Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Last night, She Who Must Be Obeyed being otherwise occupied, I met the Mistress of Sarcasm in her neighborhood for dinner.

It was a raw, drizzly night - more like late February than late March - and so we decided to go someplace within easy walking distance. That’s an option where the Mistress lives: throw a rock from her apartment and you’ll hit some sort of trendy eatery or other. We settled on Wisteria, a place that bills itself as “contemporary American with a Southern twist.” I could be snarky and say that all that means is they serve everything on a bed of cheese grits, but it would be doing a disservice to the excellent food.

We sat at the bar, where we were lucky to secure a couple of seats on short notice. It’s Restaurant Week in Inman Park, you see, and a lot of the places are participating by offering bargain prix-fixe three-course menus... ensuring that most of them are crammed to the gills with eager customers. Sure enough, it was SRO at Wisteria mere minutes after we sat down.

The food, I am happy to say, was excellent. Kobe beef carpaccio was silky, nicely set off with lemony arugula and shavings of Parmesan; the pan-roasted scallops served atop orzo with pesto were briny, magnificent. And the Mistress bravely tried something she had never had: skate wings, napped in brown butter with capers and a touch of lemon, nestled against grilled asparagus spears on a pile of (of course!) cheese grits. And as we ate, the Mistress regaled me with tales of the workplace and other adventures.

Afterwards, we repaired to the apartment to listen to a little Ella Fitzgerald - and to the Mistress play a few tunes on the ukulele. And Bernadette, the Mistress’s kitty, was there to observe us from her vantage point above the kitchen cabinets.

Bernadette Atop the Cabinets

It was, as I stated earlier, a raw, drizzly evening... but there, with my sweet daughter and her bashful kittycat, it was warm as toast. And as I drove home, I carried that warmth with me all the way.

Update: The Friday Ark sets sail on its 333rd voyage at the Modulator. Stop by and say hello!


Richard Blais, local culinary whiz-kid, defeated runner-up Mike Isabella to take the winning slot on Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars.

It had to have been a sweet moment for Blais, who came in second four years ago in Top Chef’s fourth season. And it was a sweet moment for me, as well, because I like Blais and his food.

First of all, Blais is a Long Island kid - from Uniondale, just down the road from where I grew up. (Contrary to the intro on the Top Chef finale, Blais is not a native of Atlanta... just a resident.)

Second, he’s a big fan of duck fat.

Third, he likes to play with exotic materials. Nothing enlivens a kitchen quite like having a huge Dewar flask of liquid nitrogen, which pretty much flash-freezes everything it touches... and where you find Blais, you will find the liquid N2.

Fourth, he’s local. His latest ventures, a couple of hamburger joints, have redefined the Burger Experience for adventurous Atlantans. Where else can you find foie gras and Krispy Kreme doughnut milkshakes made with liquid nitrogen... or burgers made with beef short rib meat and hanger steak?

And, as do the best chefs, he finds time to hang out with his customers...

Foie Gras Milkshake and Richard Blais
Elisson (in his chubbier days) enjoys a Foie Gras Milkshake as chef Richard Blais looks on.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Houston Steve prepares to bone and skin a chunk of smoked whitefish.

This morning, following my usual custom, I went to morning minyan and then to breakfast; today being Wednesday, breakfast was at a local Caribou Coffee outlet rather than the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium.

Caribou makes a fine cup of coffee, as well as a satisfying seven-grain hot cereal, but smoked fish is not among their offerings. If you’re sufficiently desperate for same, you can walk through the door that connects Caribou to the adjoining Einstein’s Bagels, but all you will find there is lox-and-cream-cheese spread and piss-poor bagels. Far better to walk a few hundred feet farther and go directly to the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium, the proper source for Things Fishy around these parts.

Lou was with us, as he is on most Tuesdays and Wednesdays. “Papa” Lou is a spry fellow in his mid-eighties, one of those people who quietly serves his community in at least a dozen different ways. A former denizen of Coney Island, he has lived here in the northern Atlanta ’burbs for a couple of decades now; despite the passage of time, he still carries with him fond memories of his Neptune Avenue days.

Smoked fish in all its tasty varieties was ever popular back in Coney Island, and easy to get as well. Salmon, sable, you name it, you could get it. But the clear favorite was from local waters, and beginning around this time of year (says Lou), Gravesend Bay was literally clogged with schools of them. I speak, of course, of the famed Coney Island Whitefish.

Just as the swallows return to Capistrano, and just as the salmon swim upstream to spawn, so do the whitefish return to Coney Island in the first warmth of Spring.

Properly smoked, whitefish is delectable all by itself. It also can be chopped and combined with mayonnaise to make a spreadable salad: think tuna salad, but with more pungency and flavor. The Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium makes a superb version with plenty of good-sized chunks of fish. It’s great atop a freshly baked bagel with a little sliced raw onion.

But if you want the best possible smoked whitefish salad, you’ve got to go to the source. You’ve got to go to Coney Island.

Coney Island Whitefish Salad

1 pound smoked whitefish (preferably Coney Island)
3 tbsp mayonnaise
Salt, pepper to taste

Carefully bone the fish and flake it into small pieces; leave about a quarter of it in larger chunks. Combine the mayonnaise and the small pieces to make a smooth paste; season with salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the larger chunks of fish. Garnish with a used condom.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011



This evening’s Sommelier Guild event will be at Paul’s Restaurant in Peachtree Hills. The featured wines at this sharply-focused dinner will - except for the Speaker’s Wine - all be Zinfandels from Dry Creek Valley in California.

I’m looking forward to a pleasant evening of excellent wines and good food. Alas, this evening’s repast will not be punctuated by the respective wingnut and moonbat rantings of Denny and Houston Steve. (Actually, they’re usually very well behaved when they’re together. Must be the wine... or my moderating influence. Heh.) Denny is off skiing, and Houston Steve is in the midst of the last few days of frenetic activity before his daughter’s wedding this weekend.

Speaker’s Wine:
2009 Quivira Sauvignon Blanc “Fig Tree”

First Flight:
2007 Brazin (Old Vine)**
2007 Brazin “Fall Creek”**
2007 Brazin “Sommer”***

Coriander crusted Maple Leaf duck, truffled celery root purée, pomegranate reduction

Second Flight:
2007 Lake Sonoma***
2007 Fritz “Estate”***
2007 2Sons “The Federalist Visionary”**
2007 Quivira

Grilled lamb chops, forest mushrooms, eggplant zucchini tart, caramelized garlic au jus

Third Flight:
2007 Ridge “Lytton Springs”***
2008 Rancho Zabaco (Reserve)
2008 The Other Guys “Plungerhead”**
2009 Mauritson***

Zinfandel braised shortribs, crushed tomato pappardelle pasta, eggplant, June peas and mushrooms

Grand Marnier raspberry soufflé

1994 Ridge “Lytton Springs”
1999 Martinelli (Russian River Valley)
1999 Martinelli “Jackass Vineyard” (Russian River Valley)
2002 Turley “Grist Vineyard”**
2002 A. Rafanelli**
2005 Bella Late Harvest**

Wow... that’s a dozen and a half different wines, and not a clunker in the lot! (Well, maybe one or two clunkers. The rest were mostly excellent.) As usual, my preferences are indicated by asterisks.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Steampunk Kid
Not just any random steampunk: this is none other than Elder Daughter.

O tell me, tell me, Lady Steampunk:
When you eat doughnuts, do you dunk?
Do you travel with a steamer trunk?
Does the steam make all your clothing shrunk?
Do you listen to Hip-Hop? Or James Brown’s funk?
When you go out on weekends, do you get drunk?
Or are you ascetic, like a Buddhist monk?
At camp, do you grab the bottom bunk?
Is your boyfriend a schlub, or a good-looking hunk?
In the Tunnel of Love, did your boat get sunk?
Is your car a Ferrari, or a piece of junk?
Grammatically, are you like White and Strunk?
Have you thought all the thoughts than can be thunk?

Friday, March 25, 2011


Pickled Asparagus
Crystal jars of pickled asparagus. They’ll be ready to eat in about four weeks.

At least, I do now.

Until today, I never did.

But today I took my first foray into Old-School Food Preservation by putting up (now, there’s a locution for you!) a few pints of pickled asparagus.

Consider this to be a first shot in what may turn out to be an extended campaign. There are all sorts of tasty things I want to try canning. Marinated roasted peppers. Prunes in Armagnac.

Meanwhile, I’m on a sort of food-preservation binge. I’ve got a couple of chunks of gravlax in the outside fridge, all salted down and doused with a healthy tot of akvavit. There are a couple of pints of salt-preserved Meyer lemons fermenting merrily away on the counter - they’ll be ready to use in a couple of weeks - and a monster vat of red beets slowly converting themselves into dark, tangy rossl. This year, we’ll have the most kick-ass borscht ever to serve at the Passover seder.

Lemons and Beets
Preserved Meyer lemons sit a-fermenting next to a vat of red rossl beets.

Too bad the Missus loathes beets. “They taste like dirt!” she invariably says. I prefer to think that they carry the flavor of the minerals from the rich farmland where they grew. Their terroir, the winos Sommelier Guild boys would say.

Update: Marinated roasted red and yellow peppers are done. And the gravlax kicks ass, too. Yowza!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I’m posting these ’cause I like ’em. Also, I’m too lazy to actually write anything.

Dragonfly Glass

Three-D Leaves

[Click on either photo to embiggen.]

The first image is a closeup of the stained glass chandelier in our dining room; the second is a shot of autumn leaves taken in Eric’s backyard last November.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011. Requiescat in pace.

Yes, the reigning monarch in the United Kingdom is Elizabeth (the second of her name), but another Elizabeth was the Queen of Hollywood.

Elizabeth Taylor, the very model of a modern Hollywood screen legend, died today at age 79 from congestive heart failure.

After her having been married eight - count ’em! - eight times to seven different men, I cannot imagine what Ms. Taylor’s family gatherings must have been like. Figuring out the seating arrangements at the funeral will be a challenge.

Taylor’s life was filled with noteworthy achievements both on and off the Big Screen. I will not enumerate them here, preferring to defer to others. Suffice it to say that movie stars may come and go, but Ms. Taylor was unique, a larger-than-life personality who leaves a real void as she moves on to whatever awaits us in the Next World.

And who knows? Perhaps the Unexpected Visitor (may he not visit any of us any time soon!) will become Number Nine. In the meantime, ave atque vale, Liz!

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Kevin Kim, upon whose site I first saw the news.]

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


A few days ago, as I left the house to run some errands, I saw that it was snowing.

March snowstorms are uncommon in the Atlanta area, but they’re not completely unheard of. This was a bright sunny day in the low 70’s, however, and the local weathermen hadn’t been predicting the end of the world... so what was going on?

It was a storm of petals.

The Bradford pears and cherry blossoms, having been in bloom for the past couple of weeks, were now shedding those blooms. They fluttered down gently, coaxed by a soft breeze.

I thought back to the previous year, when a violent rainstorm knocked all of the blossoms off the trees in a single day. This was different. This was... beautiful.

Petals like Snow

The tree-blossoms lie now in drifts along our driveway. Soon they’ll turn brown, shrivel up, blow away, and become part of the soil, eventually becoming the constituents of future flowers. But meanwhile, they provide a gentle reminder that Spring is here at last.

Monday, March 21, 2011


...and while you’re busy running your mouth, I will cook and eat the tomato.

Maple Syrup-Roasted Tomatoes (Raw)

Maple Syrup-Roasted Tomatoes (Cooked)

You’re looking at Tomate Confite au Sirop d’Érable, AKA Maple Syrup-Roasted Tomatoes. (If it’s not already obvious, the top photo shows the tomatoes before their slow, three-hour roast, the bottom photo afterwards.) They’re easy enough to make; I saw the recipe in last month’s Saveur magazine and I had to try ’em.

These babies are a great example of how maple syrup is not just for slathering over pancakes. Simultaneously sweet and savory, with concentrated tomato-driven umami and the herbal and aromatic notes from the thyme and garlic, they’re addictively tasty... great on crackers (with or without cheese or hummus) or thrown in a salad. Betcha they’d taste good over pasta, too!

Update: The recipe in Saveur calls for roasting the tomatoes at 250°F for 3-4 hours. I got better results by using a convection oven at 225°F for 2-3 hours.


I discovered yogurt back when I was a senior in high school. Until then, I had absolutely no interest in it. That’s probably because of the name.

Yogurt. Yogurt. Say it a few times. Disgusting sounding, innit? Honestly, it may just be a quirk of the way my brain parses English words, but to me, “toe cheese” sounds more appetizing.

It’s just a wacky word, yogurt is. Like “squamous.” Or “rutabaga.”

But back then, in the fall of 1969, I somehow managed to overcome my revulsion at its moniker, and I tasted of the Yogurt-Cup. And I found it good.

In those days, there was one brand of yogurt on the stupidmarket shelf: Dannon. And it was the kind that came with fruit-goop on the bottom of the container, which you’d stir into the yogurt before eating. You needed the fruit-goop, because Dannon yogurt was (and is) somewhat sour and astringent... as you would expect something called “yogurt” to be.

Frozen yogurt was not yet a gleam in anyone’s eye.

I developed a jones for one flavor in particular: Prune Whip. That’s right - Dannon used to make yogurt that had lekvar - prune jam - in the bottom of the cup. It was the ideal flavor to pair up with that tart yogurt.

Alas, neither Dannon nor anyone else still makes prune yogurt. I suppose I could make my own by doctoring plain yogurt with a slug of lekvar, but I suspect this is one of those things where what lives in my memory is better that the reality. Best to leave it there.

I still enjoy yogurt now and again, but I’ve forsworn most supermarket yogurt brands on account of their high sugar content and calorie load, their use of high fructose corn syrup, and their low amounts of protein. Greek yogurt - something that has exploded in popularity over the last couple of years - is an exception: plenty of protein, nice thick texture, and I can fix it up with fresh berries or whatever else I care to stuff into it. It’s a staple of the Missus’s diet these days.

But this might just be the honkin’ best yogurt I’ve ever put in my face: the yogurt made by Atlanta Fresh Artisan Creamery.

Sure, I know “Artisan” is a nice way of saying “Way Too Fucking Expensive,” but these guys are local, they use locally-sourced ingredients, and their stuff is way too good to ignore. The only place I’ve found it is at Harry’s (a subsidiary of Whole Paycheck Foods), a place you’ve frequently seen on Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” even if you’ve never actually been there. I understand you can also get it at Star Provisions too... but I’ll shop there only when I’m looking for exotica like whole duck livers. (They’re proud of their merchandise there at Star Provisions, I’ll tell you that.)

Anyway, I was hooked like Marion Barry on crack once I tasted this:

Tropical Sweet Heat!

Tropical Sweet Heat - yogurt with pineapple, mango, and habanero peppers. Sounds scary, but there’s just enough of a burn to bring the fruit flavors to vibrant life. Yowza!

They also have a peach-ginger flavor that has sufficient ginger to give the peach a solid kick in the ass... and something called “Chocolate Rocket” that is almost so good as to beggar description. (Think chocolate, cinnamon, and ancho chile.) It’s every bit as satisfying as a dish full of ice cream - but not quite as many calories.

If you can find this stuff, get it! Otherwise, eat your heart out.

Update: I actually went to the Atlanta Fresh factory store in order to stock up on a few of my favorite Greek yogurt flavors. The store was manned by a very pleasant young fellow, one Andrew Marks, who happened to be the son of Ron Marks, the company’s founder and Big Cheese (so says his business card). Andrew was gracious enough to offer up a slice of the company’s fine alderwood smoked mozzarella... and a free cup of yogurty goodness. When I observed that the last container of Tropical Sweet Heat yogurt I had had carried a noticeably higher capsaicin wallop, he (and a coworker) confirmed that they had recently adjusted the recipe to goose the heat level up a notch. Hooray!

Next time, maybe I’ll think to ask for a tour of the facilities...

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Young Fishermen
Young Elisson (L) and the even younger Other Elisson (R), 45 years ago. [Click to embiggen.]

My Aunt Zelda stumbled upon these ancient snapshots a couple of months ago... souvenirs of a flounder-fishing expedition in the Great South Bay in the summer of 1966. She dutifully shoved them in an envelope and sent them off to me, no doubt because she couldn’t stand to be in the same house with them. Can’t say I blame her.

I have no idea what it is I am eating in that picture. I do know, however, that The Other Elisson is holding a fresh-caught flounder. Not a pretty fish by any means, what with both of its eyes being on the same side of its head... but tasty enough. It was a Friday school lunch staple back in our Snot-Nose Days.


Topographical false-color image of the Moon’s far side, taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Higher elevations are shown in red; lower in blue. From MSNBC.

Look - up in the sky!
It’s a bird!
It’s a plane!
It’s... Supermoon!

Tonight’s full moon will be exceptional. Because the moon is at perigee - its closest approach to Earth in its elliptical orbit - the moon’s disc will appear larger than usual. And because this particular perigee is the closest approach of Moon to Earth since 1992, it will be even larger than larger than usual. An Extreme Supermoon, so to say.

Perfect for illuminating the night as we celebrate Purim. Drunken, becostumed revelers will have an easier time stumbling home in the dark after the ritually mandated reading of Megillat Esther (the biblical Book of Esther).

Perhaps, if I get enough single malt in me, I will feel the urge to moon someone. Or - even better - a Supermoon!

[A tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Eric for the link.]

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Today is Saint Patrick’s Day.

In a country where the immigrant Irish were, once upon a time, abused and discriminated against, being from the Emerald Isle is now celebrated. Whether it’s a testament to well-managed public relations or to the American capacity to absorb immigrants by converting them into components of Uncle Sam’s Stew, today it is fashionable to be Irish.

It’s also fashionable to be Mexican on Cinco de Mayo, which day has nothing in common with Saint Patrick’s Day except its celebration of ethnicity. That, and the mass consumption of Adult Beverages.

Yes, today is a day of serious drinkage. In Savannah, a city that hosts one of the largest Saint Patrick’s Day bashes in the country, the streets run with green beer and vomitus. The Mistress of Sarcasm, back when she used to live there, would always arrange her schedule so that she was out of town on Saint Patty’s Day, since she has never been (1) a drinker, (2) a fan of public drunkenness, or (3) comfortable in vomit-splashed streets. Can’t say I blame her, despite my enjoyment of the occasional tipple.

This is the day on which everyone claims to be Irish... seriously, or with tongue in cheek. Just like everyone claims to be Jewish on Tishah b’Av. Not.

And, speaking of Jewish, today is noteworthy in that it is one of a handful of minor fast days on the Jewish calendar. It’s Ta’anit Esther, commemorating the three days that Esther, the (secretly Jewish) Queen of Persia, fasted before seeking an audience with the King in order to plead her people’s cause and save them from annihilation. The story is found in the biblical Book of Esther, which we will read in its entirety this coming Saturday evening and Sunday morning - part of our observance of the holiday of Purim. And there will be some serious drinkage going on then, I can assure you.

But today, observant Jews will fast from sunrise to sunset. Unlike Yom Kippur and Tishah b’Av, which involve sundown-to sundown fasts lasting 25 hours or more, this one is - for lack of a better term - a half-fast.

So - at least in theory - the green beer will have to wait until tonight. But then why not have a Jewish-Irish feast? Corned beef and cabbage - on rye!


Cassoulet, a classic French peasant dish.

That’d be cassoulet, the French answer to cholent - a rich, earthy concoction of baked beans and various meatstuffs.

Back in my snot-nose days, our family would enjoy a weekly supper of hot dogs and beans, a quintessentially American dish of the 1950’s. And, like as not, the beans would be Campbell’s pork and beans, right out of the can... no surprise, given our complete disregard of the Jewish dietary laws.

You’ve had ’em, I suspect. Plain old beans, with a solitary chunk of fatty pork (or porky fat) lurking somewhere in the can. It was there, I suspect, to contribute a modicum of meat flavor - but we kids treated it as a sort of booby prize, the antithesis of the cherry in canned fruit salad. If you got that pork-booger, you lost. Feh.

As I got older, I discovered that baked beans could actually be good, with multiple layers of flavor. The best example was right there in my ethnic backyard: cholent.

Cholent is a stew of beans and meat that originally served as a Sabbath meal. Given that day’s prohibitions against cooking, you needed something that could be stuck in a slow oven on Friday afternoon and that would cook   s l o w l y   in order to be ready to eat at mid-day on Saturday. Cholent fit the bill perfectly.

Like chili, or barbecue, there are myriads of variations on the cholent theme, and the adherents of those various variations are passionate in their preferences. The common elements are beans and slow cooking... beyond that, there are all kinds of twists and tweaks. Potatoes? A nice chunk of kishke? Meat? Barley? You name it, someone has tried throwing it into a cholent. (Except maybe a Boston butt.)

French cassoulet - a classic peasant dish - is not that much different, except maybe for the seasoning - and, of course, the presence of Porky Meat of several varieties. But you can make a lovely cassoulet without pork, should you so desire. All you need is some sort of very flavorsome meat.

In my case, I had a nice duck leg confit sitting in the fridge, entombed carbonite-fashion in solidified goose schmaltz. It had been there since sometime last September, which meant that it was at the peak of ducky tastiness. All I had to do was scrape off the grease and sauté it in a skillet. To supplement Mr. Duck, I roasted a shoulder of lamb, first burying it in a pile of chopped garlic and sliced onions.

The other main ingredient was a sack of flageolet beans, which got an hour-long soak in hot water as the festivities commenced. Thyme, garlic, onions, beef stock, dry white wine, tomato paste, bay leaves, and a few other herbs and spices helped create a flavorful base. A 90-minute simmer got the beans nice and tender... then, drained, they went into a casserole dish with a topping of parsley, bread crumbs, and a drizzle of goose schmaltz. Bake for an hour until crusty, then dig in.

Holy crap, this stuff was good. Despite its salt-of-the-earth origins, it would have felt right at home in the finest white-tablecloth restaurant. And, as the French tell us,

“C’est bon pour le coeur, on sait...
Plus vous en mangez, plus vous pétez.”

Based on my experience with both cassoulet and cholent, I’m going adopt a few “Best Practices.” I’ll start adding duck confit to my cholent... and a chunk of kishke to my cassoulet.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Hakuna Atop Stairs

Hakuna sees the meat
In the post below
And feels her appetite
Begin to grow:

“Get up off your ass
And stop writing this drivel -
I wants me some beef,
Not this dried-out old kibble!”

Update: Friday Ark #331 is asail over at the Modulator, with Captain Steve at the helm. This Sunday’s edition of Carnival of the Cats will be posted at Pet’s Garden Blog; be sure to stop by and tell ’em Elisson sent ya.

Update 2: CotC #366 is up... at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat. Special thanks to Nikita for stepping up to fill in after the folks at Pet’s Garden Blog suffered a family loss (for which we offer our condolences).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Prime Ribeyes

My friend Meryl reminded me that today - the ides of March - is the ninth annual EATAPETA Day.

International Eat a Tasty Animal for PETA Day, that is.

I’ve written about this occasion several times over the years, so there is no need for me to expound at length on the whys and wherefores of the observance. But any excuse to eat Animal Protein is good enough for me.

I think it’s as good a time as any to fire up the stove and lay on a pot of cassoulet - French-style baked beans. It’s a nice, meaty dish, and I will be sure to throw in some lamb shoulder and duck confit to jazz it up even more. Yes, there’s nothing like lambie and duckie for din-din... because meat tastes even better when it’s from a cute animal.

What are you having for EATAPETA Day?

Postscriptum: I assembled my cassoulet but have saved it for future consumption. In the meantime, I had animal protein at every meal: herring at breakfast, smoked salmon at lunch, and both baked cod and chicken at suppertime. The lambie and duckie, meanwhile, are waiting patiently in the fridge for my discreet attentions.


Persian rug
Last Saturday night we celebrated Purim a week in advance with a humongous Food-Blowout.

Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jews of Persia from annihilation at the hands of the royal vizier Haman. What better way to celebrate, then, than with an evening of Persian cuisine?

One of our congregation’s families had a home sufficiently large enough to accommodate a crowd of some eighty people, and so it is there that the festivities took place.

Persian Appetizers
Persian-style appetizers: tabbouleh, babaghanoush, and hummus.

The appetizers alone were enough to make a respectable meal. Hummus, a pile of herb-laden tabbouleh, nice crusty naan, babaghanoush, and an assortment of olives and pickles... to borrow a word from our Passover liturgy, dayyenu: It would have been enough for us. But there was more. Much more.

Sabzi Polo
Sabzi polo: rice with a metric buttload of savory herbs.

There was sabzi polo - a Persian-style rice pilaf jammed with green stuff: parsley, dill, cilantro, scallions, et alia.

There was roasted chicken with yet more herbs. If chicken didn’t suit you (and even if it did), there was a heap of mahi - salmon, not to be confused with mahi-mahi.

For rice lovers whose jones was not quite sated by the sabzi polo, there was tahcheen with zereshk. This was rice jazzed up with saffron and packed into a heavy pan to bake, resulting in fluffy grains with a crust (tahdig) that is positively addictive... all of this garnished with sweet barberries. Oh. My. Gawd.

Tahcheen with Zereshk
Tahcheen with zereshk: saffron rice decorated with barberries. The best part is the tahdig, the crusty stuff that forms where the rice contacts the pan.

There were gondi, humongous meatballs made of ground turkey and chickpeas - a Persian-Jewish favorite. Also, plenty of roasted veggies: peppers, asparagus, and the like.

Roasted Veggies
Roasted vegetabobbles, including lotsa peppers and asparagus.

It was extreme.

I spent a good part of the evening pouring wine - we offered a tasting of two whites and two reds to help wash down all of the foody deliciousness - but I did take enough time to grab a plateful... or two. And did I mention dessert? Fresh fruit, hamantaschen, and cardamom-laced baklava, enough to make strong men weep.

“They tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat.” It’s the Jewish holiday mantra, but rarely have I seen it executed so beautifully. (Burp!)

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Spring Blossoms

Spring Flowers

Things have definitely become more spring-like in the north Atlanta ’burbs.

Over the past week, the trees and bushes have burst into bloom. Bradford pear (complete with stinky blossoms), cherries, and bright yellow forsythia splash their colors across the gradually greening landscape. The dogwoods will follow in another couple of weeks.

This afternoon was about as nice as it gets... sun, blue skies, and a temperature in the low seventies. Gary and I got out the bikes and enjoyed a fifteen-mile ride on the Greenway, a path that runs between Roswell and Alpharetta. Alas, it’s extremely popular with pedestrians and rollerbladers, so a certain amount of navigational and piloting ability is called for. Nevertheless, it’s a great way to spend an hour on a warm, sunny day.

On the way home, Gary shared a story about his granddaughter Sydney, who was in Colorado with her family. Sydney and her big brother Josh are already past masters at skiing - Josh, despite being not quite nine years old, is already tearing up the double black diamond slopes the way only someone with a child’s total lack of fear (and low center of gravity) dares to do. And when Sydney saw what she thought was a familiar object in her hotel room, the following exchange ensued:

Sydney: Mommy, is that a snowboard?

Mommy: No, that’s an ironing board. You’ve never seen one of those before.

Ain’t that a sign of the times...

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Once in a while, I’ll get an e-mail with some particularly fascinating imagery or information. Last week, Catfish sent out a piece about a rare automobile... perhaps the rarest in the world.

You’re looking at the Oldsmobile Rocket F88 concept car from 1954. Only four of these bad boys were ever made; only one survives today. It was sold at auction in 2005 to John Hendricks, the founder of the Discovery Channel, for the grand sum of $3.24 million.

This is the car that could have killed the Chevy Corvette, had not the Chevy people convinced GM to deep-six it. It was, according to Jessica Donaldson,
...Oldsmobile’s legendary dream car. A beautiful dynamo on wheels, the F-88 was Oldsmobile’s experimental convertible that GM’s stylists incorporated scores of striking innovations into. This spectacular sports car featured natural pigskin upholstery, low-poised fiberglass body, unusual rear deck design, sparkling interior trim and a special 250 hp “Rocket” engine. The elliptical grille mouth, “hockey stick” side trim and bullet tail lights were designed purely period Oldsmobile style.
With its 324-cubic-inch V8 engine, this Olds would have blown the six-cylinder Corvette off the road, changing the course of automotive history.

Alas, it was not to be.

I had never been to the various Motorama shows at which these concept cars were exhibited, and even if I had been, I would have been too young to remember much. And yet, when I saw the photos, I thought that Rocket F88 looked strangely familiar. Where had I seen it... or something similar... before?

That’s when I recalled some of the old Mad magazines I had stored away in the bowels of Chez Elisson. Wally Wood, one of the great comic book artists of the 1950’s, was a prolific contributor to Mad back in the day... and many of the pieces he illustrated featured several futuristic-looking automobiles.

Not that he had to do much, mind you. What with their tailfins and other design gewgaws, many late-1950’s cars looked futuristic enough - at least by the standards of the time. But Wood’s art took those design concepts and ran with them. The result was amazingly similar to that Olds concept car.

You don’t believe me? Here’s proof:

Wally Wood illo
Illustration from “Tomorrow’s Parents,” Mad Magazine, April 1961. Click to embiggen.

Check out the vehicle on the far left... a typical Wally Wood future-mobile, a look at Times to Come as imagined a half-century ago. That - and other Wallymobiles - had to have been at least partially inspired by that Olds concept car, don’tcha think?


This video came to my attention courtesy of Michael Symon, who tells Bobby Flay, “I think we have our next opponent in Kitchen Stadium.”

Oh, yeah.

Gotta give the guy credit. His career may be in mid-flameout, but at least he knows how to make fun of himself. Assuming he doesn’t kill himself with overdoses of powerful pharmaceuticals and/or Strange Vagina, maybe he can one day out-Shatner Shatner.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011



For our Christian friends, today is Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent.

“Shrove” is the past participle of “to shrive,” meaning to absolve one’s sins through confession and penance. The tradition, at least among certain Christian denominations, is that one should have confessed one’s sins prior to Lent, allowing one to enter the season with a clean slate. Kinda sorta like Yom Kippur, except without the fasting.

Because Shrove Tuesday is the last day before Lenten dietary restrictions kick in, many people enjoy a Last Hurrah, consuming mass quantities (pun partially intended) of meat, eggs, sugar, and butter. It’s a cholesterol-fest of biblical proportions. It’s also why the day is popularly known as Mardi Gras (“fat Tuesday”) or Carnival (“goodbye, meat”).

So: what do you do with all the sugar, eggs, and butter? Why, you make pancakes. Yes: it’s Pancake Day!

Pancakes are a venerable food. Nutritious and tasty, they’ve been around ever since some ancient genius figured out that you could take the carbohydrate-rich seeds from certain grasses, grind them into flour, mix that flour with water or milk, and bake the resulting goop on a hot rock. And just as many cultures have their own version of protein wrapped in a dough casing (ravioli, kreplach, pelmenyi, gyoza, won ton), there are at least as many varieties of pancakes.

How’s this for a restaurant idea? Open a place that serves the pancakes of many nations. French crêpes, German pfannkuchen, Dutch pannenkoeken, Jewish latkes, Mexican tortillas, Japanese okonomiyaki, Russian blini. Griddle cakes, hotcakes, flapjacks. Say, you could even call it The Multinational Place for Flapjacks. No, wait...

Me, I loves me some pancake. If I’m making conventional pancakes, local food guru Alton Brown’s recipe gives excellent results. With a dab of butter and a warm splash of real maple syrup, those cakes are as delightful (and indulgent) a breakfasty meal as anything one could ask for. But today, I will leave the pancake-eating to our Christian friends.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Last night the Missus and I went with a group of friends to see a performance of Romeo and Juliet.

I had been completely unaware that Atlanta is home to an excellent Shakespearean troupe - The Atlanta Shakespeare Company - that stages its productions at The New American Shakespeare Tavern in midtown. You show up a couple of hours before the show, eat some well-prepared British pub food, and digest your dinner whilst enjoying the Bard’s great works.

The show we saw was the final performance of Romeo and Juliet for the season, and the actors gave it their all. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening, despite knowing how the play ends. (If you’re unfamiliar with the story, I will just say that Shakespeare would have been a miserable failure at running a massage parlor: not a lot of happy endings.)

Yes, it is a tale with a tragic outcome, the kind of result one would expect from allowing a bunch of hormone-raddled teenagers to run around with sharp objects. But Shakespeare knew how to keep an audience’s interest despite the occasionally weighty subject matter; he was a master at peppering his plays with comic relief. Hundreds of years later, George Lucas would try to take a page from old Will’s playbook by inserting Jar Jar Binks into Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, with completely unsatisfying results. Shakespeare knew better. Not only are his comic characters not annoying, they’re often downright bawdy.

As Don Marquis observed circa 1916, writing as archy the cockroach,
catches the crowd
and i
are often
low browed

the fish wife
and the laugh
of the horse
and i
are frequently

in bill s behalf
are adduced
to refine
big bill s
coarse laugh

but bill
he would chuckle
to hear such guff
he pulled
rough stuff
and he liked
rough stuff

hoping you
are the same

Rough stuff, indeed. And over four centuries down the road, it’s still unmatched.

Adieu to Romeo - and now I wish
To find myself the room where I might pish.
- Elisson

Friday, March 4, 2011


Fashions in spam, just like fashions in clothing, tend to come and go: Change is the only constant.

Lately, it seems that the spam commenter bots have fastened upon the “flattery” concept, the theory being that if you suck up to the blog owner, he or she might not delete your bullshit spam comment.


All of these comments use the same basic template, the only variations being the fake name at the end and the particular spam site it links to. Here are a couple:

It was rather interesting for me to read that post. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything connected to them. I would like to read more soon. Fakename Smith [link]

It was rather interesting for me to read that blog. Thank author for it. I like such topics and anything connected to this matter. I would like to read more soon. Fakename Jones [link]

The people sending these things out clearly don’t read much English, as is evident from the fractured syntax and/or the stilted wording. Do they really think that giving the site owner a verbal blowjob is going to save this crap from Deletion With Extreme Prejudice?

Here’s a modest suggestion to anyone who tries to plug their websites with spam comments or trackbacks: Go fuck yourself and die, already.


All that glitters is not gold, I’ve heard.
How true. If you should chance upon a turd
And in it see a shining yellow gleam
Amidst the pungent, aromatic steam,
Attend these words of mine: They serve to warn
That that which glitters isn’t gold; it’s corn.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I met her in a club down in old Soho
Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola
C-O-L-A cola
She walked up to me and she asked me to dance
I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice she said Lola
L-O-L-A Lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo Lola...

- Ray Davies (the Kinks), “Lola”


When we were down in Florida last week visiting Eli and Toni, we had a chance to meet their kitty Lola.

Sammy, the previous Animal Companion resident at Chez Eli, passed away in early July 2009. I suspect that, even as we speak, she is hissing, spitting, and otherwise terrorizing the creatures on the far side of the Rainbow Bridge. But a house that has been home to a cat feels very empty without one, and so Eli and Toni adopted Lola several months ago. She has shown herself to be a sweet-natured beast, even willing (at times) to present her vulnerable fuzzy belly for a few skritches from Eli.

Sweet-natured she may be, but I can’t call her by name without hearing that damned Kinks song in my head...

Update: Friday Ark #329 is up at the Modulator. And don’t forget to drop by Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat, where Nikita will host Carnival of the Cats #364 this Sunday evening.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Kevin Kim was kind enough to point me toward this work of genius by one Julia Yu.

Goodnight Dune

Go and read. And if you’ve got little ones at home, you can use this to inculcate in them an appreciation of fine children’s literature, excellent science fiction, and a SF movie that combines elements of train wreck and cult classic.


If you want to test your Significant Other’s resolve, give her a bouquet... of cauliflowers.

Ahh, cauliflower. Examined up close, it looks more like Donovan’s Brain than any sort of flower. If you had a pocketful of these posies, you’d have trouble walking. On the Vegetables-Kids-Hate-O-Meter, cauliflower no doubt pegs the needle, right along with spinach and the Dreaded Broccoli.

Me, I like cauliflower. It’s all in how you prepare it, you see.

Used to be, the standard way of cooking cauliflower was to boil the crap out of it. Once you had reduced it to mush, you would bury it under a pile of Hollandaise or cheese sauce to disguise its almost total absence of flavor. Feh.

Or you could serve the flowerets raw, with a tub of dip - the standard Lipton onion soup mix and sour cream concoction. Not bad, actually... but in no wise truly delicious.

I’ve discovered that cauliflower takes to oven-roasting very nicely, much like Brussels sprouts and root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and beets. It’s simple enough. You core out a head of cauliflower and break it up into flowerets of more-or-less uniform size. Place ’em in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, season with a bit of kosher salt, and throw in a few cloves of garlic, well-minced, and a tablespoon or two of capers.

Roasted Cauliflower

Roast the cauliflower for about half an hour or so at 325°F, by which time it should be tender; then crank the heat up to 425°F for 5-10 minutes, enough to lightly brown the vegetable. You want to get some caramelization, but you don’t want to end up with a bunch of dried cinders - keep an eye on it and take it out if it starts looking too toasty.

The recipe is based on one I saw over at Joy the Baker. I used olive oil in lieu of the butter and omitted the red pepper flakes, lemon, and parsley... but those ingredients are fine, too. Throw ’em in if you care to.

Roasting cauliflower brings out its subtle, nutty flavor, which plays beautifully against the garlic’s aromatic warmth and the capers’ sharpness. It will change the way you look at this Flower of Childhood Loathing. Hollandaise? Pfaugh!