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

Monday, December 31, 2012



Today is the last day of 2012.

Today is the day I wax reflective and somewhat retrospective concerning the twelvemonth immediately past.  It’s a perfectly logical time to do so, those last few hours before the last digit on the annometer ticks over from 2 to 3.

As happens every year, people were born, people lived, and people died.  Some were famous, some had accomplished great things in their lives, and some were completely nondescript... except to the people who knew and loved them.  And some - all too many, really - lost their lives in senseless, stupid ways.  There is always evil in the world, and it makes itself evident in ever more horrifying manners, adding new words to the lexicon of pain and grief.  Aurora. Newtown.

Twenty-twelve was the year of Superstorm Sandy, the monster hurricane that pummeled the Northeast and laid waste to huge stretches of the New Jersey shore and the New York area... another reminder of human frailty when confronted with the immensity of Nature’s power.

This was the year Hakuna, our seventeen-plus-year-old cat, departed this world to join her sister Matata on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.  She had a long, happy life, Hakuna did, and after Matata’s passing four years ago, she enjoyed her status as sole uncontested Mistress of the Manor.  We had not planned on bringing a new Animal Companion into our lives quite so soon, but young Levon practically dropped into our laps Thanksgiving week: So much for plans.

This was the year the Missus and I celebrated our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary... and we did it in style, treating ourselves to the trip of a lifetime: a two-week jaunt to Israel.  It was a remarkable experience, one that left us changed in a myriad subtle ways.  And now that She Who Must Be obeyed has seen that she can survive the transatlantic flights and the long bus rides, perhaps other international travel plans can be added to our Life Agenda.  Hooray!

This was the year I turned sixty.  There’s nothing quite like entering a new Decade o’ Earthly Existence to remind you of just how long you’ve been marching around the planet.  Happily, at sixty, I am fortunate enough to be reasonably healthy (keyn ayin hara!) and in halfway decent physical shape.  Those are great and good things, yet they are never guaranteed, and they always come with an expiration date. If nothing else, 2012 was a year during which I was more conscious than ever of the everyday blessings of life... for I have seen just how ephemeral they can be. It is thus incumbent upon us to enjoy them while we can.

Given that you are reading this post, the Mayan Apocalypse appears to have been a bust... which means we will have an opportunity to ride this planet around the Sun yet another time.  May we all be able to ride it together, and may the coming year bring you, my Esteemed Reader, health, happiness, love, safety, and success in all your worthy endeavors, without limit to any good thing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Iversen was a man who loved the High Places.

Over the past seventeen years, he had scaled many of them, striding the crests of Annapurna, Kangchenjunga, and Lhotse.

He had lost three digits to frostbite during his 2009 ascent of the great Chomolungma, the mountain the Europeans called Everest. He had gone up the difficult north face, reckoning the missing toes a small price for the experience.

On his last expedition to the Himalayas, he had climbed K-2. Twice. Child’s play.

But when they asked Iversen to lead an attempt on K-Y, he declined, saying, “Now, that’s a slippery slope.”

Friday, December 21, 2012


On the highway there’s one thing I truly hate -
It’s the asshole who just loves to tailgate.
I’d like to strangle the mother-humper
Who insists on riding right on my rear bumper.
At seventy per, there’s no room for error
So back the fuck off, Mister Reign-of-Terror.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Those of us who enjoy the occasional Sunday morning brunch know that there are certain Beverage Conventions that attach to that particular ritual.

Sure, there’s the almost required-by-law glass of orange juice.  If you’re having your Sunday brunch in a decent place, it will be freshly squeezed. If not, shame on you.

There is the requisite Hot Beverage.  Make mine coffee... but plenty of people enjoy a fine cuppa (that’d be tea, if you’re British-impaired).  I do not judge here, merely observe.  (Unlike with the orange juice.)

And then there’s the alcohol.

Depending on the laws in the state where you reside, the opening shot on Brunchy Alcohol may not be fired until noon, as is the case here.  But once the sun is directly overhead, there are Options.

Some like the Mimosa, a simple blend of orange juice and sparkling wine.  If you want to do it right, use freshly squeezed juice (always!) and real Champagne.  A bargain bottle works just fine: You do not want to be using Dom Pérignon in your Mimosa unless you are the sort that lights cigars with C-notes.

There’s the Ramos gin fizz (a popular item at T.G.I. Friday’s), a concoction of citrus, gin, seltzer, and, presumably, Ramos.  And of course, the Bloody Mary, favorite of the country club set.

Well, all of these Brunchy Beverages are fine, as far as it goes, but they are now officially passé.  Defunct.  Superseded.

How so? you ask.

Well, a couple of months ago, I happened upon this bizarre, yet strangely irresistible bottle:

Smoked Salmon Vodka
Smoked salmon vodka. Insane! I know! 

How can you not have fun with an ingredient like that?

It was Josh, Houston Steve’s son, who came up with the perfect Cocktail Concept: Add some dill-infused vermouth, and presto!  You have a Loxtini - the perfect Sunday brunch bevvy.  If your brunch menu includes smoked salmon, even better!

And so, presented for your Drinky Enjoyment...

The Loxtini. Move over, Bloody Mary!

The Loxtini

2½ oz smoked salmon flavored vodka
½ oz dill-infused dry vermouth

Combine ingredients in an ice-filled shaker; stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a sprig of fresh dill and a chunk or two of gravlax.

The dill-infused vermouth is simple enough: Place several sprigs of fresh dill in a cup of dry vermouth, heat to the simmering point and let cool.  Strain into a jar or bottle and store in the fridge.

Bloody Mary, move over!  Mimosa, scrambooch!  Ramos gin fizz, don’t let the door hit you in the ass as you’re leaving!  There’s a new drink in town, and he’s gonna eat your brunch.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


The Monkey Gland cocktail.

The Monkey Gland (pictured above) is that rarest of rara avis - a cocktail named after a somewhat revolting surgical procedure, an early attempt at hormone replacement therapy.

Huh? Wuddat?

Well, back in the 1920’s, a physician, one Sergei Voronoff, came up with the brilliant idea of enleadening his male patients’ pencils by grafting tissue from monkey testicles into said patients’ nutsacks.  (The procedure was touted as a means of general rejuvenation, but when men of those pre-Viagra days talked about wanting to feel younger, it was mostly for the purpose of achieving Massive Bonerage.)  And thus it was that the good Doctor Voronoff, already a wealthy man, began collecting even greater sackfuls of cha-ching... to the point where he was even able to operate his own monkey farm for the express purpose of providing tissue for his monkey-gland transplants!  Monkey glands became a fixture of the popular culture of the time, inspiring comic routines, songs (e.g., Irving Berlin’s “Monkey-Doodle-Doo”)... and even a cocktail.  This one!

You’re putting what where?  WTF, dude!??!
After the Roaring Twenties ceased to roar, the procedure fell out of favor to the point where Voronoff became an object of ridicule.  Whether this was due to the Depression-driven diminution in the number of people with more money than brains, or to the slow but eventual public realization that monkey-gland transplantation didn’t accomplish its, ahhh, intended results, nobody can say... but when Voronoff finally died in 1951, the few obituaries that were printed were written as though Doctor V had always been ridiculed for his work.  But that, Esteemed Readers, is mere revisionism, perhaps society’s way of dealing with the shame of having been Taken In.

Monkey-gland transplants (yecch!) may not have survived, but the eponymous (and, alas, somewhat obscure) cocktail does.  And while we may afford ourselves a snide chuckle at Voronoff’s legacy, the legacy of Harry MacElhone (of Harry’s New York Bar, Paris) is much more likely to enleaden your pencil.

The Monkey Gland

1½ oz gin
1½ oz freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp absinthe
1 tsp pomegranate grenadine

Combine in a shaker with ice.  Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass.

I use the term “pomegranate grenadine” to indicate a grenadine made with real pomegranate juice, not the bullshit high fructose corn syrup with artificial flavoring and food coloring that comes in the Rose’s bottle.  (A fine recipe for real grenadine is available here.)

It’s going to be fun making these when blood orange season comes along - the color will be dramatic and the flavor sweet and citric.  Note that there is no specified garnish... but if you can score a monkey testicle, just spear it with a toothpick and drop it in for that extra je ne sais quoi.


Back in my Snot-Nose Days, one of the little delights of the Festive Season was... Christmas cookies!

Christmas was not Our Thing, you understand.  But we had many friends and neighbors who celebrated with gusto enough to go around.

Our neighbors across the street, the Williams family - their teenage daughter would often babysit me and the Other Elisson - would inevitably invite us over.  We would admire their Christmas tree and its scintillating lights, and the adults would do... whatever it was adults do when they get together.  Eat and drink.  But what I looked forward to was the moment the cookies appeared... for Mrs. Williams was a Past Master at making one of the rarest and subtlest of treats: the Rum Ball.

Ahh, those Rum Balls!  Roughly the size of a ping pong ball, they had a sandy, yet yielding texture on the inside, and a snowy layer of sweet confectioner’s sugar on the outside.  Their sweet elusive rummy flavor is buried unto this day in a secret recess in my reptilian hindbrain.  Rum balls?  Had they been Opium Balls, they would have been no more addictive.

“Don’t have too many of those,” Dad would warn us.  “You”ll get shikker.”  Could we really get drunk from eating rum balls?  I doubted it, but you never knew.  Was that an alcoholic buzz that was beginning to steal over me, or just a sugar high?

There were other cookies, too.  Julia, one of the women who worked with Dad, would each year present us with a platter of assorted Christmas cookies.  These were not store-bought cookies, either - they were all homemade in their amazing variety, a real labor of love.  Those cookies were better than anything that ever came out of a bakery.  And yet...

...not even Julia, the Sweet Genius of Christmas cookies, could make a rum ball to compete with the ones Mrs. Williams made.  Alas, they are now relegated to the Memory-Bank, for in the intervening fifty-plus years I have never tasted their like.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Birdhouse Levon Too
Birdhouse? Birdhouse? Yeah, I got ya bird, right here.

Mister Lord-of-All-He-Surveys inspects the kitchen and den from his lofty perch.


Damned internet was down for three days here... some glitch in our DSL service.

What a royal pain in the arse.

But now we’re online again... which means we can return you to our regularly scheduled program of recipes, cat pictures, and carefully staged photographs of cocktails.  And the occasional Filthy Poem.

Let joy be unrestrained.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Homestyle Hummus
Homemade hummus, decorated with a few spare chickpeas, a squirt of oil, and some za’atar.

Hum a hymn of hummus,
A pocketful of peas,
Boil ’em up, add tahini,
Pass the pita, please!

Boiled chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and a little water.  It don’t get much simpler than that...


Lesson One: Do not fart in the Shower Stall,
For the Vapors are trapped by that hard glass Wall.
They surround the Man who lets loose his Aroma
Causing him to swoon into a Turd-Stench Coma.

Thus, if you must, let it rip at the Mall,
Or discreetly pop one out whilst you dance at the Ball -
But, lest you suffer your own fragrant Wrath,
Never, ever fart in the Shower-Bath.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Yet more stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

Long-time readers of my previous site may recall the Blog d’Elisson Dictionary, installments of which may be found in that site’s Archives.

For other entries in the Cheese Aisle Dictionary, simply click on the sidebar link for Cheese-Dic.

Today’s Word of the Day comes to us courtesy of El Capitan over at Baboon Pirates. It meets - nay, exceeds - all of the criteria for inclusion in the Cheese Aisle Dictionary: It is a new coinage, it is useful, it is funny... and in this case, it has the added bonus of being disgusting. Score!

fartspatter [färt-spa-tər] (n) - 1: Unwanted side effect of flatus whilst urinating in a state of nekkidness: What should end up as a skivvie-skidmark instead speckles the shower curtain. 2: Excess work for employees generated due to the rantings of minor-level elected officials (city councilmen, aldermen, et al.) in an effort to increase their stature.

“When Councilman Anders started pounding on the desk and demanding answers, the records clerks knew they’d be in the office cleaning up the fartspatter until the wee hours.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Anyone who ever spent any time as a kid in the city - what they call an Urban Environment these days - knows the fine art of playing the dozens.

It is a verbal art form of sorts, one that developed and was perfected in the African-American community.  It’s easy enough to play: All you do is get two or more people together and have them shout an ever-escalating series of insults at each other until everything devolves into a street brawl.

Insults that begin with the words “Yo’ mama...” are popular.  Directing insults - especially ones involving sexual derogation - at your opponent’s mother is especially effective at bringing things to a rapid boil.

“Yo’ mama is so ugly, she gotta hang a pork chop around her neck to get the dog to come to her.”
Yo’ mama got no problem getting the dog to come to her.  The dog is the one with the problem.”

Playing the dozens in the suburbs is fun, too, but it seems to be missing something.

“Your mother loses at Bunco.”
“Your mother buys her clothes at T J Maxx and shoves them into a Nordstrom bag so everyone thinks she bought her clothes at Nordstrom.”
“Your mother thinks Jimmy Choo is a kind of bubble gum.”

I got to thinking about the dozens for the sole, completely stupid reason that today is 12-12-12.  Which, as we all know, is three dozen.

My suggestion?  At twelve minutes and twelve seconds after noon, eat a dozen eggs (or better yet, a dozen doughnuts) and drink a couple of six-packs.  That way, you’d be doing 12 and 12 at 12:12:12 on 12-12-12.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Millionaire Cocktail
The Millionaire Cocktail.

When people ask me how I am, I will occasionally respond with, “I feel like a million bucks!  All green and wrinkly.”  (It’s not nearly as amusing after you’ve heard it for the 746th time.  Just ask She Who Must Be Obeyed.)

A few days ago, however, I fixed myself a Millionaire Cocktail, and this one really did make me feel like a million bucks... in the good way.

The recipe comes from Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric’s book Speakeasy: Classic Cocktails Reimagined from New York’s Employees Only Bar. The only major change I made was using Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe for grenadine rather than the one Kosmas and Zaric include in their book.

Millionaire Cocktail

2 oz Knob Creek bourbon (I used the single-barrel reserve version)
¾ oz Grand Marnier
¼ oz Ricard pastis (I used Pastis 51)
½ oz grenadine
½ oz lemon juice
1 egg white

Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Do not let the idea of putting egg white in your drink scare you off: It’s used in many classic cocktail recipes to create a creamy, smooth mouthfeel.

I really wanted to try this one because I wanted an excuse to use some of the fine grenadine I had concocted several days ago.  Not only that, but I had had a bottle of Pastis 51 sitting around that I had not touched in ages.  (Anise-flavored pastis, with a little water added to bring out the louche effect, makes a fine drink all by itself - as befits absinthe’s kid brother.)

Using the 120-proof single-barrel reserve version of Knob Creek made sense, with the other ingredients tempering the impact of the high alcohol level.  Regardless, more than one of these will indeed have you feeling green and wrinkly.  Or drinkly.

Meanwhile, I’m glad I tried the Millionaire... and you can take that to the bank.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Cranberry Liqueur
Homemade cranberry liqueur, fresh from the bogs of New Jersey.  Or Massachusetts.  Or wherever the hell those cranberry bogs are.

“Bog.”  It’s a funny word.  Say it a few hundred times and it sounds even funnier.

It is a word with multiple meanings.  Webster’s (their Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, which, given its copyright date of 1967, is hardly “new” at this point) defines it as “wet, spongy ground, especially a poorly drained usually acid area rich in plant residues, frequently surrounding a body of open water and having a characteristic flora.”  It’s another word for a swamp, quagmire, bayou, or marsh, fen, or wetland.

To a Brit, a bog is a toilet... which, I suppose, says something about the toilets in Old Blighty.

And who lives in the bog?  Why, the Boggy-Man, of course.

The Boggy-Man, contrary to popular belief, does not subsist on a diet of lost children.  He is, rather, a fruitarian: Blueberries, cranberries, cloudberries, huckleberries and lingonberries all grow wild in bogs.  Only those enterprising souls who are willing to confront the Boggy-Man will harvest those tasty morsels... but the rewards are abundantly delicious.

* * *

The cranberry is a Bog-Fruit with which most of us are familiar, and one that is especially popular this time of year.  And so, when I saw this recipe for Do-It-Yourself Cranberry Liqueur, I knew I would have to give it a try.

When the Missus and I were in Texas the week of Thanksgiving, I convinced my BIL Aaron that making our own cranberry liqueur would be a worthwhile project, what with it being Thanksgiving and all.  It certainly was easy enough: all you do is simmer cranberries and orange zest in sugar and water, then add vodka and let things macerate happily for a few days.  Strain out the solids and - easy-peasy - you're good to go.

The results were quite pleasing.  We made a double recipe of the stuff, and barely a few drams survived the holiday.

But when I tried it at home, I learned that it ain’t all that simple.

You want to let those cranberries cook for about 10-15 minutes, enough so that they start to break down.  And you want to help them along with a fork, mashing them up just a little.  What you do not want to do is purée those bad boys with an immersion blender until they’re liquified - if you do, you’ll never be able to separate the tasty liqueur from the fruit solids.  I learned this the hard way when I discovered that it was completely impossible to filter the jellylike glop I had created.

Back to the drawing board.

Happily, the next attempt was eminently successful.  The results are pictured above, and I will tell you that that stuff is every bit as tasty as it looks.

I do not drink Cosmopolitans, but I’d be willing to bet that you could make a really good one by using this liqueur in lieu of the typical bottled cranberry juice.  Even the Boggy-Man would agree!

Saturday, December 8, 2012


[If Dear Abby can get away with reprinting the same frickin’ Holiday Columns every stinking year, why not Elisson? We are therefore pleased to offer this Editorial Response previously published here and at Blog d’Elisson, one that is both timely and appropriate to the season. Chanukah begins at sundown on Saturday, December 8 this year.]

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the electronic-mail communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of Lost in the Cheese Aisle:
“I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there was no Judah Maccabee and that Chanukah is a load of crap. Papa says, ‘If you see it in Lost in the Cheese Aisle, it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth, was there a Judah Maccabee?” - Patty O’Furniture
Patty, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All they care about is that fat red-suited guy who schleps presents to Yenemvelt and back. All minds, Patty, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, goornisht, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Patty, there was a Judah Maccabee.

He existed as certainly as dedication and courage and devotion exist. He kicked some serious ass back in the day, Judah did, throwing the Greco-Syrians out of Judea and reclaiming the holy Temple. His struggle was a struggle against assimilation, against those who would be seduced by the pop culture of the day. He fought his battles so that we Jews would retain our cultural identity and not be swallowed up in the prevailing pagan mainstream. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there had been no Judah Maccabee! It would be as dreary as if there were no Pattys. (Or furniture.) There would be no candle-lighting then, no singing Ma-oz Tzur (or even those stupid dreidel songs), no commemoration of the miraculous rededication of the Temple. No Judah? We would even today be schmearing ourselves with olive oil and burning pig hearts as sacrifices to Zeus. And our Christian friends would have no Christmas - for the culture that gave rise to Jesus would have been wiped out. The eternal light - the ner tamid - with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Judah? You might as well not believe in fairies. Or the Matzohball That Does Not Sink. Or Eliyahu ha-Navi. You might get your papa to hire men to watch all the seder tables of the world to catch a glimpse of Eliyahu, but even if you did not see him, what would that prove? Nobody ever sees Eliyahu ha-Navi drink his wine at the Seder table, but that is no sign that there is no Eliyahu ha-Navi. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. (Although those footprints in the grass were more likely made by your Papa as he tried to sneak back into the house with a snootful of booze after the office Xmas party.) Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You can tear apart the knish and see the tasty filling inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Patty, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Judah Maccabee? Thank G-d he lived - and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Patty, nay, 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to chase the Greco-Syrians out of Judea and combat the forces of cultural assimilation, making glad the heart of childhood.

Happy Chanukah!

[Originally posted on December 25, 2004.]

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Since the dawn of civilization, humans have used the natural process of fermentation to convert various foodstuffs into mind-numbing potables. In fact, a useful working definition of civilization might be “getting your collective shit together to the point where you know how to make beer.”

Beer has probably been around since neolithic (New Stone Age) times, having been invented something on the order of 11,000 years ago. Wine came along three or four thousand years later, but still before the beginning of recorded history. By that time, people had pretty much figured out that anything that had starch or sugar in it could be converted into a drink that would make you feel pleasantly dopey.

Distilled spirits, in which alcohol was concentrated to much higher levels than was possible with fermentation alone, date to sometime around the twelfth century, although the technology for producing them had already been around for over a millennium. With distillation, you could make firewater out of pretty much anything that would ferment. Grains (barley, wheat, oats, corn, rice), sweet or starchy vegetables (beets, potatoes, sugar cane), fruits (grapes, cherries, plums, pears, peaches, et alia) were all fair game.

But now the game has changed.

Enter James Gilpin, UK-based designer, art director, and researcher, who has figured out how to take advantage of an as-yet-untapped raw material for whisky production.  His brainchild, Gilpin Family Whisky, is the first Spirituous Liquor produced from the urine of human diabetics.

Mmmmm... whizky.  (Photo ©2012 James Gilpin)

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.  People who suffer from diabetes mellitus (literally, sugar diabetes) - particularly if it is not treated - exhibit symptoms of polyuria and glycosuria.  In simple terms, you piss a lot... and that piss is sweet, full of the excess glucose that builds up in your bloodstream.  In ancient days, you knew you had a problem if your honey-like urine attracted hordes of flies.

Now, it’s not clear whether Mr. Gilpin is actually taking the urine of diabetics, fermenting it, and distilling the resulting Pish-Mash to make whisky, whether he is merely adding a little Sweet Pee to an existing whisky base, or whether he is just talking about it as an exercise in thought-experimental Performance Art: I cannot say.  You can go to his website and form your own conclusions.  But it’s an intriguing idea, nonetheless.

Finally, a whisky I would have no desire to taste.  Not even a wee dram.  And yet, what better product with which to get Piss-Drunk?

Update: Leave it to my friend Kevin Kim to take it to the next level. Yeef!


Momma, 1945
The Momma d’Elisson, age 17, in her high school graduation photo.

Today is her eighty-fifth birthday.

Anyone who, like myself, plans to raise a glass in her memory would do well to have her favorite, a Perfect Rob Roy.  You can find a serviceable recipe here.

Update: It was Poker Night this evening.  When I arrived at Houston Steve’s place, I saw that the ever-thoughtful Steve had already laid out all the fixin’s for that Perfect Rob Roy.  Blended Scotch, sweet and dry vermouths, Peychaud’s bitters, and lemon peels for garnish... everything present and accounted for.  I mixed up a round of those Rob Roys right then and there.  They put everyone in a good mood for our game, and their flavor was a spirited reminder of a very special lady.   

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Several days ago, I wrote a post about Dangerous Playthings - the kind of toys we used to amuse ourselves back in our Snot-Nose Days that no rational parent would give their kids today... alas.

What inspired me to write that post was a memory that came burbling up, unbidden, in the recesses of my hindbrain... the memory of a specific toy.  In my usual ADD fashion, I managed to forget to mention that toy in the very post that its recollection inspired.

What toy was that?  Glad you asked.

It was a Crash Car.  The Crash Car was plastic automobile - built to 1/24 scale in the form of a late 1950’s sedan, if my recollection serves - that had spring-loaded body panels, doors, and hood.  When the car was rolled into an obstacle, the front bumper would actuate a release mechanism and cause the car to blow to flinders.  Crash!

Playing with the Crash Car provided endless hours of amusement, slamming it into convenient walls and pieces of furniture, watching it fly apart, searching for all the little plastic pieces, and then snapping them all back into place for the next crash.  If only it had come with a couple of little crash-test dummies inside it that would spray some sort of (nontoxic, washable) fake blood on impact, it would have been the perfect 1950’s plaything.

There’s absolutely No Fucking Way you could sell that toy today.

Small parts, easily swallowed by kid brothers and/or sisters?  Check.

Flying shards of plastic that may embed themselves in youthful eyeballs?  Check.

Creating amusement out of destructive acts?  Check.  This wasn’t a nerdly Educational Toy intended to teach you the locations, capitals, and major products of the (then) 48 states - I had one of those, too.  The only thing you learned was that, hey, smashing up cars is fun!  Waaaay more fun than making “cookies” out of Play-Doh and then burning the crap out of them with a real working toy stove.  Or burning the crap out of your hands with a woodburning set.  (Yeah, I had those, too.)

Good Gawd, I miss those days.


Screw Cocoa Puffs.  I’m cuckoo for Kuku.

Kuku?  Wuddat?

Kuku - also spelled kookoo - is nothing more or less than a Persian frittata - an open-faced baked omelette. Here’s the one I made last night:

Fava Bean Kuku
Fava bean kuku.

I don’t have a huge amount of experience with these bad boys, but when I saw the photo of a fava bean kuku in the new book by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Jerusalem: A Cookbook), I knew I would have to make one for myself.

Your typical kuku is crammed with herbs - this one has dill and mint - and generally other ingredients like tangy dried barberries (AKA zereshk, the dark little goobers in the photo above), beans (fava beans, in this case), and/or potatoes and/or nuts.  There’s also a dash of saffron and cream for another layer of flavor.  There are plenty of eggs, too, mainly serving to hold the whole thing together.

I suppose this is the child that would result if an omelette were to get it on with a latke.  Regardless, it is, to use Alton Brown’s terminology, Good Eats.


Pendennis Cocktail
The Pendennis Cocktail: Peychaud’s bitters give it a light pinkish-orange tint.

This tasty tipple is named after its point of origin: the Pendennis Club of Lexington, Kentucky.

Most of us, when asked to name a typical Kentucky drink, will call the Mint Julep to mind.  But now I can think of something based on gin as well.

What inspired me to try it was the bottle of apricot liqueur that recently began taking up real estate in my Little Lacquer Liquor Locker, a purchase I had made while traipsing around the Mistress of Sarcasm’s neighborhood.  OK, apricot liqueur, strictly speaking, is not the same thing as apricot brandy... but this is Cocktail Geekery, not rocket science.

(As an aside, the Mistress lives in an interesting part of the Northeast.  A simple trip to the hardware store and grocery involved traveling in three different states.  Ain’t geography interesting?)

The other inspiration was the Greylock Gin that I had scored on that same visit. It’s made by Berkshire Mountain Distillers, a little operation just down the road (and across the Massachusetts state line) from the Mistress’s town.  We had tried a bottle of their excellent bourbon - yes, Massachusetts bourbon! - last year, and the positive press they’ve been receiving for Greylock proved too difficult to ignore.  Turns out it is a fine example of the London dry gin style, with some pleasant pine/spruce notes and maybe a hint of anise.  Your biggest problem will be finding it unless you’re planning a trip to western Massachusetts.

The Pendennis Cocktail

2 oz gin
1 oz apricot brandy
Juice of ½ lime, freshly squeezed
2-3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Combine with ice in cocktail shaker.  Shake well and strain into (you guessed it) a cocktail glass.   Park your ass in a big, overstuffed leather chair and sip slowly.

Monday, December 3, 2012


In the past week, Levon has made himself right at home here at Chez Elisson.

He knows where the food and water bowls are.  He knows where Mommy and Daddy’s bed is.

He most definitely knows where Mommy is at all times.

White on White
“So that’s what happened to my kid brother!”  Levon checks out SWMBO’s fuzzy white sweater, during the making of which no actual cats were harmed.

He does not know, as of yet, how to catch the Laser Dot.  But he is working on it.

He is playful, full of youthful energy and enthusiasm, and packed with what Rudyard Kipling called “’satiable curtiosity,” much like the Elephant Child.  This, combined with his affectionate nature, brings us back to the days almost eighteen years ago when Matata was a playful little kitten.  Bittersweet, yes it is, but mostly very sweet.

You never know where he’ll show up next...

Crystal Kitty
“Is this the arena for the Bowl Games of which you humans speak?”

Admit it: doesn’t that white coat remind you of that old joke about the bear and the rabbit?

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Champagne Corks

I don’t know how I managed it, but I have managed to go a full three months without attending a Sommelier Guild event... and that one was a white wine-themed evening, at that.  But that will change tonight at six, when She Who Must Be Obeyed and I will pack ourselves off to Local Three for an evening of Drinky Enjoyment.

It’s the Guild’s annual Champagne Event, which means little plates of food interspersed with a whole lotta excellent sparkling wines.  Here’s the Bill of Fare:

Speaker’s Wine:
2008 Argyle Brut - Oregon*

First Flight:
2010 Wolf Mountain Brut Blanc de Blancs - Georgia
2009 Schramsberg Brut Blanc de Blancs - North Coast, California*
NV Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne - France***

Joe’s Lobster Roll: Mayo, Lemon and Celery

Second Flight: 
NV Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne - France***
NV Duval-Le Roy Brut Champagne - France***
NV Gossett “Excellence” Brut Champagne - France**

Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels: Chorizo, Potato, Tomato, Garlic, Baguette, Rouille

Third Flight:
NV Gruet Blanc de Noirs - New Mexico
NV Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs - Carneros, California**
2008 Schramsberg Brut Blanc de Noirs - North Coast, California**

Charcuterie Sampler: Cornichons, Violet Mustard, EVOO, and Flatbread

NV Maschio dei Cavalieri Moscato PM - Puglia, Italy

Spiced Pumpkin Tart

Per my usual practice, I’ll post my carefully considered opinions once the Missus and I have had a chance to dry out. Cheers!

Update:  Excellent dishes, and a few interesting wines - nothing that really knocked our socks off, though.  Delightful - and occasionally ribald - dinner conversation nevertheless more than made up for any perceived shortcomings in the wines.  When can we do this again?