Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits
Anyone who has known me longer than he’s willing to admit will tell
you that there’s one grim subject that haunts my waking hours, a
capricious and terrible bitch that lurks constantly on the outer ridges
of my consciousness, ready to leap to the fore at the sound of a
sniffle. What provokes such cathexis, you ask? It’s the state of my
perpetually fucked sinus cavities.1 I’ll avoid the details, just know
pollen is my nemesis, Kleenex abound, etc. Electric conversation
really, sure to win many admirers.
The logical response to these histrionics should be, “go see a doctor, son.” But you see, the thing is, I already have an allergist and an ENT and to whatever extent they’ve helped—and they’ve helped a lot—I still don’t breathe right.2 So I started seeing a Chinese physician whose holistic approach relies largely on acupuncture and healthy eating. My allergies, I was told, would be much less of a noticeable intrusion if the following things were cut back on/removed from my diet: red meats, dairy products, wheat, potatoes, sugar, caffeine, everything created for human enjoyment.
From the Huffington Post
They say the eyes are the window to a person's soul, but I disagree. I'm pretty sure it's the hair. Seriously.
For the sake of this article, I'm going to go ahead and admit that I judge people, and I judge them by their hair. I'm not saying everyone does this, I'm saying I do this, and I'll go ahead and tell you why.
You can judge a person on their shoes (Louboutins or Converse?), or what they wear (Armani or Anthropologie?), and that's fine. And hey, you'll probably get somewhere with that, maybe by going a little deeper and analyzing how they wear something: Does she mix Versace with vintage? Are her jeans skinny or flared? And just how flared and how expensively distressed?
All important factors. They might tell you how much money (or credit card debt) she has and if she lives on 73rd or somewhere between Bedford and Lorimer, but what they don't tell you is how much fun she'll be three-beers-deep on a girl's night out. What will? Her hair.
If you’re like me, the grenadine you grew up adding to cocktails and Shirley Temples is nothing like the real deal. Thinking I was resigned to the artificially colored and flavored brand-that-shall-remain-nameless, I usually skipped over any type of drink that called for grenadine, opting for drinks that weren’t as sweet and syrupy.
This all changed when I actually discovered what grenadine was and how truly simple it is to make.
I could fill up an entire blog about the historial importance of pomegranates, but I wouldn’t know where to start. Suffice it to say that one of the oldest fruits on earth make the absolute best syrup–a taste that lives between tart and sweet, not unlike citrus.
And the recipe? Extract the juice of a pomegranate, add sugar and reduce over heat. That’s it.
(Well, it sounds easy, but wait till you have a case of pomegranates and you’re up to your eyeballs in exploding arils and your forearms are stained hot pink. It takes effort. Now it makes sense why the French and Spanish called it “grenadier” and “Grenada”, and where the world “grenade” came from.)
You can find the juice already bottled, but I swear it just doesn’t taste the same as freshly squeezed/abused/fought-over/pressed/stepped on pomegranate juice. Sure, you’ll save yourself some headache, but you’ll deny yourself pretty pink fingers.
Basic Grenadine Recipe
Because I like the tartness of pomegranates I usually go easy on the sugar, or I omit the sugar completely when making a reduction. This allows me to use my syrup not only in cocktails but as a dressing or marinade for savory recipes. It can also be made with honey.
2 cups pomegranate juice*
1 cup sugar (or less if you prefer it not so sweet)
Bring juice to a simmer over medium heat and cook until reduced by half. Reduce heat and add sugar, stirring constantly until it dissolves, about 2 or 3 minutes. Allow liquid to cool completely and then refrigerate. It should last about 1 week.
* This cocktail can be made with freshly squeezed juice from a large pomegranate or by using 100% Pomegranate Juice. To juice the pomegranate, cut it in half (as you would a grapefruit) and juice using a citrus reamer or a juicer. Pour the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or sieve. One large POM Wonderful Pomegranate will produce about 1/2 cup of juice.
-- Also published on MattBites.com
People are always asking me what I'm going to do with my wine education. Most of them assume I'm going to become a sommelier or a winemaker because those are the most well-known choices. In reality, neither is an option because both require more time and hard work than I'm willing to give to indulge my love of wine. I'd rather drink wine than serve it and with so many other people taking the trouble to make it, there's no reason I have to.
That being said, learning about the process, in limited doses, is quite fascinating to me. To that end, the founding members of the Studio City branch of the Friends of Cass Winery (an unofficial, nascent organization made up of me, my husband and our friend Sam) volunteered to help bottle their upcoming 2006 releases of Grenache and Mourvedre in the ever-growing Paso Robles area. We weren't sure what we were in for, except we knew it would be a bit of work and probably quite fun given the natures of the winery's owners.
As a wine lover in Los Angeles, there is a wide range of dinners, tastings and classes one can attend every month and unless you have unlimited funds, you have to become fairly selective in where you spend your wine tasting budget. I've heard many great things about Wally's Annual Central Coast Wine & Food Celebration, but was never able to attend until this year. This past Sunday, I decided to take a chance. For me, the biggest factor in whether I'm going to drag myself (and my designated driver, a.k.a my husband) out to an event is what we call "bang for the buck." I don't normally go to festival-type functions because I want to talk to the winemakers about their offerings, which rarely happens when you're trapped in a tiny room with other, equally excited, wine lovers who you have to elbow out of the way just to get a 1-ounce pour. Plus, it's hard to feel like you're getting your monies worth when you only remember tasting 20 wines...and that's if you're taking notes.
What could be better than to customize the label on your soda? Well, yeah, world peace, but in the meantime, Jones Soda, which my daughter Lena turned me on to, has done that. Right from the beginning. In fact, they’ve gotten awards for their unique packaging and constantly changing labels, which are generated and submitted by their customers. Their attitude is clearly expressed by other product lines such as their energy drink: WhoopAss. This season you can give the gift of Holiday Collectors Packs. Be “thankful” Thanksgiving is over. They had Turkey and Gravy Flavor. Look out Bernie Botts.
Marylou’s was a New York restaurant that closed in 2001, but in its day
was a real gem. Located in a brownstone in the West Village, the
restaurant’s great food and atmosphere attracted a list of celebrities
that included Jack Nicholson. Co-owner Tommy Baratta, Marylou’s
brother, not only became good friends with Nicholson, but became his
personal chef as well – and wrote a cookbook with Marylou titled
Cooking for Jack.
My most vivid recollection of Marylou’s takes me back to 1986. I was having dinner with a woman whose raven hair was in perfect contrast to her radiant smile, when Jerzy Kosinski approached our table. His intent was not to dazzle us with his fame nor with a story, but, instead, with a series of photographs.
“The Long Goodnight”
Lady Restylane was a carnivore, a notorious coquette who left lipstick marks like business cards. But when men followed up, expecting the innuendos to lead to escapades, their calls were seldom returned. To Lady Restylane, it was all about the dance. Genuine intimacy scared the hell out of her.
There were times when her game left her so exhausted that she’d give anything just to have a normal evening. Just to have dinner with a friend. And on one ill-fated night in the City of Angels, I was that friend.
We made plans to meet at the Bicycle Shop Café, a Westside eatery that had bicycles hanging on the walls. Not exactly artwork, unless you prefer Schwinn to van Gogh.
It was half past fashionably late when Lady Restylane arrived, wearing a little black dress and stilettos that could have doubled as steak knives. She said she wanted to leave the act at home, but she couldn’t do it. She just couldn’t do it. As soon as she made her entrance, she went on a flirting binge – targeting two guys at the bar, the bartender and our waitress. After that, I stopped counting.
Double-dipped Justice at Philippe's
If you are a criminal defense attorney as I am defending cases in downtown Los Angeles, you will eventually find your way to the tangled skein of ceiling fans, neon soft drink signs, and sawdust floors of a restaurant called “Philippe - The Original The Home of the French dip sandwich Since 1918" in nearby Chinatown. This restaurant and the sandwiches contained within played a central role in defending my first felony trial which took place in 1987.
In that case, my client was twenty years old and stood no more than 5' 4" weighing 110 lbs. It wouldn’t have hurt him to eat a sandwich himself. He had just been released from prison after serving time for burglary. He was told by his parole officer to obey all laws, don’t possess a gun, and stay away from gang members. He did very well in following those directions for the next 24 hours.