Monthly Archives: August 2010

if god is willing and da creek don’t rise…

i watched part I of spike lee’s return to new orleans, “if god is willing and da creek don’t rise” on hbo last night. and if i learned one thing, it’s that five years later, it still sucks to be poor in america.

between the imagery, the interviews and the soundtrack, i was choked up most of the time. the times i wasn’t, i was angry. angry at the politicians and developers and all those who saw opportunity in the ruins to make a clean slate (whether to demolish the low income housing or the only functioning hospital providing mental health assistance) and make way for huge, money making projects. if it weren’t for katrina, those developers would never have been able to so quickly get their mitts on the land, clear out the city’s poorest families from the projects and in their place erect neat and tidy townhouses for “mixed” income families. the 1400 units demolished were replaced with 900 or so of these townhouses with a 30% public housing/30% subsidized/30% market rate … so the final tally would be a loss of nearly 1000 units of affordable housing, right? good job, city council (they voted unanimously for demolition).

at the opposite end of the spectrum, brad pitt and his “make it right” foundation really did do it right. our boyfriend brought pro bono architects and the members of the community together to build a sustainable, sensible neighborhood (solar panels, energy efficient appliances, no family pays more than 30% of their income towards mortgages and most importantly, access to the roof)…

spike lee’s documentary begins with the joyous saints super bowl victory celebration (who dat?!?), but beyond the glitter of bourbon street, we quickly see that things are still the same – if not worse (if that’s even imaginable). for those brave enough and strong enough to have returned to new orleans, very little good news awaits them. and without charity hospital, the mental demons of loss and disbelief claim many of those who survived the initial disaster. people are slowly being poisoned by formaldehyde in the FEMA trailers, families are still ripped apart, people struggle for work (they can’t even be hired to erect the fence that keeps them out of their apartments in the projects). it goes on and on and makes me wonder if more of us need to run for political office, as michael moore urged us to do so long ago…how else will things really change?

i don’t want to give too much away, but i urge you to see this film. i won’t even go into the politics, seeing bush’s stupid smirk and the army corps of engineers.  part II airs tonight and is going to deal with the BP spill (spike lee had already wrapped shooting when the well started gushing), i’m sure i will feel sad and angry all over again. but if we don’t stand witness, new orleans will become some sanitized, disneyland version of itself – without the heart, soul and struggle of those who built the city.

while some say they still feel blessed to live there, it ain’t easy livin’ in the big easy.

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bacon tastes good. pork chops taste good…

video (obviously) from pulp fiction

i had to choose this clip because of the french subtitles…

according to “where’s the beet?” in time magazine, more and more people globally are participating in meatless mondays and/or calling themselves flexitarians (or part-time vegetarians). for you bacon lovers of the world, i understand. it’s hard to give up…sometimes the smell even makes me salivate. but this growing movement of part-time vegetarians includes graham hill, founder of treehugger.com, who cannot imagine life without sushi. so he calls himself a “weekday vegetarian” – one who chooses to reduce his meat consumption, but not necessarily on a monday.

growing up, we didn’t eat a lot of meat. japanese cuisine in general focuses on veggies that are basically flavored with meat. my irish father would get his meatloaf or steak and potatoes, but that was pretty much once a month or for a special occasion. now, as joel stein writes in the time article, meat is everywhere: on your salad, on the side of your french toast … there are meatlovers pizzas and sandwiches that seem to hold the entire farmyard … according to the u.s. department of agriculture, the average american will consume 21,000 animals in their lifetime … excuse me, while i dry heave.

the availability of cheap meat (the price of chicken hasn’t doubled in the past 50 years, due to factory farming) explains why we eat 150 times as many chickens per year than we did 80 years ago. often, buying vegetables are more expensive than meat that is on sale – what’s wrong with this picture?

as i wrote in a previous post, “go veggie once a week and help yourself and the planet” (and the reason why i post meatless monday recipes every sunday), the environmental impact of everyone going meatless once a week is nothing to sneeze at. sir paul mc cartney has started a u.k. version, meat free mondays – and some of our best chefs are introducing veggie-centric menu items to help ease people into realizing that a square meal does not require a big hunk of animal protein at its center.

all 15 of mario batali’s restaurants serve additional veggie dishes on meatless mondays and he has plans to open a vegetarian restaurant in manhattan…he’s hoping a seasonal celebration of vegetables will encourage his guests to be more excited about non-meat options.

chef josé andrés believes that the pure flavor sensation of vegetables is far more interesting than meat – and that this fact will help american palates mature. even wolfgang puck, when he eats at his restaurant CUT, splits an 8 oz. steak with his wife. the veggie appetizers do well at his steakhouse. so it seems the trend is, even when eating meat, guests are less interested in a fred flinstone-sized slab of meat and going for more balanced, plates celebrating nature’s bounty.

as chef john fraser of dovetail in nyc says about eating meat (he’s changing his menus on mondays that lets diners choose between a 4 course prix fixe menu of vegetarian or vegetable focused to see if the response is great enough to open a completely vegetarian restaurant), “you can relate it to sex – if you have it every day and it’s crazy and beautiful, it isn’t meaningful. but if you have it every once in awhile, it becomes meaningful.”

a bit awkward, chef, but more and more people are getting your message. and that’s some meaty news.

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meatless monday recipe: savory chickpea cakes…

image from herbivoracious.com

oh, michael natkin, will you marry me? it doesn’t matter that you are already married and i live with the love of my life. i would leave it all behind for these tasty, protein packed savory chickpea cakes!

made extra special with the addition of rosemary and lemon juice and lemon zest, i will serve these with the caprese salad i am already planning on making (he says a greek salad would pair beautifully, but i’m a loner, dottie – a rebel…). i’m hoping panko will work in lieu of homemade bread crumbs and chives instead of green onions (we have a lovely crop of chives in the garden). one day, when i have saffron in the house, i will make his tomato jam and have the ultimate savory chickpea experience!

herbivoracious strikes again!

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discovery of the day…tim gunn’s vlogs!


who knew? my chic and sophisticated boyfriend tim gunn has been doing commentary for each episode of project runway! i’ll start with episode 2 from this season in which he calls the judges “crack smokers”, serves up some juicy behind the scenes (and one very personal one) and worries that he’s sounding too shrill … beyond! he’s so natural and genuine, i just love him!

here is the link to the entire series uploaded on youtube…

witty, insightful and full of tasty bits…enjoy!

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top chef … wtf?


this post is rated PG-13, it may include language not suitable for children…

or my mother…

okay. i’ve waited the requisite days (spoiler alert!) to write this post about this week’s “restaurant wars” elimination…and i call bullshit!

if you haven’t watched it, click away my reader, click away…

first, i must preface this by saying i am certain that last season’s top chef will never be topped. any of the final 3 or 4 or even 5 could mop the floor with this season’s contestants. i can pretty much guarantee you there won’t be a bocuse d’or challenge, these cheftestants just aren’t up to it.

whether it’s the editing or the theory that reality tv shows the “real” you, alex is a total douchebag. maybe we will never know what happened to the pea puree, but i can tell you i would never set foot in his restaurant cafe was (could the website be any tackier??) – not only does he seem like a jerk, he also seems a little dirty to me (not in terms of pea-puree-gate, but in terms of hygiene). and here’s a question: can you even describe any of the chef’s p.o.v.? maybe other than angelo (who i actually like, unlike some viewers), are you invested in any of them?

past seasons have always had a chef who was exciting to watch (even if you didn’t like their personalities):  whether due to their culinary skills: hung, marcel and richard blais or their hunky hearts (harold and sam) and excellent palates (stephanie, dave, stefan) sorry, i loved stefan and HATED josea..this season? nada, or rather nadie. it is a total snooze fest. but i digress.

the episode starts out with the tag team challenge, which i really enjoy. of course, alex f*#ks that one up too, by salting the fish way too early in the relay. angelo tries to fix it by adding herbs to cut back on the salt, but alas, he fails.

the blue team wins. and it’s off to restaurant wars! the blue team is feeling good, a win under their belts and the lack of the dreaded alex on their team. evoo (a terrible name…with thoughts of rachael ray (never an appetizing thought) and a rather unfortunate echo of the word, “evil”) vs. twentyone-21 (the address of the top chef house…so-so, but not brilliant – kinda like this season). since they no longer make the chefs flex their interior design muscles, you would think that it’s all about the cooking, right?

wrong.

angelo and kenny take the executive chef roles. kenny’s team runs smoothly. they treat their wait staff respectfully. it is the mirror image on angelo’s side. angelo & ed strategize on how to keep alex out of the kitchen. alex is a total dick to the wait staff. everyone has to redo alex’s prep (can’t butcher the meat, can’t scale, clean and debone the fish, has to have his hand held for the veg chopping). things are chaotic and aggressive (angelo: “i’m gonna blast someone!” “no talking in the kitchen!”). alex doesn’t greet the judges when they arrive. he bungles the description of a dish (pork chop instead of lamb chop)…it looks like curtains for team angelo.

but wait! here comes the twist!

although kenny was a kick ass executive chef for the team, his two dishes sucked (frank bruni of the ny times compared it to hamburger helper…ouch!). and on the heels of tom trying to remember coco chanel’s advice to always remove one accessory (with regard to kenny’s salad), bruni compares amanda’s dish to a good suit with crappy shoes. she pouted and pursed her glossy lips and her way into yet another challenge next week. seriously?

alex screwed the prep. screwed the service. didn’t conceive of or cook a single thing. more than likely stole the pea puree (hello? isn’t there a whole foods receipt somewhere to prove that he purchased the ingredients?). bottom line, he is a jerk.

but in the end, it’s not a personality contest. it comes down to the food. and even though amanda couldn’t cook a protein properly and her greens weren’t up to par, it was kenny’s two dishes that sealed his fate. i guess it doesn’t matter in a COOKING CONTEST whether or not you COOKED any food.

all i can say is, if angelo gets eliminated, i doubt i will watch the rest of the show.

…and of course, i’m lying and they know it.

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meatless monday recipe: angeli caffe!

if you are lucky enough to live in los angeles or are an avid kcrw “good food” listener like me, then you know the lovely and talented evan kleinman. well, now we can add deliciously generous to her list of adjectives.

for 25 years, angeli caffe has been closed on mondays. but now, they introduce “pasta mondays” to their fantastic offerings … while not all options are meatless, for $10(!) you can’t go wrong and this monday’s menu has a few veggie selections that sure beat slaving in the kitchen!

from the website:

Pasta Monday will appear occasionally.  When you sit, the waiter will serve you your antipasto then salad.  Waiters will roam the room with bowls of fresh pasta a la Evan’s mood and serve you to your hearts content.

App
Ricotta Tart, Nduja, Fig, Olives
Salad
Strawberries, Peach Arugola, Goat Cheese Salad
Paste
Penne Puttanesca
Linguine with shrimp, garlic , baby tomatoes, basil oil. Heirloom sauce
Risotto with Heirloom Tomato Sauce and Corn

antipasto, salad and floating bowls of pasta? eating to your heart’s content? no reservations accepted, so shut off the stove and get in the car…quick!

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prop 8 overturned!

there’s no such thing as “gay marriage”. there’s just marriage. so says my new hero, (reagan appointee) judge vaughn walker in his ruling yesterday, overturning proposition 8 as unconstitutional:

“moral disapproval alone is  an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbian women.”

that is my favorite quote from a very well written decision.

here are a few more:

…the evidence shows that proposition 8 harms the state’s interest in equality, because it mandates that men and women be treated differently based only on antiquated and discredited notions of gender. (emphasis mine)

…moreover, the state cannot have an interest in disadvantaging an unpopular minority group simply because the group is unpopular (unpopular? not in my house!)

…never has the state inquired into procreative capacity or intent before issuing a marriage license; indeed, a marriage license is more than a license to have procreative sexual intercourse (my 2 ex-husbands wholeheartedly agree!)

i highly recommend reading dahlia lithwick’s article on slate.com – which held this little gem:

It’s hard to read Judge Walker’s opinion without sensing that what really won out today was science, methodology, and hard work. Had the proponents of Prop 8 made even a minimal effort to put on a case, to track down real experts, to do more than try to assert their way to legal victory, this would have been a closer case. But faced with one team that mounted a serious effort and another team that did little more than fire up their big, gay boogeyman screensaver for two straight weeks, it wasn’t much of a fight.

the fight isn’t over. brace yourself for vitriol and fear-mongering and screaming heads warning of the slippery slide from homosexuality to pedophilia (always the most ridiculous, ignorant and vile statement)… but for a moment, there is a sigh of relief that maybe things aren’t as backward and small minded as they’ve been feeling recently…and for that, i am grateful.

thank you, judge walker.

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