy’s Kitchen and the Victory Mission. We have about a hundred recovering alcoholics, drug addicts and hookers there. We need also one bus to go to Carmel Beach and pick up 50 surfers…..It will be just like in Jesus’ parable in the Bible. How many news teams can you handle? Can we do a network feed from the parking lot?” Call #2, to Putadera: Same drill, except now the busses were going to Cachagua to the Camps. Special emphasis on the disabled, their needs, access, and the extra security needed for the psych cases. How many uplink trucks can we get in the parking lot without interfering with the view? Heather? said she would get back to us. Result: No charges to the bride beyond the lost room rentals. Holman Ranch agreed to move the rehearsal to Sunday (wedding day) and call it a birthday party. We are doing that, of course. The 500 bucks was refundable towards a future event...........